Last week, I concluded our discussion on the many powerful benefits of frankincense (Boswellia sp.) and the properties and actions of the four most popular species. My goal was to help you in deciding between which oil brand would best support you and your loved ones during the holiday jitters and daily stressors. The fact that this oil is accompanied with such numerous and impressive research on supporting physical, emotional, and spiritual health made it predominate within my series for supporting holiday sanity.

Previously, I discussed the importance of integrating spirituality into modern medicine due to its connection to better health outcomes. I also touched on how essential oils and other integrative modalities could provide agnostics and atheists with some of the emotional and calming benefits that religious followers receive through prayer and meditation practices. This makes frankincense oil a perfect holistic tool for spreading good cheer the whole year, as it is inclusive for all beliefs and practices.

In these next few articles, I want to provide you with more ways to support emotional, physical, and spiritual health for less hectic holidays. In an upcoming blog, I am planning on highlighting specific essential oils and examples of oil blends that literally will create positive “emotions from a bottle.” (To learn the science of emotional oil blends and mechanisms, please refer to this blog.)

In this article, I will cover the topic of coping with addictions during the holidays and how spirituality and essential oils may be two very important tactics.

The Holidays and Dealing with Addiction- An Individual Affair

Addictions can be worsened by the stress of the holidays. This can be due to emotional and physical triggers that hijack the brain. These associative cues ignite biochemical signals of previous neurological pathways that relate to using the substance of abuse. The resulting mental obsessions can transform into hard-to-resist cravings in order to seek relief.(source, source, source, source, source)

A supportive therapist, healthy relationships, preparing and rehearsing for uncomfortable situations, being mindful, avoiding triggers, and other strategies of relating taught during treatment or rehab can help one with addictions to stay “clean.” Being of service and practicing gratitude could also offer a change in perspective and distract one from the obsessive thoughts.

One review states the following strategies to overcome the mental, emotional, and physical relapses that can occur:

change your life (recovery involves creating a new life where it is easier to not use); 2) be completely honest; 3) ask for help; 4) practice self-care; and 5) don’t bend the rules.

Reading the full article may be helpful for those who are seeking helpful tools.


The Holidays and Dealing with Addiction- A Family Affair

Although the person with the addiction is ultimately responsible for their own recovery, no addict acts in isolation. For the family, fear of a loved one’s relapse, especially around the holidays, can cause inner turmoil as they worry about the sufferer’s safety, sanity, and health. (source) The whole family often becomes plagued with dysfunction as a result. Misunderstanding and apprehension based around one or a few members who have a history of “causing a scene” can “infect” home life and play into more trepidation during seasonal gatherings.

The article, The Impact of Substance Use Disorders on Families and Children: From Theory to Practice, provides an excellent overview of the impact of substance use disorder (SUD) on the family and how the family also plays a role and can negatively impact one with a SUD.

In many instances, family-based therapy can be very helpful for both the family and those who struggle with addictions. These approaches help each person see the role they have in perpetuating unhealthy dynamics and potentially enabling the addict. (source, source)


The Science of Spirituality and Addiction for the Addict

Many therapies and medical interventions focus on emotional, behavioral, and physical aspects of addiction (drug therapy) and have shown efficacy. Unfortunately, just as in other health related topics, spirituality is often ignored. Equally to the benefits seen in other health issues, spirituality also has a role in addiction recovery and may provide a buffer from unwanted relapses.

Below are a few articles and excerpts that have evidence that spirituality, a belief in something or someone greater than oneself, can be helpful in coping with addiction.


Spirituality and Opioid Addiction

One of the new concepts that have been introduced into the definition of health is spiritual health. The spiritual dimension of health is an important part of health [9]. Spiritual well-being is an important aspect of the present study was conducted to determine the addicted patients’ spiritual well-being and their perspectives’ about factors associated with relapse.


Introduction: Opioid dependence relapse is a complex and multidimensional problem, and lack of spiritual well-being is a major concern in opioid addicts.

Aim: This study was conducted to determine spiritual well-being and factors associated with relapse among opioid addicts.

Materials and Methods: This cross-sectional study was conducted from April 2015 to September 2015. According to purposive sampling, 312 eligible addicted patients were enrolled in the study. The patients had at least an attempt of detoxification in the past six months and referred to an outpatient detoxification clinic in Shahrekord (Southwest, Iran). They completed Paloutzian and Ellison’s Spiritual Well-being Scale. A researcher-developed questionnaire consisting of demographic characteristics and 20 questions about associated factors with relapse was administered. Data were analysed by version 16.0 (SPSS Inc.,Chicago, IL) using one-way ANOVA, Pearson’s correlation test, chi-square, Friedman test, and student’s t-test.

