Many of us fixate on the physical effects of addiction that progress over time, including damage to internal organs and bodily systems, a weakened immune system, increased likelihood of contracting diseases from others, and so on. While these physical effects are quite serious, it could be said that some of the worst effects of alcohol and drug addiction are those that are psychological or even spiritual in nature. The development of a chemical dependency involves adopting an entirely new way of life, one which is toxic to oneself as well as potentially quite harmful to others.
Over the course of active addiction, individuals sacrifice relationships and job opportunities, financial stability, and even their freedom. Unfortunately, those addicted to alcohol and drugs often resort to committing crimes as a means of sustaining expensive, unsustainable addictions. Even after recovering from addiction, individuals must find ways to refrain from relapsing due to feelings of stress and anxiety or a number of other substance abuse triggers. Addiction treatment programs tend to consist of counseling, psychotherapy, and a variety of other forms of treatment that are intended to help individuals achieve sobriety while also arming them with the tools to sustain their newfound sobriety. Of the many strategies that are intended to help those in recovery to remain sober, meditation has been found to be an invaluable tool for numerous reasons. The following is the recovering addict’s guide to using meditation in recovery, explaining the science behind meditation as well as its effects and what makes it beneficial to addiction treatment.
The Science Behind Meditation & Its Effects
Historians have found documented use of meditation and similar practices going back thousands and thousands of years. However, the modern mind is a bit skeptical and tends to require proof before buying into the notion that such a passive practice as meditation can yield substantial benefits. As such, there have been countless studies to either prove or disprove the efficacy of meditation by identifying whether meditation yielded any noticeable effects and, if so, what those effects were. Some of the most well-known documented effects of meditation include the remarkable reduction of stress as well as the muscular and skeletal tension in the body that stress is known to cause, enhanced cognition and mental clarity, improved mood and processing of emotions, improved sleep habits, and numerous other mental and emotional effects.
Moreover, it’s important to remember that much of one’s psychology has direct effects on the body—such as the tendency for stress to cause tension in the body—and is sometimes referred to as physiological effects, but the effects of meditation can also be observed by monitoring the brain. In particular, meditation has been associated with a decrease in beta waves, which are active when an individual has a lot of mental activity happening and less active when there are less mental processes happening. Though it may seem like one would one higher levels of beta waves, the reduction of beta waves indicates a mind that’s more clear and better able to focus one’s attention on important tasks. This is the difference between the chaos of a crowded room in which everyone is trying to talk over everyone else and a room in which there is only one individual speaking at a time; in short, less beta waves mean more effective conveyance of information.
Mindfulness Meditation & Substance Abuse
One of the most well-known and widely used techniques also happens to be the most traditional: mindfulness meditation is a form of meditation in which the individual clears the mind and focuses on either one thought, idea, or even a bodily process such as breathing or heartbeat. This is also a more accessible and easier form of focused-attention meditation that contrasts with forms in which the individual has to try intently to clear the mind and think of nothing. Instead, mindfulness is easier by letting the individual simply concentrate on one thing, whether a thought or bodily processes, and let everything else slow and fade.
The benefits of mindfulness meditation for individuals in recovery from substance abuse and addiction are numerous. As a benefit of meditation and mindfulness exercises, individuals develop a much greater sense of mental clarity and self-awareness. In many instances, individuals who meditate are able to anticipate cravings before they occur, allowing them to divert those cravings by taking preparatory action. Moreover, mindfulness meditation gives individuals greater control of their mental processes and thoughts, which means that they are often able to push cravings and other thoughts pertaining to substance abuse out of their minds and begin to focus on other, more productive things. As such, those who meditate can process cravings and overcome them without having to react to them by indulging, which is essential to preventing relapse over the course of continued recovery.
When an individual experiences a craving, they are at most risk of relapse when they are unable to overcome the craving without relapsing; in other words, thoughts of using become all-consuming and they are unable to think of anything else, which makes relapsing seem like the only solution. Mindfulness is a form of mental and emotional control, giving individuals the ability to push these thoughts out of their minds while also making their minds stronger and making cravings less and less frequent. As mentioned previously, meditation has also been found to help with overcoming stress and emotional situations, which are other common causes of relapse. In closing, meditation has shown to be a very useful tool for individuals in recovery, allowing them to overcome cravings, decrease the frequency of cravings, strengthen their minds, increase cognition and control of their mental processes, improve self-awareness and clarity, and even improve their overall state-of-mind.
Make Your Way Back to a Sober Life with Recovery Hub
Meditation has been an essential part of maintaining sobriety and success in recovery for many, but it’s just one of the many tools available to help individuals sustain their victory over chemical dependency. If you or someone you love is suffering from addiction and would like to learn more about meditation and other forms of treatment, call Recovery Hub at 888-220-4352. One of our recovery specialists is waiting to help you or your loved one make their way back to a life of health, sobriety, and fulfillment by matching individuals to the treatments and programs that best meet their recovery needs. Don’t wait; call us today.