Steps to Recovery From Addiction: Healing Mind, Body, & Soul

The steps to recovery from addiction are different for everyone. And while there’s no one-size-fits-all treatment path, every recovering individual can benefit from a holistic approach that prioritizes the mind, body, and soul.

There exists a one-and-done mentality when it comes to recovery or rehabilitation. Peaceful getaways up-state or blissful retreats atop tranquil beaches are what first come to mind. Even though fresh air and weeks of therapy are helpful and essential, that’s just the beginning.

A holistic recovery is both a lengthy journey and a massive transformation of one’s physical, mental, and emotional health. For those who are struggling with addiction, it is integral for learning self-compassion and empathy, and one of the best things that can be done to facilitate a sustained recovery.

Detox and Physical Recovery 

The exact process of how to detox your body from drugs and alcohol may be different for different individuals, but it does take a large physical toll on most people. 

“The physical body, in the first week or so, goes through really intense flu like symptoms: chills, fevers, sweats, aches, pains and physical spasms. It’s as if you’ve built a table, removed one of the legs and now the whole thing falls over,” says Kate Ramsey, Clinical Supervisor with Retreat Behavioral Health. “The body has learned to function and is now saying, ‘Wait a minute, we’ve redesigned the whole system just for you, and now you’ve taken [the substance] out.’ Those initial symptoms are just the body trying to learn how to function without the poison in its system. This process, within 3-7 days, sometimes less, is that of acute withdrawal.”

While it is medically necessary, detox is an intense, oftentimes dangerous, process. The body has to reset and start over completely. Therefore, it is always urged to begin your detox process under the supervision of trained, medical professionals.

Once past that initial 3-7 day detox, the breakdown of the old and the construction of the new really begins to develop — physically, mentally, and emotionally. Going through the process of detox is the first of many hard but necessary steps in changing deeply rooted behaviors and starting an effective treatment plan. But it’s not enough on its own. According to a 2012 John Hopkins study, researchers found that “While the relapse rate post-detox is 65 to 80 percent, recovering drug addicts who remained in treatment were 10 times more likely to stay drug-free.” 

Revolutionizing Our Thoughts to Change Our Behaviors

Napoleon once famously said, “The best cure for the body is a quiet mind.” Our bodies want to heal themselves. We fall and scrape our knee, and immediately the body is springing into action and formulating how to most quickly heal itself. The same is true with depression and addiction recovery. The body springs into action, sometimes begrudgingly, to rid itself of toxins and come to a place of healing. However, a place of healing cannot happen without the quieting of the mind. 

Addiction is an illness, but it is also a manifestation of our thoughts—about ourselves, about others, and about the world around us. By having compassion for and learning to control these thoughts, we gain more compassion and control over our addictions as well.

Re-wiring our brains to not only process trauma but form new habits is difficult. Yet we cannot heal without allowing our brains to process pain, form new neural pathways, and monitor how we react to our emotions. For addicts, practicing forgiveness and allowing hurt to be felt, allows their brain the tools to heal and form healthy communication with the rest of their body. 

“It’s all very complex because depression comes from different places. In fact, depression isn’t sadness. Depression is the reaction to our sadness,” said Dr. Brian Berman a Clinical Psychologist with Retreat Behavioral Health. By working to heal our mind, we also work to address the root causes of substance abuse. This is tantamount to effective treatment, and a necessary step in forming new, healthier habits.

The Power of Self Compassion

“Establishing your self-worth is the most important thing in the world,” Don Joseph Goewey, former manager of the Department of Psychiatry at Stanford Medical School and author of The End of Stress, Four Steps To Rewire Your Brain, told Retreat in an interview. While the journey of how to develop self-compassion can be a long one, it is always worth it in the end.

The establishment of self-worth acts as the soil to our lives. With rich nutrients and a solid foundation, this soil provides the possibility for abundant and fruitful healing. Addicts often note that their shame acts as a massive component in their addiction. Shame and fear often keeps individuals from seeking help and receiving treatment. However, with a life built on self-worth and compassion, shame and fear simply cannot survive. Healing can prevail and pain is allowed to be addressed when we are practicing kindness to ourselves.  

The practice of self-love and compassion can take many forms, including:

. Exercising and taking care of your body

. Eating a healthy and balanced diet

. Getting proper amounts of sleep

. Engaging in daily hygiene practices

. Going to therapy

. Alternative therapies like Reiki and massage

. Allowing in the love and support of the people who care about us

By practicing love and self-compassion we break apart the toxic environment that addictions are often rooted in. Just as Goewey explains that we all possess a powerful way of being in this world, so every individual that struggles with addiction has the strength to find their path towards healing and hope. 

Healing Body and Spirit

True mind, body, soul recovery can bring hope to recovering addicts and provide a foundation of health and wellness that facilitates long-term sobriety. Every journey is different, but recovery is possible for every addict. When we take a holistic approach to treatment, addressing not just the behavioral manifestations of addiction but the toll that it takes on our physical, emotional, and spiritual lives, we discover that if we want to learn a new way of life, we have to learn to be whole.