Results: The most important factors associated with opioid dependence relapse consist of relation with an addict friend, unemployment, living expenses, family conflicts, and somatic pain. In the present study, 157 patients had never experienced relapse while the mean of relapse in the rest participants was (3.25±1.53) times. Furthermore, the addicted patients with relapse had significantly lower scores of spiritual well-being and its subscales compared with non-relapse patients (p<0.001).

Conclusion: The findings of the present study indicate the necessity of paying attention to spiritual well-being, family and economical, personal, and occupational factors as crucial factors in opiate addiction relapse. (source)


Efficacy of 12-Steps and Spirituality for Addiction

  1. Spirituality is a construct that has recently gained currency among clinicians because of its close association with twelve-step modalities and its perceived role in the promotion of meaningfulness in recovery from addiction. This article draws on studies from physiology, psychology, and cross-cultural sources to examine its nature and its relationship to substance use disorders. Illustrations of its potential and limitations as a component of treatment in spiritually oriented recovery movements like Alcoholics Anonymous, meditative practices, and treatment systems for the dually diagnosed are given. (source: Am J Addict. 2006 Jul-Aug;15(4):286-92.)
  1. Although little is known about the specific aspects or “active ingredients” of religiosity and spirituality that may influence recovery from addiction, several studies suggest that the coping skills derived through religion and spirituality may be an underutilized treatment resource. With respect to prevention of HIV risk behaviors, over 33% of HIV-negative injection drug users credited religious practices such as prayer and “God’s help” in their avoidance of behaviors that can lead to infection (Des Jarlais et al., 1997). HIV-positive and HIV-negative injection drug users participating in focus groups reported that spirituality was a source of inner strength and that a spiritual intervention would be helpful for reducing “cravings” and HIV risk behavior, following medical recommendations, and increasing hopefulness (Arnold, Avants, Margolin, and Marcotte, 2002). In another qualitative study, Green, Fullilove, and Fullilove (1998) observed that recovering addicts often undergo intense spiritual awakenings that facilitate abstinence following treatment. Dermatis, Guschwan, Galanter, and Bunt (2004), in a study assessing preference for spirituality-based interventions among substance-abusing1 residents of a therapeutic community, noted strong support for the incorporation of spirituality or a formal 12-step approach into treatment. (source)


The Science of Spirituality and Group Support for Families of those with Substance Use Disorders

Just as the spiritual focus of twelve-steps for alcoholics and addicts can be effective for someone with a SUD, there is evidence that family members can benefit from these free tools as well. Studies on Al-Anon, a group support network for family members with loved ones who struggle with alcoholism, have shown results in supporting social connections,  well-being, and positive coping skills. Here’s further reading and a list of more studies for those who are interested.


Essential Oils and Addictions

Essential oils, due to their ability to modulate emotions and their effect on the brain, have been researched to support healthy behaviors and break addictive cycles. Another way they can enhance wellness is through their ability to enhance spiritual connection. The addict and family of those with a SUD can also benefit from these properties.

Imagine what would happen if we rewired the brain using essential oils in combination with therapy, addressing any underlying physical and brain imbalances, and spiritual approaches. This is the concept of forming new connections known as neuroplasticity. Perhaps there would be less cross-addictions and more essential oils addictions! The later would mean more positive “side benefits” vs. negative side effects!

In an upcoming article, I will provide you with some of my other favorite oils that support coping skills, sanity, spirituality, and physical health through the holidays and the whole year through.


Are you or is someone you know struggling with addictions?

Do you have additional tools to share?

Please comment below.

Thank you for reading.


Click here for the November 2018 Holistic and Integrative Medicine Top Reads


This material is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any illness. You should check with your doctor regarding implementing any new strategies into your wellness regime. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. (Affiliation link.)

Disclaimer: This information is applicable ONLY for therapeutic quality essential oils. This information DOES NOT apply to essential oils that have not been tested for purity and standardized constituents. There is no quality control in the United States, and oils labeled as “100% pure” need only to contain 5% of the actual oil. The rest of the bottle can be filled with fillers and sometimes toxic ingredients that can irritate the skin. The studies are not based solely on a specific brand of an essential oil, unless stated. Please read the full study for more information.

Thanks Pixabay!