Healing Addiction: Heather Vanek’s Journey to Health & Happiness

Posted by Heather Vanek on 1/4/23 8:00 AM

Heather Vanek

Addiction is a neuropsychological disorder characterized by a persistent and intense urge to use a drug or engage in certain behaviors, despite substantial harm and other negative consequences. Repetitive drug use often alters brain functions in ways that perpetuate cravings and weakens self-control. According to hhs.gov, in 2017, the US department of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency calling it the US opioid Epidemic. As American Addiction Center states “according to the national survey on drug use and health (NSDUH), 19.7 million American adults (12 and older) battle a substance use disorder in 2017.” Addiction touches so many lives directly, or indirectly through loved ones. My hope is to share my strength and the tools I have found to combat addiction.

My Personal Journey

My addiction began with opiate pain pills prescribed to me by a physician in 2008. By 2012, it had grown into an intravenous heroin and methamphetamine addiction. I found myself completely lost with no support system left to turn to and the monstrous dragon of addiction on my back. I had a strong desire to stop using for the first time in 2016. I attended a rehabilitation program which got me clean yet, little did I know, getting clean was the easy part. Staying clean would prove to be much harder.

The path to recovery is not easy, and I experienced many bumps and several relapses along the way. Each relapse taught me something imperative towards maintaining my recovery, and every bump offered more knowledge and growth. Around 75% of people seeking recovery from a substance use problem achieve their goal, though it may take them some time to achieve full remission. The average number of attempts before success is five.

My very first sponsor from Narcotics anonymous used to say: "You cannot walk into the woods for eight years and expect to walk out in any less time. Take it easy. Give yourself a break. You’re right where you’re supposed to be.”

Healing through Spirituality

After years of maintaining my sobriety, I now have plenty of tools in my toolbox. I use many kinds of spiritual modalities to engage and heal myself.

Meditation is one of the best tools I have found. Meditation did not come easy for me. I had so many racing thoughts! With practice, it has become my favorite tool. Being able to push all thoughts and desires out of your mind allows you to take a moment without any worries or discomfort. If I am having a bad craving, I immediately begin to focus on my breath allowing my mind to reset itself from the craving or trigger. During meditation, I like to do body scans to release and heal any old emotional wounding left behind by the addiction. This leaves you feeling grounded, centered, and serene.

I have also found developing a strong support network is key in recovery. In Narcotics Anonymous, they teach you that people, places, and things must change. I found this to be very true. People were one of my main triggers outside of my own thoughts. No matter where I am or who I run into, I can always take a moment for myself to breathe deeply.

While unexpected encounters may occur, you will want to surround yourself with positive uplifting people. Many people use drugs to escape their emotions. It’s important to have emotionally supportive friendships and relationships to lean on in times of need. Avoiding high-risk situations, like being around old using buddies, is a great tool to combat addiction.

If you give yourself the time and space to manage your impulses, your likelihood of success greatly improves. Sometimes, your initial impulse says: Do what you’ve always done, old habits die hard! If you give yourself just a few seconds by waiting to respond to the impulse, your thoughts become clearer, allowing you to make positive changes in your decision-making.

Your head and heart know what is best. Your intuition will tell you if something is right or wrong for your own body, but you must take the time to listen.

Healthy Lifestyle

We have all heard the saying: "You are what you eat." I have found that a healthy diet is essential to feeling well. The better you feel, the less likely you are to crave drugs.

Physical exercise releases the same endorphins and dopamine that are released while using drugs. I prefer yoga, because it is not only a physical exercise, it is the meditation and breathing that I found to be so helpful in my recovery. Yoga activates the “rest and digest” nervous system response. As yogajournal.com writes “Yoga practices don't just help the brain heal from the abuse of addiction. They also activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for helping our body relax and bounce back from stress.”

Positive sleeping habits are a must when trying to heal old habits. Your body goes into Alpha state twice a day all on its own. These two times are when you fall asleep, and when you wake up. This is when your body heals and resets itself.

I have also found hygiene to be extremely helpful, and something that tends to fall by the wayside in the depths of addiction. I was too busy trying to find and use drugs to worry about keeping clean. I now enjoy spiritual baths where I add essential oils, flowers, and epsom salt to my tub.

Outside grounding helps ease the inner gnawing left behind from addiction. Simply putting your feet on the ground at least once a day helps recalibrate your vibrational patterns grounding and centering yourself.

Some days are better than others, but any day is a good day for a belly laugh. Belly laughing releases endorphins, anytime you’re looking for a natural high, a good laugh will do it. Mayoclinic.org reports “Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.”

Finally: Keep busy! Find things to fill your time, things that make you happy and healthy. A drug habit takes up so much time that you don’t ever get to do the things you enjoy. Keeping myself busy is a must for keeping myself sober and clean! Whether I’m taking a spiritual bath, hanging with positive, likeminded people, doing yoga, meditating or whatever it takes to fill my time with the things I love and enjoy. The things that make my life worth living.


My life is not perfect, however, it’s so much better than it was. I can say wholeheartedly that I love myself, know who I am and what my purpose in this life is. I have a family that respects me and sees the value in my new lifestyle. My friends are real friends with no ulterior motives. I am learning to cherish each day, I wake up feeling alive, keeping an open heart and mind, allowing myself to receive the blessings that come simply by making the next right decision.

My recovery journey was far from easy, but so worth it. I continue to learn and grow more each day, being the best ‘me’ I can be: Free and happy!

I am currently a student at the Southwest Institute of Healing Arts, where I study Life Coaching and Hypnotherapy. I have been coaching clients throughout the Mississippi Gulf Coast area, facilitating their self-growth. My services aim to introduce clarity and self-motivation. I teach techniques to better manage the emotional stresses of everyday life. Check out my website, Holistic Haven. You can schedule your session today!

Addiction is hard. You are not alone. Everyone needs help sometimes.

Narcotics anonymous- https://www.na.org/meetingsearch/

SAMHSA National Helpline- 1-800-662-4357 https://www.findtreatment.gov/

Alcoholics anonymous Meeting finder- https://alcoholicsanonymous.com/

Become a Hypnotherapist

Topics: Southwest Institute of Healing Arts, Life Coaching, SWIHA, Hypnotherapy, Arizona, Recovery, Tempe, Addiction, Inspiration, National Be on Purpose Month 2023

About the Author Heather Vanek

Heather Vanek is a current student at the Southwest Institute for healing arts, where she specializes in advanced hypnotherapy with past life regression and life coaching. Heather is also a recovering drug addict who has found many different spiritual modalities that have worked and continue to work strongly in her recovery. Heather's philosophy is that introducing a fresh perspective and new techniques allow people to grow and evolve.

Heather Vanek

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