Addiction Is Not The End Of The Road

by Nirmala Raniga, Founder and Director


When we hear the word “addict” we usually visualize someone who is a hard core drug user, an out-of-control alcoholic, or a heavy smoker. But there are many more addictions that fly under the radar until the damage they have caused becomes obvious. The list of addictions is as long as there are things to crave, including compulsive gambling, sex, eating, work, running, shopping, toxic relationships and the internet to name a few.

Addictive behavior is defined as any activity, substance, object, or behavior that becomes the major focus of a person’s life, prompting them to withdraw from other activities. Often polite circles of friends smile and add “aholic” to describe their neighbour.  He/she is a workaholic.  I’m a shopaholic. He is an exerciseaholic.

These are all harmless-sounding portrayals until it is pointed out that the person purchased 10 pairs of shoes in one day, or their family life is ruined from their compulsion to stay at the office.

Examples of addictive behaviour include:

    • • The person becomes obsessed (constantly thinks of) the object, activity, or substance.
    • • They will seek it out, or engage in the behavior even though it is causing harm (physical problems, poor work or study performance, problems with friends, family, fellow workers).
    • • The person will compulsively engage in the activity, i.e. do the activity over and over even if he/she does not want to and finds it difficult to stop.

Individuals with addictive behaviors often have low self-esteem, feel anxious if they do not have control over their environment, and/or come from psychologically or physically abusive families.

It is thought by researchers delving into the many forms of addictions that these behavioral activities may produce beta-endorphins in the brain that give the person a feeling of well-being or euphoria – like being “high.”

Some experts suggest that if a person continues to engage in the addictive activity he/she may get into an addictive cycle, becoming physically addicted to his/her own brain chemicals, thus leading to continuation of the behavior even though it may have negative health or social consequences.

It is possible to stop these addictive cycles, by addressing the deeper issues of the harmful behaviour and seeking to develop more nurturing, self-empowering behaviours and perspectives. You can restore balance in your life and create a positive perspective – one that will give you joy and peace of mind.

Neuroscience research confirms that despite early and repeated training, new ways of being with self and others can be achieved.

The Chopra Addiction and Wellness Center supports guests to experience new ways of being & maximize the development of new neural pathways. Learn more about the programs we offer.

Hope for Opioid Addiction

by Nirmala Raniga, Founder and Director


With the passing of acclaimed actor Philip Seymour Hoffman from a drug overdose, the international spotlight had once again focused on opioid and other drug abuse, a problem that cuts across all socio-economic boundaries, shattering the lives of everyone affected.

The US based National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) defines opioids as medications that “reduce the intensity of pain signals reaching the brain and affect those brain areas controlling emotion, which diminishes the effects of a painful stimulus.” Essentially, opioids can become addictive due to their ability to relieve painful feelings. While these drugs tend to initially create feelings of euphoria, they also cloud cognitive function and produce alternate states of drowsiness and wakefulness.

Opiates are naturally derived from the opium poppy. Opioids are synthetic, or semisynthetic, opiate-like substances. Very often, individuals acquire opioids such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, and morphine through physician prescription for legitimate medical reasons. For instance, morphine is often prescribed to relieve surgical pain. Codeine is commonly prescribed as a mild pain reliever and cough suppressant.

Heroin, reaches the brain quickly, can be cheaper and easier to obtain than prescription opioids, and is particularly addictive. A recent NIDA article states, “nearly half of young people who inject heroin surveyed in three recent studies reported abusing prescription opioids before starting to use heroin.” With repeated use, heroin changes brain function, and those addicted become increasingly tolerant, requiring greater quantities in order to achieve its sought-after effects.

Once heroin enters the brain, it is converted to morphine and binds to opioid receptors in both the brain and other locations in the body. Not only do heroin users need greater quantities of the drug as they become more tolerant, but they also have to continue using heroin to avoid withdrawal symptoms. Heroin use slows respiration, which can prove fatal. Injecting heroin can also lead to the transmission of serious infectious diseases, and long-term usage can degrade the body and affect major organs.

According to the Foundation for a Drug-Free World, some 13.5 million people across the globe take opioids. In its 2012 “National Survey of Drug Use and Health,” the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports, “The number of persons with heroin dependence or abuse in 2012 (467,000) was approximately twice the number in 2002 (214,000).” A 2007 National Survey on Drug Use and Health indicated there were 153,000 heroin users in the U.S. Opiates, specifically heroin, played a role in 80 percent of drug-related fatalities in Europe and, in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that heroin-related deaths across the nation increased 45 percent from 2006 to 2010.

Though statistics regarding opioid abuse can be startling, recovery from opioid addiction is possible. Currently, many rehabilitation facilities boast success rates of nearly 70 percent and low relapse rates of 15 to 30 percent. The highest documented success rates specifically for heroin recovery are achieved through long-term treatment programs, generally lasting three to six months and offering support, structure, and long-term aftercare programs.

