In episode 238 of Elevation Recovery, Matt Finch discusses the Hierarchy & Phases of Alcohol Addiction Recovery as well as addiction recovery in general. This system can help to significantly enhance your ability to quit drinking or quit using drugs.
Additionally, if you’re already abstaining from the use of addictive substances, this fully customizable blueprint can help optimize your recovery and build relapse immunity power, and eventually…
Transcend alcohol completely and permanently.
When people first learn about the Hierarchy & Phases of Recovery frameworks, typically there is a BIG lightbulb moment that occurs.
Here is why…
Biochemical Restoration (The Missing Link)
Typical treatment protocols for alcohol use disorder (AUD) include interventions such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), psychotherapy, one-on-one counseling, group counseling, addiction education, and family counseling.
Unfortunately, alcohol addiction and drug addiction create or exacerbate brain-body dysfunction in the following ways:
- Prefrontal Cortex Erosion
- Hijacked Midbrain
- Neurotransmitter Imbalances
- Liver Toxicity
- Endocrine Dysfunction
- Glutamate Toxicity
This is the tip of the iceberg but it’s not comprehensive.
Going to AA meetings, counseling sessions, and group therapy can help certain people with the mental, emotional, social, and spiritual elements of addiction recovery… but they don’t address the biochemical pillar.
Thus, it’s common for people in early recovery from alcohol and/or drug addiction to relapse because dealing with their chronic brain-body dysfunctions combined with the stress of life… is just too much to endure.
Any substance use disorder (SUD) treatment protocol that leaves out Biochemical Restoration is missing the point entirely.
Drugs and alcohol are physical substances that negatively impact the physical brain.
Left untreated, this results in both physical and psychological symptoms that can linger on for weeks, months, or even 6-12 months or longer.
If a person has the best counselor in the world and the best AA sponsor and homegroup but neglect restoring brain-body health, early recovery can be much more difficult than it has to be.
And this is where the Hierarchy of Recovery comes in.
BIO!… Pyscho, Social, Spiritual
Mainstream drug and alcohol treatment “solutions” leave out the Bio (biochemical, aka biological or physical) aspect of addiction and recovery. This is the main reason why mainstream recovery methods have such dismal success rates.
We’re in the 2020s and mainstream treatments still neglect biochemical restoration as part of their treatment. Fortunately, the Hierarchy of Recovery includes biochemical restoration and optimization as the foundational component that the psycho, social, and spiritual pillars are built upon.
This leads to exponentially higher recovery rates when done effectively.
The Hierarchy & Phases of Recovering from Addiction… Permanently
In addition to the Hierarchy of Recovery (which is largely based on the bio-psycho-social-spiritual model and loosely based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs), the Phases of Recovery is a novel way of viewing and treating addiction.
The Phases of Recovery in this framework are:
- Learning & Planning
To learn about these two complementary and synergistic systems for healing addiction permanently, learn the step-by-step processes Matt Finch covers in this episode of Elevation Recovery.
Here are some ways to learn from this episode:
- Watch the video
- Listen to the audio
- Read the transcript
- Right-click here and save as to download this episode on your computer.
Matt Finch: If you're drinking alcohol and you'd prefer not to be, this episode is for you. Or if you're drinking too much alcohol but you'd prefer to dry out for a while and then maybe see if you can moderate somewhere down the line, this episode is also for you. And if you've already quit drinking and you'd either like to stay quit drinking or even build upon your current recovery and just strengthen it, create a bigger and better foundation and learn more tools and ideas and concepts, resources and systems to help you to achieve these goals, this episode is also for you.
Announcer: Thanks for tuning in to the Elevation Recovery Podcast. Your hub for addiction recovery strategies. Hosted by Chris Scott and Matt Finch.
Matt Finch: Thanks for joining me today. My name is Matt Finch and in today's episode of Elevation Recovery I want to talk to you about a few concepts that we talk about on this podcast quite a lot but we haven't really done a specific episode dedicated to these concepts and also something that I use with my private coaching clients. Back in my days of addiction I often got labeled an alcoholic. I self labeled myself as an alcoholic. People said that I had alcoholism. My parents told me that there was a huge background of alcoholism in our family tree and on both sides as well. So nowadays the term that they're using is alcohol use disorder. AUD. And there's several different types of treatments for this alcohol use disorder such as Alcoholics Anonymous, 12 step meetings like that or other self help groups like Rational Recovery, SMART Recovery which stands for self management and recovery training, and also Celebrate Recovery which is our Christian faith based program. Medication assisted treatment. Things like Naltrexone, Vivitrol and much more. So alcohol use disorder is a huge issue. It is the most ... I guess if you consider sugar a drug as well, sugar is probably the most widely abused substance in America but I'm not really counting sugar in this.
Matt Finch: Because this podcast we talk about drugs and alcohol and also behaviors. So when it comes to the statistics, alcohol use disorder was already huge. America's got a big drinking problem. The US adults and even young people that aren't adults are drinking a lot and of course the pandemic didn't help the situation. In fact, it increased the alcohol use disorder rates, increased the rates of people day drinking, increased the rates of mothers homeschooling that started drinking or started to day drink or began increasing their wine or other types of alcohol consumption. So this is a huge issue. That's why I wanted to do this specific episode on really boiling it down to concepts we use here at Elevation Recovery and Fit Recovery in case you haven't heard these yet before. If you're not like a longtime watcher or listener of the podcast this might be brand new information to you. And so this is going to really help things to make more crystal clear sense to you.
Matt Finch: So first let's start with what we like to call the hierarchy of alcohol recovery. Now, Chris Scott came up with that cool name many years ago. And while neither Chris nor I came up with this system, it's really an offshoot of the biopsychosocial spiritual model of addiction and addiction treatment that we really learned about and became popularized by people that are our mentors to this day that we've interviewed and now we're colleagues with and friends with. People like Julia Ross, author of The Mood Cure, a book that totally changed our lives, The Diet Cure, and most recently, The Craving Cure. So this is not really a new phenomenon, although you think it would be. Because here's kind of the issue that we see going along. So imagine a person with alcoholism, alcohol use disorder, problem drinking, whatever a person really wants to term it. Imagine that they go looking online for help. Or imagine that they want help and then their family member or a good friend of them starts telling them things that they could do.
