How Meditation Helps Recovering Addicts: Healing Your Thoughts
In a certain way meditation and addiction are opposites: meditation is checking in with the here and now, while addiction is checking out of the here and now. By giving them more control over their emotions and insight into themselves, meditation can be a powerful tool for addicts at all stages of recovery. There’s plenty of evidence that meditation plays a number of remarkable roles in helping heal addictions.
Meditation teaches how to make choices. As cravings continue to arise, especially in early recovery, individuals can observe their thoughts and desires without having to act on them. Recovering addicts learn that they are not responsible for their thoughts, but they are responsible for how they react to those thoughts. Through meditation they can acknowledge their addictive thoughts without trying to push them away, yet choose the path of recovery.
The mental clarity that comes from the practice of meditation makes it easier for addicts to make healthy choices that support their recovery.
People in early recovery typically experience mood swings, described by some as an emotional rollercoaster. By training the mind to focus on one thing—a sound, word, or breath—at a time, meditation helps recovering addicts maintain a degree of emotional balance.
Meditators find they can even change their temperament through mindfulness, turning, for example, aggression into assertiveness or passivity into peacefulness. Researchers believe that meditation actually changes the physiology of the brain, building up areas associated with optimism and compassion and minimizing the strength of areas associated with fear, pessimism, and depression.
Individuals who practice meditation gain insights into themselves that help them make decisions that support their physical and mental health and wellbeing. Recovering addicts who keep in touch with themselves through daily meditation are more likely to recognize early warning signs that they may be headed for relapse. They can then use their other recovery tools to keep destructive behavior at bay.
Source of Enjoyment
For recovering addicts who are used to partying and having a wild time, sobriety may seem a bit dull. Meditation practice can give them a new source of joy—pleasure in living in the moment and appreciating the simplest of delights.
Mindfulness also opens doors to creativity, which often leads to greater enjoyment of life.
Recovery from addiction is a process; it’s not just about stopping abusing a substance. To stay clean and sober addicts have to examine their past, recognize their mistakes, look into their character, and lead a better life. Changing one’s life is not easy, often painful, even though the changes are for the better. For many, stress, anxiety, and depression accompany early recovery. By training the mind to focus in one place and stay in the moment, meditation helps the recovering person relax and move forward.
As people gain experience in recovery they still face the stresses of everyday life. An ongoing meditation practice helps keep things in perspective.
Many addicts come into recovery with a history of relationships that they have damaged or that have damaged them. Meditation makes it easier for them to forgive the past and develop healthy relationships.
Meditation and 12-Step Recovery
Meditation is an essential part of 12-step programs, which recognize that for many addicts spiritual health is key to breaking the addiction cycle. Step 11 of 12-step recovery includes these words, “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with god as we understand him…”
One recovering alcoholic with nearly three decades of sobriety in Alcohols Anonymous says that meditation helps her keep things simple, reduces anxiety and depression, tempers obsession, and relieves “the stinking thinking that leads to drinking.”