Many successful programs offer medication-assisted treatment options to manage withdrawal and assist in maintaining abstinence and employ such prescribed substances as naltrexone, buprenorphine/naloxone, and methadone. Naltrexone, an opiate antagonist, blocks opiate receptors, produces no physical dependence and can be used when patients are free of withdrawal symptoms. In 2010, the U.S. FDA approved a safe and effective sustained release form of naltrexone. This injectable medication blocks the effects of opioids for up to five weeks. Known to block opioid cravings, buprenorphine/naloxone blocks the effects of other opiates, including heroin, and is approved for office-based treatment. Methadone is a controlled substance known to reduce opioid’s euphoric and sedating effects as well as reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms. It does not produce euphoria or sedation in patients receiving a stable dose and allows those in recovery to work and participate in society. Because methadone has a long half-life and is metabolized slowly, patients need only take it once a day.

According to Health Canada’s publication, “Methadone Maintenance Treatment,” a comprehensive approach to recovery is a critical factor in successful recovery from heroin addiction. The publication states, “The most effective opiate agonist maintenance programs provide methadone as well as other medical, behavioral, and social services”. In choosing the best treatment options, experts note that abstinence remains a viable alternative for those individuals who are young and have not experienced significant consequences to opioid use. However, evidence shows that there are improved outcomes with medication-assisted treatment. Patients should be made aware of all available options when choosing a treatment path. The most important factor in developing a treatment plan is an initial comprehensive assessment with a physician who has broad experience in addiction medicine.

The Chopra Addiction & Wellness Center takes a unique approach to treating addiction, addictive behaviours, depression, anxiety and post-traumatic disorder. The first treatment facility in North America to provide a holistic method for recovery, the Center employs both modern Western medicine and Eastern healing techniques, including Ayurveda to help guests heal their lives from the inside. When guests first arrive at the Center, they participate in collaborative, extensive mind, body, spirit assessments and individualized treatment plans are consequentially developed that are reviewed on an ongoing basis.

Guests have the benefits of 24-hour support staff, individual and group therapy sessions, yoga and meditation, massage, acupuncture and regular exercise both in nature and a fully equipped gym facility. After completion of our residential program, guests may be eligible to utilize our continuing care therapy incentive program that provides substantial funding for up to twelve weeks. The compassionate, supportive environment the Center has established offers the necessary structure and assistance to help address deeper issues and help suffering individuals identify and release stored emotional pain, destructive thought-patterns and life-damaging beliefs. These are replaced with more nurturing, self-empowering behaviors and experiences, which allows individuals to lead rich, rewarding, enjoyable lives.

The Chopra Addiction & Wellness Center is dedicated to assisting you in overcoming destructive behaviours and stepping into a life of happiness and well-being. Learn more about our programs.

Connecting With Grace

A therapy dog wasn’t something Grace had remembered from her brief read through the
Centers website. It was wholly unexpected to see a honey coloured canine stroll into the
group room & join in by greeting everyone, one after another with a soft gaze & a
comforting nuzzle this morning.

Skybear was introduced as a certified therapy dog who’d had a rough start in life down
in New Mexico.

It was pretty clear life had improved for her since being found alone on the streets at 7
weeks old.

Grace caught herself feeling a common bond with this little creature. Her memories
seemed to echo Skybear’s experience when she recalled her own scary, confusing,
unpredictable, unprotected times. Grace imagined Skybear’s early life in New Mexico
would have bred the same kind of survival anxiety she knew now that she’d been

There was something about the ease with which the dog held herself that she really
wanted to embody. Grace wondered how the dog had managed to get so relaxed after
all she had been through. As she was about to pose this question, she heard Jeff begin
talking about Skybear’s rehabilitation period that had restored her equilibrium & natural
canine curiosity.

Relating to other dogs that were quickly experienced as non-threatening & friendly on
her Wednesday social ‘outings’ had apparently been a big part of it. Grace related this to
the way she herself had gradually been opening up in the growing safety of the group

Graces dog Pete was always cuddling & comforting her at home, & having another dog
as a ‘surrogate snuggler’ was a huge relief. If she was going to be completely honest,
when Skybear looked at her with those knowing brown eyes & the open, unabashed
pleasure of just being in her company – tail wagging madly – Grace felt feel a level of
acceptance that had barely been possible in the company of people.

The lack of expectation from Skybear (ok – there was definitely the occasional longing
glance at the treat cupboard!), filled her with a strange sense of relief & in this moment
at least, she felt truly connected, content & purposeful – (well hey – someone needs to
get those doggie treats down for her right?)…

To be continued…

Building our individual & collective compassion is an art.
Here at the Center, you are your own masterpiece!

Nurturing The Seeds Of New Growth

Nurturing ourselves comes in many forms – from delighting the senses & nourishing the
body with the zesty preparations of a meal, to the deep relaxation or release brought
about through therapeutic body work.

A hot soak in an epsom salt bath to ease tensions held in the body or an exciting
exploration of the natural world each day can truly feed the soul & deepen
our relationship with ourselves & with the world around us.

Unseen & at times, unnoticed by others, an internal world swirls within us as life force
moves in the form of thoughts through the mind & emotions through the body. This
energy cycles through the body with the intention of being expressed in the world. If we
have found & practiced healthy ways to process or express this personal energy, it
continues to move freely through us. If not, we may be dealing with a bit of a back log.

