By definition, mindfulness is the state of being aware of your surroundings and environment. It should go without saying then, that when I was abusing drugs and alcohol, the last thing I was aware of was what was going on around me.
It took me a long time to break free from the chains of addiction, but I credit a dedication to mindfulness as one of the strongest factors that made it possible. I began a meditation practice, but I also tried to incorporate mindfulness into my everyday routine. Here are a few ways that it helped the most.
1. It Improved My Concentration
Ashamedly, the only thing I could think about when I wasn’t drinking or getting high was the next time I would be able to. It was a sad, painful way to go through life, and ultimately led me to fail out of classes in college and almost losing my job. Thankfully, I had some coworkers that were able to cover for me, but that wasn’t enough. When I started to become mindful of what was going on around me, I was better able to concentrate on the task at hand. It also was incredibly cathartic for me; instead of having my head off in the clouds, I dedicated my brain power what was going on and almost forgot completely about my addiction.
2. It Helped Me Forgive Myself
Anyone who has gone through drug addiction knows the overwhelming sense of grief and depression that is associated with relapse after relapse. You feel like you let your family and friends down, as well as yourself. By remaining mindful not only of my own struggles but that of other people, I was able to heal and forgive myself for my transgressions. It wasn’t about what I had done anymore, it was about who I would become, and in the end, that’s all that truly matters.
3. It Helped Me with Relationships
I became a recluse during my most intense periods of addiction. Not only would I stay away from those who would try to help, but I purposefully damaged my relationships with others out of a sick sense of self-destructive tendencies. I was unable to see what my actions were doing to others because all I could think of was myself and my next high. Now, my actions are almost completely focused elsewhere. Looking into the eyes of someone that you have hurt time and again brings the addiction right in front of your face in a way that you can’t ignore, and it changed me.
4. It Helped Me Process Emotions
One of the worst things about drug addiction is the complete lack of self-control that you have when going through it. One minute, you’re feeling high as a kite, and the next you’re in a pit of despair. Mood swings were common, arguments even more so. During mindful meditation, I forced myself to center my thoughts and kill the back-and-forth that went on in my mind. It wasn’t easy, but as time went on and I got farther along in my recovery, I started to see things more clearly and respond more appropriately. Gone were the knee-jerk reactions that dominated my life; what replaced them was a renewed sense of perspective.
5. It Helped Me Sleep
Sleep is a distant friend when you’re going through recovery. Since you can’t use drugs to calm you down, your mind races with anxiety and thoughts of what-if’s, making nighttime even harder than the day. When I began practicing mindful meditation, I was able to slow my thoughts down and purposefully direct my attention to resting. It didn’t work overnight, but over time, I was able to rewire my brain to see night as a time of sleep and relaxation. And because of that, my health and my happiness have improved.
Mindfulness is a great tool for anyone in recovery from drug or alcohol addiction (read our guide to using mindfulness for addictions). It’s also very necessary for many to seek professional addiction treatment from a treatment center. Though you can learn a lot from the best mindfulness books too.