“Addiction is a disease, but it’s the only disease you can be blamed for having.” – Mitch Hedberg
Dealing with addiction is one of the hardest things in the world. An addiction never leaves your mind, never gives you a moment’s rest. You can manage to pull out of your habit, but the addiction never leaves, and even after years of clean living, one slip-up can send you spiraling back down. Even worse, the presumed agency of self inevitably leads to self-loathing in the wake of a relapse, as if the only reason you weren’t able to stay clean was due to a failing of moral fiber.
This couldn’t be farther from the truth, though; addiction is a disease, and if all it took to fight a disease was strength of will, then we wouldn’t have doctors. Where do you turn, though, when you don’t know what to do next? When you’ve been through addiction treatment center, and still couldn’t prevent a relapse? Just as with traditional medicine, different people respond to different treatments. Some drug and alcohol treatment centers are now specializing in a more holistic approach, to fight the addiction from within.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
One of the most fundamental approaches to treating addiction is through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. This sort of therapy is based on a learning model. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy focuses on the learned patterns and habits of the patient and attempts to re-wire their fundamental beliefs and impulses, in order to create more positive associations and habits. Rather than working on a patient, Cognitive Behavioral Therapists work with the patient, collaborating to address the source of the learned behavior and to draw new connections in the patient’s mind. The aim of such therapy is to provide sustainable treatment so that the patterns learned in therapy can be applied independently by the patient long after therapy.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
A more specialized form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy is focused on patients whose drive for addiction derives from strong emotional regulation issues. The therapy is designed to do two things: first, to pinpoint the situations and emotional states that lead to situations when the patient loses emotional control, and second, to teach methods of dealing with those situations, to train the patient into recognizing and addressing the core issue when they start to lose emotional control. As with cognitive, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy is designed to last in the patient’s mind long after treatment is over.
Both of these forms of therapy manifest in many different ways. All manner of tactics and techniques are used to identify the source of issues and create learned behaviors to deal with them. Many addiction treatment centers are now using holistic methods in order to treat their patients. Such holistic approaches include:
Gardening is, by its very nature, a slow, relaxed process that takes place outside, in the sun, and among nature. Using gardening in therapy is designed to replace self-destructive urges with healthier ones, providing a calm and relaxing outlet for patients who need to get their addiction out of mind.
Equine Assisted Therapy
A strong element of addicts’ issues is connected to interpersonal problems. Relationship issues, with anyone, not just romantic, are often an inciting point for relapses and binges, and the most significant consequences of addiction can be the damage done to the addict’s relationship with those around them. Providing a companion that won’t judge and won’t be hurt by the addict’s actions is the goal of Equine Assisted Therapy, teaching them how to build healthy relationships in a safe environment.
Amino Acid Therapy
While addiction has many external factors, brain chemistry always plays a significant role. Depression or mania caused by serotonin imbalances are a common unseen source of addictive behavior. Amino Acid Therapy introduces crucial proteins into the patient’s system to strengthen their mental stability.
Yoga has been shown to have innumerable health benefits far beyond the obvious physical strengthening and flexibility. Enhancing the circulation, respiratory system, organ performance, and many other crucial elements of our body’s internal system, yoga is an invaluable tool for promoting physical and mental health, something most addicts are in dire need of.
With so much of both dialectical and cognitive behavioral therapies based in addressing the patient’s mental state, guided meditation is an extremely important part of treatment. Many addicts have never meditated before, and many addicts also suffer from emotional or mental issues. Teaching the patients how to meditate provides both therapists and patients with a tool to harness the patient’s mental state, to help them keep centered and able to use the methods and treatments taught to them.
Many people become wary at the sound of the word “holistic”, and rightfully so. If your arm is broken, or if you find out you have a rare blood disease, then holistic treatment can lead you down the wrong path or fail to treat you entirely. However, with a disease as nebulous and centered in the self as addiction, the roles of traditional and holistic medicine are almost switched; traditional medicine can only ever provide a band-aid for addiction, or worse, swap one substance dependency for another. Only a truly personal approach can nurture the long term internal change necessary to successfully treat one suffering from addiction.