The Opposite of Addiction

Mindfulness in Recovery

One of the most increasingly popular treatments for substance use, is mindfulness. The term for most, conjures up images of sitting silently in a dark room. While it can at times be silent meditation, it is likely to look a little different for someone in recovery. Despite it now become more popular, it is not a new idea. Rather, an idea we see seeded throughout twelve step, DBT and traditional substance use treatment programs; Only accompanied by a new name.

The Nature of Addiction

One could argue, and I certainly will, that addiction is a conscious decision to check out. We learn, over time, how comfortable it is to avoid our emotions. That avoidance, through using, becomes a deeply ingrained coping mechanism. A coping mechanism that easily mutates into a substance use disorder.

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If we chose to check in, or practice mindfulness, we would see that those emotions are not as foreboding as we make it out to be. Mindfulness can literally help you change the way you interact with your world.

DBT & Mindfulness

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy is the most recent approach to substance use treatment, that fully embraces mindfulness in recovery. In short, DBT approaches recovery with four “modules”. Mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, distress tolerance and emotion regulation. Mindfulness being the first principle- includes answers to two very important questions:

“What do I do, to practice core mindfulness skills?”-

Answer: Observe, describe, participate.

“How do I practice core mindfulness skills?”

Answer: Non-judgmentally, One-mindfully, and Effectively

Two New Mindfulness Techniques: So often, we find ourselves operating on autopilot. Consuming, moving and acting without much thought.  The following exercises, are a few easy places to start integrating mindfulness into your life.

  • Mindful Shower- The shower is a place where we tend to fall into our autopilot thinking the easiest. I hear people say, “but the shower is where I get my best ideas!” What would become of a more intentional shower then? I invite you to give it a shot.
    • As you shower, focus on the water. Innate in the sensation of water, is some sort of healing capacity. Move your attention intentionally, to the idea that as the water is washing over you, it is washing away all the negativity. The warm, soapy water literally clearing you of all the negative energy, and splashing right down the drain. Try not to let your mind wander too far, and spend that shower time being deliberate with your body.
  • Mindful Walk-  This exercise can be done while going about your daily activities. It can also be accomplished by taking intentional time, to get away for a walk. Either way, incorporating this technique will change the way you experience walking in nature.
    • Start by taking a few deep breaths, noticing how they feel when you are walking and moving. Once you feel connected to the breath, allow it to be your first focus as you walk. Notice where you feel your breath, when you’re breathing more and how it feels. After a few moments of mindful breathing, begin to integrate various body parts. Notice how your feet feel- pulling the pavement along. What about your knees? How they bend and straighten. Notice your arms- are they moving along with your body? Are they tight and clenched? The idea, is that you are spending your walk being mindful about your body, and how it interacts with your environment.

Both of these exercise begin to beg the question, What would happen if we started to be just a little more present for our lives?

Regardless of substance use or not, being focused on the present moment can change your world. If you are not being intentional, and operating from autopilot, you are missing life. Chances are, without mindfulness, we have gotten ourselves into all sorts of funky behaviors and habits. Make a commitment to live just a little more intentionally, and I promise you won’t find yourself in them quite so often.

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