Alternative Methods for Addiction Recovery: How They Work and Who Should Use Them

You are probably already familiar with traditional treatments for addiction, like 12-step programs and individual therapy. But when should someone who faces addiction consider alternative treatments like yoga, meditation, or a workout plan enhanced by tech?

The answer depends a lot on an individual’s experience and circumstances. Alternative treatments for addiction can be incredibly helpful, but it’s usually best to incorporate them into a broad treatment plan, rather than use them as a single solution.

Photo credit: Artem Beliaikin (Source: Pexels)

How Do Alternative Treatments Help?

Alternative treatments work in much the same way as any other treatment, by changing physical and mental links to addiction. Here are just a few approaches and how they work:

  • Meditation and Mindfulness – Meditation is a practice that helps you achieve mindfulness, which is the ability to create awareness and acceptance of your thoughts without judging them (or yourself). According to The Fix, many 12-step programs and counselors recommend mindfulness for preventing relapse, so this is a great example of how such a practice can go hand in hand with a traditional approach to recovery. Using mindfulness to treat addiction works by helping you identify behaviors and feelings that are triggers for substance use, and recentering your focus toward your goal of breaking that habit. Mindfulness and meditation aren’t just in your head, either. The practice causes physical changes, like boosting the immune system.
  • Yoga – Practicing yoga with the intention of changing addictive behavior is a win-win because it combines physical movement with breathwork and meditation, all wrapped into one. The movement in yoga is focused on becoming more aware of your body and your breath, which can help replace cravings and release a natural high instead. Yoga can also relieve stress and increase strength.
  • Exercise – Any exercise that gets your heart rate up gives you a mood boost, but certain activities like swimming are especially therapeutic for treating addiction. Similar to yoga, the movement through water is not only great for physical fitness, but it is also meditative. If you’re not feeling motivated to exercise, try using a smartwatch that’s full of useful features that enhance your regimen and monitor your health. The Apple Watch Series 5, the latest version of Apple’s smartwatches, can track your heart rate with its ECG and detects falls. If you’re an Android fan, the Mobvoi TicWatch E2 features a built-in GPS and is waterproof, so you can track laps while swimming.

Who Should Use Alternative Therapies, and When Should They Be Avoided?

Unlike some treatment options that are more of a quick fix, the holistic approach has potential to be a long-term solution for recovery. And for many people, alternative therapies provide a solution that addresses their specific needs, something a one-size-fits-all solution might overlook. For example, researchers found that music therapy for addiction is especially helpful for recovering addicts.

Even with the many benefits of alternative therapies for treating addiction, that doesn’t mean they should always be used instead of traditional treatment. Alternative therapies should be viewed as an addition to conventional medicine unless stated otherwise by your doctor. There can even be harmful effects for some people when using an alternative therapy without the help of a counselor as well. As one psychologist explains in Psychology Today, meditation often brings to the surface buried emotions that are very painful, and facing these emotions without the help of a therapist can bring a dangerous risk for relapse.

To avoid this risk, it’s best to combine these alternative therapies with the help of a counselor if you have trauma or negative emotions you’ll be dealing with. These activities are also only therapeutic when someone has actively decided to use them as a tool to achieve sobriety. You can’t simply start swimming and hope to kick substance abuse. It has to be a process you actively engage in, but when you do that with professional support, it can be a powerful tool and long-term solution for recovery.

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