Health Notes

Alcohol Addiction and the Holistic Alternative

Alcohol addiction is the number one substance abuse problem in the US. Many people every year die from the effects of their substance abuse and addictions and many more die from the issues created by other people’s problems with alcohol.

When it comes to rehabilitation from Alcohol the success rate of all programs offered is extremely low. There are many reasons for this. The biggest problem when it comes to rehabilitation from alcohol is that most all programs are not holistically structured. The most used method in dealing with alcohol addiction is Alcohol Anonymous (AA). According to the tenants of AA you have to admit to the group that you are an “alcoholic.” While in the meetings you at some point have to get up before the group, declare you are an alcoholic and tell them the “story” of your life and how alcohol has adversely effected you.

AA started many years ago when a couple of guys who were having problems with alcohol decided to come together and support each other. Over time the program expanded to provide mentors for people getting into the program. Despite how long it may have been since you used alcohol you still have to declare yourself an “alcoholic.” The stories are legendary of people going to meetings and despite the fact that they haven’t used alcohol in two decades or longer they still have to declare themselves as alcoholics.

AA is touted by many rehabs as the “only” method that works for alcohol addiction. Peer-reviewed studies peg the success rate of AA somewhere between 5 and 10 percent. That is, about one of every fifteen people who enter these programs is able to become and stay sober. That statistic is sobering in and of itself. Even with low success rates AA has helped thousands if not millions of people. And we applaud their success. But anything and everything can be improved upon if you spend enough time studying the problem and developing a better approach to it.

I would like to present another more holistic approach to alcoholism and explain why someone would want to come to Sacred Space Retreats in Cloverdale California, to deal with their issues of addiction instead of using the traditional methods of the AA model.

First let me start by talking about my own personal family observations with alcoholism. My first introduction to the problems of alcoholism came in the form of my family, in particular with my father. As I have observed our family issues with it, I find that for many people, particularly men in our society, we have a similar pattern when it comes to predisposing us to alcohol addiction.

My Dad was in the military on active duty for 30 years. Then after he retired he “volunteered” for the military for another 30 years. In so doing he is what I call one of the original “hard chargers.” For many years he had an alcohol problem, as a lot of people in the military do as their way of coping with the tremendous stress they have. As time went on I tried to get him to make some changes to his lifestyle such as taking more responsibility for his health and doing things at home like preparing more healthy meals for himself. He was from the “old school ” for sure. He couldn’t relate to taking better care of himself and eating better. He left all the food preparation to my mother. He said to me once that “it wasn’t in his contract” to prepare his own food. I think he was also from the depression era and so for him he thought I was crazy to suggest that he eat healthier (in his mind more expensive) food. For instance, he loved ice cream, and he would always go to the Air Force base not far from where he lived and he would get the cheapest ice cream they had. He would often brag about the inexpensive food he could get from the base commissary. I don’t even think it was real ice cream, it was more like “ice milk.” Anyway, he could just not understand why someone would pay more for something he could get cheaper. Eventually I gave up trying to convince him.

My father started to develop Alzheimers when he was in his mid 70’s . My mother was so wonderful in that she insisted on taking care of him there at home and would not have him go to a convalescent home. In the end it took quite a toll on her. Dad died in 2009. The last 8 years of his life he continued to decline cognitively. At 82 he died not even knowing who I was or even who his wife of 61 years was. It was quite heart breaking of course for all of us, but especially for my mother.

I fully believe that part of his decline was due to all the years he spent struggling with alcohol. I think it damages a persons brain and makes them more susceptible to these issues later on in life. So as I looked back on his life I swore I would do my life differently. I would make time to take care of myself. I would not be a “hard charger ” like him. That is one of the reasons that I gave our motto here, ” To Retreat is Sometimes the Better Part of Valor.” Sometimes it’s better to Retreat then to just continue to charge ahead. The issues of alcoholism are not isolated issues unique to anyone of us. I see them as a pattern of our culture, particularly for men in their own unique way, and women in theirs.

If you look at most people, we kind of follow a similar pattern. We go to school. Eventually we leave school and we get married or create a relationship. Then we work like a mad man or woman until we retire or die, whichever comes first. Somewhere along the way we loose ourselves as we put all of our energy into everyone and everything else, especially our business. We put all of our energy into everything except ourselves.

This is what Sacred Space Retreats in Cloverdale California is all about. We stand ready to support our guests with giving themselves the time and attention and love that one must give oneself. You have to realize you are totally worth the level of time and attention it takes to figure yourself out and to learn to “master yourself.” We all make a choice. Give yourself time and attention, or ignore your bodys cry for help and “charge ahead.”

