What Does a Whole-Body Approach Look Like in Addiction Recovery?

Addiction Recovery Publishing Addiction Recovery November 12, 2023

What Does a Whole-Body Approach Look like in Addiction Recovery?

There is an ancient Buddhist proverb that reads, To keep the body in good health is a duty… otherwise, we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.” This is emblematic of the whole-body approach that is essential for recovering at the cellular level. 

The whole-body approach is aimed at healing both the internal and external issues of addiction and mental health disorders at the same time. When this comprehensive healing occurs, the chances of getting at and addressing the root/core causes of our problems become significantly more achievable.

A Comprehensive Recovery Plan: The Benefits

The Buddha says, “It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell.” This is also why focusing on the self above all else in recovery is essential for optimal success. An individualized approach is fundamental for this. This individualization falls on the shoulders of the recovery center. So does the focus on comprehensive recovery.

A multifaceted approach is critical for creating a recovery plan that is going to address all of the issues that we face in addiction recovery. “One-note” “quick-fix” recovery is rarely effective. It is too broad to address the individual issues that many of us face. After all, as is often said, “addiction is but a symptom of much deeper issues.” Comprehensive recovery can cover all of the problems that we face on an individual basis.

Now, comprehensive recovery and a whole-body approach are elemental for healing at the cellular level. It focuses on the mind-body connection by way of psychotherapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and experiential therapies like art therapy. Also, it focuses on the body-mind connection via aquatic activities such as swimming with green sea turtles and manta rays and surf therapy. It also focuses on the gut-brain axis with nutritional therapy that includes a focus on the gut microbiota. Yes, it even focuses on the mind-body-spirit connection through mediation, breathwork, and certain aspects of yoga practice.

What Does a Whole-Body Approach Look Like in Addiction Recovery?

When it comes to addiction recovery specifically, it is important to address the entirety of the problem with a whole-body approach. This is because the interconnectedness of our being means that leaving anything unaddressed leaves an opening for issues to return. With addiction, these issues represent relapse and all of the negative side effects that are associated with it.

If the psychological is not addressed, then it can be difficult to concentrate on the necessary mental tasks at hand. So, if there is no focus on the mental aspects of addiction, then it becomes difficult to take care of the physical body. With a lack of attention given to the physical body, there will be little energy and self-confidence to take care of our cognitive and emotional selves. This is what interconnectedness looks like in the treatment process, and it is essential for recovery.

Understanding the “Three-Part Illness” of Addiction

In the recovery realm, there is something known as the “three-part illness.” What this alludes to is the concept that addiction affects people on every level. The three parts are broken down into constant obsessing (also known as “the mental obsession”), physical cravings (also commonly referred to as “the phenomenon of craving”), and spiritual emptiness (commonly referred to as “the spiritual malady”).

While they may not all come on at one time, generally, when one of these three issues arises, the other two are not far behind. This is also why a whole-body approach is vital because only by addressing all three parts of the illness can the whole body be healed, from the internal to the external and the inverse.

The Whole-Body Approach: The Mental Obsession

Many people struggle with racing thoughts. These happen both while in active addiction and in recovery. Now, these thoughts in active addiction have to do with when the next time we are going to drink or use again or if we have enough of what we need to get through the next day or night. 

In recovery, the mental obsession focuses more on questions like, “What if I drink or use again?” “I wonder if I’m ‘recovered’ enough to just drink or use a little bit?” “I feel pretty good now. I wonder if my problem was that bad in the first place?” These thoughts can be very dangerous and disruptive.

This is why mental obsession and racing thoughts must be focused on in a recovery plan. Often, this is done through therapies and psychotherapies that can get to the root/core causes of those thoughts so they can be addressed behaviorally. Also, when it comes to a whole-body approach, holistic methods such as breathwork and meditation can help quiet these thoughts. Other physical activities can help us take our mind away from these thoughts as well.

