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Alternative Methods of Coping

Strange Ways of Dealing With Addiction-Related Negative Emotions

“The pain is in my arm. Why are you sticking the needle in my thigh?” screamed Nadia* at Dr. Lee*. A former barbiturate addict, Nadia got hooked on the drug when it was prescribed for her extreme anxiety and insomnia.

Nadia woke up one day to find she couldn’t raise one arm without debilitating pain. Her mom suggested skipping ‘normal doctors’ and consulting an acupuncturist. Dr. Lee explained that pressure points or ‘meridians’ along which vital energy flows, are connected with, and correspond to, internal organs. That’s why needles may be stuck on the inner elbow to address kidney ailments [1], for instance.

After one treatment, Nadia could raise her arm to waist, then shoulder level. After the second, she could rotate her entire arm. Impressed, she used acupuncture to conquer addiction and is now sober.

For newbies struggling with addiction, numerous treatment options are available. If, however, your addiction spans years, and you’ve tried conventional methods without success, maybe it’s time to explore out-of-the-box alternative methods like Nadia did. Though not all techniques suit everyone, some are worth trying because unlike pharmacological treatments (prescription drugs), most don’t have side effects—except perhaps feeling silly when engaging in them. Go solo, then! For practices like laughter yoga, however, it’s more fun in a class.

Neurolinguistic Tapping (NLT)

NLT is divided into three systems: Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP), Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), and Timeline. Gina* illustrated how an EFT method helped her undergo surgery from the waist down without general anaesthesia. Her doctors gave her a local one because they needed her awake during the operation to get her feedback.

Fortunately, she chanced upon an NLP class prior, where she learned alternative methods of managing anxiety, pain, and depression. On surgery day, though, she panicked and could only remember the simplest one.

Throughout the operation, she used her index and middle fingers to tap on ‘pressure points’ on her face, neck, and chest while reciting mantras like, “I feel no pain. My body has the innate ability to heal itself.” Gina’s doctors were amazed when she emerged from the procedure without expressing any form of distress.

Acupressure

Like acupuncture but without needles. Massaging by ‘drawing’ circles with your index finger or thumb on these meridians while breathing deeply and closing your eyes for a few minutes can relieve conditions including anxiety, stress, insomnia, pain, and nausea [2]:

  • the spot between your eyebrows
  • the fleshy part where the thumb and index finger meet
  • the deepest indentation on each upper ear lobe
  • two points (left and right) where the back of the neck meets the shoulders
  • two points (left and right) where the back of the neck meets the skull
  • the indentation one thumb’s length below the inner wrist
  • the indentation .5 inch below where the big toe and second toe meet

Ujjayi breathing

Using deep breaths to stave off panic attacks is well known, like paper bag breathing. But Ujjayi, the most common form of breath control in yoga, is breathing through the nose and tightening the throat to make a ‘snoring’ sound. It calms the mind, improves concentration, overrides distractions, and releases tension. Alternative methods of breathing, such as this one, can be beneficial for anxiety, depression, thyroid conditions, and chemotherapy effects, among others.

“The Secret”

Those unfamiliar can watch this video on YouTube or read the book. Despite The Secret’s detractors, an addict can learn the concepts of affirmation and visualization from it. These are encouragements to oneself in the form of statements and images that are placed where one can see them daily to achieve goals.

Ever cheerful Faye* applies these to her life. Every morning, she reads an inscription she wrote on her bathroom mirror: “I will be happy today, no matter what.” Nobody can tell she survived a hysterectomy, breast cancer, and the death of both parents.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MSBR)

This modality changes the body’s response to external events, as Marine Captain Jeff Davis discovered. Suffering from PTSD after his first deployment to Iraq, he almost drove himself off a bridge. In 2008, he and his team were the first to be tested with mindfulness training for active-duty military personnel. When they returned from deployment, they were found to be more compassionate, discerning, and not as reactive. Advocating mindfulness training as an important tool against PTSD, Davis said after a heart attack: “The doctors who worked on me saved my heart, but mindfulness saved my life.”

Somatic experiencing

Dr. Peter Levine, originator of this body-oriented technique, was a stress consultant for NASA during the development of the space shuttle. His book, Waking the Tiger: Healing of Trauma, discusses somatic tools as alternative methods for treating trauma. They soothe and regulate emotions/thoughts and free patients from being too dependent on therapists. Examples:

To quiet overwhelming emotions:

Place your right hand under your left arm. Put your left hand on your right shoulder. Or tap skin all over to help the body remember that it is the container for all sensation and feeling. Squeezing muscles in different parts of the body also helps in getting that sense of boundary.

For better sleep or dream quality:

Put one hand on the forehead and the other on the upper chest. With eyes open or closed, wait until you feel some kind of shift. This may be an energy flow or temperature change. Then, keeping the lower hand on the chest, place the upper hand on the belly. Again, wait until you feel a shift or flow.

Unification

Despite the effectiveness of many alternative methods of treatment, some allopathic [2] medical practitioners still do not recognize them as part of mainstream medicine. But for those let down by conventional medicine, necessity compels them to try these.

Granted, complementary medicine may not suit everyone, but many patients who view it as a last resort find it surprisingly effective, especially in cases of addiction and trauma. Fortunately, many modalities are now part of a category called ‘evidence-based therapies’ because they’ve already been proven by scientific studies to be effective for certain medical conditions. The key is to find the appropriate treatment for one’s ailment. Some insurers and state/provincial health branches cover select forms of complementary medicine.

Negative beliefs and behaviour go deeper than thoughts (many unconscious), so we can’t just “will them away”. But thanks to new research, scientists are finding that allopathic and complementary treatments combined are effective in modifying these and treating many psychological, neurological, or addictive illnesses.

*Interviewees’ names were changed to ensure privacy.

Sources

[1] Li Ding. “Acupuncture, Meridian Theory, and Acupuncture Points”. 1991.
[2] Forem, Jack. “Healing with Pressure Point Therapy: Simple, Effective Techniques for Massaging Away More Than 100 Common Ailments”. 1999.
[3] The treatment of disease by conventional means—with drugs having opposite effects to the symptoms. (New Oxford American Dictionary)

Image by Kai Miano from Pixabay