The idea of using a sweat lodge for therapy is not a new, modern experiment. It has been done for many years in Native American cultures.
You might be rolling your eyes at the thought of a sweat lodge, and I understand your hesitation. When I first heard about sweat lodges, it sounded a little on the weird side. I thought it was only for tree-hugging, bug-eating hippies who were looking for some earthly way to rid their lives of addiction. To my shock and embarrassment, I found that my initial assumptions were miles from the reality. The people who participate in sweat lodge therapy were like me; normal, everyday humans struggling to fight the monster of addiction. Yet it wasn’t the people participating in it that shocked me the most – it was how well sweat lodge therapy worked and the spiritual experiences that come from it.
What is Sweat Lodge Therapy?
Depending on the season and location, you might experience different ceremonies than someone did a few months prior or a city over. Before it begins, you will be asked to eat a light meal or fast completely prior to arrival. Once you get to the location, a leader will direct you to a Native American lodge or tent. The walk to your lodge will be peaceful, and surrounding its exterior will be peaceful symbols of Native American culture. Before entering the lodge, you might perform a ceremony to welcome good spirits and show gratitude. Once you enter, the healing begins. Some places allow you to get completely naked, so don’t be shocked if the lady next to you isn’t wearing clothes. Inside, it will feel incredibly hot from rocks laid across the floor that have been heated in a fire outside. You will repeat the words your leader speaks and release your addictions. The flap on the door will be opened four times throughout the ceremony; the fresh air will rejuvenate you, but if the heat is too much, you can leave until the door opens again. Prayers will be spoken through the sweat lodge experience, and the entire event can last from 30 minutes to more than two hours.
Reaching All Addictions
The thing I love most about sweat lodges is how the therapy reaches all addictions and struggles. Whether you are suffering from depression or are an alcoholic, the sweat lodge is a stepping stone in recovery. When you enter the lodge, you get a moment to pull your anchor up. The thing that has been dragging you down will feel lighter. The sweat lodge serves the purpose of cleansing the mind, body, and spirit of your addiction.
Cleansing the Body
The hardest part of recovering from a drug or alcohol addiction is cleaning out your body those first few days. Sweat lodges help the body release toxins and sweat out impurities. The more you sweat, the more toxins will leave. The combination of fasting and sweating is a symbol of rebirth; your body is cleansed, and each day forward is the start of something new.
Motivating the Mind
Becoming sober is a mental game. When I was immersed in my drug, I didn’t want to believe that I had control; I had to believe it was no longer a choice, so I could continue using without guilt. When it comes to recovering, it is up to you to change, and surrounding yourself with positive enforcement is the only way you can be successful. Sweat lodges are an empowering spiritual experience that is completely unique compared to any other type of therapy. You are in control of your addiction, and you can overcome it. The confidence you will receive from treatment will give you the strength to press forward through the days, weeks, and eventually years. Studies have found that those who use sweat lodge therapy enjoy it more than typical cultural therapy. It is an intense, spiritual experience that you will never forget. The empowerment you will feel might be the one ingredient you need to succeed.
By Michelle Conway
Photo by: Jam Smooth (Flickr)