Josh Chandler | April 14, 2021

Meditation and Relapse Prevention

Meditation is a helpful exercise that can do more than just relax you. Here you’ll discover how to use meditation as a way to prevent addiction relapse.

You may know that meditation is a powerful and helpful exercise that offers incredible relaxation benefits.

But did you know that research shows that it can help offset compulsive cravings, mental health symptoms (like depression and anxiety), and generally just increase your overall quality of life?

In fact, meditation is a great tool to reduce and even prevent the dangers of addiction relapse.

Let’s get into it!

Meditation and Addiction Relapse

Taking Care of the Mind-Body-Soul

Abstaining from drugs or alcohol is only the first step on the complicated journey of sobriety. Sustained recovery requires examining how you take care of yourself physically, mentally, and spiritually. It also requires integrating healthy habits into your daily living.

What does your self-care look like? Are you eating a healthy diet? Exercising regularly? Getting the appropriate amount of sleep? Socializing with a healthy support system? Engaging in pleasurable and meaningful activities?

In conjunction with meditation, these are invaluable coping skills that nourish the mind, body, and soul.

Unlocking the Power of Meditation

Meditation has many benefits for overall stress reduction, calmness, and staying present.

Not only does it feel amazing, meditation has been scientifically proven to actually change the brain.

Recent studies examining some of these effects include the following:

  • Reduces racing thoughts
  • Shows similar efficacy to antidepressants
  • Decreases the brain cell volume associated with fear
  • Improves concentration
  • Reduces stress levels

Commit to the Process

Habits need to be repeated over and over again in order to become second-nature. Meditation is no different than “getting in the habit” of brushing your teeth, showering, or working out on a regular basis.

Make a commitment! Set an appropriate goal and timeline (i.e: meditating for at least two minutes for thirty days in a row).

The goal shouldn’t be so obscene that it’s overwhelming. Instead, it should be achievable and inspiring.

How to Meditate

When you think of meditation, do you only picture a zen-like person sitting very still and focusing on only his breath? Guess what? Even though that may be the typical stereotype, it’s definitely not the only way to successfully meditate.

Like many exercises, people can meditate in a variety of ways:

The traditional approach typically entails lying or sitting in a comfortable position and focusing on the breath.

In guided meditation scripts, a soothing voice facilitates the session. These meditations offer specific scripts for all kinds of pressing topics: anxiety, parenting, work-related stress, and even cravings and addiction relapse.

Active mindfulness or meditation typically refers to the act of being present. This entails focusing all five senses during a task that may ordinarily be mundane. Examples of this include: taking a walk in the park, eating a decadent meal, taking a hot shower. By focusing on each sense and staying present with the feeling, you increase your ability to stay mindful.

Meditation for Cravings

Addiction relapse is a common phenomenon in substance use, and it is both progressive and fatal.

However, the habit of meditation allows individuals to restructure their thoughts and body in a way that feels calming, relaxing, and therapeutic. Let’s look at some exercises.

1. Riding the Wave

Visualize your craving as a wave. Picture it forming, building, and crashing through the ocean. Picture yourself riding this wave (rather than drowning from it), and arriving safely back to shore.

Picture how rejuvenated and inspired you now feel now that the wave has crashed.

2. Noticing Your Body

Cravings may be a sign of increased anxiety or depression, and we can often feel these sensations manifesting in our body.

Allow yourself a moment to sit (or lie down), close your eyes, and scan your body.

Where do you feel the craving in your body? Is it in your chest? Your neck? Through your stomach?

Is it tight? Painful? Can you breathe into it? What other sensations does it feel like?

Play detective and get curious with your sensations. Picture the craving as a message your body is telling you. What can you do with that message? What does your body need you to do it right now?

3. Safe Place

Addiction relapse is common when life feels overwhelming. The next time you experience those overwhelming to drink or use, try picturing your “safe place.”

It can be a real or imagined scene, but it should evoke feelings of peace and comfort. Meditate on what this place looks like and feels like.

What sounds are there? What are you doing there? Who are you with?

These pleasant visions can create a sense of calmness and relaxation, which can take the edge off your craving.

4. Power of the Word

Choose a word that represents your current sobriety, such as Recovery, Serenity, Clean, Sober. Pick whichever one resonates with your journey.

Now, choose the word that best represents potential addiction relapse. Examples include Relapse, Destruction, Pain, Loss.

Close your eyes. Inhale the positive recovery term. Take in all the benefits with your breath. Exhale the negative recovery term. Release all the consequences and risks with your breath. Notice how you feel.

5. Counting Exercise

When the addiction relapse feels very escalated, you may not be able to focus on much, and even meditation may feel like a difficult chore.

If this happens, focus on simplifying the process. Choose a number between 1-8. Whatever number feels right is fine. Simply breathe in for that many counts (if your number is 7, hold it for 7 counts) and breathe out that counts (also seven).

Repeat as necessary.

6. Grounding

This can be done anywhere. If you’re feeling anxious or triggered to crawl into addiction relapse, get back into the moment. Focus on your five senses.

What’s around you? What do you see? What can you hear? What about the faint noises? What can you smell? Taste? What does the chair or ground feel like?

Spend a few moments grounding yourself with your senses to increase your mindfulness.

Final Thoughts

Meditation is a wonderful coping skill to add to one’s recovery toolbox for preventing addiction relapse.

Addiction is a progressive and potentially fatal disease. If you or a loved one is struggling, please contact us for help and support today. Detox and rehab can change a person’s life around for the better.

Addiction,Mental Health,Recovery,Rehab,Relapse,Treatment,
Josh Chandler
Josh Chandler
After growing up in Chicago and North Carolina, Josh chose to get help with substance use disorder and mental health in California because of the state's reputation for top-tier treatment. There, he found the treatment he needed to achieve more than five years of recovery. He's been in the drug and alcohol addiction rehab industry for four years and now serves as the Director of Admissions for Resurgence Behavioral Health. Josh remains passionate about the field because he understands that one phone call can alter the course of a person's life.

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