According to Dr. Kristin Neff, one way to begin to relieve the pressure of difficult
emotions or a back log of such, is to be present to ourselves in challenging moments,
enriching the soil of our lives with a simple yet powerful on-the-spot self compassion
techniques. A comforting hand to our own heart, along with simply acknowledging that
we are experiencing a difficult emotion can provide the more sensitive parts of
ourselves with the nurturing we may have done without on many occasions.

Checking in with ourselves in this way also serves to tune us in to subtle internal signals
that inform us of what might be most needed in that moment. This simple act of self
compassion can provide a deep, heart healing experience, rather than potentially
reinforcing habitual reactions.

The state of our hearts, bodies & minds is the soil from which the quality of our lives
sprouts up & takes form. As we nurture ourselves moment to moment, profound internal
shifts naturally occur, clearing through blocks & making way for the beauty of our true
nature to flow forth.

Living in the Flow of Passion

Using Nonviolent Communication to Nurture Your Relationships


“When all your desires are distilled
You will cast two votes:
To love more. And be happy.”

Written by Nirmala Raniga

Human beings are social creatures; we have the desire and passion to deeply connect with one another, to love and be loved, to understand and be understood. These desires are universal, and when they stem from a place of wholeness, our relationships can thrive.

Often, however, we can experience conflict in our relationships and feelings of bitterness, resentment, fear, and anger can cause us to lose our passion to connect in loving ways, resulting in damaged and broken relationships.

Many obstacles to manifesting healthy relationships can be overcome by improving our communication with one another. Opening the channels of effective communication helps us build trust and reduce stress.

The Four Steps of Nonviolent Communication
We can begin to communicate more effectively with our loved ones by practicing nonviolent communication, a powerful technique developed by psychologist Marshall Rosenberg. Whenever we find ourselves in conflict with someone in our lives, asking ourselves the following questions will bring clarity to our feelings and help us communicate with awareness and compassion.

  • What just happened? Describe the facts of the situation that is bothering you without judging or evaluating that you or the person did or didn’t do. Bring your awareness into the present and observe the situation without the judgment that springs from past experiences and emotions.
  • What are the feelings arising in me? Next, pay attention to the emotions that are coming up for you and where you are feeling them in the body. Name your feelings, avoiding the language of victimization, such as abandoned, rejected, misunderstood, or unsupported. These are not feelings but are words that evaluate another person’s actions. Taking responsibility for our feelings helps us understand ourselves and keeps us from approaching our interactions from the standpoint of a victim.
  • What do I need that I’m not receiving? Very often, we expect other people simply to know what it is we need in a given situation. This attitude is a residual feeling from infancy, when our parents or other caregivers responded to our every need without our clearly articulating them. It is important that we identify what we need and ask for it directly. Doing so leaves little room for misunderstanding, and we will have a greater chance of having our needs met.
  • What do I want to request? Once you have identified what you need, the next step is to make a request, being as specific and clear as you can. As best you can, let go of any attachment to the other person responding in the way you want. In a healthy relationship, both people need to feel free to ask for what they need as well as to say yes or no to requests without being judged, blamed, or criticized. As you express your needs and remain open to the results, you will find your relationships becoming more authentic and fulfilling. It will also be easier to know when it’s time to let go of non-nurturing relationships.

Learn more about the programs we offer here at the Center.

By committing to the practice of creating positive relationships and communicating with awareness, we also commit to inviting greater joy and passion into our lives. As we embrace healthy relationships, let us be guided by this mantra: I live in the flow of passion and love, and see how richly our desires are fulfilled.

Seeking Balance and Well-Being: A Mind-Body Approach to Depression


Written by Nirmala Raniga

Everyone feels “blue” or sad from time to time. It’s a normal life experience. But when these emotions begin to interfere with your life – if they keep you from enjoying your usual activities or disrupt relationships or responsibilities – it may be a sign of depression.

For more information about programs offered at the Center, please visit our programs page at

Depression is a serious, debilitating mental illness that affects nearly one in 10 adults. Depression is an illness – not a weakness – that causes many of those who suffer to hide their condition, feeling a strong sense of shame. In the throes of depression, it is hard to escape feelings of failure and hopelessness.

When normal emotions no longer serve you well

Becoming sad or blue isn’t a sure sign of depression. Life brings difficulties that we respond to with a wide range of normal emotions: sadness, anxiety, resignation, grief, helplessness. Moods are cyclical, and these responses to tough events most often subside on their own. If they linger, however, and there seems to be no definite cause or trigger, such as losing your job or the death of a loved one, depression is accepted as the conventional diagnosis.

