Mindfulness is intrinsically linked to addiction treatment, regardless of treatment philosophy. After all, recovering addicts need to resist or simply get through cravings, and mindfulness provides the primary tools to weather the moment.
Mindfulness teaches you to be present, to feel your emotions and physical sensations rather than avoiding them, and to observe them without reacting. Investing your time in mindfulness training is certainly worthwhile. However, you don’t need to master mindfulness to benefit from its techniques.
Practice these 3 mindfulness techniques to help reduce and withstand cravings.
When recovering from addiction, the instinct is to try to avoid the craving. You do your best to ignore the thoughts and feelings, along with the justifications to give into the craving. However, they persist, sneaking in the moment you let your guard down.
The mindfulness approach is to observe the craving rather than trying fruitlessly to avoid it. Note the thoughts and feelings and just let them be without any judgment. See what they are telling you. Try not to get attached to any particular thoughts and feelings.
Observing your cravings is not a guaranteed way to withstand them. But it grounds you and makes the cravings more conscious, reducing the chance that you will react the way you have in the past.
Withstanding cravings is difficult even if you are able to observe them nonjudgmentally. Focusing on something neutral makes the process easier. In mindfulness, breath is an excellent focal point. It is something you are doing at all times anyway.
There are many breathing techniques in mindfulness practice, but the most important one is to just follow your breath. You can count your breaths, but try not to get attached to the numbers. Count each breath as “one” if you like.
When your mind starts to wander, notice where it is going without judging it, then bring it back to your breath.
As a recovering addict, it is easy to get caught up in guilt and shame. Cravings can make you feel like you’re failing, even if you haven’t given into them. This shame can lead you to give into the craving, with the feeling being that it’s going to happen at some point anyway, or that you’re not “good enough” for sobriety.
The mindfulness approach is to accept that you get cravings. Accept that you have given into them in the past and that you may well do so again in the future. And in accepting this, you reduce the pressure on yourself to succeed right now. While it may have felt like everything hinged on withstanding this craving, acceptance lets you focus on the moment rather than your entire history and future.
Mindfulness provides a philosophy that puts cravings into perspective. The above 3 techniques show just how mindfulness can provide an effective approach to reduce and withstand those cravings.