Addiction and Mindfulness

One of the first steps in dealing with addiction is to discover the emotional cause of it, whether it is fear, depression, anxiety, or unhappiness.  And what triggers these emotions.

Why? Because the two main causes of relapse are personal triggers and stress. And while it may be a little bit more manageable for a recovering addict to avoid going to bars, strip clubs or hanging out with people they used with before getting sober, it’s not nearly as easy to avoid stress.

That said, both personal triggers and stress comes down to the same thing; your thinking.

Many times, these destructive and demanding thoughts come from what I call the “craving mind.”  In the craving mind, we feel that our current state of unhappiness could be radically altered if only we could have the new job, money, relationship, recognition, pleasure or power we had and lost, or never had and strongly desire.

We cause ourselves suffering when we crave for something that lies outside of our grasp. Sometimes, our craving mind involves tightly holding on to something negative: attaching to an unwholesome belief about how things ought to be or should have been, or a destructive emotion such as anger, sadness, or jealousy.

Mindfulness * can help us develop the capacity to see this clearly. To become aware of what we’re attached to so that we can let go of it and thus end our suffering cycle.

Also the hidden areas of our resistance can be noted and even examined so that we can make the conscious choice to discard them before it overtakes us emotionally.

Though it’s impossible to completely avoid a craving mind. Desire is part of being human, isn’t it? It can motivate us to strive toward improving our lives and our world, and has led to many discoveries and inventions that have led us to a higher quality of life.

But unchecked a craving mind is a very destructive force. Because regardless of all that we achieve and possess, most people still think that they won’t be happy or content unless they get more. This way of thinking lead to comparing and feeling resentful toward those who seem to have an easier life.

Our craving mind is therefore one of the biggest culprits when it comes to addiction. But this in itself means there are hope. A Starting point.

And combined with a medical supervised treatment, the results can be amazing. Off course, medication can make it easier for recovering addicts to stay sober. Addiction medications can reduce cravings and long-term withdrawal symptoms and there are also medications for immediate withdrawal symptoms. But without a parallel psychological treatment the chances of healing are just not great.

For example, if an addict is not aware of his or her fear that they can’t change or are unable to change, their addiction can push them into denial and cause them to minimize the consequences of their addictive behaviour.

But with a mindfulness practice, they can discover the thinking behind the feelings and however painful their discovery, dramatic breakthroughs are then possible.

Research on mindfulness meditation, for example, shows that qualities we once thought unchallengeable that form personality and character can be transformed significantly.

By training your mind through mindfulness practice, you create new neural networks. If you’re aggressive, you can find ways to temper that aspect of yourself, becoming confident and clear about your boundaries without entering an aggressive mind-set that will ultimately sabotage you.

For many years, scientists believed that the brain’s plasticity, that is, its ability to create new structures and learn, was limited after childhood.

However, new research shows that we can adjust the structure of the brain. Research also found that the more one practices mindfulness meditation, the thicker the brain becomes in the mid-prefrontal cortex and in the mid-insular region of the brain.

Changing your mind (or thinking processes) actually can cause changes in the brain, while people who’ve practiced meditation for ten or twenty years are skilled at quickly achieving a state of concentration and mindful awareness, beginners who engage in mindfulness meditation as little as four hours a week can achieve a state of mindfulness that leads to creative flow.

They also found that intention and attention of focus were the keys to reaching these states, not the number of hours spent on a meditation cushion.

From my own experience, I know that regular mindfulness meditation allows me to set aside distractions and attachments. It makes me more calm and happy.

Not only this, because meditation helps the heart rate to lower, breathing to deepen and to slow down. The body stops releasing cortisol and adrenaline into the bloodstream; these stress hormones provide us with quick energy in times of danger but have damaging effects on the body in the long term if they’re a chronic condition.

Over time, mindfulness meditation actually thickens the bilateral, prefrontal right-insular region of the brain, the area responsible for optimism and a sense of well-being, spaciousness, and possibility. This area is also associated with creativity and an increased sense of inquisitiveness, as well as the ability to be reflective and observe how your mind works.

So, by building new neural connections among brain cells, we rewire the brain, and with each new neural connection, the brain is learning. Through mindfulness meditation, we build up the left-prefrontal cortex, associated with optimism, self-observation, and compassion, allowing ourselves to cease being dominated by the right-prefrontal cortex, which is associated with fear, depression, anxiety, and pessimism.

As a result, our self-awareness and mood stability increase as our unforgiving judgments of others and ourselves weakens. By devoting attention, intention, and daily effort to being mindful, we learn to master the mind and open the doorway to the power of calm. And in this addiction, loses its hold on us.

*Mindfulness is: actively paying attention to the present moment, taking stock of what you’re thinking and feeling, and offering no criticism or judgment. Mindfulness is simply making a neutral, comprehensive inventory of what you’re experiencing. The idea of “living life in the moment” comes from the idea of being mindful