Symptoms of Depression

  • Feelings of sadness or emptiness
  • Diminished interest or pleasure in usual activities
  • Significant weight loss/gain
  • Decrease/increase in appetite
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Slowing of thoughts and physical movements
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Excessive or inappropriate guilt
  • Diminished ability to think or concentrate
  • Indecisiveness
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

A mind–body approach to depression

Even though the exact causes of depression remain unclear, doctors and scientists do understand depression as a state of internal imbalance with either psychological or physiological underpinnings. Many researchers share the view that an imbalance in naturally occurring chemicals known as neurotransmitters, found throughout the brain and the body, is at the root of depression. Neurotransmitters such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, help transport messages between nerve cells. In the brain, serotonin and norepinephrine are thought to be associated with mood as well as with the regulation and reduction of pain feelings that come from the body. Imbalances in dopamine are thought to be associated with changes in appetite and the loss of pleasure, energy, or drive.

Risk Factors for Depression

  • Family history Gender (women are affected twice as often as men)
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
  • Postpartum depression
  • Death or loss of a loved one
  • Loss of employment/financial troubles
  • Serious illness or trauma
  • Substance abuse
  • Side effects from certain medications
  • Endocrine-related diseases such as hypothyroidism
  • Nutrient deficiencies in diet

Restore balance and regain your joy

The symptoms of depression and the risk factors that underlie the disease stem from a disruption in the normal balancing mechanisms of the mind and body. Treatment, therefore, should be aimed at restoring balance.

The best first step is a visit to your family doctor to find out if the cause of your depression is physiological, such as a thyroid problem, a reaction to a medication, or some other medical condition. Discuss the various treatment options with your healthcare providers, and be sure to explore all the benefits of talk therapy in addition to any medications that your doctor may prescribe.

Start Healing

Talk to a therapist. Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, works as well at combating depression as medication does for many people. It may be used alone or in combination with other forms of treatment. Focused, goal-oriented forms of therapy such as cognitive-behavior therapy appear to be the most effective in treating depression.

Optimize your diet. Mediterranean countries have low rates of depression compared to countries farther to the north—and it isn’t just because they get more sunlight or have a more relaxed lifestyle. Researchers speculate that olive oil, nuts, and fatty fish, which are rich in omega-3 and other unsaturated fatty acids, may act synergistically to enhance brain function and boost mood.

Embrace exercise. Moderate aerobic exercise 30 minutes per day, three days per week, can reduce symptoms of mild-to-moderate depression and can help with severe depression. Exercise stimulates the release of endorphins, the “feel-good” chemicals, and has been shown to raise levels of serotonin and norepinephrine, two neurotransmitters that play an important role in mood regulation.

Practice Yoga. Yoga is an excellent mind-body activity that can reduce stress and anxiety and promote feelings of well-being. Studies have shown that the breathing, stretching, and strengthening elements of yoga signal the brain to initiate the body’s relaxation response. When practicing yoga, pay close attention to your body and try to release any areas of tension you feel.

Meditate. Mindfulness meditation, in which the meditator focuses on the present moment, can be a useful treatment for both stress and mild-to-moderate depression. Numerous studies have shown that mindfulness meditation causes changes in brain activity that is associated with lower anxiety and a more positive emotional state. No special gear is needed – just a quiet space and a few free minutes.

If you feel too helpless and hopeless to take the first steps towards healing, outside help may be needed, specifically a therapist or counselor who specializes in depression. Help is available. Connect to doctors, therapists, family, and friends that you trust who can support you in rebalancing your life, gaining control over the disorder, understanding who you are, and elevating your vision of possibilities for yourself.

Boost Your Balance

  • Spend time with people who help you feel alive and vibrant.
  • Talk to and share your feelings with those who listen with empathy and offer positive support.
  • Avoid negative people. Depression can be contagious.
  • Regain a sense of control.
  • Claim your sense of self. Know what you need and maintain boundaries.
  • Address situations that would make anyone sad, such as grief, loss, or an unfulfilling job or
  • relationship.
  • Treat your body well. Exercise.
  • Reduce stress.
  • Get enough sleep. Shoot for 8 hours per night.
  • Work with your physician to combine any necessary antidepressants with other therapies.

For more information on depression, its causes and cures, visit

To view Dr. Deepak Chopra’s video “Shedding Light on the Darkness,” visit

Disorder – How am I Looking….

It is estimated that eight million Americans have an eating disorder – seven million women and one million men.
People suffering from eating disorders either over-eat or under-nourish their bodies in an attempt to establish some control in their lives. They use food manipulation as a way to mask their emotions, to fill a void they feel inside and/or to handle the daily stresses. A key component in eating disorders is an excessive concern about one’s weight and shape and a negative, distorted body image. The underlying causes of these disordered eating problems are psychological, biological, cultural, and spiritual. Many people who cannot control their eating behaviors suffer from a low sense of self-worth, which leaves them susceptible to media messages that imply that those with ‘ideal’ bodies can be confident, successful, healthy and happy.

