Integrating Meditation in Addiction Treatment to Support Relapse Prevention

Meditation is a valuable tool for relapse prevention as one element of a holistic approach to addiction treatment. Meditation can help with chronic relapse and works in conjunction with other addiction treatment. Along with relapse prevention, meditation has benefits even beyond relapse prevention and is accessible to you anywhere, and anytime, you need it.

Bill had been involved in relapse prevention treatment for many years, but he never fully felt a sense of grounding and clarity that he was looking for. He had heard of meditation, but never really gave it much thought, dismissing it as a religious or spiritual practice that he wasn’t really a part of. “I’ve just never been a praying kind of person, you know?” says Bill. “It wasn’t until I was asked to practice it as part of my treatment plan that I realized it’s not about prayer, not really. It’s about being still and calm long enough to start thinking clearly again.”

However, meditation isn’t necessarily a religious, or even a spiritual, practice—in fact, it can be a means of building the focus and clarity necessary to stick to your treatment plan and cultivate a more positive, hopeful outlook on your recovery journey. The path to addiction recovery is a long and winding road that will require many resources and tools to help you along the way. Meditation is one such tool which can be utilized both during addiction treatment and beyond as a method of relapse prevention.

How Meditation Helps Prevent Chronic Relapse

Addiction is a chronic illness, one that must be managed throughout the course of your life. You’re not alone in this struggle; chronic relapse is a problem faced by many people, even after trying several different treatment methods. However, comprehensive treatment that includes continuing care program allows you to step down from residential treatment into less intensive forms of care and can help you stick to the path in your healing journey. Often, a key tool for maintaining sobriety both during and after treatment is mindfulness meditation.

Most people think of a monk sitting cross-legged in a temple in Nepal when they try to imagine what meditation looks like, but in reality, it’s much more practical and commonplace. As a beginner, you may start by meditating only a few minutes at a time or as needed and work your way up to longer durations. There is no particular posture or seating arrangement you need to master in order to begin meditation. You don’t have to follow a certain religion or being overly spiritual to benefit from it. Meditation, however you practice it, can help you:

  • Become more mindful and build self-awareness
  • Increase your attention span
  • Reduce stress and anxiety
  • Build up your mental resilience

The goal of including meditation as part of your addiction treatment is not to change or alter how you think or feel during your recovery journey, but instead to change the way that you perceive these thoughts and emotions and react to them as they surface. Over time, meditation will come more easily to you, and with it, you will begin to regain a sense of inner peace. The ability to control your response to thoughts and sensations is a powerful ally when it comes to relapse prevention.

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The Power of Meditation in Conjunction with Other Addiction Treatment

Meditation alone is not a suitable replacement for other addiction treatments. However, when used in conjunction with other treatment options, it can be a powerful tool for recovery. Studies are being done on the positive effects of meditation and mindfulness in addiction treatment, but most professionals still agree that it needs to be used in conjunction with other treatment methods and part of a larger overall plan. As one NIMH study reports,

The promise of [Mindfulness Meditation] as an efficacious treatment for SUDs is supported by the consistency of positive results, demonstrated in this review across different study designs, MM modalities, subject populations and addictive disorders treated. Additional support for the potential efficacy of MM in SUDs can be drawn from the results of studies of other clinical samples. MM-based therapies have been shown to be effective or potentially effective . . . for a variety of medical and mental health disorders, including stress, anxiety, depression, emotion dysregulation, avoidance coping, all known risk factors for relapse in SUDs. In this context, MM may be particularly helpful for patients with co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders (“dual diagnosis”).

As part of a long-term comprehensive treatment program, meditation can play a major role in Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP). Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) are two of the other evidence-based treatment methods that form the cornerstone of most addiction treatment programs. By combining modalities and tailoring your overall program to fit your unique situation and needs, your doctors will be able to provide you with lasting coping methods and the tools you need to not only get sober, but stay sober.

Benefits Beyond Relapse Prevention

Meditation is widely used in wellness and holistic medicinal settings because of the many benefits that it offers to people. Meditation has been attributed to helping practitioners lower their blood pressure, help control pain, sleep better, reduce age-related memory loss, lengthen attention span, increase awareness, reduce anxiety, help with emotional stability, and reduce stress. While, in reality, it may not be a cure-all, it can certainly be an effective and powerful tool for recovery when utilized in the proper context.

A residential treatment setting provides the perfect environment in which to learn how to meditate—a safe, judgment-free space free from the distractions and stressors of everyday life. A long-term program will allow you the time you need to become accustomed to practicing regularly and strengthen your focus and calm, so that when the time comes to leave the facility and return to your regular routine, you’ll be fully equipped to carry what you have learned with you and integrate it naturally into the day-to-day rhythms of your life.

One of the best things about meditation, after all, is how easily accessible a tool it is. You can practice almost anywhere, and anytime, you like. All you need is a safe place you can stop for a moment—or several—to focus on the clarity of mind and calmness of spirit that will help you keep moving forward toward a healthier, brighter future.

Alta Mira offers comprehensive treatment for people struggling with drug and alcohol addiction as well as co-occurring mental health disorders and process addictions. Contact us to learn more about our renowned programs and how we can help you or your loved one start the journey toward recovery.