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Meditation for Addiction Recovery: How to Start


Recovery from addiction is a long road, but so is the process that led many people down the past of substance abuse in the first place. Any noble endeavor deserves time and care, and reclaiming your life from the drugs and alcohol governing your behaviors is no easy feat.

Meditation is a powerful tool for addiction recovery. Much like a gentle and well-trained therapist, it puts you in touch with your inner workings and lets you examine the beliefs, behaviors and patterns that lead to substance use. Here’s an in-depth look at how the process works and how you can get started with your practice.

How Meditation Works Hand in Hand With Therapy

Meditation and therapy complement each other in myriad ways. One form of treatment, dialectical behavioral therapy, directly incorporates mindfulness techniques into the modality.

While cognitive-behavioral therapy focuses on restructuring negative thoughts, dialectical behavioral therapy first coaxes the patient to focus on what is. This method comes in handy in treating conditions such as borderline personality disorder, where patients tend to dissociate and lose touch with reality. Mindfulness first returns them to what is, and from there, they can reframe their thoughts in a more positive light.

The practice is so ubiquitous that many of today’s leading therapy apps include meditation as part of their treatment protocol. By getting to a mindful state about what is happening in reality and what reflects future fears or manifestations of past triggers, patients can make better choices and improve their lives in the future.

Types of Meditation for Addiction Recovery

You can use two principal types of meditation to help with addiction recovery:

  • Mindfulness meditation: This style of meditation requires no equipment or guide. All you need is a place where you can sit quietly and focus on your breath. Try to clear your mind of everything except for your inhalations and exhalations. As thoughts intrude, as they will, observe them as a neutral third party before letting them go.

  • Guided meditation: In guided meditation exercises, you begin the same way as you do mindfulness practice. However, you’ll use a tool such as an app or a guide, often a therapist, to lead you through the session as you relax. Some practitioners believe these sessions work even more effectively if you do them just after rising from sleep or before going to bed.

Essentially, mindfulness refers to the practice of drawing attention to your inner world. Meditation refers to what you do when you get into a relaxed and receptive state — it’s a way of deprogramming and reprogramming your mind.

However, you can use both techniques in addiction recovery, and not only when you hit the mat each day. Activities such as taking a mindfulness walk can return your attention to your senses and interrupt the urge to use at the moment temptation strikes. So can tuning into a guided meditation designed to help you break the cycle of evening drinking followed by morning regrets.

Tips for Starting Your Meditation Practice

It’s worth it to dedicate time to starting a meaningful meditation practice. The more thought you put into preparing your space, the more likely you are to make using it an integral part of your routine.

1. Dedicate a Space

You need a space where you can free yourself from distractions. If you share a one-bedroom apartment with two toddlers, you might have to wait until naptime for your practice. You can also use props such as noise-canceling headphones and white noise machines to drown out your roommate’s din — the sound of running water is particularly soothing.

2. Find Free and Low-Cost Resources

If you are a bit low on the cash flow, seek free and low-cost resources. Many therapy apps cost a fraction of in-person treatment. If even that is out of your budget range, YouTube is a glorious resource for guided meditations. Artists like Jason Stephenson and Michael Sealey produce videos aimed at anything from overcoming negative thought patterns to stopping compulsive overeating.

3. Gift Yourself the Time

Time is the great equalizer — it’s the one thing people of every socioeconomic class share in common. Everyone has the same amount as everyone else, and your mental health is worth it. Please carve out at least 15 minutes per day for your practice and prioritize it. Having to eat is a valid excuse, but your laundry can wait until another day.

4. Practice Mini-Mindfulness in Daily Life

Make mindfulness a way of life. Take time to check in with how your mental and physical self is feeling several times a day. Before you act, stop and reflect on why you want to do what you are doing. If you get in the habit of questioning your motivations for eating a 3 p.m. snack, you’ll find it more natural to examine your reason for caving (or not) to that drink craving.

Start a Meditation Practice to Help in Addiction Recovery

Meditation can play a crucial role in addiction recovery. Try using the tips above to begin your journey to better wellness today.

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