Take a step back from your mind for a moment.
Notice that your mind is always active.
You have thoughts, ideas, memories, dreams, insights, and intuitions that appear in your mind every day. Some of these experiences in your mind that you act on. For instance, if you were on your way to a 12-step meeting and you remembered that you needed to talk to your sponsor, you probably would talk to your sponsor before or after the meeting.
Acting (And Not Acting) On Your Thoughts
Regardless of what your response is to your mental activity, you continue to have those thoughts, ideas, memories, dreams, insights, and intuitions appear in your mind.
It’s a constant. It’s always there. Because of this, some people have learned to respond to their inner mental activity by putting some distance in between them and their thoughts. They’ve learned to let their thoughts be there and not act on them, even if there is a strong impulse to do so. And learning this skill can be incredibly helpful with cravings. You can have a craving but not act on it. Or you might react to a trigger but you can learn to not respond to the unpleasant feelings you have as a result of that trigger.
Mindfulness and Addiction Recovery
One way to create distance between your behavior and what you’re experiencing on the inside is a practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness is the practice of observing your inner and outer experience without judgment. You can be mindful, or aware, of your thoughts and feelings. You can be mindful of the noises and activities around you. And you can be mindful of the sensations in your body.
In fact, strengthening that inner observer can help you put a distance between you and your cravings. It might be hard at first. Perhaps throughout your entire addiction you jumped on your cravings because drinking or using drugs always made you feel better. You might have had a craving when you started to have uncomfortable feelings, or when you got stressed out, or when life felt overwhelming. And because you developed the habit of using the moment you felt uncomfortable, it’s hard to say NO to cravings.
Yet, when you become more aware of what’s going on inside of you and you create more distance between the feeling or thought and your reaction, you can slow down the pace of cravings. In fact, the more that you can resist cravings by simply noticing them and not acting on them, the less often they will appear. And eventually cravings will stop appearing altogether.
Over time, you’ll be able to do this with other thoughts and feelings too. For instance, let’s say a negative thought arises like, “You’re such an idiot.” With a regular practice of mindfulness and observing your thoughts and feelings, you can have the thought without reacting to it. It can be one of the many thoughts you have that appears and disappears without a trace.
Mindfulness is an incredibly valuable tool to stay healthy and overcome any obstacles that exist in the mind, such as cravings.