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blog Using Fitness and Nutrition to Fight Against Drug and Alcohol Addiction

Using Fitness and Nutrition to Fight Against Drug and Alcohol Addiction

Jessica Danger

over 2 years ago

In Costa Mesa, California you’ll find a particular group of men doing things a little bit differently. Surrounded by the southern CA culture of health food, fitness, sun, sand and surf, Justin McMillen decided he wanted to take full advantage of the natural resources at hand, but in a bit of a different capacity: a recovery home for men battling with substance abuse. 

Welcome to the Tree House

Justin established Tree House Recovery in 2013 based on his own personal success of getting, and then staying, sober. Founded on the principle that there is a Recipe for Healthy Living, and treatment success can only be defined by sustainable sobriety, Tree House Recovery is breaking new ground with client success rates that are far exceeding what the addiction treatment industry has seen in the past. 

A Recipe For Healthy Living

The folks over at Tree House believe that in order to treat addiction, you have to treat the whole person. The Tree House “focuses on the mind/body connection to build sustainable, healthy lives...their eight interconnected modalities work together to treat you as a complete person.” 

Those eight interconnected modalities include YogaWriting TherapyAction Based Induction TherapyFitness, and Nutrition.

Fitness, Nutrition and Recovery

We all know how important proper nutrition is to, well, everything. It was a staple behind the worldview of our namesake, Glen ‘BUB’ Doherty. Ryan Bain, a mental health professional with Tree House Recovery, told me on a call, “We all know that fitness is good for you. I don’t know that there is a person in the world that doesn’t know that. I can’t say its a cure all, but in a lot of ways it really is. It's one of those approaches where if you're able to sustain it, it's able to repair every cell in your body.”

It almost seems to easy. Fitness has been glamourized for its physical benefits, that it makes you look better naked, etc etc. But Bain argues that “people overlook what it does for your brain. So for addiction, all the benefits it has for your brain are unparalleled. It is absolutely a medicine, and we don’t always really view it that way, but it is.”

Fitness has drastically altered the lives of many of us here at BUBS Naturals. For anyone in recovery from drugs and alcohol, the effects rendered from physical fitness are almost instant. “So take motivation. If someone can start working out again, they can immediately see that they are able to achieve something. You focus on that - lifting weights, or you run half a mile, and you realize, ‘Hey! I just did that!’ And now we have a correlation between achievement and motivation. ‘If I can do that, what else can I do?’ It becomes a positive cycle in that regard, and the idea of exercise soon transcends the gym environment.”  

Add: One Nutrition Component.

The motivation built through fitness in early drug and alcohol recovery can be rolled into many things, including nutrition. For many in recovery, the norm for years has to been to literally consume poison, intentionally. This can be a hard concept to teach around. 

“At Tree House, we have a culture created around nutrition. We don’t prescribe any one way of eating, they have to find one that works for them. We educate them on good nutritional standpoints, and about buying on a budget, how much protein, what is a good fat, learning to nourish the body appropriately, things like that. We help them switch from literal poison to a culture of nourishment instead, all around. We cook together, we eat together, we share ideas and talk about changes and what's working and not working,” said Bain.

It’s working.

The Tree House counts, on average, up to 48 men between all of their locations in Southern California and their one location in Portland, Oregon. Men in the program stay anywhere from 90 days to sixth months, with the average stay logging at 5.2 months.  

Post-treatment, Tree House also offers support through alumni programs and online support groups. Many stay on and help the men that come through after them. “We don’t just want them out. We want them beyond stable and closer to feeling optimized and prepared to integrate back to society. That's a very individualized thing...It takes a while, sometimes, until they feel comfortable and confident enough to branch out.”

But branch out they do, all thanks to the Tree House.