Mindfulness in Addiction Treatment and Recovery

Before starting to talk about mindfulness applicability in addiction treatment, it is helpful to have a few definitions of mindfulness in case you have been wondering exactly what it means. These definitions come from various sources, including individuals and groups, and is presented in no particular set order. Some of them might be more helpful than others and relate to you more. The first place you might have looked for the definition of mindfulness is in the dictionary. Below we have collected a few of them:

Merriam-Webster Dictionary
“The practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.”
“The state or quality of being mindful or aware of something.”

Cambridge Dictionary
“The practice of being aware of your body, mind, and feelings in the present moment, thought to create a feeling of calm.”

“Mindfulness is the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to the internal and external experiences occurring in the present moment, which can be developed through the practice of meditation and other training.”

Beyond the dictionary, below are a few more definitions of mindfulness that comes from organizations and experts in this practice field.

White Wind Zen Community
“Mindfulness is wordless. Mindfulness is meeting the moment as it is, moment after moment after moment, wordlessly attending to our experiencing as it actually is. It is opening to not just the fragments of our lives that we like or dislike or view as important, but the whole of our experiencing.”
“Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”

Mindfulness: Finding Peace in a Frantic World
“Mindfulness is about observation without criticism; being compassionate with yourself.”

Germer, Segal, Fulton (2005)
“Awareness of present experience with acceptance.”

Kabit-Zinn (2003)
“The awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment to moment.”

Baer (2003)
“Mindfulness involves intentionally bringing one’s attention to the internal and external experiences occurring in the present moment.”

In reading the different definitions of mindfulness above, you’ll notice a few patterns are similar in nature. The most obvious is that mindfulness has to do with paying attention to the present moment. Several definitions highlight the importance of judgment in mindfulness – that is, that mindfulness involves nonjudgment.

In the context of addiction treatment, there is substantial interest in the benefits of mindfulness, as its practice has proven to be effective for managing stressors and coping with other psychological issues, which are often the major reasons why some people turn to use drugs and alcohol in the first place – that is, to relieve stress and cope with issues. Additionally, mindfulness is a practical skill for dealing with cravings as recovering individuals who practice mindfulness learn to observe the cravings without automatically reacting to them and following through with the urge to use.

Nowadays, the practice and use of mindfulness has been incorporated into a variety of therapies, settings, and programs including:

  • Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
  • A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program (MBSR)
  • A Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP)

We at Florida Center for Recovery understand the many challenges that individuals in addiction recovery face, and as part of our comprehensive addiction treatment program we provide mindfulness practice as part of our alternative therapies. This invaluable therapeutic recovery tool provides an array of benefits including the following:

  • By practicing mindfulness, the recovering individual will feel more in control and better able to deal with the highs and lows. This is especially important because recovery can be an emotional rollercoaster.
  • Cravings usually continue to arise in recovery. Mindfulness allows the individual to observe such thoughts without being carried away by them. Recovering individuals learn that they are not always responsible for their thoughts, nor do they have to be a victim to them.
  • Recovering individuals who practice mindfulness will be better able to spot the warning signs that they are losing their hold on recovery. This way they will be able to avoid a relapse.
  • Mindfulness makes life in sobriety far more enjoyable. The individual is able to get pleasure from even the simplest things.
  • Those who practice the technique find it easier to manage their interpersonal relationships. This is particularly important for people in recovery, who may have many damaged relationships and need to tread carefully as they repair the relationship with that person.