New age meets old school in this approach to treating mental health issues. You’ve seen social media gurus and life coaches post about it. Depression and anxiety, weight loss, and even pain management have all seen an uptick in patients opting for more holistic avenues of intervention.
Chief among these is a mindfulness practice known as meditation. While meditation has been around almost as long as people, its use as a tool for substance abuse recovery is fairly new.
I was 21 years old and attending my second 12 Step meeting ever. The leader of the meeting read a dated passage from a small book of someone else’s thoughts. The passage read almost like a diary discussing the author’s struggles with acceptance and alcoholism as well as a lifelong quest for perfection.
I related to nearly every word. So much so, I decided this would be the night I’d raise my hand and share my personal experience on the subject. I mentally prepared my words as the man finished reading and nodded to a fellow meeting goer in the back corner. He switched on a few flameless candles in the front of the room. The woman in the back turned out the lights.
Confused, I turned and furrowed my brows in questioning toward a familiar member of the group. “It’s a meditation meeting” he whispered. This was of no consolation to an overly excited newly sober addict who’d finally found the courage to share. I was instead met with the punishing expectation of sitting silently with those thoughts for the remaining 40 minutes meeting. It was the longest 40 minutes of my life and I have not intentionally attended a meditation meeting since.
The meeting format was not ideal for a newly sober adult woman desperate for connection. I was tortured by my own inner narrative. However, the meditation itself would continue to be a crucial tool in managing my addiction and recovery for years to come.
So How Can Meditation Help in Addiction Recovery?
Addiction is only one manifestation of a larger problem most easily recognized as impulse control. To the average person, the idea of a midday cocktail may sound enticing. But, the action of day drinking is often halted by considerations acting as brakes from impulsive actions.
The non-addicted mind easily pauses to weigh the consequences and rewards of the drink. Conversely, the addicted mind operates solely from a lens of benefit. Unable to see the potential risks of having an alcoholic beverage halfway through the workday, the addicted mind reacts impulsively seeking comfort.
During meditation, our breathing is slowed, and we are focused on our minds and bodies. Although impulsive thoughts may penetrate our efforts to quiet the mind, the practice of meditation allows us to release those thoughts like passing balloons. It allows these thoughts to simply float by without the need to pursue impulsive action to our own detriment.
When was the last time you drank a glass of water? When did you last exercise or stretch? Does any part of your body hurt or ache? How long has that been going on?
We live our lives in constant motion, sometimes to the point of unawareness. As we move through tasks and obligations, we can feel the weight of discomfort nagging us from below. This discomfort can be written off as depression, anxiety, being overwhelmed, or just general dissatisfaction with life. How easily we misfile our problems effectively creating a narrative supportive of a return to substance use.
In meditation we are quiet and still. We listen to the needs of our bodies and notice deficiencies we can correct. Listening to our bodies sounds like common sense but for those struggling with addiction, meditation can be the difference between a large glass of wine or a large glass of water.
Sorting Through Toxic Patterns
When we practice meditation frequently, we begin to notice patterns in our suppressed thoughts and feelings. What happens when we are still? What are the reoccurring thoughts or needs?
When we are more aware of our thoughts it becomes significantly easier to change or divert patterns that may not be conducive to recovery. The art of studying our minds makes us more adept at identifying how we operate. Reading our own manuals can offer us some quick fixes to problems that may feel overwhelming when we are going in blindly.
Increases Resistance To Stress
In meditation, we are feeding our minds and taking care of our needs. We are rewarding our busy brains with rest and recharge. This process of recharging restores our internal batteries.
When we face stress with only half our battery life it becomes easy to drain us down to critical stores. However, when we face troubles with a full battery the negative effects of stress are less damaging, making it easier to move on and recover.
Cost-Effective And Safe
Medications and therapeutic interventions serve their purpose in the journey of recovery. However, these methods of treatment are not always available nor are they affordable to all. The practice of regular meditation serves to embolden an individual with their own tools in times of crisis and woe, when clinical or psychiatric intervention may not be readily accessible.
Meditation is completely free and can be utilized nearly any time in any setting. There have been no reported side effects or health risks from the practice of meditation thereby making it one of the safest and widely practiced skills in maintaining substance use recovery.
To learn more about holistic healing from substance abuse and mindfulness modalities for recovery contact our addiction treatment experts at Mississippi Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center, today!