Addiction is not a matter of willpower; it is a chronic brain disease which causes you to compulsively seek out and take drugs or alcohol. Accepting that you have an addiction and getting help can be extremely difficult, but with the right support, it is possible.
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, it is recommended that you seek professional help from a rehabilitation centre. However, recovery does not end with detox; it requires a life-long commitment to sobriety. There are natural techniques which can help you on this journey. We will talk about a few of these techniques and how you can incorporate them into your life.
When you have an addiction, the substance you are using takes priority in your life. You may stop spending time with your friends and family and stop activities which you enjoyed previously. Quitting, therefore, creates a void which was previously taken up with drugs or drinking.
During recovery it is important that you keep busy; being bored or feeling aimless could lead you to relapse. It could help to find a new hobby or challenge. For example, you may start something new or something you enjoyed before the addiction. We will give some suggestions of things which could keep you busy.
Exercise Regularly and Eat Healthily
It is common to let your physical and mental health take the back foot when you have an addiction. Since you spend much of your time seeking and taking drugs or alcohol, exercise is not a priority. Taking up exercise and eating healthily can help you to recover physical and mental health and will also fill up time.
Exercise has been shown to boost confidence, reduce stress, and improve sleep and focus. When you exercise, your brain releases endorphins which trigger the reward pathway, promoting feelings of well-being. This is an important pathway to activate since it is what is often activated when taking addictive substances. In the absence of the substance, you will not only be reduced to experiencing normal levels of reward, but they could even be less than normal levels.
Different types of exercise may help in different ways. For example, vigorous exercise such as martial arts can be an outlet for anger and frustration. In contrast, yoga aims to connect your body and mind, bringing awareness to both. You learn how to recognise and process your emotions through movement, breathing, and meditation.
Getting out in nature for a walk or a run can also be beneficial. There is evidence that walking outside causes elevated mood, improved sleep, increased self-esteem, decreased trauma triggers, and better nutrient and vitamin absorption.
Eating healthily will also improve your physical and mental health. It is likely that you have been deficient in the necessary vitamins and minerals to keep you healthy. Getting the right balance can improve your brain function, reduce anxiety and depression, and help you sleep. You might consider taking vitamin supplements in addition to an improved diet.
When you think of meditation, perhaps you imagine sitting stiffly for hours on end, being bored and uncomfortable. Sitting meditation in which you focus on your breath is beneficial for many people, however, there are several types of meditation including standing and walking meditations. You may even do short meditations by simply bringing your awareness back to yourself through your breath in daily life – perhaps while you wash the dishes, or when you go to the toilet during a stressful meal in a restaurant. This can help you to centre yourself and feel calmer and more collected.
Like yoga, meditation teaches you how to recognise and process your emotions. This can help you to spot relapse triggers. Relapse starts before you physically take the drug. First, you relapse emotionally and mentally. Therefore, being able to acknowledge emotions can be important in preventing a physical relapse as you can catch it in the initial stages.
Build a Strong Support Network including Therapy and Support Groups
When you have an addiction, it is common to push people away either to protect them or yourself. You could even push them away because you are experiencing a drug-induced psychosis which causes paranoia and suspicion about those you are close to. Having people close to you to support you through the recovery process is very important. Therefore, it is necessary to rebuild old relationships and/or build new relationships with people who are sober and will not tempt you into substance use again.
Your support network might include your therapist or support groups such as Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous. Therapists can help you to deal with your current emotions and triggers but also with the initial factors that contributed to your addiction. Support groups can help you to connect with people going through the same thing so that you do not feel alone in your journey.
You might consider alternative forms of therapy, for example, gardening, pet, art, or music therapy. Taking care of a plant or an animal has been shown to reduce pain and stress hormones and anxiety. By taking care of something else, you are more likely to take care of yourself as you know that their well-being depends on you. Art and music therapy can help you to express yourself, and vent feelings that are difficult to discuss with people.
As mentioned, you should seek professional help if you have an addiction, particularly if it is a heavy addiction and you have developed dependence. However, long-term sobriety requires a holistic approach which will vary from person to person. While some people will benefit most from yoga, meditation, and music therapy, others might benefit most from boxing and cognitive-behavioural therapy. If you or a loved one is ready to seek help, you can get more information about treatments and discuss which are best for you by visiting a rehabilitation centre.
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