Mindfulness: it’s something that’s constantly preached about in therapy and support groups, but what does it really mean? Obsessively thinking about not drinking or not using will only serve to increase your urges and potentially send you straight into relapse, while not being conscious enough can leave you vulnerable to triggers and other threats to your sobriety. Mindfulness
So, if that’s not what mindfulness is, then… what is it?
Mindfulness in addiction recovery is self-awareness, active application of the life skills and coping mechanisms you learned in therapy, and working continually to maintain your new sober lifestyle. It’s not an exercise of self-numbing and pretending triggers and urges don’t exist; it is about making wise decisions and being self-aware.
What does that all mean? It all boils down to the differences between self-numbing and self-awareness.
Self-numbing is the essence of substance abuse disorders. We drink, misuse painkillers, and abuse heroin or cocaine to numb ourselves from the stresses and pains of life. Chasing the high is a means of running away from the lows. Blackout drinking is an attempt to erase those things we would rather not remember. All of these attempts at self-numbing may work for a moment, helping us to feel better for short periods of time, but in the end we are only causing more damage to ourselves on spiritual, mental, and emotional planes.
Burying your pain doesn’t make it go away; it makes it fester.
Contrary to self-numbing, self-awareness is the practice of becoming in tuned with yourself, accepting your flaws, embracing your emotions, and letting go of the things that hold us back as a person. It means to stop running from the ugly things we bury inside and finally come to terms with them in order to let them go.
Self-awareness when it comes to addiction recovery boils down to this:
- Learning to recognize triggers and avoid potentially triggering events
- Allowing yourself to feel and deal with your emotions in a constructive manner
- Recognizing sources of toxicity in your life and taking steps to remove them
- Knowing when and how to ask for help during vulnerable times
- Building your self-worth and creating boundaries
When we learn to practice self-awareness over self-numbing we truly begin the path of healing and recovery. We cannot expect things to improve if we are not open to the internal and external changes necessary to see those things happen.