Home » Topics » Alcohol Rehab

Why Holistic Alcohol Rehab is Better

The benefits of peripheral classes in alcohol rehab. How exercise, meditation, karate and nutrition classes help to prevent relapse.

Holistic Alcohol Rehab

Classes on nutrition, exercise and on activities such as yoga, karate or meditation serve an important role in long term relapse prevention.

Alcoholics entering into a residential alcohol rehab facility have a lot of work to do, and a relatively brief period in which to accomplish all of the learning needed. But even though the therapeutic time is limited, and addictions professionals try to offer as much comprehensive and varied therapy and reflection time as possible, an important part of any alcohol rehab program are the peripheral classes on general health and nutrition. These peripheral classes provide recovering alcoholics with the knowledge and habits they’ll need to have the best odds at maintaining achieved abstinence.

The Problem of Relapse

Unfortunately, more than half of all people completing a successful period of residential rehab will relapse to some degree during the initial year of sobriety. The first year is very tough, and the body and mind take a long time to completely heal from the ravages of alcohol abuse. Brain activity remains altered by the legacy of abuse for many months after achieved abstinence, and this strengthens compulsions and cravings back to use and abuse.

Learning to Beat the Cravings

Additionally, the societal cues to alcohol abuse are everywhere. A cocaine addict may be able to significantly minimize temptations to cocaine abuse by avoiding people and environments of past and present use, but recovering alcoholics can hardly avoid the societal cues to drinking. In every grocery and convenience store there is alcohol for sale, on every street corner is a billboard for alcohol, on television we are bombarded with beer commercials and any time we go to a restaurant or social function we are asked what we'd like to drink!

It can be very hard for recovering alcoholics still feeling strong cravings and compulsion to use to overcome this seemingly endless barrage of temptation and easy access, and strong willpower alone isn’t really enough.

To make the transition to sobriety easier, alcohol rehab takes time out of busy therapeutic programs to offer classes on good nutrition, on exercise, and on general health topics. In AA they use HALT, which is when you are hungry, angry, lonely or tired, you are more likely to relapse; and in alcohol rehab professionals work with addicts to teach them how to avoid these feelings during initial sobriety.

Nutritional Classes in Alcohol Rehab

Alcohol rehabs try to mend the body, mind and soul; and alcoholics commonly enter into rehab having neglected their body through poor nutrition, and through the effects of alcohol on the gastro intestinal system. The long term legacy of the nutritional deficits of alcoholism can include irreversible brain damage, osteoporosis, heart failure and gastro intestinal disorders; as well as an increased risk for a number of cancers. Additionally, not eating right makes you more prone to relapse.

Alcohol rehabs work hard to provide meals brimming with the kinds of nutrients that alcoholics in recovery need most, but a month or two of rehab won’t erase severe nutritional deficits, and alcoholics need to learn how they can continue to eat to better their health, and also to lessen their risks of relapse.

Learning to Eat Better; Staying Sober

Nutritional classes teach alcoholics about the vitamins and nutrients they are likely lacking, the health problems associated with nutritional deficiencies, and also what types of foods and meals are best able to restore their levels of nutritional health. Vitamin and nutrient supplements are also used, and recovering alcoholics will be counseled on which types of vitamin supplements they should continue taking, and for how long.


Hypoglycemia (low and variant blood sugar) is a very common problem afflicting recovering alcoholics, and is a primary cause of relapse. Alcoholics with a heavy history of drinking often develop this condition of swinging and crashing blood sugar levels; and when blood sugar levels fall, they experience depressed mood, lethargy, and also cravings for sugar…which for alcoholics means cravings for the sugar in alcohol!

Alcoholics are taught that a great way to minimize the cravings back to relapse is to avoid ever feeling hungry, and by never letting blood sugar levels fall. Recovering alcoholics are advised to eat as many as 6 easily digestible and nutrient rich meals daily, and to always carry around a bit of candy…for emergency situations of craving!

Exercise Classes in Alcohol Rehab

Exercise causes a release of endorphins, helps to fight off periods and feelings of depression, and helps to fatigue the body…assisting in dealing with problems with insomnia so often a part of early alcohol recovery.

The multiple benefits of exercise in recovery make exercise programming in alcohol rehab an important and worthwhile therapeutic addition to a comprehensive experience. Recovering alcoholics are taught necessary exercise skills and are encouraged to get into the habit of mood buoying exercise while participating in alcohol rehab, in the hopes that they will continue with therapeutic exercise during the initial months of sobriety outside of the temptation free safety of the rehab environment.

Yoga, Karate, Meditation…Other Peripheral Classes in Alcohol Rehab

People sometimes wonder at the therapeutic value of seemingly unrelated classes such as karate or yoga, but a major contributor to relapse is experienced stress and poor stress management techniques. Since many alcoholics, especially alcoholics with a long history of drinking, have used alcohol as a stress management technique for years; they need to learn appropriate and healthy strategies of stress and lifestyle management.

Yoga, karate and meditation classes all require a discipline of the mind and body, all offer recovering alcoholics a greater insight of self awareness; and all induce a more peaceful state of mind that endures far beyond the physical act. Through mental self reflection and psychical training, recovering alcoholics gain a better perspective over the life stressors that might otherwise contribute to relapse.

HALT… Hungry, Angry, Lonely and Tired

Whether or not an alcohol rehab facility subscribes to the AA mantra against HALT, quality rehab programs do offer comprehensive classes and education that help recovering alcoholics to minimize relapse through better bodily and emotional control.

Good nutrition and blood sugar management helps to keep recovering alcoholics from feeling the lethargy, depression and cravings back to alcohol use and abuse, as it also helps to restore better overall health.

Classes and practicum's that promote regular exercise as a therapeutic aid get recovering alcoholics in the habit of using the mood lifting effects of exercise to reduce the depression and dysphoria that can lead to abuse. Additionally, regular exercise can help to offset some of the relapse provoking insomnia that is so often a part of early sobriety.

Peripheral classes such as meditation or yoga give addicts better self awareness, and through mental training, better self control. Using skills learned, addicts are better able to deal with normal life stresses, and can minimize negative emotions such as anger that always provoke cravings back to use and abuse.

Avoiding relapse is very tough, especially during the first year of sobriety, and to give recovering alcoholics the best chance of success and sobriety, an alcohol rehab program needs to leave recovering alcoholics with a diverse set of life skills that minimize cravings, and help to deal with cravings that do emerge. Therapy and counseling are a central part of a rehab experience, but peripheral programs are also significant, and the quality of peripheral programs should be a factor to consider when evaluating different alcohol rehab facilities.

Copyright Notice

We welcome republishing of our content on condition that you credit Choose Help and the respective authors. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Creative Commons License


Helpful Reading: