Mindfulness and addiction are both mental states that affect what you focus on and how you react to things. Mindfulness is all about being aware, attentive, balanced, and focused on the present in a way that preserves unclouded judgment.
So in other words, mindfulness is basically the exact opposite of addiction. Addiction keeps you focused on one thing and one thing only: whatever it is that you’re addicted to. There’s no room in your brain for anything else.
Practicing mindfulness helps you compartmentalize that urge and gives you a fighting chance against the chemical changes addiction makes to your brain. Those changes are all about speeding up the processes in your brain, making everything seem more urgent, more immediate. Addiction is all about giving you the overwhelming feeling that you need something, and you need it NOW.
Mindfulness is sort of the antithesis of that feeling. It’s all about slowing everything down, being present in the moment, taking in your surroundings without needing to react or judge or evaluate them. It’s about calming yourself and rejecting the urge to be overwhelmed by your surroundings.
Mindfulness is basically the natural enemy of addiction, if you can practice it properly. It can help you through any stage of the recovery process, including some of the roughest moments. That’s not to say that this is enough to help you through addiction by itself, but when you’re waging a war against addiction, one more weapon in the arsenal is never a bad idea.
Here’s how you can use the secret weapon that is mindfulness at every stage in the recovery process.
Pre-Recovery: Giving You the Awareness to Seek Help
Addiction clouds your judgment and forces you to see things from a certain perspective. That perspective is generally something like, “you need to keep drinking/using drugs, consequences don’t matter.”
It isn’t that clear cut, of course, and it’s a much more subconscious, primal feeling. The real trick of addiction is that it doesn’t feel like addiction. It doesn’t feel like there are voices in your head telling you to continue your addictive behaviors. It just feels like you’re doing what comes natural to you.
This is why addiction is so often coupled with denial. You don’t feel like it’s addiction, you feel like it’s your normal state. Why would you need to get treatment when you feel totally normal?
You feel normal when you’re addicted because addiction makes you feel that way. The reality is, you actually only feel normal when you’re using. It’s impossible for you to feel normal when you’re not using. That’s the trick.
So where does mindfulness fit into this? Simple. A moment of mindfulness in a sea of chaos can help you understand where you stand with your addiction. That moment may be the turning point where you look at your situation with an unbiased mind and see that your relationship with your substance of choice is one of dependence and abuse.
Once you’ve come to that revelation, you can begin the path to recovery by seeking help. It also helps if you understand the true nature of what addiction is.
During Rehab: Maximizing Treatment Effectiveness
A major part of any drug treatment method is treating the mind itself. Because addiction attacks the mind, addiction recovery is all about healing the mind.
Therapy and behavioral psychology come into play, because beating addiction means discovering its core. People don’t become addicted to drugs because they’re bad people. They have certain stresses, influences, social pressures, and countless other factors that drive them into a corner. Soon, they develop certain triggers that signal them that it’s time to use.
This behavioral therapy is all about identifying those triggers and disarming them, or at least helping you avoid them.
However, it can be difficult to really drill down and figure out what those triggers are with a clouded mind. Practicing mindfulness here can help you really understand what makes you tick, and identify what your triggers might be.
When you’re engaged in treatment, it is important to develop an open and honest relationship with your treatment professionals. You need to be able to share information with them in a way that is straightforward and helpful, so that you can work together to lay out the steps of your recovery.
Being mindful is about seeing the world around you with an unbiased eye, including your own life and decisions. If you can be mindful about the circumstances that drove you into addiction, you can also lay out effective steps to avoid those same pitfalls in the future.
After Rehab: Staying the Course and Avoiding Temptation
No matter how hard you work to overcome addiction in rehab, but while sobriety is a truly wonderful gift, addiction never completely goes away. It gets easier each day, but will never fully leave you.
Some days, the pull of temptation might feel like too much. You may be tempted to start rationalizing, bargaining with yourself. “Maybe just one won’t hurt,” you say. Your brain speeds up as those addictive behaviors creak to life in your mind.
That’s when you need to shut it down and be mindful of what you’re doing. Slow down. Think about it for a second. Is it worth it? Is it worth the risk of going through that pain again?
When you’re truly addicted, it’s almost impossible to ask yourself those kinds of questions. Your brain just doesn’t have the capacity in its addicted state. But if you’re being mindful, you can take stock of yourself from a neutral point of view and make a sound decision. On days when it seems like too much, just those few minutes of calm may be all you need to prevent a relapse.
Have you practiced mindfulness in your recovery, or even just in your daily life? Let us know if you have experiences in practicing mindfulness, or if you found this post helpful by letting us know in the comments below.