One reason why many of us turn to alcohol or drugs in the first place is that we don’t feel comfortable in our own skin. Life is an emotional roller coaster, and discursive thinking can make us miserable a lot of the time. This includes worrying about the future and feeling guilty about the past. Substance abuse offers a temporary reprieve from this inner turmoil, but the price we pay for this escape is just too high. Mindfulness provides a more effective path to inner calm.
Important – there is nothing magical or exotic about mindfulness, and it is not just some passing fad. It is a natural state of being that can be experienced by anyone at any time. It doesn’t have to involve any special beliefs, and you don’t need to develop any special abilities.
Mindfulness practice has become incredibly popular in western countries over the last decade. There are now thousands of books, blogs, audio courses, apps, and retreats where you can learn to master this technique.
It seems like every week there is some new research proving its effectiveness. It is considered by many to be a revolutionary Buddhist technique, yet if you talk about ‘mindfulness’ (สติ) with most of the locals here in Thailand, they would struggle to understand why it is suddenly being treated like some new discovery – after all, being mindful is the most natural thing in the world.
There are actually two types of mindfulness – one is a state of being and the other is a meditation practice. Whenever you are paying attention to what is happening in the present moment, you are being mindful.
This is a desirable state because when you are mindful, you won’t be lost in discursive thinking about the past and future. It also means you will be experiencing your emotions without resistance, and this is going to eliminate most of your mental suffering. The purpose of mindfulness practice is to help you become more mindful in your daily life.
The benefits of mindfulness for people in recovery can be summed up like this: it provides a path to feeling comfortable in life that doesn’t involve intoxication.
The Benefits of Mindfulness for People in Recovery
The benefits of mindfulness include:
- It is an effective technique for dealing with cravings
- It improves your ability to manage stress
- It can mean you no longer feel at the mercy of your emotions
- There is evidence that mindfulness is an effective method to ease depression
- You learn how to fully enjoy the present moment
- This practice can mean you enjoy increased serenity in your life
- You no longer feel like a prisoner of your thoughts
- It reduces the likelihood of relapse
Meditation and Self-Compassion
It is common for those of us who fall into addiction to suffer from a bit of self-loathing. It can feel like there is a part of our thinking that almost enjoys it when we mess up, so it can criticise us and make us feel bad. This type of self-loathing can be a serious obstacle in recovery, because it can steal your motivation and lead to symptoms of depression.
What normally happens with your thinking when you make a mistake or there are problems in your life? Are your inner thoughts supportive and soothing, or are they negative and bullying (e.g. ‘Why am I such a loser?’). If your thinking tends to be more like the latter, it means you are going to be making a bad situation even worse.
One of the benefits of mindfulness is getting to see that all of those negative judgements you make about yourself are unnecessary. You develop the understanding that you are a fallible human being, and you are going to make mistakes. If your best friend did something unwise, would you use this as an opportunity to bully them and make them feel worse? I’m guessing, probably not. You would probably say something like “Hey, we all make mistakes”.
If you can offer this type of understanding compassion to a friend, why can’t you offer the same to yourself?
Mindfulness practice is going to help you become more aware of what is happening inside of your head, so this should mean you are able to develop more self-compassion. If you are dealing with a lot of inner negativity, it can also be helpful to do some loving-kindness (metta) meditation.
Meditation and Self-Compassion
We offer mindfulness training as part of the programme here at Hope Rehab. These classes are led by Alon Kumsawad, and she is able to offer an authentic Thai perspective on this Buddhist practice. Alon is an accomplished meditation teacher, and she has already helped many of our clients add this effective tool to their sobriety toolbox.
Mindfulness and Meditation at Hope Rehab Thailand