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Guest Post: Healthy Balance as Alternative Addiction Recovery

Addiction recovery is a long and challenging road. The traditional recovery methods, such as a faith-based 12-step program, are generally useful, but not everyone embraces them. Some believe that there are more effective ways to battle their addictions – even going as far as saying that they can conquer and cure addiction. For some, seeking methods to change their lives through alternative recovery is the only way to manage (or defeat) their substance use disorders.

Traditional treatments

Traditional addiction recovery is a focused group-therapy based program rooted in Christian faith. It follows the 12-step program, which were initially developed in 1935 as part of Alcoholics Anonymous. These steps are progressive and ask the addict to confront their addiction and identify the reasons, triggers and stressors while coming to terms with the pain and destructiveness that the addict has caused himself and loved ones. There are clear call-outs to one’s higher power.

Some prefer to separate their religion from their addiction, so several alternatives have arisen over the years that omit the spiritual message while preserving the strength of the steps in a secular format. These programs include LifeRing, Smart Recovery, Rational Recovery and others.

Alternatives to 12-step programs

Beyond omitting the references to a higher power, other alternative addiction recovery programs abandon the 12-step framework entirely. These holistic therapies target addiction by rooting out causes related to one’s mental state or history. They can also act in a supporting role in addiction recovery, similarly as self-care can provide comfort and support. Holistic alternative therapies can be extreme such as with scream therapy, or can be mild as in art therapy. Since a lot of these therapies are new and ever-changing, there has not been much in the way of clinical testing done on their effectiveness.

 Food and nutrition’s role

 Addicts often lack the foresight to maintain a healthy eating plan. Combined with the damage caused by drugs and alcohol, poor nutrition can make the body weak and therefore susceptible to relapse. It’s accepted that food can be used as part of a successful recovery plan. Alcoholics, for example, often find greater success staying sober when eliminating grains and gluten from their diets. Adding foods high in nutrients is astoundingly beneficial. B Vitamins, zinc, and probiotics are just a handful of the vitamins and minerals that can help heal the body — and mind — from the inside.


Exercise as an alternative recovery

For some, an alternative, but less extreme solution to addiction is to make one’s life healthy. A focus on exercise, for example, has been effective for many. Some have replaced an unhealthy habit with the healthy obsession of fitness. Exercise is scientifically provento target and trigger many of the same brain chemicals that drugs and alcohol stimulate. “Runner’s high” is nearly identical to the rush of inebriation, at least to the brain.

It makes sense, then, that exercise can fill the hole left when an addict attempts sobriety. The only problem with using exercise as a recovery tool is the hard reality that many people who exercise peter out at some point, or otherwise get burned out and either stop or switch to some other activity that might not provide the same brain chemical benefit.

If sustained, however, exercise can be the key to long-term sobriety and improved overall health. Healthier people tend to avoid destructive behaviors and are generally too busy living their active lives to waste time doing drugs or drinking excessively.

Since a healthy diet supports exercise and provides nutrition that usually is lacking in an addict’s routine, eating better can also be an alternative recovery component.


Other healthy activities

When someone catches a fitness and wellness “bug,” they also can see positivity spread throughout their lives. This is also the case when someone gets hooked on yoga and mindfulness. An addict can completely rewire themselves and create a healthy balance that is squarely focused on their body and mind. Hobbies and positive social interactions further the well-rounded benefits of alternative recovery.

Addiction is tough to manage, so it’s understandable for those afflicted by substance abuse to reach out for alternatives. Although they are adequate for some, many still need the structure and programs afforded by the 12 steps. For these people, alternative therapies can be complementary methods that help keep them sober.

Post by Kimbery Hayes

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