The Whole Person
“If you are numb, nothing can hurt you” is the impression many drug users have. But nothing could be further from the truth. Substance abuse and addiction result from an effort to numb physical or emotional pain – an attempt to “fix” a problem or shut off unwanted sensations and emotions. The truth is that drugs shut off ALL sensation and emotion – the good and the bad. They are poisonous to the body and when they wear off the unwanted pains and sensations return even stronger than before. Continued drug use will temporarily succeed in shutting down pain and sensations, all while weakening the body and mind and making the individual more and more susceptible to the very pains and sensations they sought to quell. What the user cannot feel due to being numb will indeed hurt. The body, mind and spirit – the WHOLE person – will hurt, as will their family and associates.
Holistic vs. Conventional
Holistic refers to wholeness and an analysis of the whole person, their physical and mental stamina, their personal travails, their aspirations, their family, their surroundings, even the society around them. There is an idea that when something is referred to as holistic, it automatically shuns anything conventional. But this is not an accurate description. Take medicine for example, conventional medicine usually refers to those branches of medicine that are taught in universities. Certainly the planet needs medical doctors when someone breaks a bone, gets in a car accident, and countless other disasters.
The term alternative medicine is used in reference to a wide range of practices and disciplines that may or may not be classified as “conventional”. A great number of these systems have been around for thousands of years in different parts of the world and have been used in various forms in both primitive and modern cultures. Included in this wide category are chiropractic, naturopathy, homeopathy, acupuncture, acupressure, yoga, forms of massage, and many other disciplines.
Take the subject of nutrition, while it is about as basic as eating (and is in fact eating), it is often grouped in the alternative or unconventional category. Awareness seems to be rising on this point in that it has become more and more general knowledge that if you eat a lot of processed and fatty foods and sugar, you increase your chances of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and many other ailments.
The main gauge one should use on any system or practice is DOES IT WORK? DOES IT GET RESULTS?
In the field of medicine as well as the field of drug detoxification and rehabilitation, conventional approaches and holistic approaches are not mutually exclusive. There are elements of both which work and elements of both which do not work. Prescribing drugs for symptoms and never addressing underlying causes is not a workable system. Understanding drug withdrawal and ensuring the safety of the patient must be a primary focus no matter what approach one is using.
Developing a Program that Gets Results
When developing a drug detox and rehab program, one must analyze and utilize the best practices which work. And one must discard that which does not work. Decide what the end result should be and work back from there. In the case of addiction recovery, the desirable end result is:
A graduate who is free from drugs and addiction and who possesses the knowledge and skills to pursue success and happiness.
Now look at what methodologies help a person attain that. An interesting observation in holistic recovery has been that the best approach is the one that works for the individual. There should be a degree of flexibility due to the fact that everyone is different. The need for a multi-faceted approach is compounded by the prevalence of poly-substance abuse, prescription drug dependence, and the influx of new synthetic drugs.
Withdrawal & Detoxification
Obviously helping an addict safely through withdrawal is a primary step. Both medical and holistic disciplines offer vital methods for safe and relatively comfortable detoxification. Drugs deplete the body of essential nutrients. Therefore one element of holistic detox is the replenishment of vitamins and minerals. Any detox must be supervised by trained addiction specialists.
We live a Jekyll and Hyde technological age. While advances in medicine prolong life, the vast array of synthetic compounds coming out of authorized and illicit laboratories is rather shocking. New compounds create new addictions with new problems and new symptoms. Detox must be constantly updated in order to properly deal with the changing landscape of chemical dependence.
How do we pull something up by its roots? We uncover what prompted that thing to exist in the first place. What caused someone to pursue drug and alcohol abuse? It’s never solely curiosity and the desire to experiment. Other factors are always at work. One primary deficit relates to communication – the inability to give or receive communication in its fullest sense. An individual has trouble talking with other members of the family; they cannot communicate in a professional setting; they lack communication skills in day-to-day life; they get into arguments and fights all the time due to communication problems. These and countless other upsets arise from lack of skill in communication. Holistic rehabilitation using modern techniques will address these problems.