Of all the people with eating disorders, 90 to 95 per cent are female, many of them being in their teens or younger. Now, in addition, these illnesses are appearing among women in their later adulthood, even elder years. There is evidence to suggest that it is women in the Western world who are at the highest risk of developing these conditions, but the degree of westernization occurring around the globe is increasing the risk for women universally. The portrayal of women in the media, the preoccupation with body size and the tendency to measure a person’s worth by their physical attributes are all considered to be factors contributing to the development of eating disorders. But it’s not just a women’s disease. The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders Inc. says that an estimated 10-15 percent of people suffering from an eating disorder are male. While men aren’t as obsessed with their weight, per se as women are, they do work out and exercise, possibly to excess, to reinforce their sense of masculinity and self- worth. Among gay men, nearly 14% appeared to suffer from bulimia and over 20% appeared to be anorexic. Men are less likely to seek treatment for eating disorders because of the perception that they are “woman’s diseases.”

In an article appearing in the New York Times’ Vanishing Point on Feb 7, 2008, author G. Trebay said the fashion industry has long dictated that female models be tall and waif-like. However male models are now facing increased pressure to slim down and appear more androgynous in order to book fashion jobs. The emphasis on thinness (for women) and muscularity (for men) often goes beyond simple body image to leave the erroneous impression that slimness is associated with positive character qualities, such as reliability, trustworthiness and honesty.

There are many societal, familial and individual factors that can influence the development of an eating disorder. Individuals who are struggling with their identity and self-image can be at risk, as well as those who have experienced a traumatic upbringing or event. In addition, many sufferers of eating disorders report feeling powerless about their socioeconomic environment and view dieting, exercise and purging as an empowering means of controlling their lives. Though the root causes of disordered eating vary for each individual, it is important to include the contemporary role of media as well as sociocultural pressures, both of which emphasizes being thin as central to an ideal of beauty.

There are a number of types of eating disorders. One is anorexia nervosa, a condition defined as a drastic weight loss caused by self-induced starvation. People suffering from this condition may appear emaciated and unhealthy because of excessive dieting. Some individuals may lose 15 per cent or more of their body mass yet continue to diet and exercise obsessively. Even in their emaciated condition, they see themselves as overweight, wanting to lose even more weight.

Individuals suffering from bulimia nervosa experience weight fluctuations that correspond to periods of binge-eating, followed by vomiting or purging with laxatives, use of diuretics or diet pills, fasting and compulsive exercise. . Binges may be large amounts of food, or sometimes a normal meal is experienced as a binge. There is a tremendous fear of weight gain and most with bulimia are constantly pre-occupied with food and weight. About half of those with anorexia nervosa develop symptoms of bulimia, but most people with bulimia are normally weighted.

Men and Women living with Binge Eating Disorder suffer a combination of symptoms similar to those of bulimics. The sufferer periodically goes on large binges, uncontrollably consuming an unusually large quantity of food in a short period of time (less than 2 hours), eating until they are uncomfortably full. Unlike with bulimia, though, they do not purge following a binge episode. These individuals can be overweight, and they are usually aware that their eating habits are abnormal, but find little comfort because of society’s tendency to stereotype the overweight individual. They feel guilty for not being good enough, shame for being overweight, and generally have a very low self-esteem.

Binge eating can be used as a way to keep people away, to subconsciously maintain an overweight appearance to cater to society’s sad stigma, “if I’m fat, no one will like me,” as each person suffering may feel undeserving of love.

Eating disorders may cause individuals to feel tired and depressed and to experience decreased mental functioning and concentration. They can also lead to malnutrition causing risk to bone health, physical growth, and brain development. In addition there are increased risks of osteoporosis and fertility problems, a weakened immune system, and decreased heart rate, blood pressure and metabolic rate.

Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. A study by the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders reported that 5 – 10% of anorexics die within 10 years after contracting the disease; 18-20% of anorexics will be dead after 20 years and only 30 – 40% ever fully recovers. Up to twenty percent of patients with eating disorders eventually die of their illness, and another fifteen percent resort to suicide

The precise causes of eating disorders are not entirely understood, but there is evidence that development of the disease may be linked to other conditions, such as ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) in younger people or PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). People with eating disorders often have other psychological illnesses, including major depressions, anxiety disorders and substance abuse. They may also be caused by environmental situations including social isolation, parental authority and cultural pressures to name a few. Early intervention is important to restore healthy attitudes and habits regarding food and eating. The behaviors of these disorders have a strong component of addiction, as the behaviors are compelling, and have destructive consequences. People with eating disorders often deny they have a problem and avoid seeking treatment. Treatment is most effective if it can be inter-disciplinary. A medical assessment is crucial, as well as continued medical supervision. Individual therapy is important as well as nutritional support and education. Group therapy is also very helpful to support recovery as it helps to reduce the shame which is such a core element of these illnesses.

For the past three years, the Chopra Addiction and Wellness Center (CTC) in Squamish BC has been helping guests become free from their disordered eating patterns and discover the joy of a non-addicted life. During the 6-week residential program, the Center’s inter-disciplinary team helps individuals to gain insight into their disorder, learn about triggers and develop coping methods to help them deal with emotional difficulties in healthier ways, rather than resorting to food and weight manipulation.

Deepak Chopra in his 21 Day Meditation Challenge on how to be healthy says “It is important that we appreciate and celebrate food and all that it does for our bodies. Eating with awareness, taking our time as we chew our food and sitting at a beautifully set dinner table with loved ones rather than in front of the television are habits that create an ideal metobalocis environment for both our mind and body.”

