Skip to content

Native American Addiction Recovery & The Sweat Lodge

You’ve probably heard of several common Native American ceremonies, such as a powwow, sun dance, or drumming circle. Ceremony has been a central part of indigenous communities since time immemorial. Each ceremony has a particular focus, but generally, they are used to boost mental, physical, and spiritual health. They believe that each healing ceremony can better connect mind, body, and spirit.

The type of ceremonies varies based on the tribe, region, and nation of the indigenous, but some are common across the board. Common ceremonies include smudging, the pipe ceremony, rain dance, drumming, vision quest, and a sweat lodge.

This article gives a general description of the sweat lodge ceremony, which is a sacred native American ceremony that can help strengthen your connection to the spiritual world.

Sweat Lodge at Navajo National Monument

What Is A Sweat Lodge Ceremony?

A sweat lodge, which represents Mother Earth’s womb, is a native American purification and healing ceremony.  It takes place outside in what’s considered a sacred portion of the land.  The exact space for a sweat lodge will be chosen by prayer. It will then be cleaned up and prepared for the sweat lodge.

The sweat lodge is usually dome-shaped and built out of natural materials. It’s common to use blankets or animal skins to cover the lodge. A fire pit will be dug in the center of the lodge. This will be where the hot rocks will be placed when they are carried into the lodge by the firekeeper.

The ceremony leader, or firekeeper, will build a fire outside of the lodge.  They will be the one that heats up the stones that will be used to add heat to the inside of the sweat lodge. Once the participants are sitting inside the lodge, the ceremony leader will bring in the hot stones one or several at a time to add heat to the lodge.

The ceremony leader will be in the lodge with the participants, offering prayer and songs. The participants are encouraged to pray and sing as well. 

What Do Participants Wear In A Sweat Lodge?

Men typically wear loose fitting shorts and a tank top or  t-shirt. Some choose to go shirtless. Women are encouraged to wear shorts or a sarong and a T shirt. Participants go in barefoot and may be asked to remove their jewelry before they enter the ceremony. Keep in mind that there will be plenty of sweating during the ceremony, so wear clothes that you’re comfortable sweating in.

How Hot Does A Sweat Lodge Get?

The temperature can vary from one lodge to another, but it can get extremely hot in a sweat lodge. The intensity may depend on the personal preference of the ceremony leader, but typically a sweat lodge can be anywhere from 100 to 120 degrees. The intense heat tends to help participants become more aware of their present moment, and intensify their prayers and mental state.

There are typically four rounds to complete a sweat lodge, with participants being able to get out in between each round. The time-frame between rounds may vary. If you feel that it becomes too hot or you’re really struggling, you can leave the sweat lodge at any time. You do not have to wait for the break.

Due to the high intensity of heat, you may become thirsty while in the lodge. Be sure that you hydrate well before you enter the sweat lodge, as drinks aren’t typically allowed in an actual lodge. You can, however, hydrate during the breaks.

How Long Does A Sweat Lodge Ceremony Last?

The time frame for a sweat lodge may vary from place to place, but most last between two to four hours. This is something that you may want to ask they sweat lodge leader before agreeing to enter the lodge. Some people are more comfortable with the thought of enduring high heat than others. Also, if this is your first sweat lodge, you may want to try one that’s less intense or shorter in time frame.

Don’t be afraid to ask the sweat lodge leader any questions.

Signs You’re Struggling With An Alcohol or Drug Addiction

For Native Americans who may be struggling with addiction or substance abuse, some addiction recovery centers incorporate culturally relevant spiritual modalities such as the sweat lodge.

The following are ten signs of alcohol or drug addiction. If you happen to see yourself in some of them, you may be struggling with addiction and would benefit from an inpatient or outpatient drug rehab. 

1. Using drugs even though you do not have a medical reason to take them (e.g. taking pain killers even though you are not in any pain.) 

2. Abusing prescription drugs, such as taking them in larger quantities or more frequently than your doctor instructed you to. Or, you may be taking them in a different way than they’re supposed to be taken. (e.g. by mixing them with alcohol.) 

3. Drinking alcohol or taking drugs to help you get through the week.

4. Not being able to stop drinking or taking drugs whenever you want or need.

5. Experiencing “blackouts” because you are drinking or taking drugs.

6. Feeling guilty about how much you’re abusing substances. 

7. Losing friends or family members because of your alcohol or drug consumption.

8. Neglecting your family, friends, significant others or even your responsibilities (e.g. failing to show up at work, failing to pick up your children from school) because of your substance use. 

9. Experiencing withdrawal symptoms (e.g. anxiety, insomnia, headaches, sweating, nausea, palpitations, heart attacks, hallucinations, delirium tremens), when you try to stop using substances.

10. Behaving differently, such as becoming aggressive, while you are on drugs or drinking.

If you are doing less than three things on this list, you might have a low level of problems which are related to drug abuse. However, if you are doing four or more of the things that are mentioned on this list, you have a moderate level of addiction.

In such a case, it may be necessary for you to get some help for your addiction. Attending an inpatient or outpatient addiction recovery rehab may suit you well, as there you can detox and get the necessary counseling necessary during rehab to prepare you for a drug-free life.

Native American Addiction Recovery & The Sweat Lodge

Here at Sunrise Native Recovery, we incorporate Native American and spiritual rituals and ceremonies into our recovery program. We offer an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) and Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) that includes supportive housing.

Our PHP program consists of five hours of group therapy six days a week.  Our IOP program consists of four hours of group therapy six days a week. Both programs include a case manager and individual therapist who you will see twice a week.

We also have sober living homes that are modern, welcoming, and have all the amenities you would desire in a home away from home, including television, computer room, movie theatre, swimming pool, and meals.

As part of our culturally based addiction recovery, we offer a sweat lodge to those who come to the program working on their addiction recovery. We believe ceremonies such as this can help you become stronger in your recovery and boost your spiritual growth.

If you’d like to learn more, please contact us today. We’d love to discuss your situation and answer any questions you may have. 

Related Blog Posts

Detoxing: Your First Step Toward Sobriety

Detoxing: Your First Step Toward Sobriety

Addiction to alcohol or drugs can cause a lot of suffering for an individual and their family. The consequences can…
Are You Addicted To Alcohol? Alcoholism Warning Signs

Are You Addicted To Alcohol? Alcoholism Warning Signs

According to the National Institute of Health, about 7 percent of native Americans living in the United States struggle with…
Growth and Recovery Through Native American Spirituality

Growth and Recovery Through Native American Spirituality

Knowing who you are and what your purpose is are two important questions most people ask throughout their lives. After…

Culturally-Based Addiction Recovery for Native Americans