Knowledge & Skill
Just as communication is a skill which can be learned, so too can recovering addicts and alcoholics learn fundamental skills related to many other facets of life. In fact, people who are not addicted also lack these basic communication and life skills. Included amongst these are:
The ability to get along with others; how to study and really assimilate knowledge instead of rote memorization; how to formulate one’s goals in life and effectively plan for their attainment; understanding people and the ability to recognize different types of people; how to plan for financial security; how to live an ethical life free from constant pangs of guilt; how to create positive relationships; how to start a marriage; how to save a marriage; how to raise children. These and many other skills would be invaluable for anyone, addicted or otherwise. In the case of a drug addict, their addictive behavior is often the result of a lack of knowledge and skill in handling specific areas of their lives. When they study and drill basic techniques for life, their propensity for addictive behavior diminishes, but that is only a start.
Unnecessary & Detrimental Labeling
In holistic rehabilitation we have found that careless labeling is detrimental to the individual’s progress. It is true that people suffer from mental problems and these can take on the appearance of sickness. Mental disorders such as ADHD are however intrinsically connected to psycho-stimulant drugs and other pharmaceuticals, many of which are the reason for people’s admittance to rehab in the first place.
People young and old can exhibit agitated behavior and indeed be genuinely troubled. In holistic detox we work with competent medical professionals in order to look into fundamental causes, such as nutritional deficiencies, lack of exercise, environmental factors, as well as genuine physical conditions like diabetes, cardio-vascular disorders, allergies and hormonal imbalances. Physical care of a drug-free nature combined with cognitive development are key components of holistic rehab.
When these causes are addressed, many so-called symptoms of mental disorders will fall away. Too many of our youth have been slapped with dubious labels and have been tragically given the cop-out, quick fix of a drug prescription – drugs in the same narcotic classification as cocaine, morphine, oxycodone and methamphetamine. I’m speaking specifically of Adderall (amphetamine) and Ritalin (methylphenidate), but there are countless other examples. It’s time we give our youth a break and really help them out with competent medical and holistic care.
A person is not a brain. He or she is a wholly unique individual and deserves to be treated as such. Many families adhere to spiritual values. And many youth and adults who enter rehab would like to rekindle those priceless values. Thus a comprehensive faith-based program is infinitely valuable in holistic rehab. A holistic faith-based program should be pluralistic, meaning respectful and accommodating to all religions and belief systems. We don’t tell anyone what to believe. We simply help them conduct their personal journey.
Some clients wish to pursue a Twelve Step program, either in a secular or non-secular context, so we facilitate this. Others wish to pursue a purely religious or spiritual angel to their substance abuse, so we wholly support that. Holistic means whole, the whole person and all things of a spiritual nature.
The Value of a Safe Environment
Any rehab system must, must, must provide a safe and positive environment. This applies to inpatient and outpatient systems. The theory of a safe environment means the individual can talk about anything in confidence. It means a person can concentrate on their recovery without undue influence, without associates or “friends” who judge them or worse, promote drug abuse. The environment provided is a key to the success of holistic rehab.
Other helpful programs for use in a holistic setting include cognitive therapy, group therapy, music therapy, nutritional regimen, physical fitness, and other effective and personalized treatments.
Fundamental Lifestyle Changes
Anyone who wishes to stay drug free is going to have to make some lifestyle changes. An aftercare department has the job of helping formulate a post-graduation strategy. Support network, change of environment, further education, job recommendation and placement all factor into lifestyle adjustments conducive to living a drug-free and successful life.
A New Beginning
Detoxification and rehabilitation effectively administered in a holistic setting are a beginning, not an end. The graduate is starting a new life free from the crippling influence of substance abuse. Fortunately, in keeping with a results-based approach, we can help people live drug-free lives, who possess the knowledge and skill to pursue success and happiness for themselves, their families, and the world at large.