Unique to other addiction treatment centers, CTC offers the first truly holistic addiction recovery method in North America, combining the latest breakthroughs in modern Western medicine with the mindfulness approach of the ancient Ayurvedic healing methods of the East to unlock the human potential and bring about a return to wholeness. Originating in India 5000 years ago, Ayurveda focuses on the individual as a whole; physically, emotionally and spiritually. In addition to group and individual therapy, residents at CTC benefit from the mind, body, spirit healing that addresses the needs of all five senses: touch (massage), sound (music), sight (art therapy) smell (aromatherapy) and taste (vegetarian cuisine), which, when combined with meditation, yoga and acupuncture, promote balance and integration of mind, body and spirit. Ayurveda places great importance on diet. Most of the western diet is based on sweet, sour and salty foods, all of which carry too many toxins. At CTC, all the food is strictly vegetarian, made fresh daily using organic fruits and vegetables which incorporate all six tastes: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, astringent and bitter. This allows the body to absorb most of the nutrients to allow for better overall well-being. CTC’s chefs use variety of spices to enhance, give aroma and allow the digestive fire to ignite. Using this mindfulness approach and paying attention to all five senses, residents transcend and overcome addiction.

For more informtion on how CTC helps people change addictive behaviors, visit

Addicted to Alcohol? There is Hope!



Written by Nirmala Raniga


Alcoholism is a chronic brain disease that causes compulsive substance use despite harmful consequences.  Addiction to alcohol is insidious.  It usually starts small but for some people, grows out of control. Alcohol is a legal drug that can produce pleasant effects in smaller amounts but produces dangerous consequences when consumed in higher quantities.

Most people drink alcohol, and do so responsibly. Alcohol being a legal drug, it is socially acceptable when used in moderation. People often drink alcohol during social occasions; it slows down parts of the brain, making you feel relaxed and can mask shyness. However, this loosening of inhibitions that alcohol creates can lead to an inability to think clearly, make good decisions and do various tasks. For most people, moderate social drinking usually starts out with a cocktail or two at friendly gatherings. Then wine at dinner, or a highball after work are added to the choice of beverages at home, and that’s the end of it.  For some, however, these innocent beginnings turn into an addiction that can ruin their health, their home life and their career. Too often, the recklessness resulting from excessive drinking is a leading cause of serious injury and accidental death.

Drinking againThe side effects of too much alcohol are devastating and life-threatening.  In one evening of social drinking, an enjoyable time with the relaxing sensations can turn into a series of embarrassing and dangerous effects after consuming higher amounts of alcohol; lack of coordination, slurred speech, flushed skin, the likelihood of falls or accidents, blackouts, possible alcoholic poisoning or the accidental death of the drinker and/or an innocent third party.

Alcoholics fall into two main categories of problem drinkers: alcohol dependence or alcohol abuse – sometimes both.

About one person in twenty who drinks is dependent on alcohol. Alcohol dependence is the inability to quit drinking, even if the desire to stop is there.  People who are dependent on alcohol lose control of their alcohol use, consistently drink more and for longer periods than intended and have developed a high tolerance to the drug. They suffer from withdrawal syndrome after a period of time without a drink and continue drinking no matter what the consequences.  Many people who are dependent on alcohol can hide it from their peers for years, continuing to function in a way that appears normal to the outside world, so long as they have their required number of drinks each day. Left untreated, though, alcohol dependence can cause major problems with friends and family, work, their health, both emotional and physical, the law and money. In addition, people who are drunk and insist on driving cause devastating accidents and loss of innocent lives.

Similarly, people whose drinking falls into the category of alcohol abuse are unable to control their use of the drug, but for these addicts, their pattern of drinking leads to the failure to fulfill responsibilities at work, home or school and they drink in situations that are physically hazardous. Their families desert them. They lose their jobs. They become financially insolvent. And again, they are at risk of causing accidents and unnecessary death to innocent victims.

Over time, excessive drinking can lead to serious health consequences, including liver damage, brain and nerve damage, high blood pressure and strokes, greater risk of heart disease, impotence, infertility, breast and throat cancer and premature aging to name a few.

Alcohol is the most common cause of preventable birth defects, including fetal alcohol syndrome which means the baby may have physical abnormalities, behaviour problems and other difficulties. For pregnant women, there is no known safe level of drinking. A woman who drinks during pregnancy is more likely to have a miscarriage, to have the baby born too early, to have the baby born dead, or to have other problems.

Similarly, if a woman is breastfeeding, alcohol can be passed to her baby through the milk. This may affect the baby’s feeding, its sleep and how it develops.

Addiction to alcohol is a chronic illness that can be treated and cured. Unfortunately treatment is often complicated by denial and/or a lack of understanding about substance abuse. Addiction to alcohol is fulfilling a need within ourselves. People who chose to over-indulge in intoxicants are searching for something in their lives that will make them feel better. Physiologically our brains are hard- wired to a reward circuitry that provides us with pleasure. We naturally repeat behaviours that give us with the reward or pleasure we want. If the effects of alcohol give us a feeling of confidence, or an increased sense of self-worth, we “logically” reach for another drink.

