By Aparna Jacob June 2005Alcoholism may be a tough addiction to beat, but once the mind is made up, cures are legion. Here we scroll through the annals of alternative therapies for healing options.o You don't always need a reason to start drinking, Raj Mathur discovered when he was posted in Pondicherry. There the booze flowed plentiful and cheap. But what began as a thing to do soon turned into a vortex of guilt and hangovers, costing money and the family's happiness. 'I realized I was the only one having a good time. This wasn't any fun for the rest of my family or friends,' remembers Raj. 'I decided to quit.'Raj underwent past-life regression. It took six sessions and intensive counseling for the message to sink in: 'You don't need to drink to get high on life.' Raj has been a teetotaller for 10 years now. 'I do get the occasional craving. Even then, it's plain soda or coke for me.'o During the Prohibition, Jagdish Sharma would go to great lengths to get himself a drink: 'Chembur to Navy Nagar, to be precise.' Then one night, returning home stone drunk, Jagdish had three accidents. It effectively knocked him out of his stupor and he decided to give up drinking.Easier said than done, he soon realized. After several abortive attempts, Jagdish sought the advice of Yogi Manohar Harkare. 'I was given a mantra siddhi and was asked to chant the Shiva stotra everyday.' Thus in 1979, Jagdish went from compulsively consuming half a bottle of alcohol every day to absolute abstinence. Twenty-five dry years later, Jagdish observes: 'Not medicine, but motivation and faith saw me through.'o 'Addictions are a quest for self,' believes architect Donald Sequiera. Child of an alcoholic, Donald found himself drawn to the bottle when unable to cope with emotionally challenging situations in his life. 'My addictions filled a void in my life,' Donald realized.He was led to Alcoholics Anonymous. Once he began ascending the 12 steps prescribed by AA, Donald sensed his burden rolling away: 'I was grateful to everyone sharing their testimonials - such courage and determination!' He realized he needed to respect himself, love himself, forgive himself rather than enter the familiar loop of self-loathing. Inspired, Donald took to watching himself, mending areas of his life that needed attending.Donald hasn't had a drink in six years: 'Admitting I had a problem was the toughest thing, the first step.' Donald's journey of a million miles began with that first step.How willing are you to change your life? Overcoming any addiction is really only a reclaiming of our selves, a reassertion of control on our lives. Ask yourself: Are you ready to be in charge again? To accept responsibility for yourself? If yes, then proceed with an iron will and a dauntless heart, for help is at hand.One Step at a Time: AA'We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable.' This is the first rung on the AA ladder: acceptance of oneself, warts and all. Once you place your foot here, the only way is up.The strength of the AA program lies in the way a recovered alcoholic passes along the story of his or her own drinking, describes the sobriety he or she has found in AA, and reaches out, inviting the newcomer to join the informal fellowship. Amid such forged bonds alcoholics find belonging and acceptance. They find courage to rise over their problems that had seemed insurmountable earlier.Donald sums up the experience thus: 'Those who come here are looking for a way out. Instead, we learn to look within and find ourselves.'Gentle Cure: Ayurveda Ayurveda believes in gently weaning one away from alcohol by substituting drinks with asavas and arishtas. Ayurvedacharya S. Chaturvedi explains: 'These contain 2-5 per cent natural alcohol formed during fermentation and are to be consumed in doses of ½ to 1 ounce. They prove an effective substitute.' Drasharisth, Ashwasgand-harist, Saraswatarisht, Bhringrajasana, Arbindasava, Kumaryasava and Draks-hava are the commonly prescribed combinations to combat alcoholism.Treatment is simultaneously meted out to correct any damage caused to the liver and digestive system. Vaidyas also provide counseling and advise their wards on the ill-effects and consequences of drinking.Suggestion Power: HypnotherapyThe desire for alcohol always stems from your subconscious mind. While the conscious mind is willing to exert control and say No, under duress, the subconscious mind reminds you of the pleasure the taste of alcohol can bring. Hypnotherapy can eradicate this desire by inserting a 'suggestion' in the subconscious mind to give up alcohol.Hypnotherapist Nita Pandya usually works out a script with her patient based on how much he or she would like to withdraw from drinking. 