Blog > Mindfulness and My Recovery

Mindfulness and My Recovery

Jamie Thompson
| April 28, 2017

Can you imagine putting a tent up in the middle of a storm? Would you give up and run? Would you keep going? As an addict, we want to escape uncomfortable and painful feelings by getting high. Rigidly holding on to anger, hate, jealousy, and sadness becomes as automatic as does reaching for the dope. Especially during my first year of my recovery, my emotions were on a speeding roller coaster. I often wanted to give in to the urge give, say “f#@ it,” and get high. I remember getting upset, overwhelmed, lonely, and tired many times

Mindfulness teaches me how to weather the storm and keep going. It gives me no excuse to give up and relapse.  The Merriam-Webster definition of mindfulness is “the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental” and “complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.” Mindfulness and mindfulness skills can be practiced anytime, anywhere, while doing anything. All that I have to do is pay attention to the present moment without judging it or holding on to it.

Meditation is a mindfulness practice that helps me to stay in the moment, to experience the feelings, and to let them go. At first, I was able to meditate for about 10 seconds before my mind began to race. I thought I would never be able to do it. It is called a mindfulness “practice” because it takes just that, lots of practice. I started out with the goal of 3 minutes and slowly increased the time.

Now, I can quietly sit or lie down for 15-20 minutes and focus on my breath. The goal is not to clear the mind, but to notice and acknowledge thoughts and feelings as they arise, and to let them pass. Breathing in, “I accept the feeling.” Breathing out, “I let it go.” Repeating until I notice the tension leaving my body. Sometimes I listen to meditation music, use guided meditations, or just simply “be” wherever I am.

In treatment, I learned a prayerful meditation that is useful when I’m angry, upset, or frustrated with someone. It might be the guy who cuts me off in traffic or a friend who says something hurtful. Thinking of myself first, I begin with:

May I be happy.

May I be healthy.

May I be safe.

May I live in peace and serenity.

Thinking of a cherished loved one, continue with:

May you be happy.

May you be healthy.

May you be safe.

May you live in peace and serenity.

Then thinking of the person with whom I am upset:

May you be happy.

May you be healthy.

May you be safe.

May you live in peace and serenity.

Finally, repeat the first verse thinking again of myself:

May I be happy.

May I be healthy.

May I be safe.

May I live in peace and serenity.

I repeat the meditation until I feel compassion for myself, my loved one, and the person who upset me.

Hiking is a great time to practice mindfulness. Focusing on each step and listening to the sounds of nature help to slow the mind. I can practice mindfulness when I wash my hands and slow down to experience the event. Turning on the water, I notice how the warmth of it as it flows over my hands. I notice how the soap feels as the bubbles form and slide across my skin. I slowly lather the soap around each hand, each finger, noticing the tips of my fingers, my nails, my knuckles, and the life-lines in the palms of each hand. I am staying in the present moment, not anxiously worrying about tomorrow, or being sad about yesterday.

I am human and I know that emotions and using thoughts will never go away. My new mindfulness practices enable me to pause and the freedom to choose how to respond in a way that does not make things worse. My emotions no longer control me because I am now in control of my mind. The storm can come and go while I set up that tent because I am stronger and wiser.

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