Recovery from this illness requires multiple forms of treatment. Individuals with this condition are prone to relapse. The first step on the road to recovery is recognition of the problem. The second is seeking help to stop drinking. Abruptly stopping alcohol use in a person who is dependent on alcohol can be dangerous. An alcoholic who needs to drink daily should stop their use of alcohol under the supervision of a physician, and may need medication during their withdrawal.

Long-term preventive treatment should begin after the addict recovers from immediate symptoms. This may involve a “drying out” period, in which no alcohol is allowed. Total and lifelong avoidance of alcohol (abstinence) is recommended for most people who go through withdrawal. In addition, therapy and self-help groups provide support and help addicted individuals understand their behavior and motivations.

For the past three years, the Chopra Addiction and Wellness Center (CTC) in Squamish BC has been helping people with addictive behaviours “re-wire” their reward circuitry and create a new memory free from harmful cravings. Dr. Deepak Chopra, partner in the CTC addiction recovery center says this re-wiring of the nervous system, which is called neuroplasticity, enables the brain to reorganize itself so human beings can create new neural pathways through new experiences.  Under the guidance of the professional staff at CTC, emotional pain can be identified and experienced with safety and support not previously possible. This re-wiring can produce new empowering, liberating experiences that don’t require alcohol to bring about pleasure.  New choices that nourish the mind, body and spirit, can be revealed, thus bringing about healing and transformation.

The Chopra Addiction and Wellness Center offers the first truly holistic addiction recovery method in North America.  The healing team at CTC combines the latest breakthroughs in modern Western medicine with the healing arts of the East.  The goal of the holistic health care experts at CTC is to restore balance and wholeness in the lives of the people who come for help.  Guests at the Center have an opportunity to become free of the initial magnet that drew them to alcohol abuse and to discover the joy of a non-addicted life. Deepak Chopra, M.D. and David Simon, M.D., co-founders of the Chopra Center for Wellbeing in Carlsbad, California, developed a recovery method, Freedom from Addiction, unlike any other. The four and  six week residential programs offer individuals intensive, personalized treatment that address the deeper issues at the root of addiction and help individuals identify and release stored emotional pain, destructive thought-patterns and life-damaging beliefs. These are replaced with more nurturing, self-empowering behaviors and experiences.

An integral part of the program at CTC is inclusion of the ancient healing system called Ayurveda. Originating in India 5000 years ago, Ayurveda focuses on the individual as a whole; physically, emotionally and spiritually. Ayurveda uses various techniques and tools to unlock the human potential that has been buried within a being to bring about healing and a return to wholeness. In addition to group and individual therapy, residents at CTC benefit from the mind, body, spirit healing that addresses the needs of all five senses:  touch (twice weekly massage,) sound (music,) taste (vegetarian cuisine,)  sight (art therapy) and smell (aromatherapy )along with meditation, yoga and acupuncture. Using this mindfulness approach and paying attention to all five senses, residents transcend and overcome addiction.

Use the Power of Intention

By Deepak Chopra, M.D.DeepakChopraPhotoCreditJeremiahSullivan1

Intention is the starting point of every dream. It is the creative power that fulfills all of our needs, whether for money, relationships, spiritual awakening, or love.

Everything that happens in the universe begins with intention. When I decide to buy a birthday present, wiggle my toes, or call a friend, it all starts with intention.

The sages of India observed thousands of years ago that our destiny is ultimately shaped by our deepest intentions and desires. The classic Vedic text known as the Upanishads declares, “You are what your deepest desire is. As your desire is, so is your intention. As your intention is, so is your will. As your will is, so is your deed. As your deed is, so is your destiny.”

An intention is a directed impulse of consciousness that contains the seed form of that which you aim to create. Like real seeds, intentions can’t grow if you hold on to them. Only when you release your intentions into the fertile depths of your consciousness can they grow and flourish. In my book The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, the Law of Intention and Desire lays out the five steps for harnessing the power of intention to create anything you desire.

1.  Slip into the Gap
Most of the time our mind is caught up in thoughts, emotions, and memories. Beyond this noisy internal dialogue is a state of pure awareness that is sometimes referred to as “the gap.” One of the most effective tools we have for entering the gap is meditation. Meditation takes you beyond the ego-mind into the silence and stillness of pure consciousness. This is the ideal state in which to plant your seeds of intention. (To learn more about meditation, please visit

2.  Release Your Intentions and Desires
Once you’re established in a state of restful awareness, release your intentions and desires. The best time to plant your intentions is during the period after meditation, while your awareness remains centered in the quiet field of all possibilities. After you set an intention, let it go – simply stop thinking about it. Continue this process for a few minutes after your meditation period each day.

3.  Remain Centered in a State of Restful Awareness
Intention is much more powerful when it comes from a place of contentment than if it arises from a sense of lack or need. Stay centered and refuse to be influenced by other people’s doubts or criticisms. Your higher self knows that everything is all right and will be all right, even without knowing the timing or the details of what will happen.

