Holistic Treatment


Using Writing to Further Your RecoveryWhile it won’t cure substance abuse issues on its own, writing offers many therapeutic benefits to people in recovery. Even if you’ve never had the urge to jot down your thoughts in the past, writing can be a powerful tool for physical, mental, and spiritual healing.

How Writing Helps in Addiction Recovery

In today’s fast-paced world, many people jump from one activity to another without ever pausing to consider the consequences of the choices they make. Those who struggle with addiction to drugs or alcohol are often even more frantic—using substance abuse to avoid uncomfortable self-reflection.

Writing allows you to take the time to contemplate your life story without any outside distractions. It’s a way to better understand your past, present, and future.

Some of the benefits of writing while in recovery include:

  • Processing past trauma, such as physical or verbal abuse
  • Coping with loss, such as the death of a loved one or the end of a relationship because of your addiction
  • Understanding the roots of your addiction
  • Tackling challenges associated with co-occurring mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression
  • Taking a second look at your emotional response to specific situations
  • Reframing your thoughts on specific recovery challenges
  • Acting as a distraction technique for coping with cravings
  • Documenting your progress so you can see how far you’ve come when you’re feeling discouraged
  • Gaining a better understanding of your personal strengths and weaknesses

Anyone can benefit from writing while in recovery, but this activity is particularly helpful for those with more introverted personalities. If you struggle to feel comfortable sharing openly in a group, writing down your thoughts may be a way to process issues on your own terms. Finding a way to open up without fear, anxiety, or shame can give you the boost you need to continue moving forward in your recovery.

How to Get Started

The act of writing is a highly individual process, so there is no right or wrong way to go about incorporating writing into your recovery plan. Depending on your preferences, your writing can take many forms. For example:

  • Private journal entry
  • Letter to a friend
  • Memoir
  • List
  • Song lyrics
  • Poetry
  • Short story
  • Novel

Some prompts you might use include:

  • Write a letter to yourself as a child, teen, or young adult
  • Describe the moment that make you realize you needed to seek addiction treatment
  • Explain how you handle your cravings
  • Describe how you imagine your life after six months, one year, two years, etc. in recovery
  • List all of your recovery accomplishments and describe how they make you feel
  • Write a letter to a friend or family member who has supported you throughout your recovery journey

Although typing may seem like the natural choice, the old-fashioned method of putting pen to paper may help you connect with your emotions on a primal level. Use whatever method feels most natural.

The best way to overcome writer’s block is to make writing a part of your daily routine. Set aside 15 to 20 minutes at the beginning or end of each day to write, preferably in a quiet place with no distractions.

As you write, don’t worry about spelling, grammar, or sentence structure. Focus simply on getting your thoughts down on paper. You can always edit and revise at a later date if you feel it’s necessary. Remember, even professional writers don’t create award-winning prose on the first try.

Sharing Your Work

It’s fine to want to keep your writing private. However, sharing your work with a broader audience can offer a number of advantages as well. For example:

  • Positive feedback that boosts self-esteem
  • Emotional satisfaction from helping others with their recovery journey
  • Feeling less isolated as you learn how others have connected to your addiction and recovery story.
  • Reader insights that make you think about your specific recovery challenges in a new way

In addition to sharing with your counselor or the members of your 12-step group, you may choose to seek out writing workshops for people in recovery or to start a blog.

Tapping into the Power of Creativity to Make a New Life for Yourself

You may find that you enjoy writing exclusively, but writing can also be combined with other holistic therapies for addiction recovery. Music, art, or dance therapy can all be used to explore many of the same issues while providing a creative outlet. No matter what path you choose to pursue, finding sober ways to express yourself can help you build a future without the burdens of addiction.

By Dana Hinders

To learn more about our programs, please visit our website.

Related articles:

massage therapyIf you’re interested in a holistic approach to addressing your substance abuse issues, massage therapy may be an option to consider. Although it’s not a commonly used part of addiction treatment, massage therapy offers several benefits to people in recovery. Here are some of the reasons why:

1. Promotes Detoxification

The squeezing and pulling motions we associate with a professional massage do more than just feel good. They help flush lactic acid from the muscles and boost blood flow to the limbs. This improvement in vascular function continues for several days after the massage has ended, which is why professional athletes often rely on massage to keep them in competitive shape.

Since massage helps improve circulation, it can aid in the detoxification process by allowing for a more efficient expulsion of toxic waste products away from the body. The invigoration of blood and lymphatic fluid also helps to promote a better utilization of oxygen-rich nutrition into the various organs and tissues.

2. Releases Endorphins

After the detoxification stage of addiction treatment, the body’s neurochemistry requires time to get back in balance. Drug and alcohol abuse prevents the release of natural endorphins, which means someone who is newly sober needs a little extra help convincing the body to manufacture these “feel good” chemicals.

Research has shown massage therapy increases the amount of beta-endorphins in the blood. Manufactured in the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, beta-endorphins offer a chemical-free way for those in recovery to feel more like themselves. If you’re engaged in a regular exercise program as well as massage therapy, these benefits are further enhanced.

3. Reduces Chronic Pain

For someone who turned to drugs or alcohol as a way to cope with chronic pain, massage can be a way to heal the body. Regular massage can lower pain levels and promote a more restful sleep—leading to improved mood and energy throughout the day.

If you suffer from opioid addiction related to chronic pain, regular massage therapy sessions can be particularly beneficial. Recovering prescription opioid abusers are often reluctant to use any type of pain medication for fear of relapse, but massage can be combined with alternative treatments such as yoga and acupuncture to naturally increase the body’s serotonin levels.

4. Reduces Stress

Chronic stress can weaken the immune system and create mood disturbances. Massage therapy helps those in recovery feel more relaxed and in control of their newfound sobriety by lowering cortisol levels.

