Once an alcoholic or addict comes into recovery, there is a lot of work that must be done to repair the damage to our minds and bodies. Going through a rehab or treatment program is only the very beginning, and to maintain your new-found recovery and restore your overall health, many steps must be taken. Scottsdale Recovery Center understands these difficulties that addicts and alcoholics face in early recovery, and we’ve built our program around teaching our clients how to overcome these obstacles.
We are made of mind, body and spirit. All-encompassing recovery can’t overlook any of the three. The mind must be retrained to live a life without mind-altering substances. Hurts must heal, traumas must be faced, and pain and anguish must be relinquished. Our bodies must heal from the damage done from the unnatural substances we’ve been consuming and the lack of whole nutrients that we are lacking. Our spirits are often broken and we’re left spiritually bankrupt. Our lack of interpersonal connections with others and our higher power leaves us desolate and hopeless.
Healing our Mind
Often when coming into recovery, we experience depression, anxiety, guilt, shame, and self-esteem/self-confidence issues. For many of us, these issues may have led to our addictions in the first place. However, our addictions have fed these issues to the point where they must be handled swiftly if we’re to be successful in our recovery. We must learn healthy coping and healing techniques in order to quell the call of our addiction.
- Anxiety and Depression – Often experienced together, anxiety and depression are experienced by all addicts and alcoholics to some degree in early recovery. We tend to dwell on the past and worry about the future. It’s best to journal your regrets, fears, and struggles on a daily basis. Early in recovery, keep your journal by your side and write down what you’re feeling as you feel it. Release your feelings to the notebook and then close the cover on it. Remember to keep positive, and focus on the things you’re grateful for. For more serious issues, seek out your sponsor, mentor, or a healthcare professional to work through your struggles. If needed, talk to your doctor or psychiatrist about medications that might help you through your anxiety and depression.
- Guilt and Shame – We often feel guilt and shame for the things we’ve done in our addictions. We internalize our feelings and they overcome us. Often a trigger for relapse, our guilt and shame must be dealt with and we must forgive ourselves for our past wrongs. The 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous outlines a resolution for guilt and shame. We’re to attend our daily meetings, find a sponsor, and thoroughly work our 12 steps. This includes taking an exhaustive inventory, making a list of those we have wronged, and wherever possible, making amends to these people.
- Self-Esteem and Self-Confidence – We hang on to negative thoughts about ourselves. Often these thoughts resonate in our minds for years, or even a lifetime. We come to believe that we are ugly, useless, or worthless because of these negative and untrue beliefs. In early recovery, write these thoughts down in that journal you’re carrying around. Then write down the opposite, positive thought that counteracts the negative one. For example, after a thought such as “I am ugly”, write down “I am beautiful”. Make the positive counter-thought as complex as it needs to be to destroy the old, negative one. Repeat and reread these positive thoughts several times throughout the day as the old, negative thoughts creep up in your thought processes. Don’t forget to talk to your sponsor or counselor about the bigger thoughts that come up, especially if it’s a recurring struggle.
Healing our Body
Addictions cause changes in your body and brain. Most notably, any unnatural chemical or mind altering substance does some type of damage to our bodies as it passes through. Time will heal much of this damage, but there are several things you can do to speed up or improve the process.
- Nutrition – Usually, we don’t eat well in active addiction. We can’t afford it, or our substance of choice suppresses our appetite and we don’t eat at all. In either case, we’re lacking the nutrients we need to live full, healthy lives. Maintaining a proper diet in recovery helps us to heal from these deficiencies. Low-fat, low-sugar diets that include lean protein, whole grains, fruits and vegetables will provide you with these vital nutrients.
- Supplements – Many health food stores offer an array of vitamins and whole-food supplements to replace nutrients depleted from our bodies during our active addictions. Supplements help us restore our vitamin deficiencies, boost our immunity, restore our energy, and overcome that depression and anxiety. If possible, talk to a dietician or nutritionist about what supplements your body needs specifically to help you heal from your addiction.
- Drink Water – Our bodies contain more water than any other substance by weight. Keeping hydrated rinses toxins from our bodies and keeps our organs and tissues in good working order. Make sure that you’re keeping hydrated. While everyone is different, it’s generally recommended that men drink 12-14 cups of water a day, and women drink 8-10 cups a day.
- Exercise – A fantastic, but often overlooked element of a healthy recovery is exercise. Aside from strengthening our bodies, exercise promotes toxin removal, releases our “feel-good” endorphins, reduces depression and anxiety, and promotes gastric motility and healthy digestion. Don’t forget to talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise regimen, but don’t let that stop you either. Exercise is healthy and necessary in recovery.
Healing our Spirit
Our spirits are almost always broken when we come into recovery. We’ve destroyed most of our relationships with friends and loved ones. We’ve abandoned our connection with our higher power, or perhaps never had such a connection at any point in our lives. Restoring these relationships is what restores our spirit and gives us value and hope.
- Church – Religious institutions are a primary focus of spiritual recovery. If you were a member of a church in the past, try visiting again. You may want to look around a different churches as well to find one that fits with your values and needs. There are many churches around that have large communities of people in recovery.
- Higher Power – Many people can’t bring themselves to believe in one single “god”, or they have difficulty identifying their higher power. If you can’t find your higher power in religion, you can take the Alcoholics Anonymous definition of a higher power – anything you truly believe has more power and control over this world than yourself. It is anything you believe in that is greater than yourself. Chapter 4 of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous address this issue in more depth.
- Define Your Spirituality – Whether you believe in one religion or one god, or nothing at all, you must understand that we are spiritual beings. We need connection. Seek out resources on spirituality such as books, documentaries, internet resources and the like. Learn what interpersonal connection is all about and understand how you are connected to others around you and the world you live in.
- Definition and Purpose – We need to understand that ever-burning question, “Why am I here?” Defining your purpose in life often starts with your 12th step. What do you do that you enjoy and are good at? How do you make the lives of others around you better? What do you contribute to this world? As you work through your steps and work with your sponsor, work toward goals of things you’d like to accomplish in your life. Define things that are important to you, such as values and morals.
Our to-do list in recovery is almost always an overwhelming proposition, but remember that it’s been done many times before and it will continue to be done in the future by the millions of people who live in healthy recovery every day. We at Scottsdale Recovery Center want to see you continue to live a long, healthy life, free from the strongholds of addiction. Don’t let it overwhelm you; remember to take life one day at a time. Getting clean and sober isn’t difficult. The Big Book says it’s not easy, but it is simple. You can do it too, and we’re here to help!