4.  Detach from the Outcome
Relinquish your rigid attachment to a specific result and live in the wisdom of uncertainty. Attachment is based on fear and insecurity, while detachment is based on the unquestioning belief in the power of your true Self. Intend for everything to work out as it should, then let go and allow opportunities and openings to come your way.

5.  Let the Universe Handle the Details
Your focused intentions set the infinite organizing power of the universe in motion. Trust that infinite organizing power to orchestrate the complete fulfillment of your desires. Don’t listen to the voice that says that you have to be in charge, that obsessive vigilance is the only way to get anything done. The outcome that you try so hard to force may not be as good for you as the one that comes naturally. You have released your intentions into the fertile ground of pure potentiality, and they will bloom when the season is right.

Focus Your Intentions

The best way to focus your intentions is to write them down. Although this may seem like an obvious first step, many people ignore it, and their intentions remain vague and unrealized. Set aside some time to think about what you really want. Be as specific as possible and don’t limit yourself. What do you really, really want?

Material Abundance: What do you want on the material level? Your own house with a garden? Write that down. Do you want to pay off a loan or take a vacation? Also consider your desires for sensory gratification – sound, touch, sight, taste, and smell.

Relationships: Write down all your desires for your relationships – your romantic partner, friends, children, parents, co-workers, and any others.

Spiritual Awakening: What would nourish your heart and soul? Do want to go on a meditation retreat? Start a journaling practice? Write down the spiritual intentions you have for yourself.

Personal Goals: What areas of your life would you like to nurture this year? Do you want a new intellectual challenge such as studying a language or learning new software? Would you like more time to play or develop a hobby? Write down what you truly want.

Community: What do you want to contribute to your neighborhood, country, or the world? Consider how you might use your unique talents to serve others.

Health: What are your health goals? Do you want to learn to meditate? Exercise regularly? Get more sleep? Are you ready to let go of emotional pain from the past? Write down everything you desire for your physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing.

Keep this list with you and look at it once or twice during the day as well as just before you meditate.

Massage Therapy

The healing touch that is more than skin deep


Massage Therapy is an integral part of the holistic healing experience that guests at Chopra Addiction and Wellness Center receive. Individuals suffering from addictive behaviours, substance abuse issues, anxiety, eating disorders, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are usually suffering from physical pain as well. Headaches, stiff muscles and joints, back pain – even skin problems are among the side effects that accompany the many types of emotional issues our guests bring with them to the Center. Therapeutic massages nourish and release the natural healing forces of each individual and relieve the physical pain that is adding to their emotional crises. A major contributor to recovery, massage therapy reduces tension and pain within muscles, increases joint flexibility, reduces stress and increases each guest’s body awareness. By focusing on their physical wellbeing, guests have a chance to “get out of their heads,” which is where so much of their personal journey at the Center takes place, and re-establish a sense of physical safety and connection with their internal resources.

Our registered massage therapist Carol Zuckernick explains that our skin is a powerful sensory organ and guests who are impaired with emotional suffering or have PTSD are usually numb. They cannot access their feelings. “Touch can be an extremely negative experience, especially after sexual abuse or violation,” Carol says.  “People who have had a traumatic physical crisis do not like being in their body. They turn to alcohol or drugs to avoid feeling the pain associated with their negative experience,” Carol continues.

At the Center, Carol offers guests two types of massage: Therapeutic Massage, which is the most commonly known, and Thai Massage, a technique that can enhance the guests’ Yoga experience.  Both are exceedingly beneficial at appropriate times.

During Therapeutic Massage, the guest is lying on the table and treatment focuses on areas of injury, tension, postural and sometimes emotional issues. Carol sees the treatment as a stress-relieving time and usually follows the guest’s wishes regarding specific areas of their bodies that need attention, the amount of pressure they want, and even whether or not they would prefer silence to talking during the massage. Sometimes she will suggest a specific treatment if she sees the need and the guest is open to it.  Among other things, massage increases circulation, range of motion and decreases tension.

Thai Massage has the same benefits as Therapeutic Massage but is very different in its delivery.  The guest wears yoga or loose fitting clothes and is on mats and sheets on the ground. Guiding the guest through a series of Yoga postures, Carol uses her hands, elbows, knees and feet, to relieve muscular tension, improve circulation, boost the immune system and balance the body energetically. Carol tempers the pressure and positions to the comfort of the guest.  Several guests have called it passive yoga!  Guests are encouraged to try a Thai massage even just once. It enables Carol to get a better sense of their joint flexibility – information she shares with the yoga teachers so those classes can be of further benefit.  However, in saying that, the guest chooses the type of massage therapy they want. If they need down time Carol recommends the regular massage as there is less moving. If they want to enhance their yoga practice, Thai Massage is the way to go.

Jessana, a guest from the US wrote the following kudos to the Centre following her stay,

Food was AMAZING, massages incredible, acupuncture wonderful,

  beautiful grounds, great therapy and comfortable living… Thank you.”

Most guests tell Carol that they will continue with massage in their after-care, a definite indication that they have found benefit of massage in their healing process.