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6 Ways to Improve Your Life During Addiction Recovery

Addiction recovery has come a long way since the traditional 12-step rehabilitation programs like AA, (Alcoholics Anonymous) or NA, (Narcotics Anonymous). Today, you can choose from many other different addiction recovery programs and there are some holistic options that are known to be highly effective even though they are non 12-step models.

Holistic addiction recovery methods are commonly added to a comprehensive treatment plan. They are ideal for improving the quality of life during recovery, and for non-addicts as well.

Here are the top 6 holistic addiction recovery methods to consider:

  1. Acupuncture. This is a traditional healing practice used most commonly in Chinese medicine. Used for centuries to ease common aches and pains, as well as more serious health conditions including musculoskeletal problems like back and neck pain, headaches, anxiety, depression, and poor sleep,  acupuncture has also been shown in clinical trials to aid in addiction recovery. One study showed that acupuncture treatment helped motivate smokers to reduce their smoking, or even quit smoking completely – and the effects could last for up to 5 years! Different acupuncture points affect addicted people differently. In the study on acupuncture and smoking subjects were able to reduce their flavor desire for tobacco, and their desire to smoke.1
  1. Art Therapy. The American Art Therapy Association (AATA) specifically acknowledges the role that art therapy can play in managing addictions. Today, you can find that art therapy may include anything from drawing an incident that occurred while using substances, painting emotions, stress painting (i.e., painting during times of anxiety and/or stress in order to relieve feelings of stress), creating an art journal, and making sculptures. By employing the creative process, art therapy may be an ideal addition to a traditional rehab program, or used alone as a holistic addiction treatment.2
  2. Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP). If you are someone who enjoys being with animals, or know someone in recovery who does, EAP is for you! This type of holistic addiction recovery treatment is designed to use horses to encourage non-verbal communication, assertiveness, creative thinking and problem solving. EAP has been used for over two decades and it may help with high blood pressure, stress, and even feelings of anger, anxiety, and nervous tension.

Further, animal assisted holistic recovery therapies have been clinically shown to be useful for inpatients to develop relationships, and address various problems.3

  1. Massage. Luxury spa appointments are not usually a part of a traditional 12-step rehabilitation program. However, while the recovery process is well-known to add more stress, anxiety and overall tension, a massage may help. Massage therapy is a relaxing holistic recovery approach that uses rubbing and a variety of techniques including gliding, kneading, trigger points, transverse friction, compression and more to reduce stress, and tension.

It is important to know that overall, massage is an ideal option for personal care during recovery however, you will need to find the right type of massage therapist for your specific needs. As there are many different types of massage techniques, you may need to shop around for a little while before you find the right massage therapist for you.

  1. Reiki. This is a really wonderful and unique type of holistic recovery therapy. Used for thousands of years in ancient Japanese natural medicine, Reiki is a type of touch therapy that can slash your stress levels. During recovery, Reiki therapy can be used to encourage the healing process while relaxing the body for less muscle tension, as well as calming mental anxiety.

The term Reiki translates to “spiritually guided life force energy,” and typically after just one 90-minute session you will notice more energy from the gentle hands of your therapist. During a Reiki session, you will feel the gentle hands of the practitioner use a series of light touches at different locations all over your body to help you feel refreshed.

  1. Spiritual Development. Many people in recovery struggle with traditional 12-step programs that include step 2 which calls for the help of a higher power to help restore the addict to sanity. This can occur for a number of reasons as some people have negative memories about spirituality linked to their childhood experience with religion. However, spirituality doesn’t have to be associated with any rehab program, or an organized religion. In fact, scientists have found that spirituality is an effective way to achieve a higher quality of life during recovery when used in conjunction with a 12-step program or alone.4

During recovery, a spiritual counselor can help a person addicted to drugs or alcohol find new dimension in their everyday lives. While there is no single life-changing moment to expect from a counseling session with a spiritual advisor, you can look forward to a greater personal understanding of yourself during recovery. Unlike any other type of counselor, a spiritual advisor can help you to find what lies deeper beneath the surface, where your desire to use may be hiding.

If you do not want to meet with a spiritual counselor, you may alternatively want to try a type of meditation practice like yoga, or breathing exercises to develop your spirituality.

Talk to Your Doctor

The most effective holistic health practices can be used any time you like! You do not have to be an addict in recovery to use these 6 holistic treatments to improve your life. However, if you are working on a 12-step rehabilitation program these holistic therapies may increase your ability to maintain your sobriety over time.

If you are unsure about how to approach your own recovery, or you want to help someone else in your life talk to your healthcare provider. They can discuss different types of rehab options including traditional 12-step programs as well as non 12-step programs, and also which holistic recovery methods to integrate into your long-term treatment plan.



  1. He D1, Medbø JI. Effect of acupuncture on smoking cessation or reduction: an 8-month and 5-year follow-up study. Prev Med. 2001 Nov;33(5):364-72.
  2. Lydia Aletraris, PhD, Maria Paino, PhD. The Use of Art and Music Therapy in Substance Abuse Treatment Programs. J Addict Nurs. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2014 Dec 17.
  3. FabrizioBert, Maria Rosaria Gualano. Animal assisted intervention: A systematic review of benefits and risks. European Journal of Integrative Medicine

Volume 8, Issue 5, October 2016, Pages 695-706.

  1. Alexandre B. Laudet, PhD, Keith Morgen, PhD. The Role of Social Supports, Spirituality, Religiousness, Life Meaning and Affiliation with 12-Step Fellowships in Quality of Life Satisfaction Among Individuals in Recovery from Alcohol and Drug Problems. Alcohol Treat Q. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2006 Aug 3.


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