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Natural Awakenings Naples and Fort Myers

Holistic Addiction Recovery: New Paradigms Offer Hope and Healing

Jun 02, 2011 09:18AM ● By Linda Sechrist

David Essel

“A ddiction is a lifelong disease, and to many who are caught in its web, it can seem like finding the right treatment takes just about as long,” says Harold C. Urschel, III, M.D., author of Healing the Addicted Brain: The Revolutionary Science-Based Alcoholism and Addiction Recovery System.

According to Urschel, most people know very little about addiction, and what they do know (or think they know) boils down to this: Addicts can quit if they really want to; all they have to do is commit wholeheartedly to their treatment, which consists largely of “talking therapy”—individual or group psychotherapy or 12-Step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous.

“This is the sum total of most people’s knowledge of addiction treatment, but it is not enough and is the main reason that the success rate for treatment is currently only 20 to 30 percent,” advises Urschel, who is the chief medical strategist for Enterhealth, an adult residential addiction treatment center in Texas. “This means that 70 to 80 percent of the participants in any given addiction treatment program will not be successful. While 12-Step programs and psychotherapy are an important part of the treatment process, a more well-rounded approach can yield a higher success rate.”

Life Coach Universe’s Holistic Addiction Recovery Program

David Essel, founder of the Life Coach Universe and the Holistic Addiction Recovery Program, agrees with Urschel’s assessment of the public’s lack of understanding regarding addiction recovery. The master life coach and Hay House author has developed a program that helps create a total mind/body/spirit-based recovery system for each individual, based on his or her specific needs and circumstances. Nutrition, diet and supplementation; spiritual practices; exercise; emotional support systems and even financial management are synergistically combined to ensure ultimate success in all areas of life.

A man who has walked more than a mile in a recovering addict’s shoes, Essel began his own healing from an alcohol and cocaine addiction in 1996 and today, approaches his life-changing work with gusto. During the past 20 years, he has helped thousands of individuals become free of all types of addiction.

“Throughout my recovery process, I found that a full mind/body/spirit program was essential for long-term recovery,” advises Essel, who advocates using meditation, motivation, behavior/belief change techniques and steps 1, 2 and 3 of the 12-Step model. Essel trains coaches, ministers, teachers and parents to use his program and says, “From my personal experience, I believe that the 12-Step program has to evolve to align with more positive self-talk and the Universal Laws, such as the Law of Attraction.”

He suggests that one aspect that could benefit from tweaking is the introduction at the beginning of each 12-Step meeting. “Going to meetings declaring, ‘I’m an alcoholic,’ or whatever the addiction, is limiting [an individual’s] thinking and an affirmation that attracts more of the same,” he explains.

“I know that the 12-Step program is a crucial part of recovery, but it’s only one part, and so much more is needed to approach addiction holistically,” enthuses Essel, who notes that his program’s supplementation includes Gabatrol. “This is gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), an inhibitory neurotransmitter that reduces muscle tension, stress, anxiety and depression and promotes well-being.”

Through the power of Essel’s coaching practices, such as pattern writing, individuals discover not only the “whys” of their addiction, but also the “hows” needed to move to a new sense of self. He notes that pattern writing is an essential part of recovery because it helps an addict to see his or her life accounts and thoughts. “It shows them beyond a doubt, in their own words, how their thoughts and addiction have power over them, thus limiting their growth,” he advises.

Urschel also believes in setting aside 15 to 30 minutes each day to record reflections from the previous 24 hours in a “Thought Notebook,” in order to identify the inaccurate and irrational thinking of addiction. “Inaccurate, pro-addiction thoughts are by definition invalid, although they seem absolutely true to the addicted person,” Urschel explains. “They are based on the belief that you will fail or get hurt, and the only way to succeed, or at least avoid the pain of failure, is to blot out the situation or the feeling by drinking alcohol or using drugs.”

Urschel suggests that it is especially important to write out thoughts that brought up uncomfortable feelings or preceded cravings for drugs or alcohol. “Until you realize that you have such thoughts, you can’t start to change them or substitute healthy and more accurate pro-recovery responses,” he says. “Here’s an example of substituting an inaccurate thought with a healthy one: Instead of thinking, ‘I can’t be social without drinking or using,’ substitute this thought: ‘If I can talk about the weather, sports, food, movies or any other simple topic, I can be social.’”

Hitt Wellness Center

At the Hitt Wellness Center, in Tijuana, Mexico, the minute, but powerful brain chemicals serotonin and dopamine, as well as their receptor sites, are of great interest in the pursuit of addiction recovery.

A healthy brain relies primarily upon a complicated mix of neurotransmitters and receptor sites, as well as the electrical processes that take place within it. Serotonin and dopamine, part of a group of compounds called biogenic amines, are produced from basic amino acids such as tyrosine, tryptophan and choline.

These amines are integral to addiction recovery because mood-altering and addictive drugs show a straightforward affinity for their receptor sites. Serotonin is a central nervous system neurotransmitter involved in regulating mood, sleep, appetite and sexuality.

Dopamine, another neurotransmitter that provides feelings of enjoyment, is associated with the motivation and reward centers of the brain, behavioral reinforcement, coordination of body movement and addiction. Like serotonin, it appears to be strongly involved in mediating cravings—drug hunger, as well as real hunger.

William Hitt, the center’s founder, was ahead of his time with his research to restore neurotransmitter receptor sites, and he received a lifetime achievement award in 2008 from the California Association of Alcohol and Drug Educators for the nutraceutical formula he developed.

According to the center, this proprietary blend of specifically formulated amino acids helps repair areas of the nervous system damaged by addictive substances and restores the brain to its pre-addictive state. The treatment has also been known to improve mental clarity and memory.

At the center, this natural, nutritional therapy for the brain is referred to as the “addiction prescription,” because it provides the brain with prolonged exposure to optimized nutrients. “Bathing” brain cells in this manner allows them to repair the damage caused by drugs, alcohol abuse and stress.

The five- to 10-day healing process supports the immune system, restores the neurotransmitters, stops cravings and detoxes the body. Administered intravenously on an outpatient basis, the therapy has been known to help with addictions, depression, anxiety and post-traumatic syndrome.

A pioneer in the addiction field, the Hitt Wellness Center began helping substance abusers more than 15 years ago. Since then, many scientific studies have been published confirming that the brain can grow new neurons via a process known as neurogenesis. The addiction prescription facilitates this process and gives hope to thousands of individuals searching for an answer to addiction.

Essel emphasizes that there is no single “silver bullet” that ensures healing from addiction. Like Urschel and Hitt, he emphasizes a holistic approach. “You can’t get hung up on any one aspect of the program, because they are all essential to recovery,” he says.

Harold C. Urschel, III, M.D., Enterhealth, Van Alstyne, TX 75495 (an hour from the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport). Call 800-388-4601 or visit

David Essel, Life Coach Universe, 13010 Metro Pkwy., Fort Myers, FL 33966. Call 941-266-7676 or visit

Hitt Wellness Center, 1572 Juan Ruiz de Alarcón, Tijuana, Mexico. Call 888-671-9849 or visit

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