Many families across the U.S. are all too familiar with the stress that comes from alcohol abuse. For those who have experienced addiction first hand, this disease can be overwhelming. The drink that started out as a harmless way to decompress, now seems to be ruling their life.
Some people report not being able to imagine life without drinking, as alcohol has become their go-to for feelings of relaxation. Alcohol interacts with the brain’s pleasure and reward system, and heavy alcohol use can lead a person to rely on the substance to feel good. Luckily, there are alternative ways to evoke a feeling of calm. Best of all, these alternatives don’t carry the risk of addiction.
Many people need help learning to enjoy life without alcohol. That’s why it’s so important for addiction treatment centers to offer therapies that focus on relaxation techniques. Vertava Health’ rehab programs promote peaceful environments, by engaging patients in mindfulness groups, expressive arts, and trauma grounding therapy sessions.
Trauma Healing And Relaxation
While those who get help with addiction are on the right path, entering treatment doesn’t automatically leave people with a sense of relaxation. For many people, alcohol is the only way they currently know how to relax, belong, and feel good about themselves. This can make the first few weeks of recovery uncomfortable.
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Oftentimes, patients enter alcohol rehab programs with significant emotional trauma. Instead of merely learning new ways to “get through the day,” patients participate in trauma recovery exercises, including trauma grounding and EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy.
Throughout addiction treatment, therapists provide additional levels of coping mechanisms to deal with pain from the past. This prepares patients to begin building a self-directed and meaningful life, both during and after the treatment process.
Building A Mindfulness Practice
Many people use alcohol as a numbing agent to mask unpleasant thoughts and feelings. In mindfulness, patients learn to simply let those feelings and thoughts be what they are. In addiction treatment settings, mindfulness has been found to reduce emotional reactivity, and increase a person’s memory and attention span.
Mindfulness is an ancient mental training practice that aims to bring participants into the present moment. Breathing exercises and peaceful visualization techniques help patients drop into the here and now. By encouraging a state of presence of mind, patients’ focus is pulled from worries of the past and anxieties about the future.
Mindfulness cultivates a sense of awareness. For those who have struggled with the stress of addiction, this practice helps people see themselves in an attentive, nonjudgmental state.
Monitoring one’s breathing helps patients disengage or detach from passing thoughts and emotions. Participants learn to “watch” their thoughts appear. They then allow negative feelings to surface and pass, rather than following each one down a rabbit hole of worry.
Mindfulness also encourages patients to step into the role of the Observer. By simply observing their thoughts and actions, patients learn to detach from negative thought patterns and practice being in the now. Some patients may use yoga as a way to build a mindfulness practice. Others begin with guided meditations or deep breathing techniques.
Expressive Arts Therapies For Relaxation
Addiction treatment programs often place a focus on talk therapy, including individual and group counseling. While these approaches have been shown to deepen a person’s experience, there are alternative recovery approaches to consider — especially those which promote relaxation and a sense of well-being.
Expressive arts therapy is a form of alternative addiction treatment. In expressive or creative arts sessions, therapists engage patients in groups that focus on creative writing, art, dance, or music.
These sessions encourage patients to relax on the page, canvas, stage, or dance floor. Expressive arts are known to place people in a calm, creative state of mind. Vertava Health’ art therapy programs help patients rebuild a sense of personal peace.
Recreational And Adventure Therapies For Relaxation
Most people know that sports and physical exercise can release endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin. These feel-good neurotransmitters cause feelings of satisfaction and pleasure. For this reason, treatment centers often provide recreational and adventure therapy sessions.
In recreational therapy, patients may play sports or engage in physical games. These activities may take place in a gym, outdoor field, or at an athletic park. The teamwork required in recreational therapy helps patients to connect with others and explore healthy ways of relating. Just the experience of being outside and experiencing the thrill of physical movement can do wonders for a person’s stress level.
Outdoor-based programs accomplish something similar, but often comes in the form of hiking, water activities, trust challenges, and nature-based ropes courses. Therapists lead the adventure activity, and then facilitate a group debriefing session. This participation and immediate processing helps patients to address any stress that may have surfaced, and then consciously release it.
Completing a challenge is an excellent way to relax the body and mind. Being outside of a clinical setting also helps patients experience recovery with a fresh perspective. This change in environment has been shown to increase positive thoughts and boost a person’s mood.
Being Prepared For Changes In Recovery
Another way to relax without alcohol is to reduce your stress level through proactive planning. Many times, people talk about the triggers that cause them to drink. Triggers are situations or feelings that arise unexpectedly, and result in a strong craving for alcohol.
Reducing situations that make you feel stressed or uncomfortable can be an effective way to promote relaxation. Often times, simply changing the atmosphere can prevent a person from feeling anxious. To set yourself up for success, consider avoiding situations with heavy drinking and stay in regular contact with a sober friend.
When stressful situations do arise, it can be beneficial to have a list of go-to relaxation techniques. These can include spending time with a loved one, taking a long walk, or unwinding with a cup of decaf coffee or herbal tea.
Additional ways to relax in sobriety include:
- watching a favorite movie
- rediscovering music you used to love
- catching up with an old friend
- taking the scenic way home
- writing in a journal
- picking up a sketchbook
- treating yourself to a premium soda or nonalcoholic cider
- cooking a delicious meal
- taking a long bath or shower
Learning How To Relax Without Drinking
As much as we’d like to snap our fingers and immediately achieve our goal, sobriety is a journey of many small steps. One of the most important steps we can practice is the art of learning to relax.
Recovering from alcohol abuse is a process that takes time. During this process, many people benefit from receiving help from a formal addiction treatment center. At Vertava Health, we provide customized treatment plans that help patients enjoy new ways of relaxing in recovery.
Our rehab centers empower patients through therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), stress management, and mindfulness practices. Once a person completes treatment, we provide aftercare support that helps patients navigate through early sobriety.
Thousands of people have learned to relax without alcohol. For more information on alternatives to alcohol, reach out to one of our treatment specialists today.