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Healing From the Outside In

A big part of addiction recovery is psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy. When most people think of therapy, that’s what they think of. The patient and the therapist talk. The patient talks about issues of concern and the therapist actively listens, guiding the conversation as necessary to help the client. Many types of talk therapy are used today and can be extremely beneficial.

But sometimes, we might feel like we are “talked out.” Maybe we have talked and talked and talked and it seems as if nothing has changed. We are tired of talking or we don’t want to talk. In the case of unresolved trauma, we might not be able to talk.

Fortunately, healing can happen in other ways. In addiction recovery, both the mind and the body need to heal. We can use the mind-body connection for healing. We can access the mind through the body. We can use various forms of touch in a therapeutic setting.

The Power of Massage

If you have had the good fortune to have a massage from a licensed massage therapist, you know how relaxing it can be--it’s hard for your mind to stay anxious when your body is relaxed. That is the mind-body connection in action. Psychological stress can be stored in our muscles and it can be massaged away. Although being in treatment for addiction is very beneficial in the long run--lifesaving even--it can be very hard work and stress can arise during treatment. In addition, anxiety is a common withdrawal symptom and a frequent co-occurring mental health disorder. Massaging away that anxiety is good for both the mind and the body and can create a profound sense of calm.

Acupuncture: An Ancient Healing Modality

Acupuncture is an ancient method of healing that originated in China. Very thin needles are placed at specific points in the patient’s body to treat various health conditions, both physical and mental. (The needles usually don’t hurt and many patients don’t feel them at all.) The goal of acupuncture is to improve the flow of the body’s energy, called the chi, along the body’s energy pathways, called meridians.

In the 1970s, acupuncture began to be used in addiction treatment and was found to reduce the stress experienced during withdrawal and cravings. The protocol used to treat addiction concentrates on five points on the ear and calms the nervous system, relieves anxiety, promotes healing of your organs, supports the work done by your liver, regulates emotions, and increases the strength of your breath. The benefits of acupuncture include increased energy, improved mood, reduced cravings, better sleep, inner peace, and relaxation. In fact, some patients become so relaxed during acupuncture sessions that they fall asleep.

Chiropractic Care: Connecting the Body and the Mind

A chiropractor once told a patient that the phrase “pain in the neck” was more than just a figure of speech. The idea that the weight of the world is on your shoulders is more than just a commonly used phrase. Many of us carry emotional stress and pain which manifests as physical pain in our bodies, particularly in our neck, back, and shoulders. If we are struggling with an addiction, the stress and pain we carry are even greater.

Chiropractic care is another treatment modality in which treating the body can have a powerful healing effect on the mind. The theory behind chiropractic care is that proper alignment of the skeleton and muscles, especially in the spine, will allow the body to heal itself. Chiropractic care is particularly effective for conditions involving muscles,  joints, bones, and connective tissue throughout the body. Chiropractic adjustments can be a very powerful way to relieve pain. Chiropractors also work to improve the range of motion in the body’s joints and include exercise and physical rehabilitation in the treatment plans they develop for patients. The overall goal is to restore function and prevent injury in addition to relieving pain.

In treating addiction, a chiropractor will correct misalignments in the spinal column. When the spinal column is in alignment, the nervous system can function properly and can better process the natural “feel-good” chemicals that the brain produces. When this happens, addiction is easier to treat. Also, because the patient’s physical health has been restored, addiction is easier to treat.

The Value of Human Touch

Massage, acupuncture, and chiropractic care are all holistic treatment modalities that involve therapeutic touch--direct human contact. The therapeutic relationship--the bond between the patient and the provider--is part of the healing. When we were in the life of addiction, our relationships with other people may not have been healthy or based on trust. Part of recovery is learning to trust again. Building a therapeutic relationship with a health-care provider can be part of that process.

Sometimes when you are in therapy, you reach a point where you feel like you are “talked out.” You might have an issue that you don’t want to talk about or you may have experienced trauma and are not able to talk about it. Fortunately, the mind can be reached through the body and healing can be brought about that way. This can happen through treatment modalities that involve therapeutic touch, including massage therapy, acupuncture, and chiropractic care. These treatment methods are among the holistic treatment modalities that we offer at Enlightened Solutions. We are a drug and alcohol treatment center located on New Jersey’s southern shore. We are licensed to treat co-occurring disorders that frequently accompany substance use disorder. If you are struggling with an addiction and are ready to seek treatment, call us at (833) 801-5483. We can help you build a life free from the pain and destruction of substance abuse.


