Your brain is incredible. You are processing, receiving, and evaluating thousands of thoughts faster than you can even be aware of them. While having such a strong mind has sustained your life and empowered you beyond your comprehension, everyone experiences times when a hyperactive mind can be hard to deal with.
Addiction to substance abuse is one of many ways in which the brain can get hijacked, because it clouds your ability to think about your real needs, replacing all desires with an impulse to use. That is why learning how to recover the use of your mind is such an important part of long-term recovery. While there are many ways to do this, many people have found that meditation can be an important tool in the process.
What is Meditation:
Although meditation has roots in spiritual traditions going back thousands of years, it has basic principles and practices can be valuable for anyone. Essentially, mediation involves taking some time out your day to quiet your mind by reflecting intently on something in the present moment. There are multiple types, including focusing on objects in the room, scanning through the feel of your body in space, closing your eyes and repeating a mantra of encouragement, or paying close attention as you eat or walk. All of them are designed to create a calm way to acknowledge and deal with thoughts as they arise.
How Meditation Helps Recovery:
An important part of maintaining your sobriety is learning how to gain control over your thoughts, and create a sense of what is called “psychic distance” between your thoughts and your behaviors. Even after a long time in sobriety, you may occasionally experience the desire to drink or use again. Early recovery can also bring up a lot of powerful emotions and confusions that can easily get overwhelming.
With psychic distance, you are able to acknowledge thoughts without acting on them, as you would let a car go by without “getting in.” Mindlessly giving into your every whim will quickly lead to relapse, and tragedy, and trying to focus all of your attention to push these emotions out of the way or resisting can lead to anxiety and exhaustion, as the unwanted thoughts only come back stronger than ever.
The regular practice of meditation offers a better way. By directing your attention to something outside yourself, you develop a detachment from your thoughts. You learn to view yourself from a third-person perspective, accepting what comes and learning how to feel peaceful and content in the midst of it.
Meditation is something anyone can do, though it will be strengthened with practice. There are a wide variety of smartphone apps, videos online, and resources to guide you through specific medications, including Sober Meditations that focuses specifically on issues of recovery. It is also something you can do yourself. Simply try closing your eyes, and bringing your attention to your breath. Pay attention to what your breathing feels like, not necessarily changing it, but merely acknowledging what is there. As you get distracted, simply acknowledge, “I am having a thought,” or “This is how I am feeling,” and then gently bring your mind and attention back to the breath.
The Desire to Relapse:
The techniques of meditation can be used as a way to examine yourself in the midst of the stresses of the recovery process. If you find yourself experiencing the urge to drink or use, or are in an environment where you feel vulnerable, you can use a short meditation to take stock of your surroundings and your internal feelings. After you have calmed yourself, think about what is going on with your body and your mind, what you are feeling and thinking. By developing a sense of distance between yourself and your urges, you can allow them to get smaller, and choose, gently, to do something more supportive to your well-being.