Addiction removes a person’s self-control and ability to delay gratification. It eliminates reason and only allows the person to think of their own comfort, much like tunnel vision. When the craving for a particular substance arises, it can feel impossible to resist or to focus on anything else. For this reason, substance abuse disorders destroy one’s ability to appreciate the present, to live in the moment.
When a person first tries a substance, they experience elation and joy. It might lift their mood and seem to improve their life and circumstances, or enhance their life in some perceived way. As an addiction develops, one often finds it harder to experience joy and peace of mind without abusing the substance or substances. The person with the addiction gains a tolerance to their drug of choice, and so they must consume more to feel the same effects. It becomes a chase to obtain the initial good feelings felt they first began using. Not only that, but they are tethered by the anxiety of running out, a desperation to not feel discomfort they now associate with being sober. It is an exhausting battle that quickly spirals out of control.
Fighting addiction requires healthy skills and strategies for coping with difficult emotions, situations and sensations. Among these skills, mindfulness-based practices are proving helpful in their ability to aid recovery from substance abuse. Once the substances are removed, it is important to rediscover the world on realistic terms, and to be able to feel joy again.
What is Mindfulness?
Much of addiction is about escaping the present, while mindfulness is about embracing it. Mindfulness is a state of calm awareness and acceptance of one’s thoughts, feelings, and surroundings. It involves paying close attention to what we are experiencing, welcoming and dealing with emotions and sensations as they occur. The practice of being present gets us out of mental ruts and roots us in the now, alleviating worry or stress. In a sense, it is the opposite of the compulsive, emotionally unstable state of mind that addiction and substance abuse can cause. Instead of an obsessive need to escape one’s problems, mindfulness involves letting the feelings and emotions occur, and observing their effects.
How Mindfulness is Developed
Mindfulness can be channeled through the practice of meditation. While mindfulness-based practices stem from Buddhist forms of meditation, anyone of any faith may practice them. Mindfulness meditation is about training one’s mind to be aware and receptive, not about embracing any particular belief system.
Developing mindfulness is also a foundational part of dialectical behavioral therapy, or DBT – a clinically-backed treatment for substance abuse and other behavioral and psychological disorders. DBT involves working with a therapist towards acceptance of life’s challenges and positive behavioral change over time. It uses mindfulness meditation as the core practice upon which other skills are developed, giving the practitioner the ability to regulate emotions healthily instead of reacting with dangerous behaviors like substance abuse.
Clinical Support for Mindfulness in Treating Addiction
Current research on mindfulness-based recovery for substance abuse shows promising results. A broad review of studies supports their methodology and effectiveness in treating addiction. Numerous studies have found that mindfulness-based practices decrease stress, cravings, and depressive symptoms while increasing positive emotional states, giving practitioners a greater sense of control over their addiction.
Mindfulness-based relapse prevention, or MBRP, is another form of mindfulness training that is proving effective in aiding recovery post-intervention. One study found “significantly lower rates of substance abuse” in patients practicing MBRP when compared to a treatment-as-usual approach. Mindfulness can be a powerful tool against the difficult physical, emotional, and mental sensations that addiction causes. When cravings or strong emotions arise, mindfulness helps rob them of their power over the individual. It reminds us that no discomfort is permanent, and that escaping one’s true feelings usually makes matters worse.
Confronting and accepting our feelings is key to having a healthier relationship with one’s own emotions and making progress towards recovery. Granite Recovery Centers includes mindfulness-based practices for addiction alongside other proven clinical modalities in our comprehensive treatment programs for substance abuse and addiction. We are dedicated to giving you or your loved one the compassionate, professional care needed to beat their drug addiction. If you or a loved one is struggling with a drug addiction, please call our admissions specialists at [direct line]. We can help.