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Holistic Addiction Treatment: Sweat Lodge

Author: Justin Mckibben

Holistic addiction treatment programs are all about the innovative and comprehensive holistic healing techniques that are implemented in treatment centers as part of a program outline that was introduced to treatment providers at the 2011 Evolution of Treatment Conference, and there are a variety of new and exciting methods these centers are implementing in an attempt to give those suffering with substance abuse or addiction an opportunity to experience all kinds of amazing ways to improve mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health.

The Native American Sweat Lodge

When people hear the phrase ‘sweat lodge’ they typically image a sauna of some sort. They think of people just sitting in a room with steam sweating and killing time, maybe they had a steam room in their gym and that’s what they expect to see. But the real Native American sweat lodge that is part of the Palm Partners holistic healing program is nothing like this.

The sweat lodge at Palm Partners is modeled after an ancient ceremony that has been practiced for thousands of years, and has been used to help people get over their addictions, compulsions and other afflictions. The ceremony is a sacred and beautiful event that is not only effective in helping individuals physically release toxins through the pores by sweating, but it is also a very personal and spiritual healing experience.

The Ceremony

This method of healing is very unique, because the sweat lodge structure itself was built by the members of the lodge who help to lead the ceremonies, and it was done so with great love and compassion.

The heat comes from hot stones, which are taken from a fire and placed into a pit within the lodge. Once water is poured over these stones, it creates a steam that fills the structure, and helps create that healing atmosphere. There are 4 rounds of heat, each one adding stones to the lodge and making it more hot inside, and each round represented by an animal totem, which would then be used as a metaphor for the significance of that round in the lodge.

The greatest power of the Native American sweat lodge comes in the connection that is present in that sacred space between the individuals who share the lodge, mother earth and nature itself, along with whatever higher power people chose to connect with. It allows people to reflect back on the issues they face in active addiction from a unique perspective, and create new emotional attachments to replace the old destructive ones.

My Experience with the Sweat Lodge

I was very excited to share my experience with the sweat lodge, because I was fortunate enough to get very involved in the sweat lodge at Palm Partners, and I actively participated several times in the lodge. I can do not justice to the feeling first hand, but I can say a few things that became important for me that I could share with someone considering it. Lodge is a place of gratitude, of facing fears and letting go of ego and grief to move forward in the rest of recovery.

  1. Trust the process

When I went to the sweat lodge for the first time, I was worried that the feeling of claustrophobia would ruin it for me and I would have to give up. One assurance was that if anyone needed to quit for any reason at any time, there was no shame or hesitation to let them out of the lodge.

What happened ultimately was I learned a lot about letting go and trusting the process, which carried over into other aspects of my life. It was not easy to do, but I came to trust that I was in a safe in that sacred space and that helped me become even further connected to those participating in the lodge with me.

  1. It’s not about sweating, but bring water

The purpose of lodge is not strictly to sweat. Yes there is a level of detoxification, and it is important that you stay hydrated for this experience, because you will sweat… a lot! I made sure to bring as much ice water as possible each time, and to drink plenty before we even got started. Helping the body heal is a huge part of recovery, and maintaining the body during an intense and exciting activity like this is essential.

  1. Speaking with the spirit

To me the sweat lodge gave me many gifts, and the biggest part of that was its influence from a spiritual perspective. In lodge you don’t have to just sit in silence. The majority of the time is actually open for prayer, for speaking about your spiritual intentions or you can chose to meditate quietly, but it is often used as an opportunity to share thoughts or express any repressed feelings.

I felt in sweat lodge I was given a stage to openly seek a spiritual connection, and that energy provided in that circle of connection was an opportunity to learn from and share with others. The heat forces you to focus, and the ceremony itself creates the perfect setting to be in the moment, to share and be receptive. I have shared sweat lodge with many people, and I acknowledge them as brothers in spirit on a journey like mine.

This is an amazing ritual that heals on many levels. And each individual is meant to receive their own experience, with no expectations or required results. It is purely an opportunity to be present, and to seek some truth through whatever connection you find.

The Native American sweat lodge is an awesome and inspiring experience, and for those who value the importance of healing in a complete sense of mind, body and spirit it is an awesome method to utilize in seeking spiritual gorwth. If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135


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