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Wellness In Recovery From Addictive Disorders

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Published On: August 10, 2001          Updated On: August 10, 2001
© Terence T. Gorski, 2001

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Wellness In Recovery
From Addictive Disorders

By John Newport, Ph.D., Dr.P.H., CEAP

July, 2001

            This article is in follow-up from my recent piece entitled “The Wellness, Recovery Connection”, published in the Winter, 2000 issue of the EAP Digest.  The earlier article summarizes my recent research findings focusing on the positive association between a wellness-oriented lifestyle and successfulness of recovery from chemical dependency, together with practical applications for EAPs and treatment professionals.  The current article is geared specifically to recovering alcoholics and addicts, designed to give them practical pointers for incorporating a wellness-oriented lifestyle into their recovery programs.  I fully encourage treatment professionals to reproduce this article and share it with clients in your program who can benefit from these tips.

Wellness Pointers

            I firmly believe that a wellness-oriented lifestyle goes hand in hand with working a 12-step program, in enhancing the quality of sobriety enjoyed by persons recovering from addictive disorders.  Unfortunately, millions of persons in recovery unwittingly short-change themselves of years, if not decades of joyful and productive living through succumbing to heart disease, cancer, diabetes and a host of other preventable illnesses associated with self-destructive lifestyle patterns.  The key to deriving maximum benefit from your recovery experience lies in taking charge of your health and consciously embracing a wellness lifestyle.

The following pointers are designed to assist persons in recovery in incorporating a wellness-oriented lifestyle into their recovery programs.  While specifically targeted to recovering alcoholics and addicts, these principles also apply to persons recovering from other addictive disorders.   These suggestions are meant to apply to most persons in most situations.  In the event of pre-existing health problems, it is advisable to consult with your primary physician concerning the applicability of these and any other wellness suggestions to your particular situation.

Nutritional Awareness

  1. Sound nutrition is one of the cornerstones of lasting sobriety.  Eat three wholesome meals a day and don’t skip meals.  A balanced diet, which emphasizes fresh vegetables, fruits, grains and lean sources of protein, is highly recommended.
  2. Go lightly on (or eliminate) caffeine, refined sugars and white flour products.  Refined carbohydrates are “nutritional stressors” and “empty calories”.  It is also advisable to cut back on meats, dairy products and other high-fat foods.
  3. Maintain your proper weight through a combination of balanced diet and exercise.
  4. Consider adding multivitamin supplements to your daily routine.  However, remember that vitamin supplements are not a substitute for a balanced, nutritious diet.

Physical Fitness

  1. A regular program of vigorous exercise is highly recommended for cardiovascular endurance, as well as for safeguarding against relapse.  If you choose walking, build up to a program of 45 minutes, 5 times a week.  If you prefer more vigorous exercise, e.g. running, swimming or aerobic dance, a regimen of 3-5 workouts per week (30 minutes per workout) is recommended.
  2. KEY:  Choose an exercise that you enjoy – otherwise you won’t stay with it.
  3. Set aside several minutes each day for stretching exercises for flexibility.  Ideally, you should also work a muscle toning exercise session (weight lifting or other resistance training) into your schedule at least twice a week.

Stress Management & Social Supports

  1. Practice the Serenity Prayer throughout the day.  In my opinion, this is the most powerful stress management tool available.
  2. Learn the art of self-nurturance and giving and receiving position strokes.  Get (and give) at least 5 hugs a day!
  3. Set aside a daily mind-quieting period (10-20 minutes) for meditation, prayer, listening to relaxing music or just sitting quietly.
  1. Recognize that clear and harmonious communications are essential to stress reduction and sobriety maintenance, as most stresses in our lives arise from lack of harmony in our communications with others.
  2. Learn the art of time management and avoid overscheduling yourself.  Consciously schedule some “slack time” into your daily routine.
  3. Be sure to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night.  If you suffer from insomnia, ask yourself if you are consuming too much caffeine or sugar.  Take a warm bath or otherwise relax yourself prior to going to bed.

Curbing Nicotine Addiction

  1. While many recovering alcoholics and addicts are smokers, most would like to quit.  If you are struggling to free yourself from nicotine addiction, discuss your desire to quit with your primary physician.  Check out low cost stop smoking support groups offered by your health plan and community organizations, such as the American Cancer Society and American Lung Association.  Many former smokers have used hypnosis to help them kick the habit.  Be persistent – the average smoker quits smoking 5 times before kicking the habit for good.

Quality of Life

  1. Appreciate the connection between personal fulfillment and positive health.  It’s no coincidence that throughout history, great composers, artists and other persons driven by creative fulfillment have consistently enjoyed unusually long life spans.
  2. Strive to find and express your unique sense of purpose in life, and strike a healthy balance between work, relaxation and creative pursuits.

Parting Words

            A wellness lifestyle is not intended as a substitute for following a 12-step recovery program.  Rather, the wellness principles I am recommending go hand in had with “working your program”.

A wellness-oriented lifestyle and associated benefits can be yours through incorporating these and other common sense wellness principles into your life.  Remember, you don’t need to attempt to instantly adopt all of these suggestions.  Focus on a goal of transitioning yourself into a wellness-oriented lifestyle, one day at a time.  Make pursuing health-conducive lifestyle choices a hobby and enjoy the process!

About John Newport

John Newport, Ph.D., Dr.P.H., CEAP is an EAP/addictions consultant and health promotion specialist based in Santa Ana, Calif.  He holds combined doctorates in psychology and public health, and has served as a professor, a wellness coordinator for a major California-based HMO and as program coordinator for a hospital-based chemical dependency treatment program.  He is currently in the process of completing a book to be entitled Wellness and Recovery: How to Attain Optimal Health and Personal Growth While Recovering From Chemical Dependency.  He can be reached at (310) 222-5014 and on-line at jnewportphd@msn.com  

            Dr. Newport invites readers to reproduce this article and share it with your program clients, provided that authorship credit is cited and that CENAPS is credited as the original source for this publication.

 

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