Every morning I start my day in the same way: I get up from bed, I open the window to let some fresh air in, I sit on the floor, close my eyes, take a deep breath, and meditate for 10 minutes.
This very simple exercise is what gives me the energy and positive attitude I need to carry on all my tasks during the day and, no matter how it goes, still finish it with a smile on my face.
It hasn’t always been this way, though. Ever since I was a teenager and into my early adulthood I struggled with alcoholism and drug addiction. Addiction affected the relationship with my family, I didn’t take care of my mental and physical health, and I never took interest in any activity other than getting drunk and high.
When I was 23 I hit rock bottom: I was sentenced to two years in prison for drug related charges. Even though I felt like my life was over at that point, prison was actually the place where I began to heal. It was there where I realized I still had a chance to turn my life around, and that’s why I decided to check into an alcohol and drug rehabilitation center.
Recovery was challenging, so much so that at times I thought I wouldn’t make it. But there was one thing I learned during rehab that really made it easier: meditation. I have been sober for 9 years now, and meditation is still part of my daily life. Here are 5 ways in which meditation helped me through my recovery process, and in which I think it can help you as well.
When I started rehab, my mind was all over the place. I worried about everything; I felt guilty about my past and was afraid of the future. I was constantly stressed, and that only made the process a lot harder.
Meditation is all about focusing on the present. It taught me to put all my energy into getting better today, instead of trying to change what happened yesterday or anticipating potential future problems. With my mind on the present, little by little my stress levels lowered significantly, which ultimately resulted in a series of physical benefits, which I will talk about later.
Learn How to Deal With Pain
Alcohol and drug detox is one of the hardest parts of recovery. The symptoms of withdrawal include physical and mental pain, and not knowing how to manage it can make it even worse. Meditation can help you deal with pain and discomfort, which can be explained by the Buddhist metaphor of the two arrows: when you get hit by an arrow you experience pain, and, usually, your mind’s reaction to this pain is to panic, which only makes things worse. Allowing your mind to panic is like getting hit by a second arrow, since you will experience discomfort twice.
Practicing meditation can help you avoid this second arrow, since it will prevent your mind from panicking and allow you to stay calm through the pain, making it easier to handle.
Better Physical Health
The physical benefits of meditation come in many forms, but they are all related to how it lowers your stress levels and gives you inner peace. High levels of stress can damage your immune system, so, the more stressed you are, the more prone you are to developing a disease. Meditation, therefore, plays an important role in improving your overall health by reducing stress.
In addition, when you practice meditation you are more aware of your body. This means that when something isn’t quite right regarding your physical or mental health, it is easier for you to notice the signs and take action before it becomes a serious health issue.
This benefit was particularly helpful during my recovery process. Throughout my life I never developed any discipline: I never committed to anything, so I didn’t know what it was like to work hard for something. And if there’s something you need to stay sober, it’s discipline and hard work.
Making the effort to meditate first thing in the morning every single day was tough. No matter how much I would like to stay in bed; pushing through the beginning, when you’re not yet able to clear your mind and you feel like sitting there doing nothing is useless; these things helped me acquire discipline and commitment to meditation. This ultimately helped me be disciplined and committed to my sobriety.
Control Your Thoughts and Feelings
In my opinion, this is the biggest benefit of practicing meditation: regaining control over your thoughts and feelings. As an addict, I used to make decisions based on impulses, and needless to say I didn’t make great ones. But meditation taught me to control how I feel and think, be calm when making a decision, and not let my mind give into the impulses of my body. This helped me avoid relapses during recovery, and it still helps me when it comes to making any decision in my life.
Meditation brings many benefits not only for the recovering addict but for anyone that wants to reduce their stress and wants to learn how to manage situations with calm. If you have never meditated before, this is the moment to start doing it! You can find guided meditations online, or you can simply sit in a quiet place, close your eyes and focus on your breath for a few minutes. Don’t get discouraged if at first you don’t seem to achieve clearing your mind completely, like everything, it takes practice. Go ahead and try it, then come back and tell us on the comments below how it went.
Do you have any questions about meditation and addiction recovery? Feel free to leave a comment below.
You may also like to know how yoga can help you be more productive and focus on your busy days. Check this 15-minute yoga office practice.