For those trying to escape the grips of addiction, withdrawing from drugs or alcohol can be a physically painful process – withdrawal can cause shaking, anxiety, vomiting, difficulty sleeping, and even seizures and hallucinations. And though these symptoms fade over the course of several days, the emotional symptoms can persist. Turning to mindfulness strategies, though, can help ease that distress. Mindfulness is part of a holistic approach to detoxification that can help those in recovery find their footing and, over time, manage the distress that drove them to addiction the first place.
Holistic Recovery Models
Unlike purely medical strategies, holistic recovery models concern themselves with the whole person and take an individualized approach to client care. That includes offering psychological and spiritual support along with physical treatment for addiction symptoms.
Just as the standard 12-step model calls for addicts to give themselves over to a higher power, holistic recovery tends to that connection and makes it a tool in the individual’s growth. Mastering some of these mindfulness strategies can help ground those going through detox.
Breathing Through Anxiety
One of the simplest strategies for managing anxiety associated with detox is something we all do, constantly – breathing. Deep breathing is a proven way to trigger a relaxation response in the body, helping the body to better oxygenate and even slowing down racing thoughts.
The key to deep breathing is to shift the inhalation from the chest to the abdomen. Many find it helpful to place one hand on the chest and the other on the stomach. As you focus on your breathing, you’ll feel the motion shift so that, rather than your chest expanding, your stomach rises with each breath. Such deep breathing also forms the foundation of many other mindfulness practices.
Peace Through Prayer
For many addicts, the most natural form of mindfulness is prayer, and for good reason. Not only have most people been raised practicing some type of prayer, but because detox can feel like an out of control process. During prayer, patients can focus on their goals, entrust their anxiety about getting sober to God or another higher power, and even develop their ability to trust others through the common bond of prayer. Consider, for example, the way many addicts recite the Serenity Prayer together at meetings or in treatment facilities; it’s a practice that grounds an entire community.
Positions Of Surrender
Yoga is often associated with contortions or flexibility, but the traditional practice is actually much more complex – and requires much less movement than the popular approach. In fact, it actually has more in common with deep breathing than with your average fitness class, which is why it’s such a valuable skill for those in recovery.
Yoga, along with meditation, are often referred to as a form of “urge surfing,” allowing drug cravings to rise and pass rather than causing distress or forcing the addict to use. Taking up a relaxed position and focusing on the breath, practicing traditional yoga can also help build bodily awareness and improve mood regulation. This spiritual aspect of yoga is fundamentally more important than the motions we think of as constituting yoga.
From Awareness To Actualization
Ultimately, mindfulness practices benefit those in recovery because they help patients build a sense of self-awareness, learn to identify and tolerate negative emotions, and ultimately increase their sense that they can succeed in recovery. This is the path to self-actualization, a road many addicts found blocked earlier in their lives. Mindfulness can help practitioners restart that journey and find self-fulfillment beyond substance abuse.