'During hypnosis, I might suggest: now on, alcohol will remind you of water or kerosene. This kills the craving for drinks and the addiction tapers off.'Hypnotherapy, more importantly, helps one identify the cause of drinking and resolves that. Often, a damaged sense of self or relationship complications are at the bottom of addictions. Often, it can be traced to one's past life. Nita also cites cases when the subconscious mind, influenced by wandering spirits, takes to the bottle.On an average it takes three to four sessions of hypnotherapy before any change is observed in the patient.Precise Cure: Homeopathy Treatment by homeopathy, says Mumbai-based homeopath Dr Farokh J. Master, is always custom-made to the patients' peculiar addiction to alcohol. 'Homeopathic medicines operate by producing disgust for alcohol. Recording a detailed case history helps me zero in on the exact cause of alcoholism.' For instance, if it is the lack of love in childhood due to which the person resorted to the bottle, Master prescribes Natrum Muraticum and Magnesium Muraticum. If financial losses triggered drinking Arum Metallicum is recommended.Sulphur is recommended for solitary drinking while sulphuric acid and China Rubrum are widely prescribed to curb drinking urges. Nux Vomica is for nervous, irritable, angry or impatient clients whereas Lachesis cures alcoholism caused by disappointment in love. It also promotes the wellbeing of the liver and cures alcohol-induced hepatitis. Selenium treats impotency, a common ill-effect of alcoholism. For alcoholic tremors Master recommends Zinc Metallicum.Watch What you EatMost experts identify poor nutrition as the main cause of craving for alcohol. An inadequately nourished body craves alcohol to up its sugar levels and as a substitute for food. Certain vitamin deficiencies, vitamin B in particular, can also induce alcohol cravings.Build up your body's nutritional integrity with an optimum diet of wholegrain cereals, nuts, seeds and sprouts, fresh fruits, and vegetables. Include complex carbohydrates such as grains, pasta, potatoes, squashes, legumes or soy products in each meal. Nutritional yeast will provide B vitamins and other important minerals to boost immunity.Cut down on all refined foods such as sugar, white rice and bread, fried foods, soft drinks and candy, excess spices and meats. Guard against overeating as suppression of alcohol consumption often manifests as food or even sugar addiction, leading to hypoglycemia.Juice FastA cleansing juice fast for at least 10 days is highly recommended for all beginners. Substituting fresh juices for alcohol gradually reduces cravings and pacifies the need to hold a glass of drink in your hand. If the desire for a stimulant strikes, candy and other snacks can be had. A warm-water enema should be taken everyday to cleanse the bowels.Energy Foods During withdrawal, your appetite shrinks. Increase intake of fluids and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, preferably raw, to provide nutrients and enzymes for rebuilding immunity. Black raisins, orange juice and milk act as natural antidotes to alcohol. Help yourself to generous quantities of water, diluted fruit and vegetable juices, warm broths and soups to aid the initial elimination of toxins. Include high-protein vegetables such as lentils, peas, beans, carrots, potatoes as well as eggs to strengthen your weakened body. Eat foods rich in magnesium such as wheat germ or figs and use cold-pressed vegetable oils such as flax seed oil to reduce withdrawal symptoms.Fruits and VeggiesListlessness and fatigue are common withdrawal symptoms. Naturopath H. K. Bakhru in his book, Healing through Natural Foods, suggests keeping energy levels up with fruits like apples, grapes and dates that are natural energy boosters. An exclusive diet of grapes, three times at five-hourly intervals, can prove an effective yet healthy substitute for alcohol. Generous intake of apples helps remove intoxication and reduces the craving for wines and liquors.Four or five dates mashed and mixed in half a glass of water taken twice daily for a month brings certain definite relief from cravings.Raw fruits and vegetables being alkaline, help reduce cravings and in fact produce a revulsion for the taste of alcohol. Naturopath Kapil Sehgal, recommends raising the alkalinity levels of the body by eating a combination of one cucumber and four dates or a combination of a tomato and four dried figs before a drink. Peaches and prunes will work just as well. Fastidiously observed, these combinations help cut down craving and consumption of alcohol to half in a few months.Three teaspoons juice of the leaves of bitter gourd mixed with a glass of buttermilk, when taken every morning for a month, redresses liver damage and is also an antidote for inebriation. Half a glass of celery juice mixed with an equal quantity of water taken once daily for a month can have a sobering effect.SupplementsVitamin supplementation, vitamin B especially, is particularly important and helps reduce cravings. Special attention should be paid to vitamins B1, B6, folic acid and B12. Vitamin B12 is best absorbed sublingually, under the tongue, or by injecting. The mineral magnes
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