As a recovering addict, I know only too well how hard early recovery is. Learning to be visible without the aid of a substance to numb out can be a terrifying prospect. However, with the help of a strong support group, and a total abstinence based programme, we can grow into mature and emotionally intelligent human beings.
With respect to my own process in recovery, I started attending support groups aged nineteen, as a result of an addiction therapist introducing me to the twelve-step fellowships. Although I didn’t adhere fully to the recovery programme, and therefore was unable to remain abstinent, my mind started to expand as a result of attending weekly meetings. I finally hit bottom aged twenty-one, and thanks to my Higher Power and the programme of recovery, I have been clean since, one day at time (almost fourteen years).
One of the great pleasures of being clean and sober is that I can be fully present and deepen my spiritual practice through daily prayer and meditation. Mindfulness meditation in particular has transformed me from someone who was plagued by anxiety into a relatively calm and confident human being.
Mindfulness is essentially deep self-awareness. With a daily mindfulness practice we can be aware of our thoughts, feelings, emotions, sensations and environment. When we consciously observe our thoughts and feel our emotions without trying to suppress or control them; we engender connections in the brain. Practising mindfulness in everyday life actually drives connections between the prefrontal cortex, the limbic area and the brainstem. Mindfulness helps to enhance the prefrontal cortex, and therefore gives us the opportunity to temper our addictive urges and to respond to situations rather than reacting.
In my new book, “Drug Addiction Recovery”, to be published by Sheldon Press in January 2019, I have emphasised the importance of a recovering addict (and anyone in close proximity to a drug addict) developing the habit of becoming an observer of his/her thought-life and emotional state. The scientific data behind this process suggests that such an approach can produce calm and enhance sound decision-making. In the foreword of “Drug Addiction Recovery”, Rudolph E. Tanzi, PhD., Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School writes: “Whether you are grieving or coming to terms with a trauma or great loss, we learn that the key is to not try to control your feelings, but sit on the beautiful mountaintop of consciousness and simply observe without judging.”
The practice of being aware of our own self-awareness is what really creates an inner transformation, which has changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of recovering drug addicts who have earnestly dedicated themselves to daily meditation. The next time you find yourself lost in thought or trying to suppress your feelings, pause for a moment and take a deep breath. Then remind yourself that you have the power to be the witness of your thoughts and emotions, and therefore can process them without being at their mercy.