How Meditation (MBSR) Helps Me Stay Sober And Calm
Meditation can sound lofty, mystical and impractical to someone who’s not familiar with it. At least it did when it was first suggested to me as a recovery tool, but with a little guidance and a fair amount of practice I’ve found it to be an instrumental and regular part of my recovery and self-care.
To start, let’s talk about what it is and how it works. Avoidance of emotions, experiences, or situations is a common characteristic among addicts, and in many cases contributes to the addiction developing in the first place. When something triggers the unpleasant feelings of discomfort, sadness, stress, or fear, someone struggling with addiction typically turns back to drugs or alcohol as the go-to solution. This maladaptive response to mitigating uncomfortable emotions plays a big role in substance use disorder.
Once the use of mind-altering substances as a means of managing stressful or upsetting situations has become habit, the brain has effectively established a connection between the emotional trigger (the stressor) and the disordered kneejerk response (to use drugs or drink alcohol). In recovery, one of the goals is to disrupt that harmful thought/behavior pattern and change the way you interpret and respond to the stressor.
Addiction recovery programs pull from a menu of treatment modalities to help accomplish this important goal. Rehabs often combine evidence-based therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), with adjunctive activities like meditation, also known clinically as mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), which enhance the effects of therapy and help guide clients toward making necessary changes.
What is MBSR?
The fundamental aspects of MBSR come from the Buddhist practice called Vipassana meditation. In 1971, pulling from the essential aspects of this Eastern practice, MIT graduate, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., created the mindfulness-based stress reduction program (MBSR). Over the past several decades MBSR has increasingly gained traction, becoming a widely embraced alternative practice that has been demonstrated repeatedly to help individuals with a wide range of physical and psychological issues, including:
· Substance use disorder recovery
· Anxiety disorders such as panic disorder, PTSD, and generalized anxiety disorder
· Eating disorders
· Mood disorders
· Digestive conditions
· Chronic headaches
· Unresolved grief
· Chronic illness
· Heat disease
· High blood pressure
MBSR helps individuals in recovery increase self-awareness and become more present in the moment while acknowledging the thoughts or emotions in a nonjudgmental manner. While focusing on the breathing process, the physical sensations being experienced, and purposeful attention to the present thought, MBSR allows the individual to settle down the body, such as breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure, and to reach a calm state.
MBSR is usually taught in a series of classes or lessons, walking the individual through the process of improving the mindfulness meditation skills, which (with practice) will eventually become second nature. The practice of MBSR can be accessed throughout the day as needed as a means of reducing stress by promoting relaxation.
How Does MBSR Help in Recovery?
While in rehab and for the years ahead in recovery, practicing meditation as a habitual response to emotions and thoughts can make the difference in attaining successful long-term recovery. I’d ask you to consider MSBR as a critical recovery tool to be taken just as seriously as participation in the 12-step community—these should both be considered essential.
An example of utilizing MBSR in recovery looks something like this: You experience a major life setback, such as the loss or a job or a relationship. While in active addiction you might have immediately reached for the substance of choice as a quick and easy way to avoid experiencing the resulting emotional pain, worry, anger, or any other powerful negative emotion that accompanies the distressing event. While the mind is reeling, heart rate racing, blood pressure soaring in processing this loss or setback, in using MBSR:
· You find a quiet, private place to sit or lie down
· You close your eyes and begin to concentrate on your breathing, in and out, in and out, following along with the sensations of the air being drawn in and released rhythmically
· You acknowledge your feelings at that moment in time, and do not judge yourself for having them
· You acknowledge a desire to escape these difficult emotions, a desire to use or drink
· You remind yourself that this is a passing emotion and that it will pass.
· You acknowledge your feelings and the option to allow this present emotion to be processed and eventually resolve without the need for a substance.
Meditation can be used as an ongoing practice that greatly increases the chances of achieving a lifelong journey in recovery.
Scottsdale Cornerstone Healing Center Offers MBSR Training
Cornerstone Healing Center is an outpatient addiction treatment program dedicated to reaching and healing every aspect of the clients being. We accomplish this by offering a balanced and diverse approach to the addiction recovery process, incorporating psychotherapy, MBSR, yoga, weight training, guided nutrition, and life skills into the program. For more information about our program, please reach out to Cornerstone Healing Center today at (800) 480-1781.