Mindfulness and Addiction Recovery

Much research over the last 20 years has been devoted to mindfulness and the ways that we can use it to improve our lives. Not only is mindfulness helpful for those who have a mental illness, such as depression or anxiety, but studies have shown that it is helpful for those in recovery from alcoholism and addiction!

Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention

Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP) is a mindfulness based program intended to prevent those who are in recovery from addiction and alcoholism by teaching them skills to use during stressful experiences. Researchers at the University of Washington found that following an 8-week MBRP program even if the participants did relapse they spent less time “out there” before returning to sobriety.

How to Use Mindfulness in Your Recovery from Addiction

This week, we talk to Jon Rost, a recovering alcoholic and addict who has used mindfulness during his recovery journey. Jon has been clean and sober for nearly four years. Jon shares how he found the concept of mindfulness and how he applied it when he was newly in recovery. The video is a great resource for those who are new to recovery or new to the idea of mindfulness based relapse prevention and would like to learn more!

Mindfulness Actually Changes the Brain

A 2013 study found that mindfulness actually changes the neuroplasticity of the brain, repairing damage made by drug and alcohol abuse. The researchers concluded: “Addiction involves deleterious neuroplastic changes in frontal-striatal-limbic circuitry that results from chronic drug-use. We hypothesize that this drug-induced neuroplasticity may be remediated through participation in MBIs.”

Addiction is Mindless and Recovery is Mindful

The researchers described active addiction as “mindlessness” and Jon agreed with that characterization. Using drugs and alcohol in the face of stressors is a “habitual” and “conditioned” response or “mindless” in that using drugs or alcohol is done without thinking about it – mindfulness in essence resets the learned instinctual response and allows a person in recovery to make a decision about what to do rather than reacting.

Recommended Additional Reading on Mindfulness

The book The Mindful Path to Addiction Recovery: A Practical Guide to Regaining Control over Your Life is a good place to start for those who are in recovery and looking to learn more about how to use mindfulness.

In the video, Jon recommends the following authors:
Jon Kabat-Zinn Mindfulness for Beginners
Pema Chodron Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves From Old Habits and Fears

Your Experience with Mindfulness and Addiction

How do you use mindfulness to help in your recovery journey? Do you have any questions for Jon? Feel free to comment and share your own experience or to ask any questions.

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