I thought I would mention mindfulness again and how I find it works with recovery. I started doing it a few years ago, when my partner was introduced to it as part of a pain management course. I was encouraged to take part to support her. I had never really considered practicing meditation formally before. It is mentioned in the steps of AA, but is rarely talked about in meetings, which is a shame as it can really help, with some practice. I had read books where people who I admired, said they practice it, but it had not really appealed to me. I went into it with no real expectations, and just did what the teacher said, but felt something straight away, which surprised me.
We started with simple breathing exercises, and then moved on to a body scan meditation. The idea is that you go all the way around your body with your mind while you are lying in a relaxed position. You are taught to examine bones or skin and other sensations, and then to imagine breathing into the part you are thinking about. My mind did wander at times, which happens to everyone at first but then it became easier. I became much more aware of joints that could do with loosening and also learnt to accept feelings such as the small amount of pain I have as a result of accidents in the past. I found the whole experience very interesting.
From this start I bought a few books and then started doing guided mediations,which really helped me to progress. I also did some classes which helped and went on to do some yoga as well after a while. There are various forms of meditation, but I still like mindfulness, as it is very simple and I can spend a few minutes doing it at work, simply sitting in a chair. I find this really helps me relax, and break away from the chaos and stress of work for a period, and when I return, I am able to concentrate better and have more energy.
There are certain sequences that you can do over a period of a few weeks when you start, which are aimed at relaxation. I found these really helped me. They included, doing the body scan which I mentioned earlier. This can also be good before going to sleep.
I had actually already given up drinking , when I began meditation, so I have never used it to help me give up, although many books talk about doing this. It is a great way to bring peace to the mind and it would be good for looking at cravings. I wrote about a meditation recovery book ,”The Mindfulness Workbook for Addiction: A Guide to Coping with the Grief, Stress and Anger that Trigger Addictive Behaviors” which I thought was good here. http://www.recoveringfromrecovery.com/mindfulness-workbook-addiction/
Although I did not use to initially stop, I feel it has helped me to stay stopped. It has had other positive effects on my life as well. I have become much more aware of how I deal with stress. This was always one of things I feel made me want to drink. I would get more and more stressed, not do anything about it and then feel justified in trying to blot the day out with drink when I could. The cycle would repeat over and over again. These days, things are different. I tend to realise when stress is affecting me and take a step back and look at it. Even the simple breathing exercises can give me the pause I need. I can look at where the stress is affecting me and by doing this I can stay much calmer. I do not tense up so often and even if I do, I tend to notice it pretty fast and then relax. This really helps, and I certainly don’t need to knock myself out at the end of the day!
Research has shown that people who practice mindfulness can use it to change paths in their brain over time, so old unhelpful, harmful reactions are replaced with better thought processes. I have come to terms with emotions and can now observe them. I tend not to get overcome by them anymore. I used to have some quite damaging, repetitive thoughts, some of which were brought up by going through the 12 step method, but they have faded. This was a major relief! I also find it easier to forgive people as I found ways of dealing with others with more compassion.
I would recommend it to most people. There are many books on the subject as well as web sites with audio downloads. there are quite a few new books coming out that are specific to mindfulness in recovery. Stanton Peele has a new one which he has written with Ilse Thompson and I remember talking to her about it when the stinkin thinkin site was in full swing. I look forward to reading it next month when it comes out, although I will have to wait a bit longer than most as the release date is a bit later in the UK.
The publisher got in touch and asked me to write a review, which I will when I read it, she said – “I’m writing to tell you about our new book, Recover!: Stop Thinking Like an Addict and Reclaim Your Life with The PERFECT Program [TM], available on February 4th. World-renowned addiction expert Dr. Stanton Peele provides treatments that break the cycle of addiction, empowering addicts to take back control and bring about the natural recovery process. Rejecting the “addiction-as-disease” model and AA’s twelve-step plan, Dr. Peele presents a method based on the PERFECT Program ™, combining evidence-based treatments with the practice of mediation.
Stanton Peele, PhD, JD, developed the highly effective Life Process Program for residential addiction treatment. The recipient of several distinguished awards, Dr. Peele has had over one million copies of his books sold.
The people who run the “soberistas site” are also pushing meditation, as something that can help. People often put up some resistance when you mention it as an idea, to help in recovery, but for me it was one of the best things I have done. I would say I am much more positive about things and don’t waste time thinking about stuff that is unhelpful over and over again. If you go to a group you will meet people who are trying to make positive changes to their life, and who care about their health and wellbeing. It is rather different to the cigarette smokers and coffee swilling that happens outside an AA meeting and certainly more interesting!
Smart recovery also talk about the benefits of mindfulness, so it does seem to be gathering ground at the moment. It is great when a simple idea from the past can be adapted to help so many in the present. http://www.smartrecovery.org/resources/library/Articles_and_Essays/Rational_Thinking/mindfulness.htm