Moving beyond initial treatment is both a blessing and time of anxiety. As we move on from the first steps toward living free of addiction. We can feel the weight of addiction off of us. Most people are tremendously relieved to think of a life that will not involve the endless machinations required to obtain drugs, to have enough money, and to just survive. On the other hand, this new life is frightening. How will we deal with the triggers and temptations which lie before us?
All treatment programs will offer training on relapse prevention. There are as many programs for preventing a relapse as there are treatment programs. One of the emerging ideas in relapse prevention which is gaining serious traction in mindfulness.
Mindfulness involves a program of meditation and general awareness which seeks to free people form the negative judgments and reactions which are programed into us. All of us have a lifetime of personal and social expectations as to how we are supposed to respond to things in life. Even as we experience our own internal thoughts and feelings, we assign judgments to those thoughts and feelings. Mindfulness seeks to re-direct those judgments.
In the early days of sobriety we are likely to encounter situations which offer triggers. These are situations which make us want to use, and as addicted people, we generally use without any reflection at all. As we apply mindfulness to these moments, we are asked to take time to go ahead and experience the mix of feelings and thoughts. Rather than attempting to control those thoughts, mindfulness asks that we simply allow them to flow through our minds.
It seems that by relaxing our judgments in these situations. We are able to experience negative feelings and thoughts which are the substance of triggers in such a way that the power of these triggers is taken away. If we can work with techniques of meditation and quiet thought, the triggers do not overwhelm us.
What practitioners of mindfulness offer is a program of relaxation and meditation. This requires some training and practice. But over time, we can internalize these practices such that they become our immediate response to stressful or negative situations.
The idea here is that we cannot change our behavior until we change our minds. Changing our minds requires a program of exercise just like working our muscles. The types of reactions we have to stressful and negative situations are learned behaviors. We were not born to treat anxiety with alcohol, for example. Given this, we can learn new ways of thinking about situations in life and this will inevitably lead to new behaviors. Behaviors which do not involve drugs and alcohol.
As we move beyond treatment and rehab we can take the methods and practices of mindfulness with us. These practices do not require counselors or support groups, although there are groups who support and practice mindfulness. We need only learn the meditation techniques and develop the habit of applying these the moment we encounter triggers and difficult situations.
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