“Hearty laughter is a good way to jog internally without having to go outdoors”.
– Norman Cousins
My mother swears by her St. John’s wort, bless her. “Isn’t that for depression?” I once asked. The reply? “My mother swore by it, my grandmother did, and her mother. And I bet her grandmother did too. It’s good for all sorts,” came the reply. In fact, she’d say it often even without the question first. Personally, I reckon she gets a buzz out of it. But she’s not an addict, not like me. She might have the odd sherry come Christmas, but she’s certainly not in my drinking bracket, either. When I was in rehab, finally being detoxed (something, I’m sure, saved my alcoholic life as it was then), she even mentioned her occasional St. John’s wort-flavored tea to one of my doctors. The look he gave her was priceless.
Amusing anecdotes aside, being a recovering alcoholic opens up a whole set of challenges that I thought rehab had prepared me for. The life education I received there was actually priceless and has been the basis for my continued successful recovery ever since. However, I wasn’t quite prepared for the sheer day-to-day reality of it all, its constant in-your-face way of just being there, Day in, day-out, never letting up.
I’m not going to say that my mom’s odd weird cup of tea was my inspiration for finding a more natural way of staying clean and sober. In fact, rehab did that, as part of my education whilst there. Addiction treatment is not just dosing you up with certain medications, shutting the door of your room, and waiting two weeks. My forward-thinking rehab was very quick to adopt new complementary treatments to run alongside the required medication, therapy, group sessions, assessments, and so on.
I learned about yoga, meditation, the art of mindfulness, and other activities designed to experience living in the moment; all of which had the desired effect – they calmed me down in a natural, progressive way. They are still an important part of my ongoing recovery, but they are just a part. Other totally natural ways of becoming in control of your addiction are out there. Here, based on my experiences of my 6+ years of sobriety, are the 5 totally natural lifestyle choices I make every single day to help me conquer my addiction.
And I regularly can’t stress enough just how important this is. Forget my mom’s weird tea, this is the real cure-all for all sorts. Addicts come out of their active stage of addiction with both physical and mental deficiencies. Fact. Physically, they may be suffering from a whole range of medical problems, from simple vitamin deficiency to more serious issues involving their heart, their liver or their kidneys. In terms of their mental health, the list continues – anxiety disorders, depression, insomnia, severe fatigue, to name just a few.
Being quite athletic in my younger days did put me in a better place than most to start destroying my body through alcohol abuse. Mentally, though, a whole different story. I had traces of all those I’ve just listed and more. Rehab immediately put me on an exercise regime when I was ready, and it’s a regime I’ve kept to, and added to, since then.
Exercise such as running, apart from the blatantly obvious physical fitness benefits, does something else. 100%-natural “happy” chemicals, known as endorphins, are released into the brain, improving mood, your sense of well-being, and your self-esteem. Naturally.
Learning the practice of meditation, and the art of mindfulness has been a truly unique experience for me. Never before would I have even considered something like this – much too much like “another planet” mumbo-jumbo to the man’s man I believed I was. It just goes to show. Meditation is integral to my life as it is now. It’s one thing to get happy chemicals released regularly into my brain from a quick workout or a jog with the dog – it’s a whole different thing when that brain is in a more relaxed, calm, and intuitive state in the first place. Try it – you’ll be as surprised as I was.
Eat Healthily – I Recommend the Fish
The wonderful lady responsible for my nutrition education in rehab once said to me, “I’m going to get you eating so much fish, my boy, you’ll be swimming like a dolphin.” If she could see me now… A big and exceptionally healthy part of my nutritious diet is fish, and fatty fish, at that. Fish are a great (and very tasty) source of both protein and omega-3 fatty acids, essential to a recovering addict, especially if you’re fresh out of rehab and still feeling not 100% yourself.
Ok, it’s not essential for you to get a dog to guarantee conquering your addiction. But it helps. And it doesn’t have to be a dog either. The act of caring for something else is the reasoning behind this. Yes, it could be a dog (hopefully, one more prepared to listen to commands than the one I adopted…), it could be another type of pet, it could even be a garden, or it could be some form of voluntary work. It’s your choice, as always. However, studies have shown that this form of therapy is a great benefit to recovering addicts. The reintroduction of responsibility into your life by taking care of something else in a way that you can control is a positive and big step forward.
Ok, I hear you. Caffeine’s a drug, and you’re just replacing one addiction with another. Yes, you got me. However, as a recovering alcoholic, I can assure you that one strong coffee is a natural and healthy way to overcome any cravings you may experience from time to time. As a recovering alcoholic of over 6 years, those cravings do still occasionally surface. They are not physical ones as such but activated by mental triggers (for example, memories of certain situations) with a physical aspect to them. Even now, sometimes my hands shake when they hit. A good, strong hit of coffee is my response because it works.
Further Down The Road…
So, there you have them: 5 totally natural ways to help you conquer addiction – exercise regularly, practice meditation, eat well and eat brain-food, take care of something else (seriously, you don’t have to adopt a dog if you don’t want one), and make the occasional caffeine hit a friend when you need it.
What other totally natural ways of improving your life have you found? Please feel free to share with other readers in a comment below. Lastly, after all of this, you are not guaranteed to be an Olympic athlete, a Zen master, a dolphin, or Starbuck’s most valued customer of the year (and you wouldn’t want to be, either). However, you may be a lot further down the road of your addiction recovery than you were before. Take care of yourself.