Addiction Recovery: A Call To Wellness

By September 3, 2013Addiction Recovery, Wellness

I spent a half day with addiction recovery treatment specialists from a wide variety of disciplines recently. I was asked by the CRC Health Group to give a presentation on chiropractic care as a holistic approach in addiction treatment. CRC Health Group is one of the largest addiction treatment providers in the nation, historically and actively applying and offering holistic, integrated and multidisciplinary approaches–because it’s what works.

The theme of the gathering was to share information about holistic and integrated approaches in working with addiction and compulsive disorders. Included in the group were the more traditional addiction psychiatrist/psychologist, yoga, acupuncture and yours truly, chiropractic care specialists as well as meeting fascinating people like the woman who runs groups in “spiritual exploration” and a man who conducts “drama therapy” with recovering communities. Clearly, all of us interested in a bigger picture: Seeing addiction recovery as call to wellness. The day was a revitalising, healing experience in itself.

I was struck by the amount of heartfelt dedication and mutual respect present as we all seemed to settle into a collective understanding that if there were any one, superior, best practice in integrated approaches–we’d all be doing it. But since we’re all attracted to different aspects of the healing arts as they align with each of our own mind-body-spirit makeups, integration it is–as we cannot all be doing “it all.”

So there we were, a multidisciplinary group of holistic, integrated healers with heart.

And now here’s the fascinating, analogous (you know, hooked up!) part for me; the multidimensional brain disorder and disease of addiction has multifactorial causes and seems to respond to deep empathy, (for example, addicts helping addicts in AA) compassion and heart in a big way.

So let me elaborate by first writing about the currently understood causes of addiction. To date, it is agreed with widespread consensus that there are five general causes of addiction–think of a starfish with its five “rays’ or arms :

  1. A genetic predisposition, (more is being revealed)
  2. Structural/functional brain vulnerabilities, (incomplete remodeling of brain development from childhood to adulthood)
  3. Psychological and environmental influences, (emotional/physical/sexual childhood trauma, alcoholic family, etc.)
  4. Psychiatric overlay/conditions, (anxiety, depression, PTSD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, etc.)
  5. Age of first use, (younger use predicts higher incidence of addiction)

Okay, so let’s look at each:

  1. A genetic predisposition requires something to initiate or promote the “upregulating” of the identified gene or “genetic tendency.” What was it or what were the combinations of things required to switch those genetic tendencies on? Difficult to pinpoint and why the science is still advancing.
  2. Structural and/or functional brain vulnerabilities stem from incomplete “remodeling” or development of the brain from childhood to adolescence to adulthood. Some obvious reasons like living in an alcoholic culture with alcohol being veritable poison to a young brain help us understand this area of causation, but many of the reasons are again, multifactorial, complex and not fully understood.
  3. And now to the psychological and environmental influences; there’s a saying in the recovery community, “Some of us are sicker than others” when trying to understand and empathize with who recovers and who does not, or struggles mightily. How ’bout it, don’t we all develop different strategies for dealing with life’s bumps in the road? For example, the suicide of my father and my own alcoholic family affected each of my siblings differently than me. So this is another causative factor that is easier said than done to unravel and some of us register much deeper “wounds” than others, regardless of the cause.
  4. What about psychiatric overlay or dual diagnosis? The questions then begin to be begged about which came first, the psychiatric condition or the abuse via the drug or behavior that was probably adopted to medicate the former condition? Chicken?…egg?…What makes sense in the year 2013 is to address both at the same time. (Lisa Frederiksen, Help!)
  5. Finally, the causative factor that focuses on what age an individual is when first beginning to use and misuse drugs or behavior. Most people in recovery will talk about starting to experiment and “fall in love” with alcohol for example, at age 12 or 13. No, a developing brain still another 12 or 13 years from maturing does not need a steady diet of alcohol. And how much of that is driven by the former four causative factors?

Well…that’s a lot and why we’ve got our work cut out for us to find which combination of things “gets” to which combination of these causative factors for a person suffering from active addiction and/or compulsive disorder(s).

Enter an integrated, “whole starfish” approach because nothing less will help–especially in the long run. Certainly folks can stop their active abuse for periods of time, but if a holistic, integrated approach is not designed, inculcated and habituated by the recovering individual over time, the high rate of relapse is a no-brainer.