The Whole-Body Approach: The Physical Cravings

Physical cravings are also a part of addiction and recovery. This is only natural, and almost everyone who struggles with addiction has them. Now, the primary reason behind physical cravings is relatively simple. The body has become addicted to a substance, and it must maintain a certain level of that substance to function comfortably. When the substance is taken away, the body reacts negatively, and we feel sick. A detox is critical to getting the body adjusted away from the specific substance that needs addressing. 

However, why is it then that we feel physical cravings after the detox? This is because the physical cravings are interconnected with the mental obsession. The mind-body connection is an amazing thing. Unfortunately, in this instance, it can be rather harmful. Also, unfortunately, if these physical cravings are not addressed, the potential for relapse becomes significantly more likely. These cravings can be addressed by both addressing the mental obsession (as was previously addressed) as well as introducing a spiritual element into our recovery practice.

The Whole-Body Approach: Spiritual Emptiness

Now, there is a misconception that many people have surrounding spirituality that it must also be religious. This can even cause many people who need help to balk and avoid treatment altogether. The truth is that spirituality and religion are not mutually exclusive. One can be wholly spiritual without integrating any tenets of established religion into it.

A spiritual practice can be as simple as finding gratitude for being sober today. It can be found in the way that others around us are working in unison to help each other succeed, and on Hawaii’s Big Island, it can be in a sunset beyond the beaches on the Hamakua Coast. 

The benefits of a spiritual practice are that it can help prepare the mind and the body for the treatments that are going to ultimately mend them. It also offers the solutions and stillness needed to quiet the mind and heal the body during the recovery process. This includes while engaging in “traditional” therapies.

Utilizing “Traditional” Therapy for Healing at the Cellular Level

The reason why the term “traditional” often gets put in quotation marks is that it is important not to correlate the term traditional with the term antiquated. Traditional therapy (also known as psychotherapies and “talk” therapies) simply applies to therapies that have been around and studied for an extended period of time. They can be extremely useful for recovery because they have also been studied and shown to be effective. This is why traditional therapies are also often referred to as “evidence-based” therapies.

Perhaps the two most common forms of these therapies are CBT and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). These two therapies are highly effective at getting to the core/root of our problems by way of discussion and introspection. When these core issues are discovered, then the behaviors associated with them can be addressed. Once they are addressed, it makes it much more possible for an individual to recognize these when these issues are surfacing so they can mitigate and even avoid the correlating behaviors. Another category of therapy that can help get to the root/core causes of our addiction is psychedelic therapy.

Utilizing Psychedelic and Ketamine Therapy for Healing at the Cellular Level

Another proverb that was created by the Buddha reads, “When one has the feeling of dislike for evil, when one feels tranquil, one finds pleasure in listening to good teachings; when one has these feelings and appreciates them, one is free of fear.” Psychedelic and ketamine therapy can help us get to this tranquil place so that healing and understanding can begin. They start by helping to eliminate the anxiety and depression that often interfere with effective addiction treatment.

According to the scientific article, Psychedelics Promote Neuroplasticity Through the Activation of Intracellular 5-HT2A Receptors put out by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), “Some types of psychedelic drugs, such as psilocybin and MDMA (ecstasy), have shown promise as therapies for treatment-resistant depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. They appear to work by encouraging the growth of new connections between neurons in the brain. This ability of the brain to make new connections is called plasticity.” Ketamine therapy can have similar positive effects. Yet, many people still shy away from its efficacy.

According to the scientific article, Sustained Rescue of Prefrontal Circuit Dysfunction by Antidepressant-Induced Spine Formation, put out by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), “Ketamine is a fast-acting antidepressant that relieves depressive symptoms in hours instead of the weeks or longer that previous drugs required. In addition to being a major advance in treatment, ketamine provides an opportunity for researchers to investigate the short- and long-term biological changes underlying its effects on depression.” These therapies can be highly effective at helping someone feel secure and open up to the level of honesty necessary to heal on a cellular level. 

Utilizing Nutrition Therapy for Healing at the Cellular Level

Here at Exclusive Hawaii rehab, we have a belief that “food is medicine.” This is why we focus so intently on nutrition at our recovery center. When it comes to addiction, many people don’t realize just how vitamin and nutrient-depleted our bodies actually become.

