At St. Joseph’s, we appreciate that the road to sustainable recovery can be long, winding, and unique for each individual. There is one strategy that all people suffering from addiction can add to their arsenal – something that we incorporate into our traditional services, groups, and medical treatments. As you may recall from time spent at St. Joseph’s, we encourage those on any step of the recovery process to explore the practice of mindful meditation.
Meditation is not the legs-crossed, loud-humming, floating-on-a-cloud-to-enlightenment that is often portrayed in the media. Mindfulness meditation for addiction recovery is a legitimate, scientifically supported method for engaging more closely with your innermost thoughts, feelings, and temptations. What’s more, meditation can be practiced by anyone, regardless of religious or spiritual beliefs.
Before recapping how to incorporate meditation into your daily routine, let’s begin by highlighting some of its benefits. Everyone – whether they’re dealing with substance use issues or not – can gain from meditating. Meditation is an opportunity to step back from the clamor of everyday life and look inwards. For most people, sitting quietly is a lost art. Being alone with our thoughts can be scary. Mindfulness invites us to sit, breathe, and consider those thoughts without judgment – to consider ourselves and our actions without judgment. So, what can meditation do for you in your road to recovery?
St. Joseph’s Institute believes individuals in recovery who incorporate meditation are better equipped to:
- Handle the extreme highs and lows that often occur during early recovery.
- Traverse cravings that often creep up throughout the recovery process. Meditation helps individuals realize that they don’t need to be victims to their thoughts, nor must they act on them when they could lead to destructive behavior.
- Avoid a relapse by spotting warning signs early. More self-awareness can have long-lasting and positive effects.
- Manage interpersonal relationships. People who practice mindfulness meditation grow to be more patient, understanding, and slower to anger. Applying those traits to relationships with family and friends, especially while recovering, can make a world of difference.
How can you begin or develop this journey towards a more mindful recovery? Most meditation practitioners aim to meditate every day, ideally at the same time each day. Like practicing for a sport, your meditation practice will benefit from consistency. Start with 10 or 15 minutes; then, build your way up to longer sessions. Find a quiet place. Choose a comfortable sitting position. Take a few deep breaths – and then allow your breathing to return to its natural state. Observe your breath. Close your eyes and focus on the air rushing in – and then out of your nostrils. When a stray thought or mental chatter distracts your focus, don’t be alarmed. This is normal. Acknowledge the thought – whether it’s about your next meal, an argument with a friend, or a craving – and try to let it float away. That thought is just a thought; it doesn’t define you as a person. Return to your breath.
As discussed at our facilities, there are many methods of meditation and you will find what works best for you. While “sitting” can initially be challenging and consistency is key, it’s important to remember that meditation for recovery can be practiced anywhere at any time. It doesn’t require any special equipment or expensive training. Outside of a daily routine, meditation can take the form of a few deep breaths outside of a liquor store, a reminder that you have the choice not to go in. It can be a calm moment to collect yourself before entering into a social situation where you know there will be substance use. It can be a chance to refocus on your goals before a call to your sponsor.
Take this opportunity to learn more about mindfulness and its benefits. Recently, the New York Times published a comprehensive introduction to meditation. If you’re still not convinced, read more about the science behind meditation for recovery.
If you haven’t meditated already, today’s the day to start.
Some research sources used for this article: