Breathing Through the Cravings

How Holistic Treatments Can Help Addiction Recovery

Photo by microgen/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by microgen/iStock / Getty Images

 

 

Life can get pretty stressful sometimes; demands from your work, your family, your partner, all add up, and can become overwhelming.  Sometimes, when this happens, people turn to drugs, alcohol, or other addictive substances like sugar or even carbohydrates.  Recovery from these types of substances can be very difficult, and there are many different routes someone can take to find their salvation - not least of which are holistic treatments like meditation, yoga, and making sure your mind and body are in balance.  “Holistic” has become a buzzword when it comes to treatment, so before you pay or commit to anything for your rehab, make sure their program is what you’re looking for and something you think you will be able to maintain long-term.

Yoga as an Alternative

With relapse rates higher than 40 percent, addiction specialists, as well as those in recovery, are turning to adjunct therapies such as yoga as a way to supplement traditional 12-step programs. Yoga has been shown to be effective in regulating the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline - hormones that are usually out of balance with recovering addicts.  Detox itself can cause anxiety, depression, and other mood issues, and yoga has been shown to help those who are struggling with these issues to be able to listen to their bodies and balance their cravings.

Yoga is practiced widely throughout the world, and is constantly touted for it’s healing properties for the mind and body - there is a reason that it has been around since ancient times in Asia.

Treating the Whole Body

To maintain the stable energy levels necessary to avoid stress-induced cravings, recovering addicts should eat a diet rich in whole grains, fiber, lean protein, and omega-3 fatty acids. Focusing on the body and mind together and as one whole piece - holistically - you can get the most out of your recovery efforts.  There are many alternative treatments outside of your average 12-step programs, these include acupuncture, meditation, spiritual counseling, and art therapy.

Acupuncture treatments are thought to reduce the positive reinforcement properties of drugs by decreasing the amount of dopamine released when the drug is used. Acupuncture works by targeting certain points under the skin that relate to the body’s energy flow - but by disrupting these flows, you can allow the brain to release the neurotransmitters needed to reduce pain, inflammation, anxiety, and many other physical and mental ailments.

Meditation is also becoming a large part of treatments for those recovering from addiction. One study found that recovering intravenous drug users felt meditation was one of the best therapy tools to help them overcome their addiction. Though it may seem paradoxical, by increasing your ability to accept and tolerate the present moment, you’re able to make needed changes in your life. There are many different ways to practice these types of treatment, but it all comes down to what works best for you.

More than anything, picking a recovery center and treatment plan that you enjoy is paramount to keeping you on a healthy and sober track - study upon study has shown this to be true. If it is something you won’t be able to continue on your own, there is no reason to put yourself through the rigors of one rehabilitation facility over the other - what you need is what you need, and identifying that is the most important thing.

Article written and donated by: Jennifer Scott  jennifer@spiritfinder.org

 

Interoception: Our Felt Sense

Interoception our ability to “internally-sense”; such as the feelings of hunger, feeling the need for a “bio-break”, feeling our heart racing, or feeling ourselves getting anxious. Interoception can be compromised by negative conditioning. This conditioning can come in the form of verbal cues “only babies cry” resulting in a shame in expressing deep pain with tears. Other verbal cues such as “you’re not sick, you’re just faking it” resulting in a conditioned distrust in our somatic symptoms. It can also be compromised due to trauma and toxic stress. The good news is through contemplative somatic and cognitive techniques such as meditation, mindfulness, and yoga (contemplative movement) we can improve our connection with what is going on inside ourselves!

We wonder how someone can carry a child in the womb, sometimes up to childbirth, without even knowing they are pregnant. Someone can walk around day to day with clogged arteries causing the heart to work extremely hard yet not feel as if anything is wrong until they have a heart attack. Or…the person who goes to “work” every day absorbing horrible experiences subsequently they cannot feel nor control emotion.  When our interoception is compromised we are less able to sense ourselves, both body and mind. Without interoceptive connection we tend to react versus respond when facing adversity. Some folks have referred to this as emotional maturity but I propose this is not an effect of maturation but an effect of compromised neurological development or trauma. Interoception appears to be necessary for all aspects of emotional processing. Much of this evidence utilizes an individual differences approach to demonstrate that, across individuals, interoceptive sensitivity is correlated with emotional stability (Schandry, 1981), emotion regulation (Füstös et al., 2013), and emotional intensity (the tendency to experience more extreme emotions with greater awareness and depth of experience); (Füstös et al., 2013; Herbert et al., 2010; Pollatos et al., 2007a,b; Wiens et al., 2000).

Through the practice of contemplative somatic and cognitive techniques evidence has shown individuals can improve interoception and its adverse effects. Meditation, mindfulness, and yoga provide a safe environment where one is able to experience their internal feelings, thoughts and attachments with curiosity and compassion.  “Given the relevance that interoception has for psychological and physical health, it shows, mental training that involves focus on body sensations improves several aspects of Interoceptive Awareness, and particularly that it strengthens participants’ use of body sensations to become more aware of emotions and to regulate distress.” According to Bornem N, Herbert, Mehling and Singer (2014). These practices allow an individual to work on re-connecting and improving the mind-body connection. Throughout our “Western” culture this connection has been either dismissed as “woo-woo, hippie beliefs” or at least acknowledged as something which some people find important. Well, I’m here to tell you the lack of a mind-body-spirit connection will compromise all aspects of your life: From your physical health, emotional health, spiritual health and relationship health. How can one know how to interact with those around us when we cannot even interact with what is going on within us? According to Farb, Daubenmeir, Price, Kerr, Dunn, and Mehlig (2015)

“Paralleling the findings of modern secular clinical science, contemplative science suggests that reflection on interoceptive processes is important for adaptive behavior (Wallace, 2007), as the embodied self is more fully realized through awareness of ongoing interoceptive interactions, two complimentary senses emerge: presence, one’s connection to the moment, and agency, one’s ability to effect change, which are both foundational in determining a person’s sense of well-being.

                I have highlighted one portion of this quote to bring it to everyone’s attention. Without the ability to notice positive changes within ourselves we can never truly embrace our ability to change the world within which we live. Improvements in life are generally subtle and combined with our hedonistic adaptation very temporary. How can we experience gratitude and contentment if we are disconnected from those actual feelings within ourselves? Success, growth, happiness, worthiness, love, and kindness come from within us. When we lose interoception we lose the wonderful, uniqueness and divinity within us!

 

 

References

Bornemann, B., Herbert, B. M., Mehling, W. E., & Singer, T. (2014). Differential changes in self-reported aspects of interoceptive awareness through 3 months of contemplative training. Frontiers in Psychology5, 1504. http://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01504

Farb, N., Daubenmier, J., Price, C. J., Gard, T., Kerr, C., Dunn, B. D., … Mehling, W. E. (2015). Interoception, contemplative practice, and health. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 763. http://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00763

J. Füstös, K. Gramann, B.M. Herbert, O. PollatosOn the embodiment of emotion regulation: interoceptive awareness facilitates reappraisalSoc. Cogn. Affect. Neurosci., 8 (8) (2013), pp. 911-917

Resilience: A Child's Invisible Forcefield

              Resilience: One of the dominant factors which can enhance or compromise our ability to thrive in a world of unpredictability. Every day we are confronted with events which may be joyful or dreadful. These moments have a layering effect which ultimately can effect our emotional equanimity and homeostasis. The science of the mind shows us Trauma and other profound events have a physiological and psychological effect on our brains. When interacting with our children, our spouse, our family and friends it is imperative we have an understanding to which side of resilience we are adding. Adverse Childhood Experiences effect 1 in 4 individuals in our community. Combined with economic, environmental and Societal Demands our children may be enduring multiple A.C.E.'s and we as adults have the ability to counter balance those experiences through: thoughtfulness, respect, consideration and love. 

One way to understand the development of resilience is to picture a balance scale or seesaw. Protective experiences and adaptive skills on one side counterbalance significant adversity on the other. Watch this video to visualize the science of resilience, and see how genes and experience interact to produce positive outcomes for children.

Triggering: Fight, Flight or Freeze

               The instinct of self-preservation is built into every living organism on our planet. This instinct is manifested in numerous ways including our defensive: fight, flight or freeze response. This defense mechanism is one of the most primitive and autonomic adaptations in our bodies. This response system is directly wired to the oldest (on an evolutionary scale) portions of our brain/nervous system. The fight, flight, freeze response is activated when we feel we are in immediate danger.   Imagine you are walking down the street and decided to cross. Suddenly, as you step out, a car comes rushing by and barely misses hitting you. At this moment, your body will have activated its self-preservation systems: increasing cortisol and adrenaline, speeding up your heart rate, increasing your breath rate and tensing your muscles for action, while your digestion system and cognitive systems decrease activity. All of this activity being orchestrated by your sympathetic nervous system. Once the danger passes it is the rile of your parasympathetic system to balance things back to homeostasis. In the wild, animals complete this balance by first exerting their bodies either having run or simply shaking it out. Our bodies will attempt to do this naturally which is why we tend to shake after a large cortisol and adrenaline rush, specifically when the fight, flight, freeze response is activated. This is a distinct difference from adrenaline rush from events which are joyful yet increase our adrenaline due to the combination of cortisol and adrenaline. During recovery from the event our, heart rate slows down, digestion resumes, and dopamine and serotonin are released in the brain and nervous system.  Peter Levine, the developer of an approach to trauma treatment called Somatic Experiencing: Trauma, argues Levine, is “‘locked’ in the body, and it’s in the body that it must be accessed and healed.” PTSD, he argues, is “fundamentally a highly activated, incomplete, biological response to threat, frozen in time.” All animals, including humans, are physically programmed by evolution to flee, fight, or freeze in the face of grave threats to life and limb. But in humans, when these natural responses to danger are thwarted and people are helpless to prevent their own rape, or beating, or car accident, the unfinished defensive actions become blocked as undischarged energy in their nervous systems. They remain physiologically frozen in an “unfinished” state of high biological readiness to react to the traumatic event, even long after the event has passed. The undischarged energy of the blocked response to the trauma eventually metastasizes into the full-fledged panoply of PTSD symptoms. Levine believes that psychological trauma is very much about action interruptus, which the traumatized human organism still needs to complete (http://www.traumacenter.org/products/pdf_files/networker.pdf

Peace and Recovery

Peace and Recovery:

these are two of the primary wishes for and of someone who struggles with the lingering effects of trauma. Everyone reading this understands and can relate to moments of startle yet most people can “shake it off” shortly after the startle. Conversely, individuals who suffer from the lingering effects of trauma, are involuntarily held captive to those startle reflexes by their internal functions (nervous, endocrine, and autonomic systems); to put it differently, their bodies are triggered back to the feelings during their past trauma and their body reacts based on the past, yet since the present doesn’t relate they can’t understand why they are reacting, they just are! One of the greatest challenges in providing yoga is helping and guiding our students to be present and experience their body through their practice and breath. Without being prepared with a full understanding of trauma and its effects we as instructors run the risk of, not only hindering these individuals but quite possibly triggering them to yoga-aversion and further disconnect with their body. Trauma Recovery Yoga will prepare you to work with populations in crisis who have experienced trauma. We will identify the obstacles and rewards of teaching yoga, meditation and breathing techniques to these vulnerable population and you will acquire new tools that will help you, help yourself and others heal their past.

The need is great the opportunities are vast, and the compensation is generous. If you are drawn to share the benefits of yoga with individuals who have experienced trauma or live in crisis then please join our team!

Trauma Recovery Yoga (T.R.Y.)

www.traumarecoveryyoga.org

Where's the T.R.Y in the P.T.S.D. Pocket Guide?

I was reviewing the PTSD pocket guide from the Department of Veterans affairs (http://www.healthquality.va.gov/guidelines/MH/ptsd/PTSDPocketGuide23May2013v1.pdf) and came across the current guidance to treat those who suffer ASD and PTSD. Step A: Initiate Treatment Using Effective Interventions for PTSD which are Psychotherapy interventions for treatment of PTSD and Pharmacotherapy for PTSD. The guidance in Step B of treatment: Initiate Adjunctive Therapy as Indicated. As I read further into Step B, I noticed this bolded statement There is insufficient evidence to recommend CAM approaches as first-line treatments for PTSD. Now…why does this matter? These guideline steps, at no point, advise a physiological (somatic) therapy as an adjunct to Step A  pharmacotherapy or psychotherapies. Interesting enough, reviewing one of the Step A treatments I found the pharmacotherapy treatments (SNRIs – venlafaxine) has these and quite a few more side effects: High blood pressure, lack or loss of strength, severe headache, sweating, and suicidal thoughts. When we consider yoga, which would be an insufficient evidence therapy, there are no negative side effects! But yoga does have a profound impact one ones ability to breath deeply,  relax a stressed body, and calm a chattering mind during savasana. Ironically the same pocket guide in the Stress Inoculation Training guidelines “Places more emphasis on breathing retraining and muscle relaxation, but also includes cognitive elements (self dialogue, thought stopping, role playing) and, often, exposure techniques (in-vivo exposure, narration of traumatic event)”. 

As I close……..Anyone who’s experienced a situation which caused your adrenaline to rise, knows it ends with the physical effect of shakiness and breath shortness. Now when you escalate that to a traumatic event(s) the physical effects will be even more profound and definitely more lingering. Without helping this individual to work “with their body, through yoga, breathing and meditation” we still aren’t addressing the first guidance of the V.A.’s Stress inoculation training (SIT)  which are considered of “Significant Benefit” in the V.A. Psychotherapy Intervention Guidelines. I highlight this interesting information not to single out the V.A. but to acknowledge we still have a gap to close when helping those who’ve suffered trauma. We either need more research or take a leap of faith a centuries-old practice of centering and mind-body connection is the right thing to do in all levels of trauma treatment.

 

Darwin

One without the other?

Hello from T.R.Y.

        Thank you for taking the time to read this second blog and hopefully you’ve had the opportunity to check out blog number one. I’ve recently been posed with inquiries and the topic of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) which is a psychotherapy treatment which was originally designed to alleviate the distress associated with traumatic memories (Shapiro, 1989a, 1989b). Shapiro’s (2001) Adaptive Information Processing model shows EMDR therapy facilitates the accessing and processing of traumatic memories and other adverse life experience to bring these to an adaptive resolution. Repeated studies have shown, using EMDR therapy an individual may experience the benefits of psychotherapy that once took years to make a difference in a much briefer time frame. One of my favorite features of this therapy is it’s “re-wiring” of the brain to re-associate triggers with an alternative stimuli or as I like to say re-wiring the brain to re-associate the trigger with something innocuous.

Our brains plasticity is amazing and its ability to adapt has been shown not only in therapy but also in personal manifestation, synthetic happiness and even adapting to conditions we never imagined one could handle. Through efforts to “change the way we think” and passions for self-improvement we’ve seen people survive extremely traumatic events and with diligence, perseverance and time they are able to deal with triggers as they are… ”something in the past  which has caused a physical reaction today”.  

Through the use of therapies such as EMDR (psychotherapy) combined with trauma informed yoga (somatic-therapy) one may experience these positive results even sooner. The importance of somatic therapies should be evident just considering the nature of almost every trauma: when trauma occurs it starts with a physical sensation, moves through our most primitive brain functions (emotions) and finally reaches our most advance brain functions of reason and logic. If we do not help an individual recognize, acknowledge and work through the physical aspects of trauma getting to the cognitive effects is impaired. Therefore, the need to address the physical effects of trauma should always be a part of any trauma therapy such as EMDR or numerous others.

Working with clinicians and their patients to provide somatic trauma therapy is what T.R.Y. is all about! We know and understand the importance of these therapies working in tandem to re-connect an individuals mind/body/spirit.  

 

Namaste

Darwin

 

 

Calmness and Centering- an alternative prescription

       Hello from T.R.Y.

        As I start our first blog here at T.R.Y. I though to start with an acknowledgement of the broad availability of calming and centering therapies yet the limited acceptance in Western Medicine. These activities vary from meditation, breathing, mindfulness to yoga. The difference between these therapies and traditional therapies is their somatic (physiological) affects. Historically western medicine has relied on psychological and pharmacological therapies which one can conclude do not address the physiological impact of trauma and it's lingering affects on the body.  Imagine if you will being startled; your heart rate races, you're shaking, you can't seem to focus.....now imagine this happens to you daily due to PTSD! This is a struggle members of our community live with on he daily and a majority of them are not aware or do not have the support to find alternate medicines as mentioned above. Thankfully our military veterans have access to CAM (Complimentary and Alternative Medicines). This CAM access and funding has been in place since the 1950's yet there is still opportunity to increase acceptance and availability for veterans. If you know of a veteran struggling with PTSD and they are not aware of CAM, please let them know to ask at their local VA and get the help of this third therapy (physiological, pharmacological, physiological).

         These are just my observations from the research I've done thus far. As always I'm appreciative of any feedback, sharing and your observations. All of which continue to spread the awareness of somatic therapies for trauma. 

Darwin