The Recovered Gentleman – issue 12


Entering into treatment and recovery is an intense time. On the one hand, there is the flood of relief to find ourselves free at last from the weight of drugs and alcohol. On the other hand, we find ourselves colliding with a host of confusing and often negative feelings and thoughts. While our first course of action is to get to work on the steps, we can only stand to benefit from other healthy ways of living. Meditation has been proven to be a powerful addition to more traditional forms of recovery. Learning to relax without the aid of substances and finding time to simply let ourselves feel things in a healthy environment are often new experiences for us.Meditation in the most general sense has been around for centuries. While we may associate meditation with yoga or even Buddhism, it has increasingly become a mainstream practice and it has been accepted as a useful tool in mainstream psychological treatments. Researchers have found that people in addiction recovery who complement their treatment with meditation have a much lower relapse rate than those who do not practice some type of meditation. Meditation has been clinically proven to actually re-wire the pathways in the brain, increase the production of grey cells (brain cells), and facilitate the reduction of anxiety and stress.The practice of meditation comes in a variety of forms. There are practices which focus mostly on relaxation and breathing techniques designed to help us focus. Through guided meditation which focuses on breathing, people are taught to let stress and anxiety pass from their conscious thoughts. The breathing techniques help practitioners zoom in on what the body is doing rather than the mind. This form of meditation is centered on blank thoughts and relaxation. It is often coupled with physical exercise such as yoga, but many people meditate in this way simply by sitting still silently and letting the body follow the rhythms of the breath.Another form of meditation that is finding widespread acceptance is called mindfulness meditation. This practice is partially predicated on the idea that we get locked into to patterns of thinking and feeling that are destructive because not only do we experience negative feelings and thoughts, we also immediately fall into negative judgments about those thoughts. A vicious cycle of negativity and judgment becomes a habitual unconscious way of thinking. Mindfulness meditation seeks to facilitate relaxation techniques and simultaneously guide us through negative thoughts and feelings by abandoning the judgments that come with those thoughts and feelings. This practice teaches us to come to new understandings about our inner life and how we have come to view ourselves in the world. This can be extremely useful for people in recovery since so many of us are plagued with negative feelings and beliefs, many of which are at the root of why we drank and used in the first place.Certainly, the 12 steps are the road map to recovery for us. But utilizing other productive methods to help us relax, reduce stress and anxiety, and learn to live with our inner thoughts and feelings are useful supplements to our recovery. Meditation is readily accessible, and it has been scientifically proven to help with recovery and relapse prevention.