Updated: Feb 28, 2021
How Mediation Can Tame the Tiger of Addiction
Meditation, in particular Mindfulness Meditation is an effective clinical intervention in addictions and mental health treatment. Basically, Mindfulness is defined as being aware and non-judgemental in the present moment. It requires a practice of sitting with, and observing thoughts without automatically responding to them. As a therapist, if you were to ask me what I would choose to teach if I could only teach one thing, it would probably be mindfulness through meditation practice.
Meditation is the quickest way to reinforce the skill of mindfulness. In particular, for people with Substance Use Disorders it is an effective practice for many reasons, but primarily because it increases a person's ability to tolerate discomfort and it helps people get out of an “autopilot” mode. People with Substance Use Disorders often use substances to cope with uncomfortable feelings. If a person ingests a substance like alcohol or another drug, it can be very effective and fast at changing feelings, but over time of course, there are a lot of negative side effects associated with use. Substance use to manage emotional discomfort becomes a person's automatic habit.
Mindfulness meditation strengthens the ability to be aware of your mental process, and it encourages you to sit a little bit longer in a feeling state that might be uncomfortable. And, after a person sits in emotional discomfort, repeatedly, and successfully, they start to build a tolerance for the discomfort and begin to rely less on substances to manage the feelings.
This can reduce the risk of substance relapse considerably.