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Meditation in Addiction Recovery

Finding much needed clarity, stillness, and strength.

Meditation factors into each person’s recovery process differently. While some people may find that immersing themselves into a particular religion with formal ritual and prayer is an essential component of a successful treatment and recovery process, others may find non-traditional spiritual forms and practices are a better fit for their journey. In any case, meditation in addiction treatment and recovery can be an important tool.

At its core, meditation is about reflection and contemplation. It is about looking inward in order to improve ourselves and our world. Twelve step programs emphasize the importance of spirituality and including “God as we understand God.” While that concept can trip some people up, it is important to focus on how fluid and flexible each person’s notion of God or spirituality can be. Meditation is a rather large and unrestricted concept that will consist of different components for each individual. That said, there are a couple of things that all meditation requires in order to be effective.

Three elements of meditation in addiction treatment and recovery

The first element of meaningful meditation is finding the right environment for you. This spiritual surrounding changes from person to person. It can be a church, a gym, a sunny park, or a dark quiet room. Think about the sights, sounds, smells, and sensations that create the most conducive space for you to be alone with your thoughts. Focus on something that will allow your mind to still. If its a stained glass window or the blank canvas created when we close our eyes, make sure your visual stimulation is in sync with your contemplation. Similarly, the warmth of the sun, the movement of your legs as you run, or the softness of a favorite blanket can also cultivate a particular atmosphere that is conducive to reflection. Meditative sounds can range from ones you make yourself through chanting or prayer to those created by recorded music or a sound machine, or simply the ones in the environment you have chosen. Smells are often overlooked but should not be discounted. Incense, a favorite perfume, or the fresh air around you can evoke a mood that is necessary for your personal meditative process.

Once you have determined the outward elements necessary for your meditation, you also need to commit to an emotional state that will enable you to fully benefit from meditation. Honesty is paramount. You must be honest with yourself and not shy away from hard truths. While the ultimate goal of meditation is a feeling of peace, understanding, and self-knowledge, there will be times that this inner scrutiny will be painful and difficult. Allow those moments to happen. Those powerful emotional responses need to be expressed. Meditation is not solely about stillness and quiet; tears and laughter can come from a productive meditation. The key is to be honest and open with yourself. By giving yourself permission to think and feel whatever is inside and creating a time and space for that specific purpose, you will learn more about yourself and the world.

So, what does this have to do with substance abuse and a successful recovery? In order to free ourselves from addiction, we need to discover what lead us down that road in the first place. Knowing ourselves and giving ourselves space to simply be brings us closer to understanding and defeating our addictions. While treatment may seem like the most difficult part of the process, it is merely one step in a life-long journey. By meditating, both during the treatment and recovery periods, we come to know ourselves. Meditation keeps us honest and on track. It enables us to gauge where we are and see how far we have come. It creates an opportunity to check in with ourselves, release anything that may lead us astray, and fortifies our belief in ourselves as we move forward.

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