Addiction treatment is using Mindfulness and Meditation more and more to help people combat addiction issues: but why?
I will answer this question throughout this blog.
When we look behind the act of using drugs and alcohol especially in excess, we can name this as a form of escapism and a way to make the pain of one’s own suffering bearable.
Mind altering substances act like an anaesthetic and if that’s the case then what are people numbing out?
There are many theories on the root cause of addiction, but I am not going to explore them in this blog.
I just want to stick to the fact that in my many years of addiction counselling and teaching mediation, that addicts struggle with painful emotions and other hindrances to calmness of mind including, anxiety, depression, restlessness, boredom, trauma and guilt and shame.
If you take the primary substance away from an addict, they will often find something else to focus on very quickly, anything rather than being with themselves.
There is no doubt that when you explore a person’s reasons for substance abuse you will often find past trauma. This is a fact that any addictions counsellor cannot deny.
Addicts also often have a very negative view of themselves, struggling with poor body image, social anxiety, hypersensitivity, eating disorders and personality disorders.
Recovery from Addiction
Psychotherapy and trauma therapy should be included in a person’s recovery plan along with group therapy for peer support and helping people to reconnect with society and fellowships of other recovering addicts.
Meditation and Mindfulness fits beautifully into addiction treatment because recovery is a process of learning to be uncomfortable. If addicts are trying to escape and numb out pain, then bringing them to a place of sitting with pain and suffering is hugely beneficial.
We need to teach people about acceptance and help them to be ok with not being ok whilst not pushing feelings, emotions and thoughts away all the time with substances.
When we learn to be uncomfortable by accepting pain as part of life, we find that we do not need to escape from life all the time.
We start to see that life can be painful at times and when we work with the pain there is no aversion from it. We stay present with mindfulness techniques and practising meditation.
In Learning to sit still and be with whatever arises we see that feelings and emotions and thoughts are transient. We start to wake up and see reality for what it is.
I have personally seen big changes in people when they learn to sit, including changes in people with trauma.
How can I stop the cravings for substances?
When we sit in meditation, we start to see that our thoughts are impermanent and that we have no control over the coming and going of them.
When we notice a craving arising, we can use techniques to sit through it and let it pass.
When we understand that cravings are transient and only have power if we attach to the craving and wander off with it, then we can start to gain some discipline and wise concentration to help us sit through it.
There are a few ways to look at thoughts passing in mediation. You can look at them as leaves floating down a stream or imagine you are in a hot air balloon looking down at clouds passing in the sky. You can also imagine you are a mountain that has all kinds of weather thrown at it, but the mountain stays strong and unmovable by the weather.
This must be practiced though, often best done daily so you gain insight into cravings and thoughts. You will become mentally disciplined over time and see that anything that goes through your mind can pass if you just let it.
The Calm sober house in Chiang Mai in Thailand has been running a very successful mediation and mindfulness programme that all our guests are hugely benefiting from. We take our guests through a deep spiritual process which goes a very long way in achieving long-term recovery.