Do you sometimes hear an inner voice that tries to convince you to drink or use drugs during sobriety? The voice might say, “I can have just one drink,” or “I’ll never be able to stay clean, so I might as well use”? This inner voice can make you have increased cravings and cause a relapse.
I’ve worked with clients who are dealing with addictions as well as co-occurring concerns such as depression or anxiety. Relapses are common within the process of recovery, however, learning techniques that help redirect thoughts and increase internal awareness can be helpful in minimizing the possibility of future relapses.
How Does Mindfulness Help Prevent Relapse?
Mindfulness practice helps to increase awareness of thoughts, sensations, and feelings from moment to moment by instructing you to simply observe what occurs in each moment within the self without judgment. This helps you to learn to recognize triggers or cravings associated with certain emotions, thoughts, or sensations that may lead to drug or alcohol use. This increased awareness of what is occurring internally in a moment leads to an increased capacity to intervene during that day.
Increased mindfulness practice, helps you to begin to detect thoughts, feelings, and triggers that may lead to relapse early enough to prevent yourself from acting on them. Mindfulness helps you to learn to detach from thoughts by first simply recognizing the thought, without judging it, and then redirecting attention to the present moment or to your breath.
Redirecting your thoughts to today, where you are sober, instead of spending time worrying about whether you will be able to remain sober or thinking about regrets from when you were using drugs or drinking heavily, can help relieve the pressure of negative emotional experiences that may put your sobriety at risk. Mindfulness can also help you interrupt the thought processes that often leads to drug- or alcohol-seeking behavior.
Other benefits of mindfulness related to addiction and recovery include a reduction in negative thoughts and feelings associated with the past or future. For some, the mind going to the past or the future often jeopardizes existing sobriety. With mindfulness practice, you can learn to increase the amount of time you spend being in the present moment, which reduces the amount of time you spend thinking about your past or future. Increased mindfulness helps you to learn to train yourself to pick up on important cues that might go unrecognized. When you become more mindful of your internal and external state, you will find it easier to recognize moment-to-moment happenings in your life. Mindfulness also celebrates with awareness each moment and day you have successfully abstained and helps you learn to reduce harsh self-judgments that do not serve you in your continued recovery.