Sunday, October 31, 2010

THE USE OF MINDFULNESS FOR SUBSTANCE USE DISORDERS

Most, if not all, kinds of meditation can be relaxing, but relaxation, in itself, is not a solution for alcohol dependency and the like. Most kinds of meditation are designed to take you away from the present moment. This is nothing more than temporary escapism, distraction and diversion, affording, at best, only temporary relief from the signs and symptoms of substance abuse and misuse.

Mindfulness takes meditation, in its most simple and natural form, and applies it to one’s whole life. The regular practice of Mindfulness ... the practice of purporsefully paying attention in the present ... is the most effective kind of meditation for dealing with the signs and symptoms of substance abuse and misuse.

Here are a couple of journal articles on mindfulness, meditation and the treatment of substance abuse:
* Bowen, S, Witkiewitz, K, Dillworth, T M et al, "Mindfulness Meditation and Substance Use in an Incarcerated Population", Psychology of Addictive Behaviors 2006, Vol. 20, No. 3, 343-347.
Substance use disorders refer to conditions arising from the abuse of, and dependency upon, alcohol and other psychoactive drugs.
Regardless of the causes of addiction - and we now know there is a very high genetic component to addiction disease - practising alcoholics and other addicts are not fully grounded in the present moment and are largely motivated by a desire to escape from self-awareness. Anger is the way they generally deal with issues pertaining to the present and the here and now (ordinarily due to a well-documented low tolerance for frustration and everyday stress, and an inability to delay gratification, manage desires and control impulses).

In addition, alcoholics and other addicts tend to want to escape the past (and an unwanted self), and are also generally fearful and anxious concerning the future. Insofar as the past is concerned, alcoholics and other addicts have real problems with resentments (“the ‘number one’ offender”), often obsessing and ruminating about some person, place, thing or situation from the past to which they are still psychologically “attached” in an unhealthy and upsetting way.
Resentment is the way alcoholics and other addicts generally react to their past ... reliving, and re-feeling, past experiences. Insofar as the future is concerned, fear is what they feel.

Sooner or later, all of those kinds of unhealthy mindsets will result in practising alcoholics and other addicts seeking to escape by means of alcohol or their other drug of choice.
The reason why Twelve Step fellowships and programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) are the best method of treating addiction is that they recognize that the disease of addiction cannot be cured but can only be arrested on a daily basis ... one day at a time. As already mentioned, addiction disease is almost invariably the result of efforts - which are ordinarily unsuccessful - to escape living in the present moment ... in the here and now. Practising alcoholics and other addicts are never contented or satisfied with the way things are in the moment. They are constantly trying to improve their emotional state ... even when happy.

Mindfulness is simply the presence - note that word, presence - of the choiceless awareness of, and the paying of bare attention to, the action of what is present in the moment, and to whatever arises in the present moment ... from moment to moment ... both inside and outside of us. This is of great assistance to the recovering alcoholic or addict ... when they learn to remember to be, and stay, in the present moment, and to remember, purposefully and receptively, and non-judgmentally, what is present ... detaching themselves from people, places, things and situations which would otherwise jeopardize their chances of recovery.
Alcoholics and other addicts, even in recovery, are often beset by troubling thoughts, especially negative ones such as feelings of resentment. Now, unlike most kinds of meditation, Mindfulness Meditation is not about stopping the mind or stopping thoughts. Mindfulness and Mindfulness Meditation is about allowing thoughts to be present but not letting them run you. The thoughts and feelings about yourselves or others are not you. You have a choice ... you can choose to identify with your thoughts and feelings (especially the negative and self-destructive ones) or you can simply observe them. You can also choose to change your environment, ring a friend, support person or sponsor in AA or NA, or attend a meeting of the latter. You have choices.
Mindfulness Meditation is not an alternative or a substitute for regular attendance at your Twelve Step program. If you are not presently a member of such a fellowship, join now. Your chances of permanent recovery from what is otherwise a terminal illness are greatly enhanced when you experience the energy of association with likeminded people, as well as the power of example, and when you put into practice The Twelve Steps in your daily life.

Mindfulness works wonderfully in conjunction with, and is otherwise totally aligned to, The Twelve Steps. Both recognise the notion of "self" to be illusory, and therefore one must drato quote Krishnamurti again: “In the acknowledgement of what is there is the cessation of all conflict.”



 
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