Cortisol is the body’s primary stress hormone. It increases glucose in the bloodstream and increases the availability of hormones to promote tissue repair, helping the body to be primed for a “fight or flight” situation. Although this is helpful when you’re actually under attack, an excess of cortisol can lead to stress-related problems such as weight gain, digestive problems, headaches, sleep disturbance, and difficulty concentrating.

5. Addresses Co-Occurring Disorders

If you suffer from co-occurring disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, depression, bipolar disorder, or PTSD, massage therapy can help by triggering the body’s relaxation response. It’s not a substitute for talk therapy, but massage can help you feel more open and comfortable expressing your emotions. This can enhance the effectiveness of your overall treatment plan, reducing the urge to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol.

6. Helps Overcome a Fear of Touch

If you’ve been physically or sexually abused in the past, touch may be associated with negative feelings. Massage therapy encourages the brain to associate physical contact with more positive sensations.

Psychologists who study trauma have stated that being a victim of abuse undermines five of our most basic human needs: safety, trust, control over one’s life, feeling of value, and experiencing closeness with others. The intimacy of massage therapy provides a safe and therapeutic way to meet these needs, thus offering a foundation for healing.  

7. Enhances Self-Awareness

An essential part of addiction recovery involves learning to manage personal addiction triggers. Understanding how feelings of boredom, anger, frustration, or anxiety trigger the urge to use helps you be proactive in managing your sobriety.

Regular massage helps build an awareness of your own body, including where tension exists and patterns that can lead to an increase in negative emotions. This can make it easier to develop productive strategies for controlling cravings and avoiding relapse.

How to Incorporate Massage Therapy into Your Recovery

Massage therapy can’t cure addiction on its own, but the guidance of a qualified massage therapist can offer numerous benefits as part of a broader evidence-based drug and alcohol treatment program. If you’re interested in incorporating massage therapy into your treatment, this issue can be discussed with your counselor as you’re developing your recovery plan.

By Dana Hinders

To learn more about our programs, please visit our website or call us at 888-352-3297.

Related articles:

Using Yoga to Promote a Lasting RecoveryWhile yoga is far from a cure for drug and alcohol addiction, a regular yoga practice can help promote a lasting recovery. Yoga is especially popular with those searching for a holistic way to address addiction treatment because it enhances the mind, body, and spirit.

Yoga Is for Everyone

Even if you don’t consider yourself to be exceptionally flexible, it’s never too late to begin learning more about the benefits of yoga. In addition to yoga classes that designed to be part of addiction treatment, there are yoga programs targeted to diverse groups such as troubled at-risk teens, inmates in correctional facilities, military veterans, and nursing home residents.

Benefits of Yoga in Addiction Recovery

People turn to yoga for many different reasons, but some of the benefits it offers for those in recovery include:

  • Replacing artificial highs with a natural alternative. Yoga gives you a natural high by building your connection to your inner self. Instead of chasing external pleasures from drugs and alcohol, a regular yoga practice can teach you to be content with your internal wisdom and awareness.
  • Enhancing mental control. Yoga’s focus on meditation is essentially strength training for the mind. When you feel in control of your thoughts, your cravings will diminish.
  • Decreasing stress and anxiety. Many people turn to drugs and alcohol as a way to cope with the stress they feel in their personal and professional lives. Doing yoga to unwind at the end of a tough day helps you stay on track with your recovery.
  • Providing a way to deal with past trauma. If your addiction began as a way to cope with childhood trauma, yoga can help you develop the mental clarity needed to process your feelings and find a sense of inner peace.
  • Relieving chronic pain. If your addiction began as a way to cope with chronic pain, yoga is an all-natural way to keep your pain levels in check while enhancing your overall mobility.
  • Providing a sense of community. If you choose to practice yoga in a studio environment or to attend special workshops, you’ll be able to connect with a community of like-minded individuals who share your passion for wellness. Building social ties is scientifically proven to diminish the risk of relapse after addiction treatment.

Creating a Yoga Practice to Promote Addiction Recovery

It’s best to begin your study of yoga under the guidance of a qualified teacher who can adjust your form and suggest modifications to accommodate any physical limitations you might have. People who are overweight, have joint problems, or are recovering from recent injuries can still do yoga, but may need to modify poses to make them more accessible.

Yoga classes are typically 45 to 90 minutes in length and most studios offer free or discounted trial classes for newcomers. Do not get discouraged if you struggle with poses or find your mind wandering. Learning yoga requires practice and patience, just like mastering any other new skill.

Once you understand the basics, you can easily develop your own home yoga practice. All you need to create a home yoga studio is your yoga mat, comfortable clothes that allow you to move freely, and an open yet quiet place to practice. Some people like to play soothing music or diffuse calming essential oils during their practice, but this is not necessary.

The following beginner level poses are often incorporated into a home yoga practice to help promote a lasting recovery from drug and alcohol addiction.  

  • Balasana (Child’s Pose) releases tension and mental fatigue while promoting a feeling of safety.

  • Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend) stretches the lower back and hamstrings while promoting a feeling of calm.
  • Apanasana (Little Boat Hugging Knees) releases pressure in the lower back.

  • Baddha Konasana (Butterfly) is done with deep breathing exercises to open the hips and pelvis.

  • Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog) promotes grounding and stress relief as it releases tension from the entire body.

  • Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I) promotes feelings of mental strength and focus as it teaches to you stay present in the moment even when faced with discomfort.

  • Viparita Karani (Legs-up-the-Wall Pose) is a soothing pose often recommended as a way to promote a more restful sleep.

  • Savasana (Corpse Pose) is a relaxation pose traditionally done at the end of a practice to provide a sense of calm that replenishes both the mind and body.

By Dana Hinders

Next Page »