Wellness Compatible Care For Addiction Recovery–For Life

Wellness compatible care…I”ll get to exactly what it is in just a moment, but first things first…

Addiction treatment is going through a renaissance and a revolution–as is all of health care. A renaissance because there is a revival and a renewed interest in looking at different combinations of treatment approaches with fresh eyes and a revolution because old ideas die hard when human beings are not sure what’s next coupled with powerful interests to maintain the status quo.

Our nation is addicted to applying an acute/infectious treatment model to all that ails us. We have come to a crossroads however, where most are acknowledging loud and clear that the acute care model is ineffective–or at the very least, incomplete for chronic conditions like addiction. Being open to sweeping changes is what the new doctors are ordering, in view of the chronic, adaptive lifestyle disorders that are increasingly and systematically killing us, with addiction leading the pack.

The way this renaissance shows up in addiction recovery treatment is a good example of the challenge and the sweeping changes necessary and on the horizon. It’s pretty universal when we think of addiction recovery, to think of some sort of “rehab” or acute care experience and then going to AA or some other mutual support group, indefinitely. While acute care/treatment has become more evidence based, holistic and integrated, what we’re learning is that people also require something called, “wellness compatible care”–for life–in order for this remarkably improved and more effective initial or acute care to have the best outcomes.

It’s well understood that people in addiction recovery must stay close to the basics and be diligent in their lifestyle practices that support good health and in turn, support recovery. Diabetics, cancer and heart patients share the same reality and responsibility. Now the problem arises when currently, there aren’t any baseline metrics like a diabetic’s blood sugar test to determine just how balanced or out of balance a recovering individual is at any given snapshot. Drug testing says nothing about the baseline wellness of a recovering individual, nothing about the “wellness thresholds” required for sobriety.

So the answer lies in prevention and hence, “wellness compatible” interventions and care to greatly increase the chances of balance to be the rule rather than the exception. After all, the goal of addiction recovery is not only living in abstinence of the identified drugs or behaviors, but inherent in the lifestyle are best practices fostering wellness. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? The entirety of health care is looking for ways to do this while somehow upholding the old infrastructure to treat sickness. Well, how do we do it?

As fallout from moving away from this quick fix model into a more comprehensive, long-term approach, we find ourselves in a merry-go-round conundrum of continuing to look for evidence based models for long-term addiction recovery care when none with any substance exist, and/because there is no infrastructure to produce them. In other words, we continue to ask for information that does not exist, but can only exist by the doing–and frankly, doing what has already been done and self-evident.

And so we do it by what we as health care practices have always done: We practice. We gather evidence based information by engaging in practice based evidence. As we further accept and appreciate holistic and integrated models it becomes increasingly more clear that double blind studies cannot possibly or altogether rule in/out all of the myriad factors and influences on what it is to be human. So…we practice with the empirical scientific evidence we do have, which is constantly evolving along with our experience, intuition and case-by-case approach that allows for more patient centered care. Both/and, and not, either/or.

So to be reasonable, it’s gotta be both, IE, 1. Provide wellness compatible long-term care for the recovery community while, 2. Creating the evidence basis for what we take for granted, that which is IN the scientific literature and known to work. That, which we refuse to implement because for some reason, we just can’t shake that acute care model for things chronic that have to do with things mind, body and spirit.

So what IS “wellness compatible care” for long-term management of addiction recovery? What ARE clinically relevant wellness interventions to apply to and for people who have a multifactorial caused brain disorder and disease and who keep wanting to engage in practices that will ultimately kill them if they do not stop? Where are the studies that nail the “how to” of long-term wellness?

First of all, “wellness compatible care” is just a fancy way of saying–give the mind and body what they want and not just what treats symptoms. And secondly, here’s what wellness, or physiological compatible care looks like at its foundation:

  • Teaching and habituating practices to maintain physical fitness: The only way to produce balanced health is to decrease the chronic stress response by either reducing stressors or by improving the adaptive abilities of the body and mind with lifestyle changes. Preferably both. Got evidence based studies on this? Start Googling. Without a practice to maintain a strong, and healthy physical stature, balanced health is not possible and ill health via addiction relapse or some other symptom complex or pathology is imminent. Sick is sick. These physiologically compatible lifestyle practices include proper sleep, hydration and sun exposure along with a thoughtful movement practice. Our genes require these things for optimal expression.
  • Teaching and habituating practices to maintain a healthy diet: Toxic and deficient food choices create the very same chronic stress response as a sedentary lifestyle. When de-conditioning and poor eating habits are combined, balanced health is especially not possible and addiction relapse and/or trading illnesses is imminent. Got evidence based studies?…You know the drill.
  • Teaching and habituating practices to maintain emotional and cognitive intelligence: Once again, mind body wellness, or in this case, neurophysiological compatible care for this chronic condition. Yes, the very same physiological stress response is caused by poor thinking habits. The same stress hormones leading to the same chronic stress when and where addiction relapse and a host of other illnesses are waiting in the wings. Adding these poor habits to the above two; a perfect storm of conditions for what’s not healthy. Engaging in an ongoing, improving thinking and feeling skills practice is a life time process. Evidence? I won’t insult your intellectual or emotional intelligence.

So we end our journey only to return to the original premise that we know what to do and what works, we just have to establish an infrastructure to deliver wellness compatible care–not just symptom relief care–for the individual in long-term recovery. While doing this, we will establish the evidence basis for wellness that we can apply across the health care delivery system spectrum.

Joining the renaissance and ongoing revolution of life means giving up what we are to become what we can be. If nothing changes, nothing changes, BUT something healthy this way comes and it’s a great time to be alive and a great time to be in recovery. Join the renaissance.

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: herbybell@me.com.  Connect with me online too:  Facebook | Twitter | Linkedin

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