One very important aspect of recovery can be meditation. It is not a necessary component—we have to always keep in mind that recovery is not a one-size-fits-all situation. But many people swear by it, and it has certainly been proven to beneficial to humans in all aspects of improving our quality of life. Studies have shown that meditation helps to alleviate an array of conditions that are psychological and physical, such as irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, fibromyalgia and so on. In the field of addiction, researchers have been at studying correlation between it and meditation since the 1970s.
According to the article, How Meditation Helps the Addicted Brain “[Meditation] is a mental health tool which teaches a person to put time and distance between themselves and their impulses. This pause between urge and action actually encourages the brain to rewire and helps establish new behaviors. Addicts learn how to calm and soothe themselves without resorting to substance abuse.”
Meditation allows a person to observe herself as if from the outside, and therefore it might be easier for her to detach from cravings. It allows the person to focus, handle stress better and act less based on impulses. Some things to keep in mind is that meditation doesn’t need to be a difficult practice, and that we don’t have to achieve some kind of transcendental-level of doing it in order for it to work. It doesn’t have to last long—with practice we might be able to do it for longer but, again, 10 minutes might be just fine for some of us. Meditation doesn’t require special kinds of surrounding of darkened rooms, comfy pillows, sounds of the rain forest, or the scents of incense. It’s nice if we are able to sit and relax in those kinds of conditions, but it’s not for everyone, and not everyone has access to that. I know people in recovery who are unable to sit still for long periods of time, so meditation for them is going for long walks. Some people are able to meditate while running or while riding a stationary bicycle. Some people use apps and guided meditation—their headphones firmly plugged into their ears—as they ride crowded buses or subways to work.
For me, meditation is a very simple practice. I do a breathing meditation for 10-20 minutes per day, and for shorter periods as needed throughout the day. If work is particularly stressful, I’ll also do a walking meditation where I count and breath my way through the walk. In other words, I do what works for me. It’s taken me some time to figure out how to relax my brain (and my body) properly, and I know that were I to give myself too much of an expectation in terms of what it was going to do for me, there would be zero relaxing.
In the beginning, I couldn’t focus and sit still. I couldn’t concentrate, and my mind kept spinning like the proverbial hamster in a wheel. But what I didn’t do was judge myself. And I took a class. I figured, as with everything else, I needed some practice to get good at what I was attempting, so I kept adding minutes, focusing on my breath better, trying to observe my thoughts with more distance… eventually, I achieved some moments of blissful peace here and there, and once that happened, I was confident I would be able to bring that back again. Maybe not every time at first, but eventually it would become natural for me to meditate. And, believe me, I do not aspire to sit on a mountain top blissed out of my mind one day—I’m a high-energy guy and that just wouldn’t work for me, so I’m happy where I’m at.
And this is my suggestion to you: Find YOUR OWN meditation practice. Borrow from others, get some advice, do some online research (and try a few apps)—give it a go before you decide that you absolutely can’t do it. Actually, if you absolutely can’t do it, that’s fine too—your recovery is not an Olympic sport at which you must excel by meeting all the special markers to qualify!
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