‘Mindfulness’ in Addiction Treatment: What Does it Really Mean?
I hear the concept ‘mindfulness’ a lot. It’s a term kicked around in yoga classes, at corporate meetings and in addiction treatment. But for the last of those, for addiction rehab, what does ‘being mindful’ really mean?
The dictionary definition of ‘mindful’ is “to be attentive.” But attentive to what? In the context of addiction treatment, Jennifer Talley writing on The Fix argues that mindfulness in addiction rehab is paying attention to feelings, how we judge these feelings and the reactions we habitually have to these feelings.
“To me, the fundamental aspect of mindfulness is the capacity to witness your internal experiences in the moment rather than instantly reacting to it,” she writes.
From Talley’s article, we can devise ways of using emotions we feel, and the negative ways in which we judge these emotions, as moments of self-reflection and of mapping a plan for future instances—these moments are chances to say no to using substances.
If you are driven to use because of emotions that are difficult to pinpoint, Talley recommends reliving the moment, and then asking yourself the following questions; this is being mindful:
What were you thinking?
In the minutes or hours before you felt driven to use, what thoughts did you have? Work hard to understand what events triggered these feelings—were you responding to a stressful task at work, or did you overhear a friend say something negative about you?
How were you judging these thoughts?
Once you began having negative thoughts in reaction to an uncomfortable situation, how did you judge these thoughts? Did you think yourself weak or lazy for not being able to handle stress, or did you believe the nasty comment your friend made about you?
Which of these judgments led to your decision to use?
Often, these negative judgments lead to cravings and abuse of substances or alcohol. Is there one judgment that pushed you over the edge, or that significantly heightened the intensity of your cravings?
Once you reflect upon these moments in your life—the moments where you feel driven to use and to fall out of your addiction recovery—be mindful, or in other words pay attention to your thought processes in order to identify the pattern that leads to using.