“Boredom, anger, sadness, or fear are not ‘yours,’ not personal. They are conditions of the human mind. They come and go. Nothing that comes and goes is you.”Eckhart Tolle, German writer and webinar speaker
He’s a fascinating guy, this Eckhart Tolle. At the age of 29, having spent most of his adult life plagued by depression, he awoke one night, his feelings of sadness “almost unbearable.” For many sufferers of depression, a night such as that turns out to be their last night.
Alone and utterly desperate, Eckhart experienced an “inner transformation.” Feeling that he could no longer live with himself, he asked, “What is the self?”
He had no answer. Simply by asking himself that question, his “mind-made self, with its heaviness, its problems, that lives between the unsatisfying past and the fearful future, collapsed. It dissolved.”
He woke the next morning and everything felt peaceful: “The peace was there because there was no self. Just a sense of presence or ‘beingness,’ just observing and watching.”
Not many of us experience an epiphany such as this. We simply struggle on, as if carrying a huge burden that we can’t shake, and if we could, we wouldn’t dare leave it behind.
I, too, suffered from depression. However, I was only diagnosed once I’d entered a drug and alcohol rehab centre, having been left there by my loving yet exasperated parents. They’d made sure it would leave what they hoped was enough distance between the world as I knew it and me. It was one state over from the family home.
My own epiphany
In rehab, after being detoxed of all the alcohol and methamphetamine that had so diluted my soul, I began a six-month epiphany of sorts of my own, one that came not in a single panic-stricken and lonely night, but steadily grew as my mind and body were slowly freed from the grip addiction had over me.
In rehab, they had a library. There were no library cards—everyone knew everyone else, staff and patients alike. From there, I borrowed and read (and then read again) Eckhart’s first book, The Power Of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, which had been personally endorsed by Oprah Winfrey. For me, the book was a revelation, and a copy of it sits in my personal library today.
As I live my life as a practitioner of mindfulness, it continues to provide me with a sense of being that pays no mind to the addicted days of my past.
I’m more than nine years down the road of my recovery from addiction and have never faltered, not once. I’ve spent every single day clean, sober and constantly healing. Thanks to Eckhart, each of those days has also been a mindful one, as tomorrow will be, too.
Mindfulness is described as “the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to the internal experiences occurring in the present moment.” These aren’t Eckhart’s words, however, but a dictionary’s.
Below, I’ll tell you the story of how mindful meditation became the key to my addiction recovery; how it complemented the treatment I received in rehab; and how, as I live my life as a practitioner of mindfulness, it continues to provide me with a sense of being that pays no mind to the addicted days of my past.
It helped me deal with anxiety
Addiction will give you anxiety, whether you had it before your substance abuse or not. Fact. My physical therapist in the drug rehab centre kept telling me to calm down whenever I was exercising. It was she who advised that I learn about mindful meditation in one of the classes the centre offered.
“It’s not immediate, so don’t go getting frustrated like you do,” she said. “Just let it come, and it will.” How right she was!
Before long, I could feel myself relaxing and calming down. It wasn’t long before I honestly started to feel less anxious about things. In time, even huge, previously incomprehensible things, such as my future and my life beyond rehab, appeared to me in a completely different light.
To this day, by using mindful meditation as part of my daily schedule, I deal with anxiety in a totally natural way, unlike before. In fact, I just don’t get as anxious in the first place. That’s half the battle.
It brought back my focus and concentration
If you know anything about the effects of addiction, you’ll be aware that your concentration level and your ability to focus are virtually destroyed, and it takes work to get them back. So I worked, and I worked at my mindfulness, and I’ve never skipped my meditation practice. Having my concentration and focus back in my everyday life is a blessing.
Today, I’m a successful digital marketing entrepreneur with talented employees and an impressive client list. I simply wouldn’t have been capable of such a thing if my mental capacities hadn’t been so enriched by mindful living.
It restored my cognitive abilities
My cognitive abilities are pretty much back to where they were pre-addiction. My thought processes are clear and concise; I can focus on and then retain new information like a college student.
Problems come along (mindfulness doesn’t make you immune to them), as they do for us all, but I can now rationalize, think and then make decisions as to the best way to deal with them. I’m far better equipped, now, to see them for what they are. My past self would reach for the nearest bottle, guaranteed.
It’s enabled me to live depression-free
For the last five years, as my sense of mindfulness and my sobriety have gotten stronger, I’ve had no recurrences of the depression I used to suffer from. Yes, I do get down occasionally, but that’s just a general mood—nothing close to the black despair I used to endure. And endure badly.
In rehab, alongside the cognitive therapy all recovering addicts are given, a group of us were also given mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT). Research has shown that MBCT can be just as effective, when it comes to preventing a depressive relapse, as prescription medication. What can I say? It’s worked for me.
A simple yet valuable key
So there you have it: my reasoning and my experience of how mindful meditation can be the key to recovery from addiction.
I sincerely believe it has been mine. My calmness, my concentration and focus, my pure thought and my freedom from the nightmare of depression (the evil twin of my other evil twin, addiction)—these are all benefits that mindful meditation has brought into my life, and they’ve all kept me firmly on the road to addiction recovery.
Are you considering mindful meditation as a practice to add to your life? Would you like to see if it could help you resolve certain issues? As always, please share your thoughts in the Comments below. Be good to yourself!