Wellness Pointers for Recovery from Addictive Disorders
A distinctive feature of recovery from addictive disorders is that while people entering recovery have reached a point where they are powerless over the addiction per se, they must assume central responsibility for holding the addiction at bay.
In keeping with this issue’s focus on self-care, this column is intended to provide suggestions for your clients concerning practical steps they can take to maximize the benefits derived from integrating a wellness lifestyle into their recovery. The following pointers are designed to assist people at all stages of recovery in embracing a wellness lifestyle. These suggestions are meant to apply to most persons in most situations. In the event of preexisting health problems, clients are urged to consult with their primary health care providers concerning the applicability of these and any other wellness suggestions.
- Sound nutrition is a prime cornerstone of lasting sobriety. Many recovering alcoholics suffer from alcohol-induced hypoglycemia. To help normalize your blood sugar, eat three, small, wholesome meals a day, interspersed by three nutritious snacks. A balanced diet, which emphasizes fresh vegetables, fruits, grains, and lean sources of protein, is highly recommended. Lessen your dependence on animal products by eating complementary sources of plant-based protein.
- Go lightly on (or eliminate) nutritional stressors including caffeine, refined sugars, and white flour products. It is also advisable to cut back on meats, dairy products, and other high-fat foods.
- Maintain your proper weight through a combination of balanced diet and exercise.
- Consider taking a daily multivitamin supplement, and possibly making judicious use of other health-conducive natural supplements. Remember, however, that supplements are not a substitute for a balanced, nutritious diet.
Fitness and Recovery
- A regular program of vigorous exercise is highly recommended for cardiovascular endurance and overall positive health. Vigorous exercise safeguards against relapse and releases endorphins—giving you a natural drug-free high!
- I firmly believe a regular program of balanced exercise is by far the best health insurance we can give ourselves! Choose an exercise you enjoy, otherwise you won’t stay with it.
- If you choose walking, build up to a program of forty-five minutes, five to seven days per week. If you prefer more vigorous exercise—running, swimming or aerobic dance—a regimen of three to five, twenty- to thirty-minute workouts per week is recommended.
- Set aside several minutes each day for stretching exercises for flexibility. Ideally, you should also work in a muscle-toning exercise session like weight lifting or other resistance training three to four times per week.
Stress Management and Social Supports
- Practice the Serenity Prayer throughout the day. In my opinion, this is the most powerful stress management tool available.
- Recognize that clear and harmonious communications are essential to stress reduction and sobriety maintenance, as most stresses in our lives arise from lack of harmony in our communications with others.
- Learn the art of self-nurturance and giving and receiving position strokes. Get (and give) at least five hugs per day!
- Set aside a daily mind-quieting period, ten to twenty minutes, for meditation, prayer, listening to relaxing music or just sitting quietly. Yoga and tai chi are excellent forms of moving meditation.
- Cultivate mindfulness—the art of truly being in the here and now, while releasing obsessive thoughts focused on the past or future. Spending time in nature provides an excellent opportunity to fully experience the state of mindfulness.
- Learn the art of time management and avoid overscheduling yourself. Consciously schedule some “slack time” into your daily routine.
- In work-related pursuits, remember that opportunities for personal fulfillment and loving service are infinitely more important than attempting to maximize your financial gain.
- Be sure to get seven to eight hours of sleep each night. If you suffer from insomnia, ask yourself if you are consuming too much caffeine or sugar.
- Seek out others and deepen your friendships by being a good friend. Actively participate in a recovery-focused support group.
Conquering Nicotine Addiction
- Cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of death among people in recovery. If you are struggling to free yourself from nicotine addiction, discuss your desire to quit with your doctor.
- Check out low-cost smoking cessation support groups offered by your health plan, the American Cancer Society, the American Lung Association, and other sources. Call a smoking cessation counselor at the National Cancer Institute’s Smoking Quit Line at 1-877-44U-QUIT.
- Be persistent—the average smoker quits five times before kicking the habit for good.
Spirituality and Quality of Life
- Work to deepen your relationship with your higher power through prayer, meditation, and whatever else works for you. Frequently turn to your higher power for guidance and seek out opportunities for loving service.
- Appreciate the connection between personal fulfillment and positive health. It is no coincidence that throughout history great leaders, together with highly successful composers, artists, and other people driven by a passion for creative fulfillment have frequently enjoyed long life spans.
- Strive to find and express your unique sense of purpose in life, and strike a healthy balance between work, relaxation, and creative pursuits. Remember: the purpose of life is a life of purpose.
- Like recovery, wellness is a lifelong process of growth and development. Enjoy the journey!
I hope these pointers enhance your appreciation of the many creative steps your clients can take to maximize their enjoyment of high-quality sobriety. As always, feel free to share these guidelines with your clients and others who benefit from the message. Until next time—to your health!