Mindful Awareness is a term that’s getting a lot of attention. It’s being used a lot in therapy and self-help. It’s also being used in addiction treatment programs. What is it? How does it work? Can anyone do it, and does it have real value?
Mindful Awareness and its Role in Addiction Treatment
Mindful awareness is a technique focused on the “here and now”. It is focused on the very moment one is experiencing. It is not future centered or past centered. Mindful awareness is extremely helpful in reducing anxiety. It can also help reduce stress and worry, and is a great technique to combat insomnia. Mindful awareness focuses a client’s attention on what they are doing, feeling, and thinking at each moment. There are also physical aspects. Breathing control is very important. Taking three deep breaths, each controlled, when the client feels anxious or stressed is taught and reinforced. Breath control and proper breathing technique is a huge part of mindful awareness.
What does all this have to do with Addiction Treatment?
A great deal of the battle against addiction goes on in the client’s mind. Mindful awareness teaches a client how to calm the mind. It also teaches a client how to relax even when situations could produce extreme amounts of stress. In 12 Step programs, serenity is a highly valued and sought after state of mind. Mindful awareness can calm the emotional and mental turbulence caused by addiction by teaching relaxation, controlled and deep breathing, and tension reduction techniques. As well, bringing a client’s attention to the here and now tends to help them avoid the “flight into recovery” syndrome or the “pink cloud” syndrome.
Mindful Awareness does sound good!
While mindful awareness may seem easy, it’s far from it. I’ve heard MDs of addiction medicine tell clients, “If you get caught by a train, and you’re already late, instead of getting angry, draw your attention down to the moment, breath deeply and give thanks that you’ve been given time to practice developing your serenity.” Serenity and peace of mind, along with freedom from substance abuse, do not just happen. No one in a treatment center can just hand them over to a client. That’s what makes the disease of addiction so different from many of the purely physical diseases: the client must actively participate in getting well by working with their caregivers. There is no magic cure. Serenity and peace of mind are the product of working a program of recovery, staying in contact with addiction professionals, and following a relapse prevention plan.