Addiction, in any form, is a debilitating illness that cripples the lives of addicts. People may struggle with addiction to substances, including alcohol and drugs, or behaviors such as gambling. Both substance abuse and behavioral addictions consume the lives of the addicts, who feel compelled to engage in the addiction in spite of any negative consequences. Challenging as it may be to overcome addiction, it is possible. There are a variety of approaches to treating addiction: options include faith-based drug rehabilitation and secular treatment programs, either of which may be inpatient or outpatient. Treatment may incorporate different types of therapy such as individual counseling, group therapy, and supplemental holistic approaches such as yoga, acupuncture, reiki, or mindfulness meditation.
Faith-Based Recovery Programs
Most faith-based rehab programs are Christian. For example, the Salvation Army is a church that provides treatment through its Adult Rehabilitation Centers (ARC) and Harbor Lights programs, and many local branches of Catholic Charities offer treatment programs. Some private drug rehab centers are completely Christian, and others may offer a Christian program as a treatment option. All of these programs offer faith-based drug rehabilitation that provides addiction treatment in the context of Christianity. Patients here rely on a faith in God, the power of prayer, and spiritual guidance for healing. In many cases, traditional treatment approaches will be provided, including counseling, individual, and group therapy. One advantage of faith-based drug rehabilitation is that patients can feel comfortable sharing their faith with others, without fear of offense, and receiving support from others who share their beliefs.
The Salvation Army’s ARC helped Orlando “Rocky” Grossi overcome an addiction to crystal meth that almost cost him his children. He began abusing drugs in high school, and as an adult, using and selling crystal meth took over his life. He ended up homeless and lost custody of his children, a shock that caused him to pray to God for salvation from abuse. A friend who had completed the ARC program suggested it to Rocky, who found it to be an answer to his prayers. He overcame his addiction, began working for the Salvation Army as a truck driver, and regained custody of his children.
Inpatient Substance Abuse Treatment
A proven approach to addiction treatment is inpatient substance abuse treatment, in which the patient lives in a treatment facility during detox, withdrawal, and an extended period of treatment that typically includes group and individual therapy. Patients here learn healthy coping mechanisms so that they can return to their “real lives” without relapsing to substance abuse. One advantage of inpatient versus outpatient treatment is that patients are removed from the daily stress of work and family responsibilities so that they can focus completely on recovery.
Maggie’s is an inpatient treatment success story. She began abusing drugs as a teenager and first attempted rehab at age 18, only to bounce around from program to program. Even though her initial attempts at recovery failed, a subsequent overdose frightened her and she recommitted to sobriety. Maggie successfully completed inpatient treatment and eventually became an employee at the center where she completed her treatment, working her way up from clinical aide to shift administrator and now corporate alumni officer. After completing rehab, she lived in a recovery house for extended treatment where she learned life skills such as acting responsibly and how to cook, clean, and maintain a home. She continued to attend support group meetings even after finishing her treatment to help maintain her sobriety.
One approach that shows great promise, and can be incorporated into any type of treatment program, whether it is faith-based or secular, is mindfulness meditation, a practice that teaches patients to fully experience their thoughts, feelings, and sensations, without judgment, and to recognize that these feelings will pass. They learn to become fully aware of what is happening to them at the given moment, acknowledge the experience, and then move on, instead of trying to avoid or deny the situation. This can be helpful to addicts in recovery because one factor in substance abuse is “experiential avoidance,” in which an individual is unwilling to remain in contact with unpleasant thoughts and experiences. The individual uses substance abuse as a way to escape from and avoid dealing with these unpleasant situations. Mindfulness meditation can help addicts to experience discomfort without turning to substance abuse for relief.
One pioneer in this field is Dr. Judson Brewer, who runs the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts. In an interview with medical anthropologist Dr. Farrah Jarral, Dr. Brewer explains how addictive behaviors begin and how the power of thought can be used to break them. He describes how easily our brains form habit loops and how our behavior depends upon these them. These loops develop when we experience pleasant feelings that our bodies would like to experience again. For example, say you eat a delicious chocolate chip cookie. Your brain will record the positive sensations of that experience. The next time you smell chocolate chip cookies, your brain will signal to you a craving to eat one. Or, the next time you have a bad day, your body will crave a cookie as a way to feel better. So now you have a habit loop of eating a cookie to improve your mood, and that loop can be triggered by negative triggers, such as stress, or positive triggers, such as the scent of cookies or wanting to celebrate an important event. In either situation, the loop of trigger to action is completed without much conscious thought, but by habit.
Now, substitute substance abuse for chocolate chip cookies, and you can see the habit loop of addiction. The brain has recorded substance abuse–be it smoking, drinking, or illicit drug use–as a positive state that it would like to achieve again. That habit loop can be triggered by positive or negative triggers, and the individual moves through the loop without really thinking about it. But Dr. Brewer’s work demonstrates that people can learn to become aware of these loops, acknowledge the triggers, and consciously avoid completing the loop.
For example, one of his patients, who began a 35-year smoking habit at age 16, was able to overcome her addiction with mindfulness training she received via a 21-day training app developed by Dr. Brewer. The app taught her to fully experience smoking, taking in all the associated sensations: taste, touch, scent. Her first observation when she practiced mindful smoking was that she felt immediate calm when she placed the cigarette to her lips–even before she lit it. That awareness showed to her that the relief she felt from smoking was purely mental and that she did not need to smoke anymore. With further practice of mindfulness meditation, she was able to quit.
Several other studies have demonstrated the promise of mindfulness meditation in treating addiction. For example, evidence suggests that when compared to standard treatment practices, mindfulness training help patients:
- Manage cravings
- Experience reduced cravings
- Act with more awareness
- Experience a greater reduction in stress
- Exhibit fewer depressive symptoms
- Show higher positive affect
If you are interested in learning more about any of these approaches to addiction treatment, call our toll free number today.