March 12, 2018
The Importance of Wellness in Addiction Recovery
Written by Joel Salvaggio
We often hear about the importance of eating healthy, exercising, and self-care in recovery. Research shows all of these elements not only help individuals restore their bodies after years of neglect, but it also helps with cravings and an overall sense of wellbeing. This is great news for people new to recovery who are looking to make the transition to a healthier life a smooth process. We sat down with Travis Weisbrod, the Wellness Coordinator at St. Christopher’s Addiction Wellness Center. We wanted to find out what he thought of wellness in addiction recovery and how STC incorporates these activities into the treatment process.
So, STC has a wellness program, tell us more about it.
The main mission of the STC Wellness Center is to contribute to and develop healthy living habits and lifestyles for our clients. We do this by improving physical health, developing social skills and leadership, providing insight, education, and overall awareness of how physical well-being can help one facilitate a happy and healthy recovery and maintain a fulfilling sober life.
By changing your physical habits and attitude, you can directly impact your mental feelings and overall wellbeing.
What happens at the Wellness Center?
At the STC Wellness Center, clients are introduced to various components of fitness: muscular strength and endurance, aerobic fitness, flexibility, and healthy body composition. We also educate clients on the aspects of overall wellness: mind-body awareness, proper sleep hygiene and habits, making healthy food choices, working in a team, and creating healthy hobbies and coping skills. We also focus on creating a positive relationship with your body. Most addicts have made of habit of treating and viewing their body in a negative way, and then wonder why they physically feel unwell. One of the things we focus on at the Wellness Center is that by changing your physical habits and attitude, you can directly impact your mental feelings and overall wellbeing.
Exercise impacts the same reward centers of the brain that drug and alcohol addiction affect. Engaging in exercise helps normalize activity in this area and has been shown to heal the brain faster than abstinence from chemicals alone.
How do you improve health and wellness?
We begin with an individual assessment of exercise history and overall health. I also like to find out what individual preferences are, what sports you like to play, and of course, what personal goals you would like to attain. Most addicts haven’t engaged in regular exercise for months or years, so we usually start with basic movements and introductory exercises done at a low to moderate intensity. Some people, however, are athletes or have engaged in regular exercise, and for those individuals, we may start at a higher intensity. Either way, we start clients on a balanced full-body resistance training routine with aerobic components at least 3 times per week. This is done in conjunction with bi-weekly yoga classes with our amazing instructor Erin Volentine. Her practice specializes in working with addicts, and she designs her sessions to cater to the unique challenges and difficulties that newly sober addicts face in treatment. Erin’s practice is designed to help individuals suffering from anxiety, depression, sleep issues, and chronic pain symptoms learn tools to cope with and overcome challenges faced by many who are new to recovery.
Proper nutrition is also a very important component of wellness. In our Extended Care program, clients participate in a 6-week cooking course designed to teach clients how to prepare healthy and delicious meals using fresh ingredients. Clients learn the importance of making healthy food choices and how to substitute unhealthy ingredients for healthy ones. Together, we prepare and eat meals incorporating fish, chicken, lean beef and fresh vegetables. Along the way, clients will learn how to prepare unique ethnic dishes as well.
For many, early recovery can mean dealing with a great amount of physical and emotional discomfort. Often times, it can be accompanied by near-crippling bouts of anxiety and depression. Exercise has been proven in study after study to improve these symptoms even after ONE session.
Why does STC believe in having a strong wellness component?
At St. Christopher’s Addiction Wellness, we believe recovery from addiction and other mental health issues involves healing the individual in all aspects of their lives: mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, socially, and occupationally. The physical component is an important one for anyone new to recovery for many reasons. For many, early recovery can mean dealing with a great amount of physical and emotional discomfort. Often times, it can be accompanied by near crippling bouts of anxiety and depression. Exercise has been proven in study after study to improve these symptoms even after ONE session. Exercise impacts the same reward centers of the brain that drug and alcohol addiction effect. Engaging in exercise helps normalize activity in this area and has been shown to heal the brain faster than abstinence from chemicals alone. This means feeling “normal” or “like yourself” more quickly.
Exercise has also demonstrated an ability to reduce cravings for drugs and alcohol. Higher craving rates are directly tied to relapse rates, so anything to lower craving will improve one’s chances of staying sober. Of course one of the biggest benefits of exercise is the boost to self-esteem and confidence that comes from improved fitness, especially weight training. These benefits translate into the way you feel mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and socially. At St. Christopher’s, we believe that improving your physical health isn’t just an important aspect of recovery, we believe it is a VITAL aspect.