Body work is vital to addiction recovery

Recovery is a process of personal transformation in which we build a life that’s so good we wouldn’t want to return to our old life.

Recovery is also a process of holistic healing. Too often, we ignore our physical health out of the false belief, “If I ignore it, it will go away.”

The easiest process we’ve found to move away from self-destruction is to create. We’re encouraged to make investments in ourselves, some of which seem valuable, others of which appear tedious or terrifying.

The basics are too often overlooked because they’re a matter of common sense and hard/ongoing work.

A friend of mine who is an addictions counselor often describes the early years of recovery this way:

  • Year one is physical
  • Year two is mental
  • Year three is emotional
  • Year four is spiritual

She is also famous for saying, “In recovery, needs come first and wants come later.” Neither of these two concepts are generally well received. We’re people who favor immediate gratification. We seek short cuts to fast-track our healing. We’re in a hurry to rebuild our lives and the idea that we need to be both patient and holistic in our healing is disappointing.

Typically, the more years we spent in addiction, the more we want to be all better by Tuesday.

When we talk about dealing with the wreckage of our active use, we focus on things external to self like jobs and relationships lost. We tend to overlook some very basic and vital aspects of our internal processes:

  • Detox is an ongoing process that continues for a full year.
  • Nutrition, hydration, exercise, and sleep facilitate that process and pay off in the form of increased energy and sharper thinking, as well as overall improved health.
  • Time management, stress management, and anger management all have huge health benefits.
  • Self-care means attending to untreated medical conditions, treating pain through healthy practices, and getting screened for communicable diseases.

Pushing our bodies to do what they’re not ready or able to do is a recipe for disaster and ultimately, costs far more than it achieves.

I’ve come to understand that not accepting my limitations is disrespectful, whether they are physical, mental, or emotional in nature. I’ve noticed that I never do this to other people – only to myself. I’ve learned while I found physical pain preferable to emotional pain (and indeed, a distraction from it) that healing each part of me facilitates all parts of me.


  • See your primary care professional even if everything seems ok.
  • What we once deemed as alternative treatments are showing huge benefit in research on addiction recovery: specifically, yoga and acupuncture.
  • Find an affordable option for massage therapy. If there are schools nearby where folks train to become massage therapists those are excellent and affordable options.
  • See a therapist who specializes in both addiction recovery and other forms of recovery (mental health and trauma most notably) for guidance on what types of bodywork and/or energy work may be if further benefit.