The Physical Processes of Addiction and Recovery

The Physical Processes of Addiction and Recovery


The struggle to overcome drug and alcohol addiction plays out on so many different battlefields: mental, emotional, social, and so on. But ultimately, the struggle to get sober must start at a physical level. Yes, you have to make a decision to get sober….but outside of that, you need to take physical action in the real world.

So let’s take a look at some of the processes involved with our physical recovery.

Overall direction

In all of the processes that we will push ourselves to go through in recovery, the overall direction should be the same. Specifically, the movement should be from a position of less health towards healthier living. For example, all of these decisions I made during my recovery are an example of that:

1) Pack a day smoker –> to quit smoking

2) Sit around all day –> to regular exercise

3) Active alcoholic –> to quit drinking

You get the idea. Each of those decisions led to a number of different processes, but the overall direction and goal was the same in each case: towards a healthier life.

To further illustrate this idea, and to show how progress can build, one of my current goals is moving from:

Eating unconsciously –> to eating a healthier diet

How the physical process starts

Obviously, the journey in recovery starts with detox, or purging the body from drugs and alcohol. This is just the beginning, of course, but it usually only takes a few days to a week to make it through short term withdrawals from most substances (including alcohol).

But the idea of detoxification can carry through to other substances. For example, I have since quit using both caffeine and nicotine after a few years in recovery, and have considered dramatically changing my diet as well (which usually involves at least a subtle detox for the body). I think the overall direction in this area might best be described as “purification.”

Physical processes in long term recovery

Depending on your drug of choice, the body starts slowly repairing itself in recovery, and in some cases can heal completely. These types of healing processes will naturally occur over long term sobriety, and can only be helped and strengthened from the holistic approach.

In other words, if you incorporate nutrition, fitness, mindfulness, meditation, and so on, then your odds of healing your body will only increase.

This brings us back to the idea of overall direction, and continuously moving towards healthier living.

Sometimes we get too wrapped up in “spiritual growth” in recovery and fail to focus on our physical health and well being. Remember: It’s all spiritual. Your physical health and fitness level can reflect directly on how you feel mentally, spiritually, and emotionally.

It’s all important. Don’t neglect the physical component.

What are you doing to benefit your physical health? Fitness, nutrition, yoga, or something else? What has this process towards Let us know in the comments.


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