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Benefits of Treating Addiction as a Three-Part Disease

March 18, 2019

Addiction has been named “disease of the brain”. Complex and often confusing, this disease is not limited to attacking the thinking and behaviors of an individual, but physically, and spiritually as well. Just like with any disease, it is important that the patient and the healthcare professional are aware of the causes and symptoms in order to provide proper treatment. Alcoholism is a three-fold illness of the mind, body, and spirit. More specifically alcoholism/addiction is made up of three main components: physical allergy, mental obsession, and spiritual malady. The disease of addiction is not curable however, through proper treatment, the symptoms can be mitigated.


Physical Benefits


Individuals who take on a more holistic approach, to combating addiction, have seen better physical results. When treating addiction, you do not want to attack the physical allergy with more drugs. Exercise, proper detox treatment, education on proper nutrition, adequate sleep, and better hydration may benefit you physically way more than you expected. According to Psychology Today: “Exercise directly affects the brain. Regular exercise increases the volume of certain brain regions — in part through better blood supply that improves neuronal health by improving the delivery of oxygen and nutrients; and through an increase in neurotrophic factors and neurohormones that support neuron signaling, growth, and connections.”

Not only is physical activity beneficial for your mental health but staying active can also help mitigate cravings and withdrawal symptoms. It’s no secret that depression can lead an individual to feel overly tired, weak, and completely unmotivated. Exercise can induce the production of dopamine, which is the brain’s natural “happiness” chemical. Studies have also shown the growth of new brain cells to be a direct result of even going for a brief stroll. From cleaning the house, going for a walk, putting on makeup (with no plans to leave the house) can work wonders. Sometimes the phrase “fake it ‘till you make it” serves the desired outcome. As addicts, we have the innate habit of obsessing and indulging in over almost everything. The purpose is to distract the brain and encourage a new thought to sweep in and replace the craving.  


Mental Benefits


The road to self discovery is crucial for recovering addicts. Most addicts would agree that they are unsure of who they really are, underneath all of the drugs and alcohol. It is also not uncommon for addicts to come from a multitude of mental health disorders and trauma as well. It is important for these issues to be addressed in treatment as well. Not every addict benefits from the traditional one-on-one therapy modality. Therapy, for trauma and other mental health issues, can also be found in music therapy, art therapy, CBT/DBT therapy, family therapy, and practicing yoga.

It is important therapy promotes a safe and positive collaboration between the addict and therapist. Avoiding condemnation and confrontation, the therapist must empathize with the patient in order to establish a secure and trustworthy relationship. Education in therapy is also quintessential for recovery, it is important the addict understand that addiction is a disease and not a matter of willpower. Through setting expectations the individual will set goals to accomplish throughout the duration in therapy which will ultimately encourage taking further steps towards positive behaviors. Therapy must also employ cognitive behavioral change through identifying triggers and impulsivity which retrains the brain’s functionality.


Spiritual Benefits


Most recovering addicts cringe at the word spirituality or any subject pertaining the matter. Afterall, most addicts have walked into the trenches of the deepest despair, without any sense of moral compass, and hopelessly covered in shame. Mindfulness and meditation promote gratitude in even the smallest of tasks: from admiring the colors of a sunset, the sensation of fresh summer rain on your face, savoring every bite of food that hits, to the warm embrace of a loved one. Mindfulness is rooted in ancient Buddhism practices. The goal of mindfulness is enlightenment which refers to awareness, attention, and remembering. Raising awareness, raising attention to, and remembering the goal can help the individual manifest their own ideas.

Mindfulness comes in many forms. The idea of “living in the moment” is hinged upon mindfulness. Stepping back, taking an objective view, and accepting things exactly as they are, is the best way to practice mindfulness. Mindful eating, moving meditation (yoga/tai chi), and mindful breathing are other ways to implement this practice into your daily routine. Mindfulness has been attributed to lowering feelings of anxiety/depression, controlling the body’s reaction to stressors, aiding in pain management, and identifying/processing emotions. Recovery requires awareness, balance, and control which can be cultivated through many meditative practices.


Three-Part Treatment


If you are given the option to treat an illness or condition with several types of treatment, you will most likely choose the multi-method approach. The goal  is to heighten the success rate of adequately treating the symptoms of the disease. This concept also applies to your addiction.

There are many different types of treatment integrated into the recovery process. When treating addiction, it is most important to incorporate the three parts of the disease. Effective treatment methods may include: exercise and healthy nutrition for the body, therapy and journaling for the mind, as well as prayer and meditation for the soul. Almost all addiction treatment programs  recognize this and have found that there is not a one size fits all method to this approach.