I struggled with drug and alcohol abuse all through my preteen and teenage years, and part of my young adulthood. I still remember the first time I got drunk. I was only nine years old, but the memory is as vivid as if it were yesterday. I was at a family party, I was curious about alcohol and decided I’d give it a try. I stole a bottle, and just a few sips later, I was drunk. I hated the taste, but I loved the way it made me feel. That was the beginning of what seemed like a downward spiral that lasted a very long time.man on bridge with bottle of beer in handWhen I was a teenager, I got hooked on drugs. First, it was marijuana, and before I knew it, I was hooked on cocaine, along with other horrible substances. At the age of 23, I spent two years in prison for substance-related charges. It wasn’t until then that I realized I needed to make some changes in my life. So, I joined Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) in prison, and when I got out, I checked into rehab.

Things were starting to look up, for the first time in a while, after rehab. I found a job and kept attending the meetings. But soon enough, my anxiety and depression started coming back, and they brought drugs and alcohol back with them, too. Before I knew it, I was back at the treatment centre.

This time, though, I was determined to make it last. If the traditional ways didn’t work before, I’d try unconventional things to help me stay clean. I did, and that’s how I found mindful meditation. My therapist recommended it as a way of clearing my mind from all my worries, in order to reduce the stress I suffered from during recovery. I was up for anything that could help me stay clean, so we gave it a try during that therapy session.

I’ve been clean for more than nine years now, and I still practice mindful meditation three or four times a week.

It was a liberating feeling, being completely in the moment and focusing only on the present. That’s what mindful meditation is all about—being aware of what you’re experiencing in the moment; concentrating on every sound, smell, sight and feeling.

I’ve been clean for more than nine years now, and I still practice mindful meditation three or four times a week. It’s helped me not only to stay sober, but also to become a better version of myself.

5 ways mindful meditation enhanced my life

Man in the sea meditating

It taught me to handle emotions better

During my battle with addiction and throughout my recovery process, I wasn’t able to control my emotions. I used to have terrible mood swings and get angry at even the smallest things. I felt as though I had no power over what I felt and how I reacted to it. But mindful meditation has taught me to step away from any problems that may catch me off guard, centre myself and think before I do or say something in the heat of the moment that I might regret later.

It’s improved my powers of concentration

Being able to focus only on what’s happening right now, which is the basis of mindful meditation, helped me realize how absent I’d been in other aspects of my life. For instance, while having a conversation with my Mom, I’d be thinking about a million other things. Now, I realize the importance of being completely present, instead of going through life on autopilot. This has given me the ability to concentrate more, and therefore be more efficient and productive at work and at home. I’m now truly able to focus on one thing at a time without my mind wandering around.

It prompted self-acceptance and forgiveness

After realizing all the damage I’d caused myself and the people around me, I started beating myself up. I hated myself for hurting my family, for having wasted all those years. I was angry. But mindful meditation helped me see myself in a more objective way. It gave me perspective. I started looking at myself as if I were a stranger, and was able to see my mistakes in a non-judgmental way. I was able to empathize with myself. It took some time, but mindful meditation ultimately helped me find self-forgiveness.

It fixed poor sleep patterns

fox sleeping on tree stumpDuring my struggles with addiction, I always had trouble falling asleep and sleeping through the night. Often, I turned to alcohol or drugs to help me fall asleep. During recovery, my sleep was even worse. Since I could no longer use substances to help me sleep, and it was during the night that my anxiety worsened, my thoughts were constantly running wild. With mindful meditation, though, my anxiety and distress levels decreased. The results weren’t immediate, but mindful meditation improved my sleep quality. Now, I sleep like a baby every single night!

It’s helped me form healthy relationships

Addiction and everything that comes with it ruined almost every relationship I ever had. By the time I got clean, I only had my family left. They stayed with me through it all, despite the fact that I constantly pushed them away. Through mindful meditation, however, I learned to empathize with others. I found compassion, and this made me less selfish. Now, I’m able to focus on others’ needs and interests, as well as my own. I’m able to be there for others emotionally, without feeling overwhelmed.

A last resort—and it worked

Before I started practicing mindful meditation, I’d tried just about everything to help me stay clean. Not only did this practice help me with recovery and sobriety, but it changed my life for the better in ways I could never have imagined.

However big you may think your problems are, and however stressed you might feel every day, just closing your eyes for a few minutes and focusing on your breathing can help you feel more relaxed. Making this a constant practice can be a great step forward towards sobriety and tranquillity.

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Andy Macia was born in Bogota, Colombia, but was raised in Los Angeles, California. He’s a recovering addict/alcoholic with nine years of sobriety under his belt. He’s also an entrepreneur, the proud owner of Red Door Studios.
image 1: Pixabay 2: Pixabay 3: Pixabay