Matt Finch: What are kind of the most often recommendations that you read about online and that friends and family and coworkers talk about? Well of course there're Alcoholics Anonymous, AA, or other types of 12 step meetings or self help groups. Then of course there's things like inpatient rehab, outpatient rehab. There's also intensive outpatient rehab. So I don't want to talk too much bad stuff about these treatment modalities and resources because they do help quite a lot of people. And I've personally met people that say the only way they were ever able to finally get control of their drinking and stop and get some good sobriety and recovery was because they finally went to AA and relinquished themself to the program and surrendered to the fellowship and the way the big book teaches. Or they went to an inpatient rehab that was Christian faith based and they rekindled their faith with Jesus Christ that they had kind of severed while they were drinking. So a lot of people do get helped by these programs but they are definitely lacking and if someone was going to want to use the hierarchy of alcohol recovery these programs are really lacking.
Matt Finch: And here's why. So first let's start off with what if a person goes to meetings of Alcoholic's Anonymous. AA. Very popular program for quitting drinking. Well, let's look at this hierarchy of alcohol recovery and see how good of a job they do at being holistic and comprehensive so to speak. So you get group support. There's a group of like minded individuals. Well, they might not be like minded. In fact, often they aren't. But everyone there, most of the people there, were either struggling with alcoholism at one point and they've got a handle on it or they're still on alcohol or recently quit drinking newcomers or within their first few months. And they could be of all different cultures, income brackets, professions, and many more differences. The one thing that ties them all together is the desire to quit to drinking. So it's a very strong fellowship that is based on predominantly taking people through 12 steps that help them to create a higher power if they don't believe in god. They're allowed to come up with the higher power of their understanding and choose the terminology they want. So these 12 steps are designed to do a few things, one of which is to help people come into contact with a higher power and to turn their lives over to this higher power.
Matt Finch: So in essence just one of the things the steps can help people to do is to live a more spiritual based life. To help them transcend the levels of consciousness and ascend to higher and higher levels of spirituality. And the founders of AA, they tried so many different things to quit drinking. Of course back then in the 1930s there wasn't really much if anything to quit drinking. But they found that religion really helped them out. They started to go to church and they started to read the bible and they got really, really into god and turning their life over and surrendering to god and it helped them a lot so they built a program around it. And of course I can't go back in time and kind of eavesdrop in on their conversations they were having. When they were writing the big book and when they were coming up with the steps and the principles and all the different chapters in there but I have to imagine that they knew that they were going to get opposition from people that were atheist for sure and opposition from people that were agnostics as well. Opposition from people that grew up as Christians or Catholics or even other types of religions.
Matt Finch: And so instead of saying the word god a lot they decided to come up with a higher power. And a higher power is I understand it. So that was really cool as a way to get more people into this program that they created for themselves. Again, a very, very spiritually based program. It's not just spiritual because it's also social. Imagine going into these group support meetings. There's a big social aspect to it. You can meet new friends and new kind of people in new relationships of like minded individuals, at least in regards to having a problem with alcohol, not being able to regulate their drinking on their own as they've tried in the past, and wanting to either not drink forever or wanting to go even further and not drink and really, really get their lives to an awesome point and stay there preferably. There's also a psychological element to it as well in AA because when other people share you get to hear about them and of course we're dealing with people's personalities and their thought processes and their beliefs and their convictions and their pathologies of the way they think. A lot of them have mental health disorders as well. So there's a big psychological component in it as well.
Matt Finch: Well, depending on the meetings you go to I guess, they can be more or less psychological in their component. But here's the thing with AA. While it's not really a holistic program it's not a complete treatment solution at least in my opinion. That is because AA and also for people that go to inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment or any of the other mainstream recovery modalities for alcohol use disorder is they don't incorporate biochemical restoration therapy or nutrient repair. Basically one of my favorite quotes ever, I'll paraphrase, is by Dr. Charles Gant. He authored the phenomenal book which I highly recommend to everybody that is trying to overcome a substance use disorder. It's called End Your Addiction Now, The Proven Nutritional Supplement Program That Can Set You Free. That book I read when I was in school to become a certified substance abuse counselor. And it totally gave me the light bulb moment and revolutionized the way that I viewed alcoholism and addiction in general. So much of my life has never been the same since. And so his quote is ... And I'll paraphrase the quote again. He says, "We often view the process of recovery as restoration of their body, mind and spirit. The only problem is we really focus on the latter two and leave out the body entirely."
Matt Finch: So again, that was a paraphrase but why is that? Why is that they put you on a bunch of medications at inpatient, detox and rehab? And they often require 12 step meetings and individual counseling and group counseling and family counseling and education. Papaya, you're driving me nuts over here. What are you doing? Sorry about that. Where was I? Now I'm losing my train of thought. Oh yeah, the body. The brain. So here's a news flash going out there. Drugs and alcohol really, really impact our brain. In fact, they impact it in a very negative way and it can be an almost permanent way and it can be a permanent way if these chronic brain physiology deficits, imbalances, and dysfunctions go on longer than they have to if a person doesn't know what's going on and doesn't know how to fix it. So let's take alcohol for example because that's what this episode is about. When people drink alcohol that one really, really lights up your brain like a pinball machine regarding the neurotransmitters that it boosts when you consume alcohol. A lot of people consume alcohol on an empty stomach too because it hits them faster and harder.
Matt Finch: I used to never like to eat while I was also drinking because it would mess up my buzz. I just thought people that would eat a big meal and have one drink with their big meal, I just thought it was absurd back then. And so when you drink alcohol it binds to your GABA receptors. Typically the GABA subtype B receptors. So when it binds to these receptors you get this artificially induced robust increase of GABA. Gamma aminobutyric acid. That's an inhibitory neurotransmitter that our brains create naturally in our own brain's neuro pharmacy. It's pretty cool that our brain ... We have a neuro pharmacy in there and it creates these mood boosting wonderful neurotransmitter chemicals in precisely the amounts that our brains and bodies are designed to handle under the best circumstances. So with alcohol you drink it and the more you drink the more you release GABA. Unfortunately with alcohol it also increases other neurotransmitters like dopamine. Even serotonin and endorphin. So no wonder so many people are addicted to drinking, addicted to the effects of ethanol, when it can light up your brain in so many colorful ways regarding these mood boosting, euphoria enhancing, anxiety reducing, depression reducing oftentimes. And for some people energy enhancing or for other people anxiety calming. Let's see, confidence boosting.
