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Mindfulness and Addiction


Much of what underlies addiction in general is a negative relationship with one’s feeling and a disengagement with one’s inner life. Alcohol and drugs suppress and distort our own thoughts and feelings in ways that are destructive enough. Since many people who find themselves in the throes of addiction came to use substances in unhealthy ways already have a predisposition to unhealthy thinking and ways of processing their own feelings, the crossed internal signals and emotional wreckage can be profound. While any program of recovery will contain and element of treatment which helps addicted people deal with their thoughts and feelings in more healthy and productive ways. The processes of mindfulness training have become increasingly important in addiction treatment.

Loosely based in a Buddhist practices, mindfulness helps people to experience their thoughts and feelings in ways which are devoid of judgment. This is to say that for many of us, certain thoughts and feelings will come with pre-programmed judgments and negative feelings attached to them. We are not taught to experience our inner world in a way which is free of judgment. Thus, for people who have problems with substance abuse, there are often entire fields of experience and feeling to which they have never been able to properly understand.

Mindfulness training and therapy guides through processes which allow them to quietly experience their own feelings without attempting to sort those feelings out into neat and tidy conclusions. People are given the freedom to experience their inner lives free of the negative judgments they have come to expect and subsequently have come to deny. The conflict of feelings and denial of feelings creates and unsolvable internal problem which fuels alcohol and drug addiction. By learning to go through the feelings and experiences and simply “feel” these things, recovering alcoholics and addicts are better able to understand themselves. Their thoughts and feelings, and the conflicts which have attended these thoughts and feelings.

What is more, the practice of mindfulness is not simply a matter of feeling better in recovery. Scientific evidence has shown that continues practice of mindfulness and guided meditation actually re-wires neural pathways. Mindfulness forms new neuro-chemical avenues for cognitive function. What this means is that people in addiction treatment can actually expect to not only repair the emotional damage from their lives of using but will also likely create new ways of understanding beyond the person they were before they started using. Neuro Scientists have also documented and increase in grey cells, the functional units of brain matter, in patients who have undergone mindfulness training. The benefits of mindfulness are only just being understood. It is already clear that there is tremendous benefit for people who are going through drug and alcohol treatment.

While it is not considered a substitute for more traditional forms of addiction treatment, mindfulness is now part of the program of recovery in a number of treatment facilities and programs. The process of slowing down both activity and thought so as to allow more complete contact with thoughts, feelings, and experiences in a way that is devoid of negative judgment has been proven to complement drug and alcohol treatment. Mindfulness and guided meditation are now a solid feature of addiction recovery.

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