When recovering from substance abuse, it is common to feel like you are just going through the motions of life. Early recovery requires that you rely heavily on sources other than yourself, such as other recovered addicts, a higher power and the program of recovery.
Most addicts and alcoholics struggle when they do not feel in control of their own lives, so learning how to stay in the present moment is extremely important to ensure long-term sobriety. When you begin to obsess over the past or worry about the future, staying mindful of your current situation can help ease stress, ultimately protecting you from a relapse.
When you learn how to focus on the present, you may find that you spend less time in fear of what may come next. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, between 40 percent and 60 percent of addicts relapse.
These numbers are daunting, which is why it is vital to use every relapse-prevention strategy available. Stress may be one of the main causes of relapse, but people who practice mindfulness subdue anxiety and fear before it even has a chance to arise.
Stay in the present moment
Practicing mindfulness is the act of staying in the present moment; taking notice of your current feelings, thoughts and emotions. Typically, mindfulness is exercised in the form of meditation through breathing techniques, utilizing mental imagery, being fully aware of your thoughts and focusing on physical relaxation.
Mindfulness is a concept that was introduced by Buddhist monks in order to relieve stress, pain or any other medical conditions that may prevent people from connecting spiritually. Because of the stress-relieving properties that mindfulness meditation can provide us with, it is frequently incorporated into addiction treatment.
It’s common for people to drift away from the present moment while thinking about other things like pressure from work, responsibilities we have to manage or future activities we need to complete. In doing so, we miss out on living our lives.
In order to fully reap the benefits that life has to offer, we have to learn how to stay present. Practicing mindfulness is the best way to fully experience what is going on around us. If you stay mindful while hanging out with your family, you’ll have the ability to carry on intimate conversations with your loved ones that you may miss out on otherwise.
Being present promotes a healthier recovery by conditioning us to stop trying to escape our reality. Before we became sober, our urge to escape from our feelings, responsibilities and lives ensured that we missed out. Practicing mindfulness in all activities helps us develop problem-solving skills we can use when stressful situations arise.
Focus on breathing
When stressful situations arise, we sometimes forget to breathe. Focusing on making your breathing steady reduces stress and allows you to become clear-headed enough to find solutions.
Rather than allowing your anxiety to exponentially increase, take deep breaths to slow down your heart rate. The easiest way to calm your nerves is to sit back, close your eyes and count to five each time you breathe in and out.
Anytime an addict or alcoholic experiences something uncomfortable, we tend to allow our thoughts to get the better of us. When we do this, we begin to focus solely on all the possible negative outcomes of a situation.
We need, instead, to develop the skills required to remain optimistic and brainstorm ways to resolve the issue. In order to do this, we must find a healthy coping mechanism. Breath control is the crux of meditation, due to its ability to reduce stress and promote healthy thought.
Accept that your thoughts aren’t reality
Thoughts turn into feelings, which are the driving forces behind our actions. When we make assumptions based on other people’s actions, words or behaviours, it can lead us to misinterpret their intentions. Often, we allow our thoughts to take over, which causes us to believe that our thoughts are the reality.
We have to constantly remind ourselves that just because we think something, that doesn’t always mean it’s real.
People also have negative thoughts about themselves that are often not factual. When we allow our thoughts to become facts, we fall victim to misinterpretation. We have to constantly remind ourselves that just because we think something, that doesn’t always mean it’s real.
Learning how to let go of negative thought patterns allows us to be free from self-destructive behaviour—a common theme in addict behaviour. This aspect of mindfulness benefits recovering addicts by helping them differentiate the true from the false and thereby preventing unnecessary relapses.
Addicts and alcoholics often report feeling shameful or less-than, which is a prime example of confusing our thoughts with reality. Practicing mindfulness allows addicts to see themselves in a more positive and compassionate light.
Practice unconditional compassion
It has been proven that in order to thrive, humans require emotional connections with others. Mindfulness emphasizes practicing compassion in regard to all other forms of life. Without human connection, we suffer mentally and physically, because we do not feel ‘a part of’. When we let go of judgment, discrimination and prejudice, we allow ourselves to become vulnerable to creating relationships with our peers.
Practicing unconditional compassion is beneficial to addiction recovery, as we can experience reciprocal relationships. In active addiction, most of us only experience one-sided friendships that are contingent on money, drugs or social status. When we become compassionate, we can form lasting and intimate relationships that promote healing and positivity.
The world we live in is extremely busy, and it is often difficult to find the time to take a few minutes for ourselves. It is vital that we do so. Mindfulness means practicing keeping still, in order to have a break from the noise of daily activities.
The ability to just ‘be’ is important when learning how to remain mindful. If we aren’t making the effort to be at peace when we are alone, it will be very difficult for us to be at peace when surrounded by outside influences.
Being still aids our recovery by giving us the ability to sit back and reflect on our day. Did we experience any resentful thoughts, negative emotions or self-destructive behaviour? Do we owe any amends? Giving ourselves the time to reflect on our day allows us to grow spiritually, emotionally and socially.
Recovery is stressful, so finding the time to just sit in silence allows us to find serenity after a hard day.