coping with stress

Managing Stress: A Key Element of Addiction Recovery

Your heart beats faster. Your breathing becomes more rapid. Your muscles tense and you start to sweat. This is the body’s response to a perceived threat or stress. If you are faced with a physical threat--like fleeing a burning building, scaring away a mountain lion, or lifting a car off a child--the body’s flight-or-fight response can be life-saving. In day-to-day life, however, the stresses we face--deadlines, bills, jam-packed schedules--don’t require the same burst of adrenaline, and yet our bodies respond in the same way. In the long term, chronic stress can lead to depression, high blood pressure, heart disease, irritable bowel syndrome, weight gain, and a host of other health issues. In addition, we may use alcohol or drugs to cope with stress and this use can become an addiction. Part of recovery from any substance abuse problem includes learning healthy ways to cope with stress.

Deep Breathing and Body Scanning

Any number of deep breathing techniques can be used to de-stress quickly and a few are detailed below. For any of these techniques, it helps to get into a comfortable position.

  • Falling out breath: In this technique, inhale deeply and fill your lungs with as much air as possible. Exhale with an audible sigh.
  • Box breath: To use this technique, inhale for a count of four. Hold your breath for four counts, exhale for four counts, and then hold your breath out for four counts.
  • Emptying breath: For this breath technique, inhale for a count of three and exhale for a count of six. Release as much air as possible. 

Body scan techniques can also reduce stress. To try any of these techniques, get into a comfortable position, close your eyes, and take a few deep breaths. In the first technique, start at the top of your head and mentally work your way down your body. Notice and release any tension you may be holding in your muscles. You may be surprised at where your body holds tension. In another method, you would begin by tensing up your right foot as tight as you can, hold the tension for a few seconds, and then release. Next tense and release your right calf, then your right thigh, and so on until you have tensed and relaxed every part of your body. In a similar technique, you mentally travel through your body and imagine that each part is being filled with warmth. (Note: These techniques can also be used to help you drift off to sleep.)

Meditation

Meditation is a great way to reduce stress. You can opt for guided or unguided meditation. If you are interested in guided meditation, you can find a teacher or use an app like Headspace, Calm, or MyLife Meditation. If you prefer to meditate on your own, there are many techniques for you to try. Sit comfortably with your eyes closed. Focus on your breath. Don’t control your breath, just notice it. As thoughts arise (and they will), notice that you are thinking and let the thought drift away. Another method that some people find calming is breath counting. Count your breaths, going up to 10. Repeat, as many times as needed, until you feel tranquil. You could also try a moving meditation. In a walking meditation, for example, focus on each foot contacting the ground. Notice how the ground feels beneath your feet. Notice the sensations as your heel hits the ground,  rolls to the ball of your foot, and then to your toes. As your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to walking. These techniques allow your body to relax and your mind will follow.

Exercise

Exercise, in any form, is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety and elevate your mood. The key is to find a type of exercise that you enjoy. You could go for a walk or a run, or you might prefer swimming or bicycling. You may enjoy the dynamic of an exercise class. You could take up tennis or golf. Yoga, in particular, is a great stress reliever. No matter what you choose, make it a point to exercise several times per week. This will have a positive impact on your mental and physical health.

Nature

Spending time out of doors helps to relieve stress as well. Researchers in the field of ecotherapy suggest that being outdoors can elevate your mood, lower your anxiety, improve your ability to focus, improve your memory, boost creativity, relieve depression and anxiety, and help with seasonal affective disorder (SAD).  Being outside for 120 minutes a week causes positive changes, and the time doesn’t need to be continuous. So go for a stroll on the beach, take a walk in the park, or a hike in the mountains. Plan a camping trip. Plant a garden. Take your work outside. Bring the outside in by keeping cut flowers or potted plants in the house. Use natural materials to decorate. Plant herbs in your kitchen. Arrange a comfortable seating space near a window with a view. Even something as simple as displaying photos of your favorite outdoor places can help reduce stress.

Stress is an unavoidable part of life, but the good news is that many healthy ways of coping with stress are available to us. While we cannot eliminate stress from our lives,  the techniques described above can help us manage stress, rather than stress managing us. At Enlightened Solutions, we focus on treating the whole person, not just his or her substance abuse. Using our multidisciplinary approach, we customize each patient’s treatment plan to meet his or her needs. We offer treatment for a wide variety of substance dependencies as well as mental health disorders that can co-occur with substance abuse. In addition to talk therapy and a 12-Step philosophy, we offer holistic treatment including yoga and meditation classes, acupuncture and chiropractic care, art and music therapy, and equine therapy. We provide our patients with the life skills they need, including stress management, to achieve their goals in recovery. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse, call us at (833) 801-5483 today.