14 Jun Addiction Recovery and the Importance of Breath
Addiction recovery in the early days reminds us to continually “let go and let God.” Personally, I found this phrase baffling. I was using alcohol and drugs to produce an immediate impact, to drown and erase the pain within my soul. As an alcoholic and an addict immediacy had been my forte, and I had no clue how to “let go and let God!” The principle of patience was suggested; patience provided me the capacity to pause and breathe.
Today, breathing is an indispensable part of how I “let go and let God.” The function of breathing is required to sustain life physically as well as sustain life spiritually. Breathing allows for more personal strength, strengthened intuition, stronger relationships, peace, clarity, restored gratitude and among other things a conscious contact with a Higher Power greater than ourselves. Breathing enables alcoholics and addicts to come terms with the suffering in their lives without requiring immediate relapse to alcohol or drugs. Breath empowers alcoholics and addicts to live in the present moment, which is the meaningful basis behind our day-to-day program.
In 12 step programs, living in the present moment is a spiritual tool that decreases fear and increases faith. “If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath” (Amit Ray, Om Chanting and Meditation). I felt defeated prior to realizing the virtues of “living in the breath” and “living in the present moment.” My inability to turn my will and life over to my Higher Power was the essence of my spiritual problem. When I sought spiritual guidance, I was informed that my all suffering came from my resistance to “what is.” As a result of Breathing, we allow time alone with our intuition before we react and resist. In essence, when we stop resisting, we cease fighting everything and everyone. It is rudimentary for the alcoholic or addict to meditatively breathe. Breath helps to dismantle the resistance within the self-will of the person in recovery. Breathing in the present moment helps to diminish the 100 forms of fear, which constitute the alcoholics/addicts self-will to run riot.
In the “Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous, I discovered I suffered from a three-fold disease of the mind, body and spirit. In early addiction recovery, I addressed the mind and body while neglecting the spirit. I was dishonest and in delusion about my relationship with my Higher Power. I would claim faith with others and say, “I love my Higher Power!” In reality, I prayed when I needed to be rescued or occasionally prayed in the car or shower and remained in fear for the majority of the day. I was unquestionably frustrated, and in delusion of the fact I was dying of a spiritual malady. This is a common belief for alcoholics and addicts that often creates misguided blame towards people or programs that are attempting to help them. A portion of this spiritual malady stemmed from my misconceptions of a Higher Power. I believed I needed to be “closer” to God, which is a paradox. The truth for me now is that my Higher Power is closer than my very breath. All I have to do is wake up to that which is already there.
Prayer and meditation are a part of the 11th step of the program of Alcoholics Anonymous. It is very common to forget the 11th step is actually a step, opposed to an option. Breathing permits silencing of the mind and reception of a Higher Power. This lets our Higher Power demonstrate – what our Higher Power wants us to do. I still struggle with self-will; I constantly have to rely on my Higher Power to remove selfishness, dishonesty and fear. I have to practice the disciplines of step 10 and 11 everyday. Addiction recovery opened me up to my favorite spiritual practice: breathing and meditating.
There are many techniques to breathe, below are several of my favorite techniques! However, I urge everyone to research and find the techniques that best suit themselves. Repetitions of the breathing exercises are as imperative as the exercises are. I recommend choosing a breathing technique and doing it twice a day for one week.
Breathing Technique 1: Begin with a long and very slow breath through the nose for 7 seconds. End with a long and very slow breath out through the mouth for 9 seconds. Try for a minimum of 4 minutes twice a day.
Breathing Technique 2: Kapalabhati Begin with a long, slow inhale, followed by a quick, powerful exhale generated from the lower belly. This technique helps when there is anger or frustration prior to meditating. Try for a minimum of 2 minutes once or twice a day.
Breathing Technique 3: Box breathing Begin with a slow 4-second breath, hold for 4 seconds, breathe out for 4 seconds, and hold for 4 seconds before breathing in again. Try for a minimum of 4 minutes twice a day
Breathing Technique 4: Triangle Breathing is similar to Box Breathing,however there is only one pause. Each side of the triangle is equal. Inhale 4 seconds, pause 4 seconds, exhale 4 seconds, and repeat. Try for a minimum of 4 minutes twice a day.
Source photo 1 box breathing: http://dharmaineverywave.com/square-breathing/, “Dharma in Every Wave”, Aiden.
Source photo 2 triangular breathing: http://www.universal-life-church.org/pranayama-triangular-breathing.html, “Pranayama”