How to Heal From Co-Occurring Addictions at the Cellular Level

Addiction Recovery Publishing Eating Disorders May 26, 2024

How to Heal From Co-occurring Addictions at the Cellular Level

The iconic American author and philosopher Joseph Campbell famously said, “I don’t believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive.” For many people struggling with co-occurring addictions, these experiences are not only marred, but they can become nonexistent. The good news is there are many effective ways to recover from co-occurring addictions and start living the life that is both desired and deserved.

Healing at the Cellular Level

Campbell also said, “We’re so engaged in doing things to achieve purposes of outer value that we forget the inner value, the rapture that is associated with being alive, is what it is all about.” This is what healing at the cellular level is all about – getting to the underlying core/root causes of our struggles and behaviors.

Of course, healing at the cellular level includes healing the body, but it must also include healing oneself mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It is about the interconnectedness of the healing process. For example, one cannot fully heal emotionally if one also does not fully heal mentally and physically. When one aspect of recovery is lacking, all aspects of recovery will be lacking.

Healing at the cellular level is also about how we go about recovery. Many recovery centers only focus on their client’s diagnoses and forget about the person in front of them. Of course, this does the individual and their recovery a grave disservice. Hippocrates famously wrote, “It’s far more important to know what person the disease has than what disease the person has,” which is emblematic of the importance of individualized care that takes personalized details into account.

It is also critical that recovery plans be integrated and comprehensive. Taking a “multi-angled” approach to recovery that uses a multitude of means, methods, and modalities is the ideal way to heal at the cellular level. This includes people struggling with alcohol use disorder (AUD) and/or substance use disorder (SUD). 

Better Understanding Alcohol and Substance Use Disorder

AUD and SUD remain very serious issues in both the U.S. and around the world. For example, many people forget that alcohol is still the most misused substance (leading to addiction) around the world. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and the 2022 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), “29.5 million people ages 12 and older (10.5% in this age group) had AUD in the past year.”

Also, when it comes to SUD, there are very serious issues regarding opioids, designer drugs, and stimulants. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Substance use disorders continue to be an important health issue in our country,” and “One in seven Americans aged 12 or older reports experiencing a SUD.”

Alcohol and/or substance addiction does not discriminate, and no one is immune to succumbing to it if certain circumstances and details present themselves. AUD and SUD can affect anyone, no matter their race, sex, class, or orientation. The same is also true with process addictions.

Better Understanding Process Addictions

Process addictions (also commonly referred to as “behavioral” addictions) can create similar negative effects as substance addictions. According to the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, “Several behaviors, besides psychoactive substance ingestion, produce short-term reward that may engender persistent behavior despite knowledge of adverse consequences, i.e., diminished control over the behavior. Diminished control is a core defining concept of psychoactive substance dependence or addiction. This similarity has given rise to the concept of non-substance or ‘behavioral’ addictions, i.e., syndromes analogous to substance addiction, but with a behavioral focus other than ingestion of a psychoactive substance.”

Process addictions work in much the same way as substance addictions in that they rely on a risk-to-reward basis. However, just like substance addiction, that reward becomes harder and harder to achieve, leading individuals to commit riskier and riskier behaviors. These risky behaviors eventually lead to some dire consequences. 

Three of the most common types of process addictions are gambling addiction, shopping addiction, and sex addiction. It should also be noted that eating disorders and disordered eating are also classified as process addictions, but they have many other dynamics that often put them in a category all by themself.

Understanding Gambling Addiction

More and more people are struggling with gambling addiction than ever before. One of the main reasons for this is all of the new online access people have to gambling sites and gambling applications. Honestly, it can be hard to turn on the television without seeing an advertisement for some type of sports betting application.

For most people, gambling can be a harmless pastime, and they can “take it or leave it.” However, for many people, gambling can be a devastating process addiction. 

Gambling addiction can take on many forms. According to the Harvard Review of Psychiatry, “Disordered gambling can include frequent preoccupations with gambling, gambling with greater amounts of money to receive the same level of desired experience (tolerance), repeated unsuccessful efforts to control or stop gambling, restlessness or irritability when trying to stop gambling (withdrawal), and the interference of gambling in major areas of life functioning. Criteria also include gambling to escape from a dysphoric state, gambling to regain recent gambling-related losses (“chasing” losses), lying in significant relationships about gambling, and relying on others to fund gambling.” Similar criteria are also met by other process addictions, like shopping and sex addiction.

