When mindful meditation was first suggested as a way of helping me recover from my addictions, my initial reaction was: okay, I’ll consider just about anything, but what exactly is it?
The word “mindful” is not a strange one, but nor is it particularly common. So to help you understand what took me a while to grasp, here is a dictionary definition of mindfulness.
“A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.”
Add to this the concept of meditation and you get a general idea.
The way it helped me was by getting right down to the core of my problem, and it’s a problem that plagues many people – although few get torpedoed by it to the extent that I did.
Let me give you a bit of background. I had a perfectly nice childhood as one of two sons in a loving family. What was unusual about my upbringing was that it started in Colombia, but when my beloved country turned into one of the most dangerous places in the world because of the drug trade and all the violence it brought, my parents got us out of there and into the relative peace and security of Southern California.
Did that upheaval in itself make me more vulnerable to drinking and drug-taking? It may have been a contributing factor, but I’m not going to go down that road. My problems were deep within.
I just didn’t feel cool. I felt awkward, found it hard to relax and alcohol made me feel better. That’s at the age of nine it made me feel better. And if you’re doing that at nine years old, what are you going to be doing by the time you’re 20? In my case, the booze having failed me (but I stupidly kept trying) I smoked pot and dabbled in this and that until I became addicted to meth.
All of that landed me in prison for two years. And even that short, sharp shock didn’t cure me. I cleaned up, came out, relapsed and then it all became too much and I attempted suicide. I wouldn’t be here now to write about it if my parents hadn’t found me a rehab clinic where I got the help I needed and I know I am blessed because of that support.
If mindful meditation sounds like something akin to Buddhism or the eastern mysticism that fascinated the Beatles and others in the late 60s, that’s because it is along those lines. But you don’t have to be a Buddhist or a hippy to benefit from it. Just open your mind to it and give it a shot.
Here’s how it works in four easy steps from my personal experience:
1. It blocks out the mayhem
Life is full of noise and disturbances, not just externally but in our mind too. Mindful meditation enables us to cut that out as easily as closing a door. Worries and fears pursue us and if you’re trying to beat an addiction, that’s the last thing you need. What you want is to be able to be free of all the mayhem, all the feelings of inadequacy and that nagging idea that you’re never going to beat this, that you’re not good enough. You can beat it, but it’s a lot easier to avoid having your tent blow away if you’re not in the middle of a tornado.
2. It has real physical effects on the brain
This is an important factor for those who require some scientific proof, rather than just going along with something and believing in it. If that’s you, take a look at this. It all gets a bit technical, but that’s science for you – and there is really no way of simplifying it. On the other hand, if you accept an expert’s opinion on something, you don’t need to – and can’t expect yourself to understand it like they do.
3. You can start to lose the pain
Mindful meditation keeps us in the present moment. It keeps us out of the past, where all our mistakes and failures lie, and out of a hypothetical future where our fears. anxieties and insecurities tell us we’re going to crash and burn once again. It helps us to control what we’re thinking and concentrate on the good things.
4. Your success can last forever
You know that old saying: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. But teach a man to fish and you feed him for life.” Once you have mastered mindful meditation and practce it often (daily if possible) it is there for good. It’s a self-replenishing resource, a source of help that will never run out. In my case, it was all the self-doubt that led me to seek oblivion in my drug use. The thought ‘they can’t get you if you’re out when they come calling’, so I made sure I was out (of my head) a lot. With mindful meditation, the fears and insecurities can’t get you because they’re only there if you let them in, and with this practice you’re taking more control of your mind and will not allow fearful thoughts to take over your mind. It won’t happen immeditately but with daily practice you are choosing to walk down a road that will help you reclaim your life.
I wasted a lot of years and I let a lot of people down, but I’ve been clean and sober now for nine years. I’m still me, the imperfect, awkward kid I always was, but I’ve got my act together big time. Nowadays I’m an entrepreneur, a businessman who has found his niche in the tech world, and I’m totally focused on it. I achieved this through mindful meditation, and that is what keeps it going, day after beautiful day.
I’ve got healthy interests now, which also contribute to my welfare. I found I had talents I never imagined and I’ve dabbled in painting and sculpture. I play the guitar, and all of these things help keep me on the straight and narrow.
I’m back in Colombia, now that the country has shaken off that terrible affliction that brought it to its knees. Pretty much like me, really.
Check out this free mindfulness course on A Lust for Life to get you started on your journey.
If you need help please talk to friends, family, a GP, therapist or one of the free confidential helpline services. For a full list of national mental health services see yourmentalhealth.ie.
- Samaritans 116 123 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Pieta House National Suicide Helpline 1800 247 247 or email email@example.com – (suicide prevention, self-harm, bereavement) or text HELP to 51444 (standard message rates apply)
- Aware 1800 80 48 48 (depression, anxiety)
If living in Ireland you can find accredited therapists in your area here: