I’ve talked quite a bit already in the short history of this blog about taking a holistic approach to recovery. Today, let’s take a deeper look at what holistic recovery really means and perhaps even decide if it’s really the best label for my approach.
Let’s start by looking up the actual definition of the word “holistic”. Here’s what a Google search of the word returns:
characterized by comprehension of the parts of something as intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole.
characterized by the treatment of the whole person, taking into account mental and social factors, rather than just the physical symptoms of a disease.
So by the medical definition, a holistic recovery treats the whole person not just physically, but mentally and socially as well. I often see holistic referred to as treating the mind, body, and spirit.
The hangup I’ve had with the term holistic since I’ve begun using it is that it sounds overly spiritual. While spirituality is definitely a part of my approach, I don’t want the word or what people think the word represents to be a turnoff. I feel like it runs the risk of being deemed as a religious term to some and part of the reason I’m so adamant about promoting alternatives to Alcoholic Anonymous is that the number one reason I’ve heard people say that they don’t want to do AA is due to the religious aspect.
My “holistic” approach is intended to mean that recovery encompasses all parts of my life. I’ve made a whole new sober lifestyle.
While I was sitting in inpatient detox for eight days, I made a promise to myself that I would do anything and everything I could to stay sober for the long haul this time. I needed to be clean in order to get a handle on my severe anxiety. For my entire adult life, I dealt with my anxiety by using alcohol and benzos to mask it. It was time to face it as an adult and truly learn to manage it.
My biggest fear was that after my intensive outpatient program was over, I would have to rely on attending AA meetings to stay sober. For an introvert with an anxiety disorder, that’s a nightmare. And while I do attend meetings as part of my ongoing recovery, the difference between having to do it versus doing it if I choose to is absolutely huge. It’s all about perspective.
That is why I’ve adopted a wide range of tools and resources that collectively support my new lifestyle. Instead of relying on meetings and other people to keep me motivated, I can find motivation for myself by living a better lifestyle that promotes sobriety. I’m not leaning on one resource or group to support me. I have a whole set to choose from. If I don’t feel social and don’t want to go to a meeting, I can still get inspiration and support from my other new tools such as meditation and mindfulness to ground myself, or I’ll do some journaling to get out of my own head.
Being so introverted, I believe that the biggest help in this process has been one-on-one counseling. Now, I know that seeing a counselor, or therapist, has a stigma but I don’t care. I have a great counselor and she has helped me immensely during the past 7.5 months, especially when I hit rough patches. Remember, I had identified my anxiety as the underlying issue and the main motivator in my addiction. So working with a counselor one-on-one to begin addressing my anxiety head-on as an adult is probably the most important step for me personally.
Now, I’m not saying everyone needs to go to a therapist. It’s just something that works for me. The point of a holistic approach is to try all the options that you feel comfortable with and figure out what works and what doesn’t work for you personally. Those tools will vary depending on the underlying reasons behind your own addiction.
I’m still not convinced that “holistic” is the best term to describe my approach, but it is the closest well-known term to use to introduce the concept of it. I know I’m overthinking it, but this will work itself out as I begin to share my story with more people and develop my pitch so to speak.
What are your thoughts on the term holistic recovery? What would you suggest I use as the one-liner to introduce my approach described in this post? Your thoughts and feedback are always appreciated.