Mindfulness in addiction recovery and treatment

By Jessica Kantor The Power of Unplugging Imagine a day without distractions. Or rather, imagine a day where distractions empowered you instead of throwing you off course. Imagine a day where you get to experience breathing in a new way. A day where every taste, touch, sound can be not only a reminder of yourself […]

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By Jessica Kantor

The Power of Unplugging

Imagine a day without distractions. Or rather, imagine a day where distractions empowered you instead of throwing you off course. Imagine a day where you get to experience breathing in a new way. A day where every taste, touch, sound can be not only a reminder of yourself but a drive to accomplish what you’ve been procrastinating.

This sounds like something out of a book; or rather, something out of a pharmacological ad booklet.

It isn’t.

This is meditation and mindfulness. This is what #NationalDayofUnplugging strives to share with those who have the courage to participate. Classically, #NationalDayofUnplugging is for taking time away from electronics: phones, social media, games, etc. and lending that time to things that you love: family, dancing, eating, etc. With 2017 already shaping up to be a stressful continuance of 2016, it’s time to change the game and add relaxation into the mix.

“So often we spend our moments planning or preparing for or worrying about the next moment, instead of living fully in the moment we’re in — which is essentially the only one we have,” says Meghan O’Connor, M.Ed., NCC. “So if we live our lives this way, we end up missing quite literally everything. That’s something I try to remind myself about a lot.”

O’Connor is the Experiential Therapist at Oxford Treatment Center in Mississippi. She leads mindfulness groups with clients that deal with the disease of addiction. For her clients, cutting out the electronics is easy, they’re already not allowed at the center. It is the focus and isolating of thoughts and senses that poses a problem for many that she teaches.

In active addiction, people lose that mind-body connection, or even intentionally try to disconnect by seeking the feeling of being out of your body. So we do exercises that help rebuild that connection,” says O’Connor.

Mindfulness as Addiction Recovery 

Meditation and mindfulness is not just to be utilized by those seeking treatment. Linsey Adams, CCTP, CADC-I, CAMS-II, CDVS-I, RADT, works at a treatment center in Nevada, Solutions Recovery. She not only teaches meditation and mindfulness to clients but also to behavioral healthcare professionals in the community. She also practices it on a daily basis.

“Meditation and mindfulness is the ability to know what’s happening in your head and your surroundings at any given time,” says Adams. “Being aware of these thoughts, feelings, actions and not letting yourself get carried away by them.”

Adams was recovering from a brain injury when she discovered meditation and mindfulness. It not only helped her recover but kick started her career to where she is now.

“Your brain and body go through many changes when you starting practicing. You have less stress, you can sleep better, your brain has more grey matter, your mental and emotional health mends…The list goes on and on,” exclaims Adams.

How do you start?

While one day of unplugging and practicing mindfulness and meditation may not get you a PhD by tomorrow, it is one step in the right direction. “Taking a day to ‘unplug’ and be mindful is a form of self-care, which everyone needs to do.”

Now, your first thought to ‘unplug’ is to sit on the couch and read a book, which sounds lovely, but it takes more than that.

“Among the simple things I like to suggest is watching the steam dissipate above your cup of tea or coffee,” says O’Connor. “Not thinking about anything or just letting other thoughts come in and out, and hanging your concentration on what you’re seeing.”

Adams teaches that there are multiple types of ways to be mindful and meditate. Whether it’s recognizing exactly how you’re feeling in a given moment and making a conscious decision to keep that feeling or change it. You can focus on your breathing for 5 minutes or an hour – Focusing on the inhales and exhales and bringing your mind back to your breath every time you get distracted, “Which will happen!” laughs Adams.

“Even if you just take 30 seconds to be very intentional about noticing the colors or shadows around you, or take 30 seconds to close your eyes and just notice everything you hear,” says O’Connor. “It doesn’t have to be an hour of sitting in silence. There are tiny, quick things we can do throughout the day that help us live more mindfully.”

March 3, 2017 is #NationalDayofUnplugging – but you can practice meditation and mindfulness starting today. For more information, look online; there are a variety of websites that teach how to practice and why it is utilized by millions. The health benefits, mentally and physically, could change your life in the most surprising of ways.

About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.


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  1. A different explanation as to why mindfulness reduces addiction

    A foundational approach to the treatment of addiction is to increase opioid levels in the brain through natural and non-invasive means, and thus reduce cravings. Below is a link to a little book that outlines simple cognitive procedures that can provide for the sustained elevation of opioids as well as dopamine in the brain. It is based on a rather obscure fact in affective neuroscience that mid brain opioid and dopamine systems stimulate or potentiate each other, and the resulting premise that their mutual activation through simple cognitive means will increase both these neuro-modulators and resulting affective tone, and will do so far more than if those systems were activated alone. These means are similar to mindfulness, but differ in significant ways.

    My argument and the procedure that follows (pp. 28, 39-41), is novel, short, succinct, simple and easily testable, and was written in consultation with and with the endorsement of Dr. Kent Berridge of the University of Michigan, a leading authority on the neuro-psychology of addiction. The book is written in two parts, for a lay and professional audience. Since the procedure is simple and innocuous, it may be of interest to the meditation community.

    (a supplementary article by the author on this topic from the International Journal of Stress Management is also linked)

    Thanks for your consideration!

    Art Marr



    1. Hi Nor. Right now, we are in the process of creating a newsletter. When its done you’ll we on that list :). Have a great day!

  2. I agree wholeheartedly with both the emphasis and tone of Jessica’s article since there is a serious need in our society to “slow down” and take time out for self care. Due to the pace of life today, having easy ways to calm yourself rapidly is a good idea.

    Recent studies demonstrate that the simple act of humming spikes your cyclic nitric oxide levels by 1500%. When you hum even for a short period of time, you may notice that not only do your sinuses clear but your facial and jaw muscles will begin to relax. If you hum long enough, you may also notice that your neck and shoulder muscles relax too.

    The bottom line is that humming can be done almost anywhere and it helps you to feel better almost immediately. The really good news is that any form of humming spikes nitric oxide! This includes even humming your favorite tune! In fact, the benefits of humming are so good, that it’s almost too good to be true. Try it out for yourself – the proof is always in the pudding.

    Thanks for a swell reminder Jessica that self care isn’t selfish – it’s simply a good idea!

    Robert Wright, Jr., Ph.D., COFT
    The Stress Relief Doctor

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