So seriously, how do we find our way into the unique psycho-neuro-immuno-biological super systems of each individual for the best results? We make available multidisciplinary teams of holistic–from the M.D. to the shaman–healers with heart (wait, everyone breathing and vertical has heart, but you get my sentiment) who are communicative, open and willing to help.

The One

I’m reminded of the story of the man on the beach throwing a huge pile of washed up, beautiful starfish back into the ocean–one at a time. A passer by asked him, “Do you really think what you’re doing is going to make a difference?” The man paused, looked down at the starfish in his hand, held it up and said, “It’ll surely make a difference for this one.”

So let’s celebrate addiction recovery as a call to wellness for each individual who has the courage to begin the life-long process of getting and staying well by looking at and taking good care of the whole starfish. And let’s spread the word that it’s a We program and an integrated, collective effort to help that One and all.

Addiction recovery is a call to wellness. Finding our way back to balance and mind-body-spirit equanimity requires a holistic and integrated approach and there are teams of capable, well trained and empathetic people out there waiting to help you or someone you care about.

Dr. Herby Bell is a Recovery and Wellness Coach and owner of Recovery Health Care, an integrated approach to wellness and addiction recovery in Saratoga, California. For more information please call 650 474 9411 or Email:  Connect with me online too:  Facebook | Twitter | Linkedin

Join the discussion 10 Comments

  • I love your starfish analogy and the accessible way you explain the five general causes of addiction – it so clearly helps one appreciate that addiction recovery is “a We program and an integrated, collective effort to help that One and all.” Beautiful!
    Lisa Frederiksen – Wants You To Read…Do You Have to Call Yourself an AlcoholicMy Profile

  • Hi Herby,

    Certainly no one person or treatment method can do it all and it takes a team effort to meet the needs of individuals coming from all different backgrounds. I love your idea of making “available multidisciplinary teams of holistic–from the M.D. to the shaman–healers with heart.” That is the way to reach the range of people that will make an impact with this disease. Thanks Herby for another great post!
    Cathy Taughinbaugh Wants You To Read…What Would Your Life Look Like Without the Pain of Your Child’s Substance Abuse?My Profile

  • Hey Herby!

    Sure looks as though you enjoyed your day – your enthusiasm is obvious, and contagious. How refreshing that a group of professionals can come together and effectively work toward providing comfort for those in great need. Heck, it sounds like you all even got along. How ’bout it? Agendas dropped, and total focus on those in recovery.

    You provide an excellent checklist/reference re currently understood causes of addiction. All five make very good sense. I’ve always been fascinated by #3 – “Some of us are sicker than others.” No doubt, some struggle so mightily. I can recall, as I first embarked upon my recovery, the great curiosity I had regarding those who needed three meetings per day to have even a prayer for remaining abstinent. My need wasn’t as intense, and I felt great guilt about it, actually. Hmmmm.

    I fully support a multi-disciplinary approach to substance issues treatment – the “whole starfish” thing, and all. Most of all, I support – and advocate for – harmony amongst treatment team members, having nothing but the best interests of the client/patient at heart.

    Thank you, as always, Herby…
    Bill White, Licensed Counselor Wants You To Read…Crippling Depression or Anxiety | Is It Time for Social Security Disability Bennies?My Profile

    • HerbyBell says:

      Bill, you’ve evoked memories of those same years of just the right balance of meetings and priding myself on having three per day mapped out–morning, noon and evening–with the commitment to make at least one. Love how a desire to get and stay well finds its way for each of us. Thanks for covering the essential bases you do and for visiting Recovery Health Care!
      HerbyBell Wants You To Read…Addiction Recovery: A Call To WellnessMy Profile

  • And that is why recovery is a MUST. Addiction is not easy to battle. But with these amazing resources, it can be a breeze.
    Shaun Hoobler Wants You To Read…app dev kitMy Profile

  • Looks like you all had a great day learning about, and just as importantly, respecting each other’s different holistic ways, recognizing that each one of you can be a piece in the grand puzzle of recovery. I am so glad there are options like this for people in need! Thanks Herby!

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