Matt Finch: Alcohol is used by so many people and for so many different reasons. Some people use alcohol as a sedative. Some people use alcohol for confidence, energy, and euphoria. Some people use alcohol to forget. To just forget about their life because it's so stressful and depressing and traumatic. Some people use alcohol as a kind of pseudo performance enhancer. They think that they can do better work under the influence of alcohol but rarely that's the case if ever. And so that would not be a problem that alcohol binds to your GABA B receptors and boosts all these different neurotransmitters. That wouldn't be a problem if it didn't cause a few different things. Number one, a tolerance. That means that you need more and more of alcohol to get the same desired effect. If you keep drinking daily after you develop a tolerance, pretty soon a few weeks or a few months for the person, depending on their bio chemistry, their individual bio chemistry. Next phase is physiological dependence. That means their physical body and brain need the alcohol and if you don't drink it for a day you're going to go into alcohol withdrawal syndrome. A cold turkey alcohol detox from a state of alcohol physiological dependence, that can actually be not only your worst nightmare as far as physical withdrawal symptoms synergized with the psychological withdrawal systems, but it can even be life threatening.
Matt Finch: In fact, the only two substances known to the world that can cause death upon immediate cessation while somebody is physiologically, a.k.a physically dependent are alcohol or benzodiazepines. Things like diazepam. Or the brand name for that is Valium. Or clonazepam. The brand name for that is Klonopin. Or Xanax. The generic for that is alprazolam. So benzo's in alcohol. The ones that bind to GABA receptors. I used to be addicted to opioids for many years. Those actually bind to your mu, delta, and kappa opioid receptors and that creates a release of dopamine, endorphin, and enkephalin when you consume opioids. And although I wished that I could die and I wanted to be dead, many of the most severe opioid withdraws that I had cold turkey, it cannot kill you. Now if people have certain medical conditions, if their health is not good and they have concomitant medical conditions underlying as well, then they could possibly pass away during an opioid withdrawal or another type of substance cold turkey withdrawal. But typically it's not from the substance withdrawal itself unless we're talking about alcohol and benzos which I've known people that have had grand mal seizures. I've known people that have died due to alcohol withdrawal.
Matt Finch: The first time I even went though acute alcohol withdrawal I couldn't even keep drinking anymore. I had been drinking and drinking for days and days and days, then weeks and weeks. Then a few months in a row. Maybe three or four months in a row. And when I finally stopped it wasn't because I wanted to. Every time I would drink any alcohol regardless of the type of alcohol that I was consuming I would just vomit it right back up. So then I'd try to drink ... I'm gagging just thinking about it. Wow. Memory lane here. So then I would try a different type of alcohol, drink it, and I just kept vomiting it back up. My body was saying no more. No more poisoning yourself. My body took over. It's like, "Uh-uh, you're not doing this anymore. You're killing me here." And so that night I didn't sleep a wink and I started to go through my first experience of the DT's. The delirium tremens. And although it seemed like I was sleeping, really what I was going through was a waking nightmare dream state. I was awake and I was hallucinating and I could actually feel things. Like my dog at the time was in that hallucination and I reached out and I could pet him.
Matt Finch: I can remember so vividly that stuff. So anyways, I'm getting carried away here as I often do. But my point with all this is that alcohol creates these negative changes to the brain. Papaya you're driving me nuts. So when a person quits drinking ... Let's say that they'd been drinking like I was for a few years in a row at that point and often and then three months maybe daily. So then when I quit that time, well I was pretty young. I think I was maybe 24 at that time. So if I remember correctly maybe within about five to six days I was feeling like the detox was over. I was drinking lots of water. I didn't die luckily. Although whenever I was going to go into alcohol withdrawal in the future from that point on I was looking for benzos or a few times I checked myself in the emergency room because I didn't want to go through that again. And I certainly didn't want to risk actually dying either. But my point with this is I would quit and then I'd think I was done. Okay, the acute withdrawals are over, now I'm fine. The only problem was I would have anxiousness. I would have sleep disturbances. I would have intermittent depression and stuff.
Matt Finch: Now, part of that was the post acute withdrawal syndrome which I had no idea even existed, let alone that there was a name for it and it was very common with people quitting alcohol. And also importantly, I had underlying generalized anxiety, underlying social anxiety, and underlying every once in while panic attacks, severe social phobia in certain situations and intermittent depression as well. Low self esteem, low self confidence. And so alcohol was kind of like at that point one of my only resources for managing those symptoms of anxiety, intermittent depression, especially social anxiety. At that age too, wanting to fit in with my friends and not wanting to be looked at like I was defective. I hated the idea of being a non drinker. Being a sober person. I just hated all of that. I just didn't want to do it.
Matt Finch: And so back to the book by Dr. Charles Gant, End Your Addiction Now, The Proven Nutritional Supplement Program That Can Set You Free. It was in that book, that very first book I read on addiction recovery coming from this kind of viewpoint of it that showed me that all addictive substances be it alcohol, opioids, tobacco, cannabis, cocaine, benzos, what have you, that all of them when we administer these substances, whether we drink it, smoke it, shoot it, snort it, transdermal patch or whatever, these substances create. They bind to receptors in our brain, in our spinal cord, and in our intestines, large intestines that when they bind these receptors we create neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, GABA and endorphins and enkephalins that we already create naturally. That God factory installed in our brains to help us have a good mood throughout life and have healthy behaviors as well. And with the repeated administration of alcohol or alcohol and cigarettes and caffeine for example ... That's a combination that I used to really, really like.
Matt Finch: Well, all of a sudden our brain starts to say this. "Well, Mathew here is sure boosting a lot of these neurotransmitters by drinking all this alcohol, smoking all these cigarettes, drinking all this coffee." So since the brain wants to conserve energy and it wants to take shortcuts, what the brain essentially does is this. If you're drinking alcohol on a regular basis, especially daily, eventually what happens is you stop creating those neurotransmitters. Your brain shuts that production down because why would it create any of those when you're drinking alcohol, producing so much GABA and dopamine. It's like more than the brain was designed to handle when you're drinking so much like that. So the brain shuts that process down. No big deal. Here's where the problem is. When a person stops drinking, do you think the brain just kind of wakes up the day after you stop drinking and go, "Oh okay, he stopped artificially stimulating those neurotransmitters like GABA and dopamine so now time to kick that back up."? No. The brain short circuits and it goes through ... Depending on the person's severity of their addiction and their withdrawal and their history of use and many other variables, it could take days. More often it'll take weeks or months before their brain will start to naturally produce those mood boosting and behavior modifying, optimal behavior inducing neuro chemicals. These neurotransmitters.