For me personally, one of the things that helped me out was that I started having health issues very early on in life, so I basically had no choice when it came to giving myself the time and attention that I needed. In that respect I believe we all have problems, it’s just that some peoples’ problems are just a little more apparent then others.

I could never get my Dad to consider coming to Sacred Space because I believe he had a lot of pain that he just wasn’t ready to deal with. Being in the military and doing the ungodly things they ask you to do could only be a very painful experience. We can see that now as our soldiers come back from war psychologically damaged. So, unfortunately, he never considered it. We are here to be that support for you—to create the environment you need to do this.

One thing I learned though my years and especially with my family (two brothers who died from liver cancer from their addictions), is that I am completely and utterly powerless to save anyone. What I can do is save myself and offer myself as a good role model for others to emulate. No one can “fix” you. Its really about you fixing yourself. And the only way I believe that is possible is by giving yourself love (time and attention).

One of the first issues you will have to deal with when it concerns alcoholism is the food you eat. Most people are not aware of this and most rehabs don’t address it. In fact there is a common pattern that occurs when you go to rehabs for help with alcohol. They almost always load people up on caffeine, sugar, pastries, starches and grains. When we eat starches, grains and sugars they are converted in our body into alcohol by an organism called Candida. It’s a “yeast overgrowth.” Many of these programs simply feed people the foods which satisfy their craving for alcohol. Unbeknownst to them, the Candida organism converts those foods back into alcohol in their blood stream, ultimately keeping them at higher blood alcohol levels. That high blood alcohol level and the infestation of yeast leaves them only a step away from their next drink. Most all rehabs ignore this critical issue and this is one of the biggest reasons for their extremely low success rate.

Additionally, most rehab food is institutional food (a common distributor being Sysco) which is high in starch, sugar and grains like breads, pastries, pastas, cookies, etc.

Once as a Nutritional Consultant to Walden House Adolescent Facility I had occasion to go to their food pantry to see what they were serving them. To my disappointment, everything they served, from the fish sticks to the ketchup to the corn or beans, had sugar in it. So being on a specialized diet is important to help you get free of the cravings you may have for alcohol. The problem for rehab institutions is that very few resources are budgeted for their food. To keep within their budget they buy the cheapest institutional foods available to them.

Most rehabs talk about the psychological aspects of a persons alcohol use, but they don’t address the physiological part. Unless you address that, you may be unwittingly giving yourself your next drink, just in a different form. In fact your craving for alcohol, or sugar or grains or starches, may not actually be coming from you. It is a well known fact that in order for Candida Albicans to grow in your body it must be fed. So while a person may think they are craving alcohol or sugar, starch etc, it may actually be the Candida organism craving it for their growth.

If I was going to make beer, for instance, I would take some sugar, yeast, and a grain like hops. I’d put them all in a big pot, then through a process called fermentation, the yeast would convert those grains and sugars into alcohol. That is precisely what is going on in your body.

Most all people addicted to alcohol eat a lot of meat. So in addition to eating foods high in starch like grains and sugars, they eat a high animal protein diet. This creates additional problems for you when you want to come off of alcohol, because it creates an acidic pH in your blood stream and it is high in saturated fats. This puts your body ill at ease to try to deal with anything else. And, strange as it may sound, alcohol is actually an antidote to both. Acidosis (when arterial blood falls below 7.35 pH) is actually very uncomfortable. It makes the body more “inflammed.” That inflammation process makes it challenging to withdraw from alcohol because alcohol is the “antidote.” Have you checked your pH lately? Don’t worry, we will have you do it when you get here. We will have you check it for 4 days, 3 times per day. That will confirm to you where your pH is and give you further understanding of why your body is doing what it is doing. The same with the saturated fat aspects. Alcohol puts that saturated fat more into solution in the arteries. Here at Sacred Space Retreats we serve a vegan diet. A diet free of animal protein. You will be amazed that your craving for alcohol deminishes dramatically when you eat a vegan diet. Does that mean you have to eat a vegan diet forever in order to be free of alcohol addiction? No. When you understand what is going on inside you, it will be easier to keep yourself in moderation once you leave here. While you are here you are being treated for your intense cravings for alcohol. Once that craving is gone and you are healthier, you can eat meat again if you wish, but in more moderation and with a better understanding of what it is doing to you physiologically.

This is why in order for anyone to successfully address alcoholism, you have to address this physiological aspect.
To be on a specialized diet like this is one of the reasons people come to Sacred Space Retreats.