The Power of Acceptance: Embracing Change for a Brighter Future
Why do some people who say they are committed to building a new life of addiction recovery later relapse and return to alcohol or drugs? In most cases, these individuals are sincere about their desire to change and stay clean and sober, yet something happens that sends them back to old destructive behaviors. This unfortunate change in direction will have occurred because something has triggered it. Something sets up a craving, a desire that overwhelms the best of intentions.A relapse trigger can be anything that gets you thinking about drinking or using. The number of potential triggers is huge, and includes ‘people, places, and things’ as well as unhealthy thought patterns and emotions. HALT is an acronym for the four most renowned relapse triggers (Hunger, Anger, Loneliness, and Tiredness), and these are best avoided where possible – especially in early recovery. It is unrealistic to expect to be able to avoid all potential relapse triggers though, so an alternative strategy is needed, and this is where mindfulness can be incredibly useful.
Our world is like a silent film on which we each write our own commentary. And different interpretations of what has just happened can affect what happens next. ~Mark Williams – The Mindful Way through Depression
A return to alcohol or drugs usually begins with a thought. You could be listening to the radio in your car when one of your old favorite songs begins playing. This triggers a memory of a sunny day getting high with your friends. The next thing you know, you are ‘romancing the drug’, and your determination to remain clean begins to dissolve.If you start to look more objectively at your thoughts, you will notice that they are sort of like clouds passing through the sky. You will have thousands of thoughts every day, and if you allowed them all to impact your behavior, you would likely need to be locked away for your own safety – and the safety of others.The ability to dismiss some thoughts as irrelevant is crucial for survival. This may be easier to understand using an example - if somebody cuts you off in traffic, you might briefly think about doing something violent. Of course, you are easily able to dismiss this thought because you are a nice person and the consequences of acting on it would be unpleasant.A huge problem for most of us is we are unable to dismiss all of the thoughts that have a negative impact on our behavior. This is what happens with relapse triggers. Instead of just seeing that this mental chatter as something leftover from our addiction, we give it enough power to become a threat to our sobriety. Mindfulness can prevent this from happening.
Trying to fight or ignore a thought usually doesn't work, and this can just give this thought more power. Using reason against a relapse trigger can be effective, but once this thought has triggered a craving, our reasoning ability will be diminished. Mindfulness is about taking a step back, so you are no longer caught up in the thought – by doing this, your mind will be settled enough that you remember your reasons for not giving into these urges.
Gently asking "What is this?" when we encounter an unpleasant experience keeps the mind from leaping in with "I hate this-get me out of here! ~ Sarah Bowen, Neha Chawla, and G. Alan Marlatt - Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention for Addictive Behaviors: A Clinician's Guide
The ability to deal effectively with unhelpful thoughts will strengthen your recovery and reduce the risk of relapse. By regularly engaging in some type of mindfulness practice (e.g. meditation or yoga), you develop the ability to objectively assess your thought, and this means you become much better at deciding which ones get to impact your behavior. If something triggers a thought of drinking or using, you can mindfully respond with the thought ‘I see what’s happening here’ – this insight means the thought is no threat to you.
Serenity Vista Alcohol, Nicotine & Other Drug Rehab in Panama uses a holistic approach to recovery that includes many spiritual traditions. Eastern philosophies such as Buddhism and Taoism are explored for tools that can help achieve sobriety. Spiritual exploration, excellent food, fun with the dog and back to basic counseling are just a few more of the pieces that make up the whole of Serenity Vista and your recovery program in tropical paradise.
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