Matt Finch: And you won't find one single sentence, let alone a chapter of this phenomenon in The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. When you go to an inpatient program or an outpatient program that are typically the mainstream ones, you will not get any education or resources on how to boost your GABA, dopamine, serotonin, endorphin, enkephalin, dynorphin, acetylcholine. You will not get any education or resources or new habits, disciplines to help you to offset the alcohol withdrawal dopamine deficiency, GABA deficiency, et cetera deficiencies that can tend to go on left unchecked for some people with very severe and long alcohol addictions indefinitely. At least to some degree. Maybe not the highest potency degree as in the first couple weeks off alcohol but at least to some degree.
Matt Finch: So the way Chris Scott and I view the hierarchy of recovery is that biochemical restoration, the physical, biological, biochemical component of both addiction and addiction treatment and recovery should be the foundation of all treatment that everything else rests and is built upon. Biochemical restoration. The brain is physical. It's a physical brain. And alcohol's a physical substance. When we consume it alcohol binds to physical receptors, again in the brain, spinal cord, and digestive system. And doing that repeatedly over time leads to chronic physical brain physiology issues. And so how do we ... Going back to Dr. Gant's quote. How do we normally treat this physical organ's repair? With physical counseling and group therapy. Doesn't make sense does it? Well, it makes sense the spiritual counseling, the group therapy. All of that does make sense from a point where first you're building your foundation of recovery on the biochemical pillar. So if you look at a hierarchy, biochemical is going to be at the bottom. And when you're treating your brain right and when you're working to correct and offset the specific brain physiology dysfunctions that have typically become chronic. The alcohol use disorder either created or exacerbated. Then when your brain works right you work right. When you brain doesn't work right, you don't work right. That right there is a quote from Dr. Daniel Amen. It's so true. With this healthy brain that I have nowadays I don't have anxiety. Nothing.
Matt Finch: I don't have any anxiety. No disorders. No depression. I have clarity, confidence, focus, energy, passion, purpose. That didn't come from years and years of AA or years and years of therapy. No, no, no. That came from, at least the beginning, starting off unwittingly using the hierarchy of alcohol recovery and later on learning about it. And Chris and I for years and years have been teaching about it, creating content about it, helping clients with it, and optimizing it and learning more and more. But when I was just going to AA and going to see a therapist, that didn't fix my brain. When I was reading the big book and working with my sponsor, that didn't fix my brain. When I went to my doctor and told him I was an alcoholic and he put me on an SSRI and a benzodiazepine for alcoholism, not only did that not fix my brain, that actually while temporarily masking my symptoms, in the long run that actually exacerbated my brain dysfunction. When I did my third step prayer every morning and oftentimes throughout the day, that didn't repair my brain to the extent that my brain needed repair. Although I do believe that prayer and meditation does have a phenomenal effect on increasing your brain's capacity, on helping to offset dysfunctions. I'm pretty sure this have even been shown in research. The power of prayer.
Matt Finch: I know the power of meditation has been shown to really boost brain performance, neurotransmitters and function. But the only problem is that wasn't enough because I was still eating a very unhealthy diet. I was still drinking soda. I was still doing ... I wasn't getting good sleep. So really it comes down to looking at your whole lifestyle. So coming back to the hierarchy of alcohol recovery, biochemical restoration, that's things like supplementation. Targeted neuro nutrients in the form of amino acid supplements, B complex supplements, vitamin D, magnesium. Things like herbs, Chinese herbs, western herbs, Ayurvedic herbs, probiotics, prebiotics, omega threes, and even more. There are so many awesome nutraceuticals in today's age and awesome brands and companies and delivery systems that weren't available back when I was going through alcoholism and trying to get better. It was very hard back then. Nowadays I still don't want to make it seem like this is any mild thing. I know how tough it is being addicted to alcohol or being maybe not physically dependent on alcohol but having that psychological urge to go out and drink. Maybe it's been a few days or a few weeks or a few months or a few years and that urge to drink just comes back or maybe it never goes away.
Matt Finch: So I don't want to put that lightly or downplay that all. That being said, the amount of resources now with the boom of the age of information, literally on our cell phones, on our smartphones that we have in our pocket or our purse or some girls put it in their bra. We have the answers to all of the questions that we need to know to improve our lives at our fingertips. It's just awesome how much power that can bring us. The only problem is now a lot of people instead of using that as resource, well they can use it as a resource but it can become an addiction for a lot of people too. I had phases where I became addicted to my smartphone. Especially when I first got one. But nowadays I use it and my smartphone doesn't use me like used to happen back in the day. So all the knowledge that you need to learn about and overcome alcohol use disorder is at the tip of your fingertips and obviously you know this because you're tuning into this podcast and this podcast is online, whether you're watching it from your phone, laptop, tablet or desktop or even your flat screen TV that's a smart TV.
Matt Finch: Now, I also like to talk about the fact that while all this information is at our fingertips literally that can also be a double edged sword. Because what can happen now is people will get analysis paralysis. Meaning there's actually too many different options, too much information on how they can recover, what they could do to recover from alcoholism and it's paralyzing. All the information can be paralyzing when it overloads your system and you really want to make sure that you do things the best way for your particular situation. And with so many different options and resources, depending on your personality type especially, that can actually make it harder for a lot of people. Back in the day it was probably easy for a lot of people when AA ... Let's see in the 1940s, 1950s, in the 1960s. Back then it was pretty much just AA and I'm not even sure what else was back then but it was AA or the highway. So nowadays there's so many different options it's kind of ridiculous and so I honor that. Each person's situation. Like again, I want to reiterate. I'm not putting it lightly that this is some easy thing to get over. You just pull out your phone and figure out what to do and do it.
