Eco-Consciousness in Recovery

The concepts of eco-consciousness can be an important pathway towards cultivating long lasting support for those in recovery.  Eco consciousness can be thought of as the same idea as holistic living.  When it is accepted as the guiding spiritual principle of how we want to help people through recovery and beyond, it becomes clear that nothing we hope to gain in terms of relative “health,” neither physical, mental, or emotional, would be possible without it.  The heart of holistic living is the mind/body connection.  Holistic living is defined by living in balance and harmony with all things of, and on the Earth.  This is eco-consciousness in a nutshell.

“Greening up” the recovery process begins with diet and nutritional counseling that supports detox, then continues for as long the patient is working with a facility in recovery.  An organic diet, with an emphasis on fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is optimal, from a purely practical perspective.  Dairy, sugar, meat, and hydrogenated oils can sometimes slow down and hinder the detox process.  Food as medicine is not only going to produce amazing results, but will help lessen the inevitable cold/immune system drag that comes on the heels of detox, and will boost energy, clear headedness, and balance when upsetting emotions inevitably rock the boat.

A  diet founded in conscious eating that teaches how certain foods affect moods, sleep, and energy levels, will open up awareness. Food can be an important link to peacefulness and harmony with inner self that recovery is seeking to capture.  Setting up a kitchen that clearly participates in conscious food procurement and preparation, sends a very powerful message to all who pass through.  It is a message of broader social consciousness that supports all systems of the patient (physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual) and his eventual place in the world outside.  It puts mindfulness into play; eco-consciousness is nothing if not mindfulness made manifest.

Daily yoga and meditation are also critical components of moving patients into successful recovery through conscious living.  Meditation affords the ultimate experience in mindfulness and stillness.  Yoga of course, addresses the breath, as well as opens joints and stretches muscles, to help wake up the patient, and ground them in the mindfulness of being present in their physical state.  This is important especially when one is struggling with the overwhelming physical challenges of addiction recovery.  But it trains the mind to root effectively in the here and the now, and to release attachment to outcome, as well as to cultivate compassion and generosity – both for the patient himself, and the world around him, twin traits of eco-consciousness.

Daily walks into nature, and interaction with a flower or vegetable garden are also necessary tools for helping the patient make these important connections.  Working in the warm sun to plant tomatoes or rosemary that will then later be served on the dinner table; helping to water and prune a lemon tree, then personally picking the ripe lemon, squeezing it into a cup of hot water for a morning health tonic, and composting the lemon rind, which is finally used as fertilizer in the garden, are lessons in a “closed – loop” principle that “greening up’ seeks to embody.  It’s also the place to witness Spirit, to get the sense of something larger outside one’s self; the natural world is tonic and succor to the soul seeking equilibrium.

The green attributes of the recovery center’s physical structure are also very important to pay attention to:  switching out all cleaning and laundry supplies to Earth-friendly products so as to eliminate airborne toxins and exposure to chemical residues, is critical to supporting the health of the patients living there.  Every time a room needs to be re-painted or re-decorated, use no-VOC paints, all natural flooring (wool or cotton carpets, cork or bamboo flooring – synthetic carpet fibers are spun from petro-chemicals and are among the most toxic indoor pollutants); replace bed and bath linens with organic cotton or bamboo fiber blends – Target now sells a line of organic cotton bed linens that are incredibly sumptuous and very inexpensive.  Making sure lighting, and heating/AC and ventilation systems are eco-friendly is also crucial; installing individual air filters in each room will ensure air quality is as pure as possible.  Other easy steps to begin integrating:  facility-wide recycling, using non-plastic personal water bottles re-filled at taps with high quality water filters on them, emphasizing the use of personal care products (shampoos, lotions, mouthwash, etc) that are non-toxic and as natural as possible.

Embracing a very green philosophy throughout the facility creates a culture of thoughtful eco-friendliness.  It sends the message that every single aspect of the patients’ daily interactions with the facility and its supplies, the routines, the rituals – are all centered around genuine eco-conscious living.  This is laying the groundwork for ingrained habits of mindfulness that will help set the patient up for future success back in his or her “real” life.

Hopefully, the patient begins to make everyday decisions from this perspective, which benefits not only her own health and happiness, but the health and happiness of all people and all things around her.  We all create peace, beauty, and abundance out of this mindset.  We all benefit when we come to realize that every single decision, every choice, every movement and behavior we make throughout every day has a deep and long lasting consequence.  Rather than feel this is an impossible burden to struggle under, we embrace the awe-inspiring perfection of the interconnectedness of everything, and seek to honor and support it.  It is where the authentic self blossoms, and where joy and happiness dwell.

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