Addiction is a unique disease. Other diseases tend to have a particular set of effects; the effects of alcohol and drug addiction are not only physical, but also psychological, social, and even spiritual. Meditation in recovery can be very beneficial to many people.
Throughout active addiction, individuals often experience deterioration of physical health and wellness, the degradation of behavior and thought processes, unhealthy social practices, and overall poorer morale and a diminished spiritual state.
Fortunately, addiction can be overcome, but the process of recovery involves using a variety of therapies and treatments to address the numerous and varied effects of addiction.
In addition to these therapies, it’s important to take a holistic approach to rehabilitation. That’s why incorporating meditation in recovery is an essential part of getting your body and mind back on the right track.
The complex disease of addiction affects every individual differently, resulting in each person struggling from the effects of their substance of abuse.
As such, rehabilitation from alcohol and drug addiction involves creating an actionable treatment plan that’s personalized to the recovery needs of each person.
Many of the more central components of addiction treatment involve extensive counseling. These are based on the tenets of cognitive behavioral therapy, which helps individuals to identify and overcome the psychological variables causing harmful behaviors.
However, although psychotherapy is important, different types of treatment are essential for a comprehensive recovery and address the other needs of individuals with chemical dependency.
How Does Meditation Work?
There are many types of treatments that are used in combination with clinical therapies, with the ultimate goal being to help an individual achieve optimal health and wellness. These treatments are often classified ascomplementary and alternative medicine (CAM) due to the tendency for these techniques to be described as “alternative,” “complementary,” “holistic,” or “integrative.” One of the most common alternative or holistic treatments used in addiction recovery is meditation.
Having been used and incorporated into medicinal and spiritual practices for thousands of years, meditation is most often associated with stress and anxiety reduction.
A common misconception confuses meditation with prayer; although some systems of belief may use meditation for spiritual purposes, meditation is not a spiritual practice exclusively. Meditation was initially intended as a means of achieving heightened levels ofself and environmental awareness.
When one is meditating, he or she is often concentrating either on processes happening in the body—breathing, heart rate, activity in muscles, and so on—or in one’s immediate surroundings, including the sounds and smells one might be experiencing.
Alternately, the individual may choose to clear the mind. This can be done while sitting, lying down, or possibly when standing, but the individual should remain still, and it’s usually recommended for one’s eyes to stay shut, which helps to prevent visual distractions from breaking concentration.
The Many Benefits of Meditation in Recovery
In short, meditation is most often used as a way to quiet the mind, which can have a number of very beneficial effects. Additionally, meditation has remained a popular practice because of its flexibility; it can be performed virtually anywhere by anyone at any time and for any length of time, as little as less than a minute or as much as hours at a time.
According to astudy that sought to identify the specific benefits of meditation, it was found that individuals who meditate at least 30 minutes each day showed a noticeable increase in gray matter in areas of the brain associated with memory retention, learning, introspection, and self-awareness.
By becoming more self-aware and introspective, individuals can react better naturally—and without the aid of chemical substances—in everyday situations. Moreover, meditation has been found time and again to decrease stress and anxiety levels, improve concentration and mental acuity, and even decrease many of the feelings that contribute to substance abuse cravings.
How Meditation Can Relax & Calm
When an individual meditates, the body essentially slows down. Pulse and blood pressure becomes lower, and even breathing becomes slower. Meanwhile, the individual’s mind becomes acutely aware of even miniscule processes throughout the body and, with practice, can consciously influence things like one’s heart rate. In everyday life, this makes individuals significantly better able to deal with the stress of everyday life.
More specifically, they experience less stress in stress-inducing situations than individuals who do not or have not meditated regularly. Additionally, since these individuals tend to process situations under less stress, they remain able to make decisions more objectively, making them more rationally-minded and less prone to harmful decisions such as relapse.
Using Meditation in Recovery to Help with Cravings
Many individuals who develop addictions have reported that their substance abuse was often used as a means of coping with stress, anxiety, and other unfavorable circumstances. In short, they used substance abuse to either numb negative feelings or to self-medicate.
As such, negative feelings can often become triggers for substance abuse, causing strong cravings among those in recovery. With everyday stress being a frequent cause of cravings and relapse, it’s important to arm individuals in recovery with sufficient tools for preventing relapse.
Studies have found that meditation in recovery can significantly reduce the cravings that individuals experience, which in turn will make it less likely for them to relapse.
Moreover, the improved sense of self-awareness afforded by meditation makes individuals better able to view their cravings objectively, allowing them to fully realize the risk and consequences of relapse.
Many Types of Meditative Practice are Beneficial to Recovery
Meditation in recovery isn’t just about sitting cross-legged on the floor with one’s arms out like a Buddha, humming and chanting in single syllables. Meditation is a blanket term that encompasses many different techniques or meditative approaches, all of which can be useful as in addiction recovery and relapse prevention.
Yoga involves a fundamental form of meditation combined with a variety of stretches, movements, and posing that is intended to foster both mental and physical health, providing unity of body and mind.
There are also several different types of meditative practices that can be therapeutic for someone in addiction recovery. Mindfulness is one. This technique helps quiet the internal noise in the head and allows the person to experience what is in the here and now. It is a way to focus on the present moment, instead of what’s happened in the past. It is also quite beneficial in preventing relapse.
Recovery Options and Meditative Therapies
Meditation has been an essential part of recovery for many. However, it’s one part of a whole. A comprehensive recovery means incorporating meditation into a program of counseling, psychotherapy, group sessions, and a variety of other complementary techniques. It affords those struggling with a substance use disorder with a means of achieving lasting sobriety.