Are you struggling with a drug, alcohol, or behavioral addiction? While you are on your path to sobriety, you’ll probably face unexpected bumps in the road. There may be events or thoughts that trigger your desire to drink or use drugs. No one ever said getting sober is easy, but there are things you can do to help avoid slipping back into addictive patterns, such as practicing mindfulness.
WHAT IS MINDFULNESS?
Mindfulness is the practice of bringing your thoughts to the present and fully focusing on what you are doing at that very moment without judgment.
HOW DO I PRACTICE MINDFULNESS?
Mindfulness can be brought into everything we do – washing dishes, exercising, eating, or simply sitting and breathing. If something, someone, or even an emotion triggered an urge to return to drugs or alcohol, here’s what you can do to be mindful and prevent relapse:
- Find a quiet comfortable place to sit or lie down. Turn off all distractions such as your phone, tv, or music.
- As you are sitting or lying there, take slow, deep (but not forceful) breaths.
- Focus on your breathing and think only about the breaths in and out.
- Allow yourself to feel your emotions without judgment. Be in touch and embrace how you’re feeling right now. Fully experience it, and only focus on that one emotion for a full minute. It’s important to allow yourself to feel, even if it is uncomfortable.
- Focus on the present without judgment, and don’t think about the “what ifs” of the future or dwell on the past. If you do find yourself drifting away from the present, gently bring your thoughts back to what’s happening right now. What’s the temperature of the air? How does the chair or bed feel? Eventually return your focus to solely on your breathing.
Are you finding it difficult to maintain focus? Are you having a hard time dealing with your emotions? Being mindful is a skill that takes practice and gets easier the more you do it. Practice for at least 5 minutes every day and when you feel the urge to return to your addictive substance or behavior. Allow yourself to ride the wave of emotions because they are only temporary. Remember, there are no such thing as negative emotions – experiencing all of them will help you get to a point in your life where you can deal with any challenging situation in a healthy, productive, and sober way. It’s important to note that through the practice of mindfulness, your goal is not to avoid or escape uncomfortable emotions, but to embrace them and give yourself permission to feel.
“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.” (Kabat-Zinn 2004)