Understanding Shopping Addiction

Shopping addiction (also known as “compulsive buying behavior”) is very prevalent in today’s society. The reason for this is much the same as why gambling addiction is so prevalent: the internet. People have more access to shopping platforms and applications than ever before. For people with shopping addiction, this reality can be devastating.

According to the peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Psychology, “Compulsive buying behavior (CBB), otherwise known as shopping addiction, pathological buying or compulsive buying disorder, is a mental health condition characterized by the persistent, excessive, impulsive, and uncontrollable purchase of products in spite of severe psychological, social, occupational, financial consequences.” Also, “The frequency of CBB has increased worldwide during the two last decades. A recent meta-analysis estimated a pooled prevalence of 4.9% for CBB in adult representative samples, with higher ratios for university students, those of non-community origin, and shopping-specific participants.” Similar increases have occurred regarding sex addiction.

Understanding Sex Addiction

The prevalence of sex addiction has been compounded by online access in recent years. According to the clinical journal Psychiatry (Edgmont), “Escort services, massage parlors, and street prostitution continue to be available in every major city in the US. Strengthening their presence and availability is the internet, which has created an information portal for these services through online dating services, classified ads, and discussion boards for those in pursuit of sexual gratification. Together, these cultural changes have increased the acceptability and availability of sexual rewards. For some, though, this increase in availability has uncovered an inability to control sexual impulses resulting in continued engagement in these behaviors despite the creation of negative consequences – otherwise known as sexual addiction.”

Sexual addiction can be particularly harmful because it can cause an individual to engage in many risky activities and end up in many compromising situations. It can also break up relationships, partnerships, and families due to infidelities and the potential for sexually transmitted diseases. As with all of the previously mentioned process addictions, sex addiction is also a very common co-occurring addiction. However, perhaps the most common co-occurring addictions are eating disorders and disordered eating.

Better Understanding the Unique Classification of Eating Disorders and Disordered Eating

Eating disorders remain a very serious issue in the U.S. and abroad. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), “More than 28 million Americans will have an eating disorder in their lifetime. Individuals of all ages, race/ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, body shapes, weights, socioeconomic statuses, and levels of physical activity can develop an eating disorder. Eating disorders are more likely to appear in teen years or young adulthood, and cases have increased among children, older adults, and military service members.”

There are many different types of eating disorders and disordered eating. This includes binge-eating disorder, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID). Eating disorders can be particularly devastating because while one can eventually become abstinent from illicit substances, that option is, of course, an impossibility for those struggling with an eating disorder.

The unmanageability aspect of eating disorders is also why many people turn to alcohol and other substances to self-medicate. Ultimately, this only makes things worse and can lead to co-occurring addictions. 

Better Understanding Co-Occurring Addictions

Many people understand the prevalence of co-occurring issues of addiction and mental illness. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “7.7 million adults have co-occurring mental and substance use disorders… Of the 20.3 million adults with substance use disorders, 37.9% also had mental illnesses,” and “Among the 42.1 million adults with mental illness, 18.2% also had substance use disorders.”

However, many people are unaware of how common co-occurring addictions can be. This includes people who struggle with co-occurring substance addictions, co-occurring process addictions, and co-occurring substance and process addictions.

Co-occurring substance use is also known as “polysubstance use,” and it can be very dangerous. According to the CDC, “Polysubstance use is when two or more substances are used together or within a short time period, either intentionally or unintentionally… Whether intentional or not, using alcohol and other substances is unsafe because the effects may be stronger and more unpredictable than one drug alone, and even deadly.”

It is also very common for co-occurring substance and process addictions to occur, and they can increase the severity of the symptoms of one another. According to the Journal of Behavioral Addictions, “Addictions do not always occur singly. Clinicians have noted that addictions frequently co-occur in the same individual and that there might be a systematic progression from having difficulties with one excessive behavior to struggling with another. Moreover, compared with people experiencing only a single problematic addictive behavior, individuals with co-occurring addictions are at increased risk for negative outcomes – including victimization, poorer physical health status, or even suicide.” Since the prevalence of co-occurring addictions is quite clear, the question then becomes how to best treat it.

How to Heal From Co-Occurring Addictions at the Cellular Level

Now, the good news about treating co-occurring addictions is that many of the treatments for healing singular addictions can be used to treat multiple addictions. The key is to make sure that recovery plans are comprehensive when treating both singular and co-occurring addictions.

Recovery plans often include evidence-based psychotherapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), which can be highly beneficial. Unfortunately, many recovery plans stop there. This stops short of helping someone heal at the cellular level.

To heal at the cellular level, it can be highly beneficial to use experiential therapies like nature immersion therapy and surf therapy and holistic wellness options like yoga. This type of comprehensive and integrated recovery is ideal for getting to all of the underlying root/core causes of co-occurring addictions.

Understanding Nature Immersion Therapy for Healing Co-Occurring Disorders

Joseph Campbell also said, “The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with Nature.” This is emblematic of what nature immersion therapy is all about. It is about connecting with nature so one can better connect with themselves.

Nature immersion therapy also has a plethora of other benefits. According to the National Park Service, “A 30-minute visit to a park can improve heart health, circulation and lower cholesterol, blood glucose, and blood pressure.” Also, “5 minutes walking in nature improves mood, self-esteem, and relaxation. Frequent exposure to nature reduces anxiety and depression while promoting a sense of well-being and fulfillment. Physical activity in a green space can reduce stress and lower cortisol levels by 15%.” Experiential surf therapy can also be highly beneficial to those looking to recover from co-occurring addictions.

Understanding Surf Therapy for Healing Co-Occurring Disorders

There may be no better place to experience surf therapy at its peak than on the Hamakua Coast of Hawaii’s Big Island. A mere 15-minute journey from our luxury recovery center at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab sits one of the best surf breaks in Hawaii: Honoli’i. Here, one can ride amazing waves while meditating peacefully between the breaks.

Like nature immersion, surf therapy offers many benefits. According to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, “Carefully planned water activities tailored to the needs of the individual can contribute to correct psychosocial and cognitive development. The International Surf Therapy Organization summarizes the benefits of adequately indicated surf therapy as follows: improved physical health and mobility; improved mental health, including reduction of specific symptoms, such as posttraumatic stress and depression; improved well-being (strengthening of trust and confidence, encouragement of independence, resilience and protective coping strategies) and improved social skills.” 

It is also an exceptional way to treat toxic behaviors with healthy ones. The same can be said about yoga for co-occurring addiction recovery.

Understanding Yoga for Healing Co-Occurring Disorders

A big part of yoga is finding a sense of inner peace to help mitigate the turmoil that is going on on the outside. Joseph Cambell perhaps put it best when he said, “Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.” Yoga is about rekindling that sense of joy.

Of course, a yoga practice also offers many other benefits. According to the International Journal of Yoga (IJOY), “Yogic practices enhance muscular strength and body flexibility, promote and improve respiratory and cardiovascular function, promote recovery from and treatment of addiction, reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain, improve sleep patterns, and enhance overall well-being and quality of life.” With a combination of psychotherapeutic, experiential, and holistic means, methods, and modalities, recovery and whole mind-body healing from co-occurring addictions go up exponentially. 

Healing at the Cellular Level With Exclusive Hawaii Rehab

Relying on the genius of Joseph Campbell one more time; he famously said, “We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.” This is what recovery at the cellular level is all about. It is about taking that first step toward the happy destiny that addiction or co-occurring addictions were keeping us from.

Recovery is about the journey, never the destination. There is perhaps no better place to start that journey of recovery than right here at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab on the Hamkua Coast of Hawaii’s Big Island.

Many people struggle with co-occurring addictions. This includes co-occurring substance addictions, co-occurring process addictions (including eating disorders and disordered eating), and co-occurring substance and process addictions, such as alcohol addiction and gambling addiction. The good news is that there are many effective means, methods, and modalities that can help individuals recover from co-occurring addictions. If you feel like you or a loved one is struggling with issues of addiction, mental illness, or co-occurring disorders, we can help get you on the right road to long-term recovery right away. For more information on how to effectively treat co-occurring addictions and heal at the cellular level, please reach out to Exclusive Hawaii Rehab today at (808) 775-0200.