Matt Finch: No. That's not what I'm saying at all. What I am saying is to be grateful of the fact that this information on biochemical restoration of alcoholism and the alcohol addicted brain detox strategies, et cetera, there's so many on here as well. There's so many books nowadays. We have this podcast. There's certainly other alcohol recovery professionals and coaches and what have you that are talking about this and that do know about this. So that is a great place to start right there. But alcoholism, alcohol use disorder, you don't want to just take supplements, start eating healthfully for alcohol recovery in your specific biochemical individuality and start exercising and then think that you're never going to drink again or think that you're cured and think that it's reversed, think that you're better. Maybe that is with some people. But what Chris Scott and I like to talk about is this concept of missing links. So now we're going to start moving up the hierarchy. Again, the hierarchy of alcohol recovery is based on the biopsychosocial spiritual model of addiction recovery and it's also based loosely on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs where at the bottom of the hierarchy you have things like food, water, shelter, defense from predators and then above that you start to move to you need family, friends, connection. And at the top of that hierarchy is self actualization.
Matt Finch: So with the hierarchy of alcohol recovery or addiction recovery in general we have biochemical restoration, psychological, social, environmental and then spiritual above that. And then above that we actually added something called transcendence. So transcendence is where instead of you're a permanent alcoholic for the rest of your life that can arrest the disease of alcoholism but never be cured, what makes this model unique is that it views alcohol use disorder as a temporary phase in life that can not only be reversed, cured, whatever, but can be totally transcended to the point where ... If you look at it like this. If you're powerless over alcohol I view that as alcohol's a ginormous boulder weighing several tons and you're a little tiny pebble weighing maybe a few grams.
Matt Finch: So I view transcending alcohol as a process whereby one uses the phases of recovery which we're going to get into, the hierarchy of recovery which we're discussing now and we're getting towards the end of, to over time make that person this giant boulder that weights several tons. And then the substance known ethanol or alcohol becomes the little pebble that weighs no more than a few grams. That right there is transcendence and that's the goal because that makes life so much easier. When you transcend it once and for all permanently then you don't have to worry about one day you're going to have this slip and then it's going to ruin your life and your new marriage and stuff. To have something like that hanging over your head. This disease that could wake up all of a sudden 20 years later and totally ruin everything that you've worked for in life. That's just absurd.
Matt Finch: The new neuroscience and the new psychology and the new quantum physics, quantum entanglement, and many other interdisciplinary fields and modalities and all this research that has come out, especially in the past two decades but even more so in the past five to seven years. I mean, the myth of addiction being a permanent, lifelong, incurable disease, that myth has been debunked by so many different fields and so much different research, but yet it still lingers around because this stuff has not become all the way mainstream. Maybe five to 10 years from now I'm hoping that it will become so mainstream that people will have a paradigm shift. In fact, that is one of our primary purposes, Chris and I, of launching this podcast a little over two years ago now was to help progress the very stagnant and lagging back fields of addiction recovery, addiction treatment, and mental health. Mental health's doing a lot better for whatever reason. We're still in the dark ages or the middle ages of alcohol and drug addiction ideas and treatment. At least in the mainstream.
Matt Finch: So when using this hierarchy of alcohol recovery, again, everybody is going to have biochemical, a.k.a physical, biological work to do. Alcohol is a physical substance affecting a physical organ. A pretty important one, the brain. And that's why physical boosting therapies are needed to really transcend alcohol use disorder. Supplements, diet, exercise. Things like deep tissue massage, cold therapy, heat therapy, acupuncture, Epsom salt baths. There's so many different physical therapies that people can do that have very therapeutic benefits and qualities to offsetting and finally reversing the damage that alcohol has done to the brain and other organs and the rest of your body. Then you can customize it beyond here. So everyone has a brain. That means everyone should really focus on the biological, a.k.a physical or biochemical component. Now we get into these missing links that Chris and I talk about. What are missing links? Well, moving up the hierarchy, again, we have psychological, so that's mental and emotional, social, environmental ... Basically the place, the home you live in and the community and the things that are around you, the people that are around you.
Matt Finch: Psycho, social, environmental, and then spiritual. So depending on the person, each person's going to have different, varying missing links in these other categories. For example, for me, when it came to the psychological component to both addiction and also recovery, I had unresolved, unmanaged anxiety. I had generalized anxiety disorder that was mild to moderate, sometimes severe. I had social anxiety disorder that ranged from typically moderate to severe. And I'd get panic attacks from time to time. I would get intermittent bouts of depression and exhaustion. I would have suicidal ideation. I tried suicide once. Luckily I failed and my life was saved. So that was a huge missing link. When it came for me to first recovering from and then transcending both alcohol and drug addiction, I had to do a lot of biochemical work and I also had a lot of missing links in the domain in the hierarchy of psychology. I also had missing links in my social domain as well. All my friends at that point, at the age of 32 when I was first quitting all those substances, all of my friends, or 99.9% of them, either drank or used drugs or more often both. And typically they did it a lot of the time as well.
Matt Finch: So for me a big thing was I had to finally ... My friend, my social group had been ... It was so hard for me to quit drinking. I could hardly ever get more than a few weeks or a few months all throughout my 20s and even early 30s because I kept hanging around with the same people. Doing the same people over and over again. So finally, at the age of 32, I wised up and I ditched those friends. I ditched them. It was hard at the beginning but then it just got easier and easier. So luckily for me, my parents don't drink, my brother and sister hardly ever drink. Or my older brother from another mother. A lot of my relatives have either passed away from addiction or they've gotten sober. So luckily I had great family support and I had a few sober friends that were really great support. And that's all I needed. Then eventually I just started to make new friends. Eventually a few years into it I met Chris Scott and that helped me even more because what a great person to have as your friend and then cohost of a podcast and business masterminder.
Matt Finch: So that just added to my overall recovery capital and also vice versa for him as well. Then moving along, I didn't have really any work to do, at least when I first quit, in environment. Why? When I first quit at the age of 32 ... Well, not when I first quit. When I last quit, which was the last time, I was living with my parents. I was 32, I was going to school, I was unemployed, and I had a one and a half year old daughter. I was living at my parents' house. And they are herbalists and they have a herb school. They have converted their big, huge garage into an herb school. They've got a classroom in one portion of it. There's an apothecary in another portion. And there's an herbal medicine making workshop area in another portion. So essentially, my environment ... Well, the town that I lived in, Ocean Beach, that part of the environment, the more surrounding environment, oh yeah, that was difficult. There was lots of bars, lots of liquor stores, lots of people that were alcoholics and people with addictions, lots of young people partying, lots of old people drinking and stuff.
Matt Finch: So Ocean Beach was not an easy place to get healthy from drugs and alcohol but luckily where I lived ... Which is the most important, the place where you physically reside. I was living at a herb school. At a holistic school where they teach classes on herbal medicine, aromatherapy, meditation, energy healing, as well as nutrition and herbs for women's health, and many other topics as well. So I was living in a holistic school and that was just a great place for me to not only detox and get that early recover time in, but also as a single dad with a one and a half year old daughter, that just took so much stress off of me, where before it was so stressful living on my own, being a single dad, having substance use disorders and trying to quit all on my own without telling anybody when it was my dirty secret that was keeping me sick.
Matt Finch: So moving above the biochemical, psychological, social, environmental we get to spiritual. Now, I've had phases of spiritual growth and spiritual work. I didn't do a lot at the beginning honestly. And quite frankly I didn't really need to too much. I was spiritual for as long as I can remember. I've been spiritual except for maybe part of high school I might have become agnostic for a little while. But I've always been very, very spiritual. I would never call myself a Christian but when I was a little kid and when I was in high school I went to the Presbyterian church and youth group and I was connected with all the counselors there. A bunch of my friends went there. I'd do lots of the retreats, the youth groups, and even the Sunday morning services. And I really loved it. I never called myself a Christian but I loved that positive energy. I loved being around so many positive people. I believed in God and so there was no problem there. But this is where the missing links come in. For each person going through their alcohol recovery and transcending these levels of the hierarchy of recovery, people are going to have ...
Matt Finch: The things that are going to be right in your face and be looking at you in the mirror, those are the ones that you're going to be working on. So for me, I needed to do some serious exercising and supplementation and get my eating under control. And I needed to work on my mindset, work on my thinking, work on my beliefs, work on my social group and friends. Those were the primary importance for me. And again, I still was working on spirituality. And in fact, maybe around a year to a year and a half after I detoxed from opioids and alcohol and Xanax and ended my addictions, then I started to get way, way more spiritual. But then as time goes on ... It's been almost 10 years now for me. As time goes on I backslid in areas. Like I'd backslide and have negative progress in all these different pillars. One of which was being spiritual. So this past, I'd say maybe six months, I've been going through a gigantic spiritual awakening. And these things never kind of end. As soon as you start awakening spiritually, it's kind of something that's always with you. You may kind of backslide. But this all started many years ago for me. Probably when I first took psychedelics.
Matt Finch: But these past six months I have been noticing a lot of things changing. The way I think changing. Definitely my habits. Even down to my diet changing. What I do working out changing. And all of this has been due primarily to this huge, gigantic spiritual awakening that I've just been on this accelerated path of spiritual growth and doing more spiritual work. I've been loving it. But that's just where I'm at right now in this current phase of life. That's not a prescription that everyone needs right now or at any time. That's just me sharing a little bit about this hierarchy of recovery, although I'm recovered from all my addictions. There's no residue left. It's been almost 10 years. I've done so much work. I don't view myself as an alcoholic in recovery or an addict in recovery or any of that kind of stuff. I view myself as a regular person. I had a long phase of life where I was addicted to drugs and alcohol and other negative behaviors. Most of that was in my 20s up to my early 30s when a lot of people do that stuff anyways. So I view it as a hard phase of life that I went through and healed from and decided to make it my life's purpose to help others get through and heal from.
Matt Finch: But that being said, I still think these are all, even though I'm recovered from these addictions, biological, psychological, social, environmental, and spiritual domains of life. That's just a great way to keep your mind focused and your habits and lifestyle focused on being aware of these and optimizing them in your own particular way with your own missing links, and being mindful of these. And when you find yourself losing power and losing health in these areas, losing chi, life force energy, in your biochemistry, losing mental health in your psychology, losing a strong social group ... If friends move away and all of a sudden you're noticing you're hanging out with people that like to drink to much. So having that meta habit of awareness, of being very mindful and aware of what's going on in your life and how the decisions that you're making, the behaviors that you're engaging in, even down to the self talk that's going on in your mind, how all those things, what you think, say, and do are contributing to your overall levels of health in your biopsychosocial, environmental, and spiritual domains of life.
Matt Finch: And one thing that the biopsychosocial, spiritual model of addiction and addiction recovery also lacks is environment. I mean, what I've noticed and what Chris Scott has noticed is that the environment that you reside in, whether you live in an apartment or a home or a halfway house or a prison or homeless, the environment that you reside in can either be conducive to your goals in life, whether they're alcohol recovery or other goals. Or they can be a huge hindrance. So where you live physically, and to a broader context the community you reside in at large, and even down to the city and the state and the country that you live in. But most importantly the physical space where you sleep, where you eat, et cetera, that can put people on the fast path to healing, to overcoming alcohol use disorder, to transcending it, or that can keep you totally stuck in the same thoughts, the same decisions, the same behaviors, the same bad habits, the same procrastination. Where we live, the environment that we physically sleep and eat and reside in and spend a lot of our time is a huge one.
Matt Finch: Chris and I are so big into environmental optimization. Environment in this context and regards meaning again the physical space in which you live in. And then socially the people that you come into physical contact with, the people that you come into digital contact with, and even the people that you think about often. And then spiritually, so for missing links in this one, for me, I didn't want to be religious. I didn't want to be any part of any organized religion whatsoever. And I love that there is religion and I love that so many people are so helped by it. And that comes down to people's personal preferences, their psychology, their values, their personality type, culture, as well as your inner soul knowing. That is the soul, eternal, infinite aspect of you, aspect of me, aspect of all humans. My inner soul knowing has known for a very long time that for whatever reason I'm not supposed to be a part or a member of any organized religion. Not to knock it at all. Not to say that no one should do it. Absolutely not. My point is my intuition, which I view as my soul, my higher self ... I don't even know what to call it.
Matt Finch: That part of me that knows things that my brain could never figure out but the heart or the higher self or the soul or the spiritual essence, the astral body. Honestly I'm not an expert in that type of stuff whatsoever. I'm not an expert in probably anything. But I've just known that I'm supposed to be spiritual, very spiritual, but not religious. That's just for me. I have worked with a lot of different clients over the years that their missing link was to get back to their religion. Many of the people I've worked with have been Christians, but during their alcoholism or during their drug addiction, during other problems that they've been going through, oftentimes they will lose that habit of participating in their faith, in worship, in bible study, in being around like minded individuals and worshiping their creator. So for many people, when I'm helping them come up with treatment plans for the recovery phase after they get a detox over with if they need to do that first. Some people are already detoxed when I work with them. A lot of times people still need a detox.
