The Benefits of Meditation in Recovery
Meditation in Recovery
Addicts in recovery often find themselves struggling to find an outlet for handling raw emotions and challenges of everyday life in early sobriety. Newcomers in sobriety often experience unfamiliar and uncomfortable emotions such as stress and anxiety while they begin their recovery program. When the addict’s mind wanders from the present, it is easy to obsess and fixate on thoughts of what the future has in store, past regrets, relationship issues or an overwhelming list of tasks to complete. Incorporating meditation into a recovery program can help addicts to manage these feelings and to keep them in a positive state of mind. Meditation is shown to have a profoundly positive impact on relapse prevention, physical health and ridding the mind of unhealthy thought patterns and reactions.
Through meditation, addicts can bring certain desires or worries into consciousness, then learn to detach from them through a renewed sense of self-awareness. This is ideal for anyone who has spent too much time thinking about a problem in which they cannot control the outcome. In the time we meditate, we are re-introduced to our true selves and can redirect our focus on personal growth and healing.
Addicts who practice mindfulness and self-awareness can prevent themselves from reacting irrationally or destructively in situations, reducing the impulse to use drugs or engage in validation-seeking behavior that is not conducive to recovery. Stress-inducing situations cause our bodies to respond naturally with fight or flight, releasing adrenaline and causing us to act fast– often before we’ve gained clarity and perspective. Meditation helps to throttle this response so we may feel more relaxed under pressure, identifying self-destructive impulses and knowing how to put them away before acting on them.
In a University of Washington study of 286 participants who had completed a recovery program, those who had integrated mindfulness meditation into their recovery showed that only 4 percent of them had relapsed after one year compared to the 5-7 percent of participants who relapsed without using meditation in recovery. While 20 percent of those participants who did not meditate reported drinking after completing recovery, drinking occurred in only 8 percent of those who did meditate (DrugFree.org).
Practicing meditation in recovery helps addicts to gain tools they need to use for handling difficult situations. Pausing before acting, remembering to let go of people, places and things that are out of the addict’s control; these are all important principles that meditation helps addicts to practice. Whether those in recovery meditate in a group, alone, in the morning, on a lunch break or before bed, it is a great way to take time out of the day for one act of self-care, allowing the individual to find their balance and center.
The rising popularity of meditation has made it more accessible and easy to learn and practice. There are many different types of meditation for people to find that suits them best. Some may enjoy Buddhist or Zen meditation, which focuses on breathing to clear the mind. Others might prefer a topic-focused meditation, such as Loving Kindness meditation which is meant to increase our compassion. Mantra meditation is the repetition of single word that causes a mental vibration, shifting the mindset to another plane of consciousness. Other types of meditation such as Maharishi have transcendental effects that lead the individual out of their surroundings and into their center (LiveAndDare). Some may find that they prefer silence while meditating, where others may find it only possible to gain clarity through chanting. If one class or session doesn’t have the results a person desires, there are many others to try before giving up. Like any new activity, meditation takes practice, patience and time but the results are worth the effort and have long-lasting positive effects.
Meditation does not need to be costly or time-consuming. Once it is learned, it can be done at any time or place that suits the individual. New apps such as HeadSpace allow you to bring mindfulness anywhere you go. Your recovery facility or sober living may also have a holistic professional or fitness expert who can help you find the right style for you. There is no shortage of places to meditate in the Los Angeles area, whether it is at the top of a scenic hike, the beach, the Lake Shrine temple or Golden Bridge Kundalini yoga center.
An addict’s mind can be noisy. The quest for an outlet is often an unconscious desire to keep our heads quiet and peaceful. We are not naturally wired to know the healthiest and most effective ways to do this. However, by taking action to find an outlet like meditation, recovering addicts can learn how to change our mindset and make healthy behavior come naturally.
Author – Chris Howard
Chris Howard is the Founder and Director of Ethos Recovery. He has a B.A. in Psychology from UCLA and has served as a community advocate/mentor for men and women in recovery since 2010.