For example, regarding alcohol use disorder (AUD), according to the article, Mechanisms of Vitamin Deficiencies in Alcoholism by Dr. AM Hoyumpa, “Chronic alcoholic patients are frequently deficient in one or more vitamins. The deficiencies commonly involve folate, vitamin B6, thiamine, and vitamin A. Although inadequate dietary intake is a major cause of vitamin deficiency, other possible mechanisms may also be involved. Alcoholism can affect the absorption, storage, metabolism, and activation of many of these vitamins.” That inadequate diet is a focus here at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab.

We focus on foods that help promote a healthy gut microbiome. This is because there have been a lot of studies that have shown a correlation between a “gut-healthy” diet and a healthy cognitive state.

Gut health, like psychedelic and ketamine therapies, can open up a path through issues of anxiety and depression to address the underlying issues of addiction. According to the peer-reviewed journal Clinics and Practice, “Dysbiosis and inflammation of the gut have been linked to causing several mental illnesses including anxiety and depression, which are prevalent in society today. Probiotics have the ability to restore normal microbial balance and therefore have a potential role in the treatment and prevention of anxiety and depression.” Here, we can see that food can quite literally be medicine to aid in the whole-body approach. Also, with that being the case, we quite literally grow our own medicine right on our 30-acre property.

The Benefits of Horticulture Therapy for Addiction Recovery

When our clients walk outside the doors of our luxury recovery center, they are greeted by rows of citrus trees, pineapple patches, guava bushes, and raised vegetable beds. That is because we grow some of our own food right on the property. Also, our clients do not just partake in eating these property-grown foods; they partake in cultivating them via horticulture therapy.

Part of a healthy whole-body approach to treatment may involve horticulture therapy. It can be a critical part of the process. According to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, “Horticulture could have emotional benefits, such as reducing stress, reducing psychiatric symptoms, stabilizing mood, and increasing the sense of tranquility, spirituality, and enjoyment… It could help people to reduce fatigue and restore attention and cognitive ability… It could increase self-efficacy, self-esteem, and quality of life… [And] horticultural therapy could provide a forum for developing group cohesiveness and a sense of belonging.” Horticulture therapy helps us connect to the land, which in turn helps connect us to ourselves. 

The Benefits of Yoga for Addiction Recovery

While horticulture therapy adds to the whole-body approach by connecting our thought energy to a productive process, yoga adds to the whole-body approach by connecting our movements to our minds. This can bring an essential calming effect, which can be invaluable for healing at the cellular level. However, these are not the only benefits.

According to the International Journal of Yoga, “Yoga therapy involves instruction in yogic practices and teachings to prevent reduce or alleviate structural, physiological, emotional and spiritual pain, suffering or limitations. 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.” These types of benefits are foundational to the whole-body approach to recovery. Yoga works to heal both from the outside and the inside out. It is essential for optimal healing.

A Whole-Body Approach to Recovery at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab

There is another Buddhist philosophy that involves the importance of community and the interconnectedness of those around us. It goes, “No one will reach enlightenment until the last blade of grass too reaches enlightenment.” 

This is symbolic of both the whole-body approach to treatment and our approach at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab. The whole body cannot heal unless each part (mind, body, spirit) is healed, and we don’t finish until each client is fully healed at the cellular level. That is our whole-healing mission.

People in addiction recovery often struggle with the issues of mental obsession, physical cravings, and spiritual emptiness. A multi-focuses recovery plan with a whole-body approach is best suited to address all three of these issues. This includes traditional therapies, experiential therapies, psychedelic and ketamine therapy, horticulture therapy, nutrition and exercise, and effective holistic practices like acupuncture and yoga. If you feel like you or a loved one is struggling with issues of mental illness, addiction, or both, we can help get you onto the road to long-term recovery. For more information about comprehensive recovery plans and effective treatment options, please reach out to Exclusive Hawaii Rehab today at (808) 775-0200.