Matt Finch: So I kind of ask them ... We go through this hierarchy of recovery and we're looking for missing links. Again, everyone's going to have biochemical missing links from mild to moderate to severe to even off the charts. When we get to the spiritual domain a lot of people that I work with don't want to do any of that kind of stuff and that's fine. I don't go preaching. I don't go suggesting. Because each person is exactly where they're at, if they have goals to become more spiritual or to join a religion or to get back into practicing their current religion or the religion they grew up with, well, then that's what we do. So it's really customized, really tailor made. This process of for each individual sovereign human being, what are their missing links and how are they going to address and fill in those missing jigsaw recovery puzzle pieces to be able to create their own jigsaw recovery puzzle of mastery and life mastery? Alcohol use disorder, transcendence, and then life optimization and lifestyle mastery.
Matt Finch: That is a very customized process and that is the reason that this hierarchy of alcohol recovery model, biopsychosocial, environmental, spiritual, finally transcendence is so unique and in my opinion, and in Chris Scott's opinion, so much more effective and powerful than what most people get when they go to mainstream treatment and they just do that and don't do any additional studies on their own to learn about these missing links and to be able to address them on their own or to hire a professional to help them or to have a peer or a family member or a friend help them address these missing links. And there are so many different ways to address and treat all these different missing links. When it comes to the realm of psychology, whether it's counseling or psychotherapy or whether it's people go to smart recovery. Self management and recovery training. Or whether people read personal development books. Or whether they just start to learn neurolinguistic programming or self hypnosis. So there's so many different ways to fill in and address and treat and optimize these missing links. That's subject for a lot of our other podcast episodes. This one has gone on quite a bit longer than I had intended. But that is typically how it goes when I get into these topics that I'm really passionate about and that are really, really important for people to know.
Matt Finch: And then I'm not going to spend nearly as much time on this next important concept for alcohol use disorder recovery and transcendence but here we go. I call it the phases of alcohol recovery. Phase one is actually kind of a pre phase so to speak. So I view phase one as strategic learning and planning or just learning and planning. So before a person detoxes or quits drinking usually it's really good to find out what's out there. And like I was talking about earlier, this age of information, there's a lot of stuff that you can learn and you can get really, really strategic to come up with to either follow a proven plan that other people have used that has worked or to kind of create your own plan based on the things that you've learned about. So learning and planning is phase one. We're not going to spend too much time on that because you already know about this phase because you're doing it right now because you're watching or listening to this podcast episode. Or you might even be reading the transcript which we do now as well.
Matt Finch: Phase two is detox. So when it comes to alcohol use disorder, not everybody is going to need to do this phase. So there are some people that are not physiologically dependent on alcohol that just they drink too much and it's problem drinking but they're not physically dependent. That means they just need to quit drinking and go to the next phase. So with alcohol use disorder, these can be kind of different depending on the person. I work with a lot of people as well that have opioid use disorder and the vast majority of individuals I work with in this category of substance use disorder, SUD, they are physiologically and psychologically dependent on opioids. That means that they definitely ... The biggest part is the detox phase. Getting off these things hopefully comfortably and healing in the fastest time humanly possible for their situation. So for this example of the phases of alcohol recovery, to make it simple, let's use somebody as an example that's physiologically dependent on alcohol. They're a daily drinker and they've been drinking daily for quite some time. If they stop they could have life threatening withdrawal symptoms unless they are treated with some type of medication or other type of way like tapering that's going to give them a softer landing to where they're not going to have a seizure, where they're not going to have debilitating withdrawal symptoms, and most importantly where they're not going to die.
Matt Finch: So let's take somebody that is physiologically dependent on alcohol. Again, phase two, detox. Well, there's several different ways to detox within this phase of alcohol use disorder recovery. One way is tapering. Versus a cold turkey alcohol withdrawal, tapering is systematically and intentionally lowering somebody's alcohol consumption over a set period of time. Preferably a really strategic one. So these can vary too. Some people will do a alcohol taper that's two weeks long. Some people will do a taper of alcohol that takes three weeks or a month. Some people do a six week alcohol taper. Maybe even three months or even longer depending on the person, their consumption, and so many other variables that come into play when it comes to tapering. Alcohol tapering is a proven way to not only prevent the acute withdrawal syndrome but also to reduce shock to the brain and body when somebody is transitioning off alcohol. That's what detoxification means. It's simply getting the alcohol out of a person's body, whether really, really slowly over the span of a taper or really quickly such as a cold turkey withdrawal.
Matt Finch: When it comes to an acute withdrawal, so a detox where they're ... A cold turkey alcohol withdrawal, cessation. That can be done from home. That's a very common way to do it, particularly in these situations. Oftentimes people will use maybe a few days to a week worth of a benzodiazepine or baclofen or a gabapentinoid medicine or clonidine or some of the other common medicines where if you use them for the first three to four, five days they can really help to mitigate the physical and psychological alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Make it a lot safer so someone's not going to die or have a seizure. And then also a short enough period of using the medication to where they're not going to get a tolerance to it and where they're definitely not going to get a physiological dependence to the medication. Otherwise, then you quit one substance and you get a dependence on another substance and it may or may not be a better situation, depending on the medication and depending on the person and their relationship to that medication.
Matt Finch: And then very commonly there's also medically assisted detox for alcohol use disorder and alcoholism. That is where you go to a medical facility, an inpatient facility, where you're overseen by medical doctors and nurses and they give you withdrawal mitigating comfort meds such as the ones I was talking about as well as banana bags, these nutrient infusions where they give you B vitamins and potassium and other minerals and really get your body back to more tiptop shape while also mitigating the acute alcohol withdrawal symptoms so you're more comfortable.
