Addiction is a complicated disease. A number of factors contribute to it, and in order to properly treat addiction, you will need to develop a variety of coping methods. 12-step programs, exercise, nutrition and many other types of therapy and education can help. One type of treatment that has shown promising results in recent research is mindfulness meditation.
There are several ways to practice mindfulness, but they are all a form of meditation. Your goal is to achieve a level of narrow focus on the present moment and nothing else. This allows you to observe your own thoughts and feelings from a neutral position. Doing so can give you clarity and allow you to cope with stress or pain in a healthy way.
The roots of addiction are often buried deep. It could be from a sense of loss, struggles with physical or mental illness or a combination of things. The most common thread is some form of unhappiness. A prolonged state of unhappiness can leave you feeling helpless or directionless. As you retreat from those feelings, you may self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. A sort of autopilot mode kicks in as you move from high to high barely engaging with the world around you in the interim.
Drugs and alcohol help you escape unhappiness temporarily by releasing large amounts of dopamine into your system. However, when the rush wears off, you experience negative side effects that can make the painful thoughts and feelings you tried to avoid even stronger. Meditation has been found to boost dopamine levels, too. The spike isn’t as high, but once you stop meditating, it remains at healthier levels—avoiding the devastating crashes that inevitably come between drug uses.
Research has shown that meditation can alter the physical makeup of your brain. Changes to the hippocampus, amygdala and other areas can improve your concentration and memory, and it can affect how you process stress, anxiety and fear. Some studies have even indicated that meditation may perform as effectively as antidepressants in treating some cases. Other observed benefits of meditation may include:
Meditation puts distance between you and your impulses. From a more neutral position, you can observe the thoughts and feelings that are driving your urges to use drugs or alcohol. This newfound awareness can help you deal with the root causes and reduce your vulnerability to cravings and relapse. However, meditation isn’t a magical solution to all your problems. At Cycles of Change Recovery in Palmdale, California, we will work with you to develop a treatment program that may include meditation and other therapies that are designed to meet your unique needs. Our caring staff is invested in your success, and we are here for you. If you or a loved one is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, contact us today.