Positive Sobriety: Use of Mindfulness and Meditation

The technique of mindfulness can facilitate calming the mind and assist the patient in observing his or her thoughts, thereby enhancing the opportunity for subconscious thoughts to emerge.  After the mind is steadied and the patient can practice an observing-ego stance, the result is an increase in self-aware consciousness by simply learning to present in the moment.

Learning how to be present can have a significant benefit for addicts. This also has been well demonstrated in a multitude of mental disorders including depression, anxiety, personality disorders and addiction.

The disease of addiction has neurobiological and psychological underpinnings that can be identified as “the addictive drive,” which is quiescent in recovery, but remains ubiquitous. An individual in recovery is often thought of as someone whose disease is in remission. That is why sober addicts are in “recovery,” never “recovered.” This addictive drive, however, can represent a unique opportunity. When this drive presents itself in recovery in its various forms, such as craving or feelings of deprivation, these feelings can remind one of the need to continue, and even intensify, a meditative practice along with other recovery activities versus giving in and suffering a relapse.

Through sublimation, the addictive drive can be fuel for transcendence. The sober addict can achieve and maintain higher states of consciousness and an improved relationship with self, others, and a higher power. In his recent book, How God Changes Your Brain, Dr. Andrew Newberg determined that just 12 minutes of a focused meditation demonstrated positive changes in key areas of the brain, including the pre-frontal cortex and anterior cingulate. These changes suggested improvements in memory, mood, attention, and reduction in anxiety. In fact, imaging illustrated these changes occurring over just an 8-week period.

For the sober addict, the simple yet profound practice of mindfulness meditation can reduce stress, craving, improve mood, and even create a capacity for experiencing higher and ultimately profoundly rewarding states of consciousness. This translates into recovery.

For clinicians, incorporating mindfulness in their practice can be highly beneficial for both therapist and patient.