Practicing mindfulness helps us to develop our awareness, our understanding, our intuition and our strength around any particular issue. One of the most difficult challenges that will arise in our recovery is the temptation we feel around our drugs of choice and the addictive urges that hit us. We can feel powerless to withstand them. We can feel like our compulsions are out of our control. We can feel impulsive, reckless and weak. We can find ourselves doing things we regret and then feeling even worse about ourselves afterwards. How can we apply mindfulness in our recovery work to help us overcome our addictive urges?
When we develop mindfulness, we’re better able to control our thoughts, feelings and choices. As we become more mindful, we start to see our addictive urges not as a force that is more powerful than we are, but as energy forms we can allow to move through us and subside naturally on their own. Very often when an addictive urge hits, we react strongly. We panic at the thought of relapsing. We’re desperately afraid we’ll give into it. We feel angry with ourselves. We remember all of the regret, disappointment, sadness and remorse we’ve felt the times we’ve relapsed in the past. We feel angry with ourselves for not being stronger or having more willpower. We judge ourselves harshly and beat ourselves up. All of these responses actually weaken our resolve to withstand temptation and overcome addictive urges. They actually make us more likely to relapse, not less. These emotional responses are forms of resistance, and because we’re trying so hard to fight against our urges, we’re actually empowering and strengthening them. We’re giving them more power and control over us.
Meditation teaches us to see our thoughts and our feelings, even our intense addictive urges, as transient, fleeting, temporary. They are energy forms that can pass us by without getting stuck within us, if we allow them to. When an urge comes up, breathe through it. Notice that it’s there without trying to change it, stop it, resist it or redirect it. Just breathe and let it be there. Keep breathing deeply, and mindfully try to name the feelings that are coming up for you. You might feel anxiety, worry, self-doubt and fear. You might feel nervousness, tension, tightness, and physical discomfort. You might feel anger, disappointment and resentment that you’re still struggling with these issues.
Listing our emotions can calm our anxiety responses, lower our stress and instantly make us feel better. Breathe as you’re examining your feelings. You might find that this practice, which incorporates both deep breathing and mindfulness, helps you overcome your addictive urges with more grace and ease than when you were trying to fight them. The more you practice, the more easily you’ll get through any urges that come up for you and the more you’ll prevent them from returning.
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