meditation in sobriety

Stress and Anxiety In Recovery?

Do you want to be stressed? How about anxious? Irritated? I doubt it; the majority of the time that I got high was in response to these three, and other similar feelings. Life has a funny way of being thrown at you, especially in recovery, so it’s important to defend and protect your well-being; one of the best ways to do this is through meditation.

In a way, meditating is like going to the gym. At first it’s brutally difficult to lift any amount of weight, and after just a few minutes your mind starts to wander towards things you’d rather be doing. It takes a significant amount of will power to wake up early to work out or even overcome your acquired laziness to do it throughout the day. It’s easy to make excuses as to why you’re too busy and it’s hard to stay consistent. But unlike the gym, to receive the benefits of meditation all you need to do is devote 10 minutes, or 1% of your day.

By consistently devoting 1% of your day to meditation, one receives profound effects in as little as an 8 week period. Different researchers and variable studies have shown a range of effects spanning from: reduced stress, enhanced focus, increased empathy, decreased anxiety, and improved interpersonal interactions and relationships; all of which significantly improve the status of one’s recovery, and the status of anyone’s life in general.  Sara Lazar, a neuroscientist for Harvard Medical School, verified her anecdotal claims with studies that proved empirically that consistent meditation literally changes the physiology of the brain in four specific areas. She told an interviewer in the Washington post that these four areas are the regions of the brain which assist in focus, emotional regulation, empathy, and fight or flight responses. Her research supported her anecdotal claim, and even ones I could make myself, about the benefits of consistent meditation.

There are so many ways to meditate, books upon books have been taught by innumerable teachers throughout history; I encourage everyone to discover, practice, and try a multitude of meditation styles and techniques. There are contemplative or concentrative, and passive or active ways to meditate. Yoga is a form of active meditation, compared to Vipassana which is more passive and concentrative. I personally have tried guided meditations, FM3 transmitters, candles, breathing techniques, yoga, silence, and visualizations on my own journey of self-discovery; each one has its own benefits.

Regardless of the technique, the most important thing is consistency. All the research leads to positive effects being directly related to a consistent practice that spans over a minimum 8 week period. The reason consistency and a span of time is required is because the brain needs time to change, but only progresses through a consistent effort.

A consistent meditation practice has enhanced my recovery and has changed my life. I have tapered off my anxiety meds, and I have even learned how to focus for extended period of times despite an ADD and ADHD diagnosis at a young age. I have noticed that I am less involved in things that aren’t as important as what’s happening now, which in turn has allowed me to improve the relationships I have with the people around me. I recommend and encourage everyone to meditate, and especially people in recovery because we trained our brains for years in our addiction to react negatively to everyday stimuli, and once we integrate back into the “real world” it is essential for us to be prepared mentally, spiritually, and physically if we want to prevail through future ups and downs.

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