An adolescent recovering from drug and alcohol addiction who is mired in the skepticism and anger that is typical of the disease might quickly dismiss “mindfulness” as a new age fad that has no value in combating their cravings. Recovering from drug addiction or alcoholism often requires an individual to utilize every conceivable tool to keep recovery on track. Although the concept and practice of mindfulness might seem vague at first, over time mindfulness is one of the strongest tools to avoid relapses and move forward into lifelong sobriety.
Mindfulness practice teaches a person to step away from their automatic emotional response to situations and instead to evaluate those emotions from a non-judgmental perspective. For example, a recovering addict who is experiencing stress or anger over relationship problems might be tempted to use drugs or alcohol as a salve for those problems. With mindfulness practice, a young adult in recovery will train their thought processes to step away from the immediate stress and to develop a more rational response that does not involve drugs or alcohol. Just as drugs and alcohol will rewire the brain to respond to stress with demands for substances, mindfulness practice can change a recovering addict’s brain to improve logic and reasoning and to create a greater sense of well-being without any substances.
Mindfulness should be practiced in conjunction with other therapy and group sessions that are part of their recovery programming. Addiction rarely responds to a single weapon. Mindfulness is a strong weapon, but it is not intended as an alternative to regular therapy or group recovery meetings. Addicts who become complacent or who gain a new sense of confidence from a mindfulness practice remain at risk for relapses, even long after their last use of drugs or alcohol. Mindfulness will help them recognize their risk, but it cannot guarantee a positive response in every situation. At those times, group members, sponsors, therapists, and counselors should be contacted to supplement the recovering addict’s response to cravings.
A recovering addict can continue to realize the benefits of mindfulness practice long after he has completed an initial detox and treatment, and well into their newfound sober lifestyle. Staying mindful will give them greater empathy for friends and family who are experiencing their own problems with drugs or alcohol. Mindfulness will help connect and acknowledge uncomfortable situations that previously might have been smoothed over with drugs or alcohol.
Sustain Recovery Services in southern California helps adolescents and young adults recovering from drug and alcohol addiction through our extended care services. Our unique program offers practical life skills training like mindfulness to help young people create a comprehensive way of living sober. Please see our website or call us at 949-407-9052 for more information.