Meditation and Addiction
I haven’t completely renounced myself from alcohol. I still like to enjoy a drink now and then. But on the spectrum of attachment and craving, I think most of us, certainly including me, could use a reminder about our relationship with the crutches in our lives.
A local sangha (or community) group called Urban Dharma that I drop into on some Friday nights in SF’s Richmond District, was started by Noah Levine and a group of folks who discovered Buddhism and meditation through their paths in recovery from substance abuse.
Meditation – and particularly in a sangha format – is such a powerful tool for helping us to get past our addictions, whatever they are. Insight meditation, in particular, helps us to connect to the emotions behind our cravings and learn to sit with our feelings, no matter how painful and difficult they may be.
A regular meditation practice helps me to stay grounded and real with myself. Because I sit every day, I am more inclined to pause and notice my behavior ‘off the cushion’, as we say. When I find myself mindlessly reaching for that cup of coffee or that second glass of wine I don’t even want, my witness voice pauses. Even that pause itself is helpful in affirming my personal awareness, regardless of if I choose to have the drink.
Certain friends of mine who really struggle with their addictions have found concrete relief through their participation in sanghas and their exploration of Buddhism. Although I myself have not attended, I’ve heard of a group that meets at the Zen Center every Monday night at 7:30. It’s an alternative to AA if that format or the traditional ‘higher power’ verbiage and philosophy doesn’t compute.
One of the most empowering aspects of meditation, in my mind, is that it encourages us to find the higher power within, or, to put it another way, to surrender to the fact that even if we believe in a higher power, it’s not going to make our decisions for us or walk our path for us. That’s our own job, task or privilege, depending on our perspective.
And cultivating faith within this landscape is wise work. It helps us walk on our own, without the crutches.