Recovery Is More Than Stopping Addictive Behaviors: Our Whole-Self Changes

By Olivia Pennelle


Change is synonymous with recovery. It is an inevitable part of the process. Not only do we change our relationship with alcohol and drugs, but we transform physically. Slowly, through incremental changes, we discover how to have a relationship with ourselves and to love and respect our bodies. These changes lead to a holistic recovery; of our mind, body, and spirit becoming aligned.


During active addiction, I was completely disconnected with myself in every respect. Mentally, my comprehension of life was limited, never mind having any sense of self. I didn’t know how to communicate with myself and had zero self-respect. Physically, I hated my body. My spirit was in shatters and I was barely surviving. To coin a popular phrase, my sole purpose was living to use and using to live.


In addition, I gained a whopping 150 pounds! I caused a lot of physical damage because of both the weight and my sheer quantity of drugs and alcohol I was consuming. In the end, I was drinking four bottles of wine, smoking about 30 cigarettes and taking prescription drugs every day. My liver function tests revealed scarring on my liver, and, despite my doctor’s insistence on change, and several hospital visits, the damage still didn’t register enough to effect change. This situation continued for years. It’s like I was stuck on a seesaw: weighed down by harmful choices, with the other side representing loving, rational, healthy choices. Yet, I was stuck couldn’t get the seesaw to move.


I eventually reached my rock bottom. The emotional and physical pain grew so to be so big and loud that I couldn’t help but experience it. I was then able to reach a place of surrender. This shifted my mental weight and the seesaw shifted. I found recovery.


That wasn’t the only seesaw I have experienced in recovery. My journey has been laden with them.


Once that pink fluffy cloud of being in recovery had lifted, I was faced with the physical damage of addiction. Being clean and sober helped repair the physical damage I caused, purely through abstinence. I gave my body a break and my liver regenerated within 6 weeks. The skin conditions with which I suffered dissipated.


But, I was then faced with the misery I felt about my weight. This misery grew to desperation. So I did what I knew best, I soothed myself with food. I was eating in a way that was synonymous with addiction; I felt uncomfortable in my skin and utterly depressed. I used food to avoid these feelings.


But there was a huge mental weight associated with my physical weight.


I realized that to be in recovery meant that I gained awareness of these addictive behaviors and patterns. That awareness grew to the desire to want to live in alignment with my overall goal of recovery: to live a life free of avoidance, free of using external substances to change how I feel. I wanted to live holistically.


Only after these realizations, and enough pain, was the seesaw able to move; shifting again from harmful behavior toward making loving choices. That tipping toward loving myself enough to change was a pivotal moment for me. The same thing happened with drinking, drugging, smoking, and unsuitable relationships. It is only after that mental shift, was I able to reach out and ask for help.


In getting help, I learned how to change. I educated myself about good nutrition. I discovered the power of exercise as an effective stress reliever.


It was my long-standing depression, low mood, and inability to deal with life stresses that lead me to use. I was so surprised that something so simple, which can take as little as twenty minutes per day, could help me cope with life. In my previous post, I shared several small steps that I took to incorporate activity into my life, in a fun way. For example, I tricked my brain with challenges of running 5k or walking 10,000 steps a day. In doing so, my body began to transform. I lost 50 pounds, I gained muscle definition, I became strong.


I learned how to harness the power of good nutrition to help me feel well. I make food choices today that nourish my body, provide immunity-boosting benefits, and keep me energized throughout the day.


Once I dealt with all the external fixes, I discovered how to have a loving relationship with my body. Today, I am mindful about the choices I make. I ask myself when I feel hunger, what I truly want? What my needs are. If I am hungry, I eat. If I am seeking something, I try and listen closer to what it is I need. Often it can be as simple as taking time out and some self-care, such as a bath, or reading a book.


One thing I have learned overall, is that I love myself enough today to make healthy choices. I am worth listening to and I am the one who can look after my whole self, not external fixes.


Coming up next, I’ll share my experience of harnessing the power of nutrition. Starting with how to increase energy naturally.




If you or a loved one are struggling with an addiction and need treatment, we would love to talk with you and see how we can help you.PLEASE CALL 855-816-8826. Our counselors are available to answer your questions.




Writer, blogger, nutrition and recovery advocate, Olivia Pennelle (Liv), is in long-term recovery. Liv passionately believes in a fluid and holistic approach to recovery. Her popular site Livs Recovery Kitchen is a resource for the journey toward health and wellness in recovery. For Liv, the kitchen represents the heart of the home: to eat, share, and love. You will find Liv featured amongst top recovery bloggers and published on websites such as: The Fix, Sanford House, Winward Way & Casa Capri, Intervene, Workit Sapling, Addiction Unscripted, and Transformation is Real.


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