Sometimes our minds get to racing, and we can’t seem to slow them down. We have regrets about the past. We have anxiety about the future. Our brains seem extremely skilled at reminding us of our biggest failures or embarrassments and equally skilled at dreaming up all the things that could go wrong down the line.
A racing mind—whether it is stuck in the past or out front in the future—can be a real problem for a person in recovery from a substance use disorder.
When you have reclaimed your sobriety, it is only natural to feel some regret or shame about things you might have said or done while you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol. And it is equally natural to worry about whether you will be able to maintain your sobriety or repair relationships you may have damaged in the past.
But if your mind starts revving its regret and worry engine, you might soon find yourself struggling with the symptoms of mental health disorders like depression or anxiety—and you may well find yourself tempted to return to drugs or alcohol as a way to self-medicate. It’s ironic but true that your worries and regrets about drug and alcohol use can result in a relapse.
How can you guard against this? One way is to practice staying in the present moment so that you neither ruminate about the past nor obsess about the imagined dangers of the future. Mindfulness practice and yoga are two great ways to work toward calming the mind so that you can experience more moments as they are actually happening.
Let’s look at both practices to see how they can support your sobriety.
Mindfulness Practice for Addiction Recovery
Mindfulness practice has its roots in Buddhism, and for that reason, many people are quite skeptical about it—especially if they think the practice might conflict with their religious convictions. But the truth of the matter is that while modern day mindfulness practice may have roots in Eastern thought, it is compatible with any (or no) religious practice and asks nothing of you but your willingness to sit quietly and focus on your breathing.
Give it a try. That might have felt weird or awkward, especially if you have never done anything like it before. At the same time, you might have been struck by how the activity required nothing of you other than a willingness to pay attention to your breath as you inhaled or exhaled.
That activity is the foundation of mindfulness practice. Over time, the practice helps you remind yourself to stay present when you feel your thoughts running off. There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that mindfulness practice can, for example, help people cope with feelings of anxiety. This fact can be especially important if you are at risk of developing a substance use disorder centered on anti-anxiety medications.
If mindfulness is appealing to you, there are plenty of online resources, apps, books, podcasts, and more that can help you get your own practice underway. There may also be classes in your community.
Yoga Practice for Addiction Recovery
When you think about yoga, you might have some of the same sense of doubt that many people feel about mindfulness. After all, yoga also comes out of an Eastern tradition, and in the United States, it is often lumped in with a variety of fitness, wellness, and consciousness-raising fads that were (and sometimes still are) mocked by many.
But if you look past the stereotypes, you might quickly discover that yoga is a kind of physical version of mindfulness. With each pose, practitioners bring their attention to their body and their breath. They are present in the moment, and often this means their thoughts are calmer and quieter. And, as with mindfulness practice, yoga can, over time, help you stay present more often in more situations—supporting your mental health and your sobriety.
The same sorts of resources that are available for exploring mindfulness are also available when it comes to yoga. Here, for example, is a video for true beginners.
Here in the Present, You Should Reclaim Your Sobriety
The right time to get treatment for a substance use disorder—and any co-occurring mental health disorders—is always right now. There is nothing to gain—and a lot to lose—by waiting. So if you are struggling with drugs or alcohol, we hope you will reach out to French Creek Recovery Center in Meadville, PA. We have the expertise and the empathy to help you get sober and stay sober. We are ready to get started right now.