Matt Finch: Moving on from phase two, and this is something that ... Another thing with mainstream recovery modalities and treatment therapies ... I wouldn't even call some of them therapies. Treatment methods. A lot of times they leave out phase three. Phase three I call repair, a.k.a post acute withdrawal syndrome. So after acute withdrawal coming off of alcohol typically for the person there's another phase of withdrawal that typically lasts longer, although typically the symptoms, physical and psychological, are not as severe. That means that they tend to linger on for much longer than the acute withdrawal symptoms which can be over in a few days to maybe a week. With the post acute withdrawal symptoms, these symptoms, depending on the person, they can be nonexistent or they could last a few weeks to even a few months or longer in the most very severe cases. So when people go to these mainstream recovery treatment programs they don't do any of the repair stuff. Post acute withdrawal is a biopsychosocial syndrome that results from the combination of the damage that alcohol and/or drugs have done to our brain combined with the psychosocial stress of having to live life without the substance or substances that we've grown accustomed to using as a resource to make our lives better or to make us be able to get through life in a easier way, at least temporarily.
Matt Finch: So during the repair phase, the word means what it means. Repair. You're repairing brain damage. You're repairing liver damage. You're repairing gut damage. You're repairing gut-brain axis damage. You're repairing thyroid damage, adrenal system damage. And you repair these things with what I call the key three. This is very typical for people. If they use a minimum of what I call the key three, that is supplementation, diet, and exercise, then those key three just alone, and sometimes just even supplements and diet, although it's much more powerful with all three, over the span of time, whether it's days, weeks, or months, people can start to really not only feel better and better but completely reverse all those post acute withdrawal symptoms. Make them go all the way away. Then they can restore their brain and full body health, all the rest of their organs and all their systems, to a state so healthy that oftentimes if somebody does enough work in this area they can feel even better than they did prior to becoming addicted to alcohol.
Matt Finch: Moving along to phase four, and this is often another one that mainstream treatment approaches leave out as well. After post acute withdrawal syndrome, or what I call the repair phase of alcohol use disorder recovery, then we have what I like to call rewire phase. Rewire's just like it sounds as well. In your brain there have been certain neural pathways. You might have heard the term when neurons fire together they wire together. Well, just imagine all the different times that you've consumed alcohol, all the different times that you've used alcohol to mitigate stress, to act as a social lubricant, to forget about the traumas of life, or to become more euphoric or to become more confident when you're dating somebody new. So many different reasons to use alcohol. And there's so many different times that a lot of people that have alcohol use disorder have had slips or full blown relapses. There's so many different triggers. People, places, things, situations, even smells and movies and shows and billboards that can lead to these pathways in the brain firing off. Then they get obsessive compulsive craving, obsession, thought to use. Then they go to the store and get alcohol or they go home or go to a friend's house or go to a bar and that activates the drinking cycle, the addictive process, all over again.
Matt Finch: That's because if somebody has a long history of drinking, even if it's been on and off, typically, even after they're done really healing and repairing their brain it can often take a little bit longer to maybe even a lot of bit longer for really severe cases where those old neural pathways that support and promote the urges and thoughts and desires and obsessions to drink and the compulsions that actually lead the person to drink compulsively, for those to fade away. And then it takes a while for most people to build new neural pathways. New ways of thinking, new ways of self talk, new healthy habits, new healthy lifestyle, new people that you're hanging out with if that's one of the missing links. A new optimized living environment if that was one of the missing links. So it takes a while for people to develop new, strong neural pathways. But once you do that, once you completely rewire, that's why addiction, alcoholism, drug addiction, that's why it's proven nowadays that it's not a lifelong incurable disease. Maybe a decade ago or two decades ago they came out with something called neuroplasticity. Well, they didn't come out with it, they learned about it.
Matt Finch: Neuroplasticity. Meaning the brain can change. It can get worse. We used to think that when we killed off brain cells drinking, that was it. We never grew new brain cells and our brain never rewired or anything. That is so much BS it's ridiculous. We can not only repair our brain, we can also totally rewire our brain. And we can rewire our brain over the span of months and then more specifically years. We can rewire it so powerfully that no only are you not a lifelong alcoholic or a lifelong drug addict, but you can become so immune to alcoholism, so immune to drug addiction through your brain's new wiring that you have developed through consistent use of harnessing neuroplasticity in the positive direction. Because that's what addiction is. Addiction is neuroplasticity in the wrong direction. In the direction that you don't want to go. Going down. Well, how do you recover and transcend alcohol? You use neuroplasticity in the complete opposite direction. Bringing you so high, springing you so up, making you feel so great, making your mindset and the way you think so powerful and so optimized that your brain, your identity, your character, your lifestyle, everything has nothing to do with, has no resemblance, or almost no resemblance, at least to the negative aspects of how your brain was wired, how your lifestyle was set up.
Matt Finch: Your relationships, your spirituality and all that. When a person was addicted to alcohol or addicted to drugs or addicted to both. So there you have it right there. Neuroplasticity and epigenetics are a very real thing. They've been so proven it is crazy. So we are not our past. Our past does not have to equal our future. This is a huge myth that once an addict or once an alcoholic, always an addict, always an alcoholic. It's a myth that's been debunked. Only the mainstream has not caught up or maybe it's more profitable for them to keep saying and keep teaching and keep educating that it is a lifelong incurable disease. Because if people believe that, then our beliefs created our reality, they'll slip more, relapse more, and go seek treatment more. And then the treatment centers are going to make a lot more money. Isn't that convenient?
Matt Finch: So the final phase of the phases of alcohol use disorder recovery is not really a phase. It's just a kind of exclamation mark. So phase one, learning and planning, phase two, detox. Either taper or cold turkey. And from cold turkey, that can be subdivided into either a home cold turkey detox or medically assisted or outpatient or one of the other ones. Then repair, which is repairing all the damage during post acute withdrawal syndrome and then even beyond. Repair, repair, repair. And then rewire. Old neural pathways fade away while you build and strengthen new superhighways of alcohol transcendence. Viewing alcohol as such a moot, weak, pathetic substance and resource for life. You have so many better ones to utilize at that point. And then finally, the final one, five, recover. It's an exclamation mark. Recover. That means you have recovered and there's a finish line to this. It's not a life where you're totally like, "Oh, I hope I don't relapse but that's what alcoholics do is they relapse and they slip and they think about alcohol." No. There's an exclamation mark. Learn, plan, detox, repair, rewire, recover. Exclamation mark. Recover. You can recover completely. Is it easy? Usually not. Is it possible? Usually yes.
Matt Finch: And with that being said, thank you so much for watching. Papaya and I greatly enjoyed having you with us for this discussion. That's all for now. Thanks for tuning in and we'll see you next time.
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