I was just 14 when I smoked my first weed – I was at a party and all my friends were smoking up. I hesitated initially, but then I thought ‘What harm would one drag do?’ How wrong was I! One led to the other and my cravings grew until I started to experiment with other drugs as well. I used to find excuses to spend nights out with my friends and there we would try different drugs – LSD, mushrooms, ecstasy – it just grew. I would also drink and smoke cigarettes – it was often one wild cocktail.
To sustain this need, I would beg, plead, lie or threaten my mother, a widow, who was finding it difficult to make ends meet, for money. When she refused to give me any more money, I started stealing, and the habit kept growing. I reached a point where I needed to smoke up as soon as I started the day. I would even go to write my exams, blown.
My relationship with my mother, siblings and relatives deteriorated as a result of my growing aggressive ways, and I found myself spending more time away from home, avoiding my responsibilities, and escaping reality by getting high. As a result, my grades were affected, and apart from the few friends who I would hang out with to smoke up, I became a loner. I started experiencing mood swings – while the highs lasted for brief periods only, the crash that followed each session was hard.
The first step towards life
However, there is often a person or an event that turns one’s life. In my case, it was a chance meeting with another young guy who was spiritually inclined. While I, being a self-proclaimed atheist till then, initially scoffed at the idea of there being a higher power (the only high I knew was from drugs!) I found myself getting slowly drawn towards this new friend.
One day, when I had just hit an extreme low after one of my sessions, I decided that it was time to rethink my life. I sought out my new friend, and begged him for help. That was when I was first introduced to meditation and mindfulness. As I started immersing myself in the new high that I experienced through meditation, yoga and spirituality, I began to understand the fact that all these years I had been harming myself and those I loved. I then decided to take the first steps towards sobriety.
How meditation helped me
My path to de-addiction through meditation and yoga is not a one off case. Practitioners of meditation have been extolling its benefit for ages. Studies in the International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology have shown that those who practice just 11 minutes of meditation and mindfulness every day, can cut down on heavy drinking drastically. One of the reasons for this is that mindful meditation has the potential to allow the practitioner to just observe and understand the feelings that are going on, and not react to them.
This is how meditation helped me curb my cravings and get rid of an addiction that was slowly taking my life:
Better control over the brain: By training my mind through the practices of mindfulness and meditation, I was able to gain better control over my brain’s function. This is because regular practice of meditation thickens the brain’s pre-frontal cortex, which is the region that is associated with cognitive skills such as awareness, concentration and decision-making. These are also the areas that get blunted by regular abuse of addictive substances.
Reduce stress: Studies show that meditation helps relax and reduce the brain’s amygdala – the ‘fight or flight centre’ which is associated with fear and emotion. Hence, through regular meditation, I was able to reduce stress and combat situations better without having to resort to taking drugs or alcohol.
Improve relationships: Regular meditation boosts our mood, make us happier and calmer, thus improving our relationship with others around us. Through meditation and mindfulness, I become more compassionate, kinder and a better listener, thereby enabling me to mend my broken relationships with family.
Better manage emotions: With meditation, I realised that I did not need to take in any substance to increase my self-awareness. I was able to focus on myself and understand the emotions that I was going through. Where drugs would give me extreme highs and lows, because of widely fluctuating dopamine levels, meditation helped make me a calmer person, by reducing the level of stress hormone cortisol in the bloodstream, thereby, managing my emotions better. Witnessing the urges and cravings, rather than giving in to them helped me control them better.
Strengthen immune system: While on drugs, I would often fall ill, was tired all the time, and was losing weight in an unhealthy manner. After I started meditating, I felt much stronger, healthier and less prone to illnesses. This has been backed by science as well. Clinical studies have shown that those who practice meditation regularly are known to display reduced markers of inflammation which can be responsible for causing disease.
Helped combat insomnia: Where, while on drugs I would have difficulties in sleeping, meditation helped calm me down, thus improving my sleep quality.
Heals the mind, body and soul: Through my personal connection with spirituality and the practice of meditation, I began the journey towards healing my mind, body and soul – all of which had been left battered by years of substance abuse. With meditation, I was able to feel the peace and happiness that I could never get through all those years of substance abuse.
I have completed four years of sobriety. Though the initial year was difficult, as each month passed, I found myself thinking less about drugs and alcohol. Whenever I felt the urge to get high, I would close my eyes and meditate. Now, I get the same high and happiness through meditation that I used to get through marijuana. However, rather than run away from my past, I now use my experiences to spread awareness about drug abuse and de-addiction through mindfulness meditation.
I feel that my life can perhaps be an inspiration for all those who want to kick addiction in the butt. Meditation is a zero investment process that makes you feel good and stay healthy. All that is needed is some time in your hands, a quiet place and the motivation to meditate.
Check out A Lust for Life’s meditation and mindfulness sections to kick start your journey. Perhaps see if you can find a teacher in your locality or download an app on your smart phone (if you have one), and try it out.