Meditation – A Complementary Component For Recovery From Addiction

People suffering from addiction, and their addictions, have been studied for centuries. Meditation for addiction should be considered more often as a component of a holistic program. It is commonly accepted that people turn to substance abuse and addiction as a way to escape a painful reality, but it also happens that people become addicted to chemicals because the brain loves the sensory input and the pleasure overload that is created through the use of certain drugs. So these are at least two considerations when looking at “why” people become addicted, and of course the reasons for addiction must be taken into account when creating a path out of addiction. If the root cause of an addiction isn’t resolved, or the need met in a different manner, the addict will continually return to the problematic behavior.Meditation has proven to be a pathway, or part of a pathway, out of addiction for many people, and deserves to be considered more frequently as part of a comprehensive program for recovery. Meditation is so helpful in overcoming addiction because it addresses both of the “whys” introduced above. It is a pathway to healing the broken relationship with self and thereby relieving the pain that drives so many addicts, and it provides the type of sensory input that the brain craves. With training and guidance,meditation can replace the sensory input that the brain was previously trained to obtain through chemical abuse.In their book, Mindful Recovery: A Spiritual Path to Healing, Drs. Bien and Bien write, “People use addictive behaviors to avoid facing what hurts them. The Buddhist mindfulness practice offers a gentle way to begin facing pain and working with it to establish a new relationship to life. Mindfulness helps in two ways: first, by becoming aware of yourself and your environment, you understand what hurts you, what ‘triggers’ you, and second, by befriending your triggers, you can disarm them. Mindfulness provides a larger purpose, a broader context in which to see a problem. And then things fall into place more gently. If you are awake and relaxed and enjoying your life, there is less need and desire for your addictions.”With meditation guidance during recovery, addicts can lessen the impacts of withdrawal, as meditation suppresses feelings of anger and depression, and supports the production of brain chemicals that create positive emotions, such as serotonin and betaendorphins. It also helps create deeper more restful sleep, and sleep is often problematic during recovery. Meditation has been shown to support all of the positive, desired effects of brain chemistry and support positive thought processes, with no negative side effects. Learning to meditate also gives individuals a positive experience of learning to control their mind, restoring or providing for the first time a sense of control over their experience of the world.Regarding sensory input, forms of meditation and natural (and artificial) altered states have been pursued by mankind since time immemorial. It seems that humans have a natural predilection for altering their consciousness and seeking strong sensory input, since this pursuit has always been a part of the human experience. It may be that some addicts fall into drug abuse as a way to satisfy this desire, as studies seem to indicate that some people innately have a stronger need for this increased input than others. The powerful experiences available through meditation can satisfy this need for many, and there are indeed many individuals who have recovered from addiction and use meditation to provide this input to their brains, and those who have avoided chemical addiction by gravitating to a meditation practice. Again, its important to note that there are no known negative effects presented by meditation, so if you are the type of person who is “wired” to need this additional sensory input, meditating presents the best and possibly only safe way to satisfy this need.