Mindfulness and self help
Mindfulness and Self Help as well as recovery from Alcohol and Addiction
I was prompted to write this after reading a couple of articles in the Guardian,that criticised aspects of the way mindfulness is practiced and taught. Although I am a fan of mindfulness and related activities such as yoga, I feel they make some valid points. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/aug/06/mindfulness-is-self-help-nothing-to-change-unjust-world and this one http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/aug/25/mental-health-meditation
The pieces talk about mindfulness being a modern fad, that is not an answer to all our problems and this has produced some interesting comments. I have practiced mindfulness for some time before it became mainstream, but was actually introduced to it, via a NHS pain management doctor, who did know what they were doing. It was suggested it may help my partner and that I could try it to support her. She was not a fan of it, but I took to it straight away and feel it has made a difference to my life. I was not practicing this at the start of my recovery from alcoholism, but can see ways that it could help people who are.
People such as Stanton Peele feel it is helpful and he used it as a core technique in his book Recover, which I think is a great book.I wrote about it here http://www.recoveringfromrecovery.com/recover-stop-thinking-addict-reclaim-life-perfect-program/ However it has now become something that is being pushed by every self-help guru, and that puts a lot of people off. I find the concept of bankers, trying to quiet their poor stressed minds with mindfulness as described in the article, rather amusing, and is certainly not really what meditation is all about.
While I feel self-help groups and methods have their place, there is a danger in all this. Many people who suffer from addiction have issues that should be dealt with by somebody who is skilled and who knows what to do when things go wrong. If you start thinking that mindfulness, combined with NLP etc, being taught by somebody who only took it up a few months ago is going to provide all the answers to your problems, then you are probably going to become unstuck. You can end up being as badly off as somebody who attends a cult type, anti medication, pray to a lightbulb, 12 Step group, such as the notorious “Visions”AA group.
Some of these self-help groups operate in a similar way to pyramid schemes, as more students quickly decide to become teachers. Add to the fact that many of the people who join these groups are similar to 12 step members, in that they have mental issues, and you can have a problem, especially when people become evangelical about a particular solution.
I am certainly not saying that self-help methods and mindfulness are a waste of time, far from it. I am saying that you need to really look at your problems and decide what the best approach is going to be and that often means, getting some professional help, and not simply joining some “church hall’ group and expecting life to suddenly become amazing.
Things like yoga and meditation can certainly help some people, and this really has been the case with myself. However, I also had a lot of help from my doctor, several counsellors and a psychiatrist, and not just relying on lay people. In fact much of the advice I was given by two out of my three AA sponsors was poor and inappropriate and could have caused me problems had I not chosen to ignore them. I saw several people suffer after being given poor advice, such as to go away and pray and not, go and get some professional help.
There is certainly a place for meditation in the modern world, and many people find it helps them. Just don’t expect miracles and do take responsibility to get proper treatment should any problems occur.