Mindfulness & Recovery

I love my recovery life. 12step recovery community and mindfulness meditation saved my life. One is my lifeline, the other my anchor…

In treatment for addiction I learned of the 12steps, and the importance of engaging in the recovery community to stay supported, connected and sober.

Unfortunately I was not ready to let go, surrender and commit to a daily abstinence based programme. My time in rehab was one of resistance to change. I held onto anger, shame and feeling like a victim which was a setup to relapse art the first hurdle of sober living…

The anxiety became overwhelming and I felt pressure from my family to have solved my problem with using illicit drugs, and drinking alcoholically…I simply had not had my last drink or drunk… and I relapsed upon leaving treatment for the next seven months…everyday was the same, I would wake up, and not know for a few minutes whether it was 8am or 8pm…that is if I made it home….

The physical damage of using ever day was primarily to my mind…I had panic attacks crossing the streets of New York…and because increasingly isolated from family and friends and ended up with no-one except my drug dealer to call…

Because I could not surrender, life did for me what I cold not do for myself… Often all it takes is moment of clarity, you may know from experience a similar moment, where suddenly everything stops, you are present, you are aware that there is another way out of the madness of addictive addiction’s constant cravings, obsession, pain and suffering…and in that moment all you have to do is take a leap fo faith, trust the process and connect with a recovery community to learn from them how to change your thinking, feeling, behaviours…stop the madness of using even when you don’t to use…and that moment of clarity came at a time of desperation…

It was the hardest challenge I had ever faced in my life…when I had my moment of clarity… it was similar to when I had nearly downed surfing many yeas ago and my life flashed into my consciousness then I was rescued and dragged from under a massive wave and brought breathless back to the safety of the shore……or when I was held up at knife point, when someone had followed me home to my front door in NYC, and again my life flashed in an instant.. and I knew in that moment that this was not my time to die….and spontaneously hard-high-kicked the assailant who doubled over, and ran way….so too was that momentary realisation that addiction was not going to kill me …but I was losing my mind” …boom! I stopped. And have not used since October 12th, 1988. ….I call it my higher self…the voice of my soul…

That I was sitting in the garden of Payne Whitney Psychiatric Hospital, desperately seeking help, because I wanted to kill myself, and had taken myself to to the hospital to get help is a significant part of story …fortunately for me the admitting psychiatrist intervened in my life in a way that only a person in recovery can…they sat with me, and something happens that can only be described in that unique that two people in recovery connect, share our lives for a few minutes, without judgement, and with compassion, that profoundly helps one another….

I had relapsed upon leaving rehab that April and for seven months been on a slow suicide mission….we talked about this, what it felt like to spiral into thinking about dying as constant….and we talked abut recovery, connections, and community…they recommended I return to meetings, or be admitted, prescribed medication and left alone in a room, isolated and alone and if I did this my addiction would not be treated but exacerbated with a toxic medication regime….I chose recovery…left the hospital and returned to meetings, asked for help, and did 90 meet in 90 days…and with the help of my recovery tribe, I seized a second chance at being in recovery….

My higher self is my real-time guide to mind/ body balance, inner healing and self-discovery. And has help me create a life of inner peace, balance and clarity.

The aim of recovery is to build awareness and inspire change. The intention is to develop our capacity to learn how to live life with greater resilience, compassion and happiness. It is possible live a life without stress, anxiety, worry and fear. Mindfulness educates us in how to master our emotions to create a more fulfilling life.

Recovery cultivates the ways of maintaining a balanced attitude in day-to-day living. This ancient but perfect science, deals with the evolution of the mind. It includes all aspects of one’s being, from bodily health to self-realization. The term mindful is to be intentional in what we think and feel. Spontaneously open. Creative to unfolding opportunities possibilities.

Recovery is being authentic. Conditioned mind tells us untruths. Peeling away the layers of conditioned thinking is mindfully to engage in life with authenticity and autonomy. Insights gained are restorative and affirming.

MEDITATION: Be still my beating heart….A typical introduction to the art of meditation practice begins with awareness of the breath/breathing. This can be done standing, sitting or lying down. The intention is to interrupt our mental disconnection from reality when we are projecting into the future or ruminating on the past.

As thoughts continue to come and go the intention is to raise awareness of the physical sensations taking place during the process and not attaching any meaning to passing thoughts. Meditation practice evolves over time into including a body-scan, mantra, a mudra and restorative yoga postures.

Meditation taps into the constant dynamic interplay between our interior and exterior worlds. A cause and effect relationship that ripples through our essential being.

Addiction influences the brain’s complex reward circuitry systems. Mindfulness holistic therapies have a unique role to play in addressing addiction and mental health challenges when there is a greater focus on early interventions and relapse prevention.

Integrating stress-management is proving to be one of the most promising wellbeing/mental health strategies, and is non-stigmatizing.

Awareness of self is paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment. Cultivating a mindfulness meditation practice provides a “safe place’ and a personal sense of fulfilment when challenges arise.

Managing time is a benefit of mindfulness training. Learning the value in being able to “switch-off” slows down the brain’s autopilot set point. Just as we neuro-biologically hard-wired to connect, conditioned mind becomes “stuck” in reactionary life position.

“Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day,” says study senior author Sara Lazar of the MGH Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program and a Harvard Medical School instructor in psychology.

This study and many others from Harvard Medical School demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing.

There are many ways to cultivate the efficacy of mindfulness through repetition and regular practice until it becomes a natural everyday occurrence. Perfectionistic, fear-based thinking drives overthinking.

Maladaptive coping skills:

Internet addiction is endemic. The digital addict’s brain complex circuitry systems are impacted in the same way as illicit drugs, sugar and salt.

In a cause and effect world, everything is connected…so it no wonder young people are highly stressed, reactive, demotivated, anxious, discontented and depressed.

Mindfulness is not the silver bullet when addiction is active in a person. However, in my experience of working with addictive personality types of diverse cultures, ages and gender there is hope for change when the person is treated holistically – with a strong emphasis upon engaging in a medicially assisted inpatient detox & primary care treatment programme. Upon discharge, people are at their ost vulnerable, self needs to be factored into daily life…

Self care is an effective relapse prevention methodology….as is the importance of connecting with a recovery community support network. Physical wellbeing is vital. Enough sleep. Planning ahead to ensure there is always easily prepared food in the refrigerator needs to become a habit….

As simple as it sounds restorative mindfulness disciplines bring our focus back to the breath. Most people are surprised by their habit of shallow breathing. Learning how to breathe, deeply, longer and stronger is immediately energises the body. Getting comfortable in the stillness and silence of your thoughts is where people discover inner peace and clarity.

Mindfulness meditation invites the process of healing from within… Basically, mindfulness recognizes the Self and empowers individuals to act as a purposeful agent in their own lives and in the lives of others.

In its purest form Mindful Awareness has the potential to add value and freedom to every day living. To experience being here now in the present moment is recognising a powerful shift in energy and intention.

Learning how to manage mental stress reduces the volume of the “inner critic” relentless only negative self-talk. Teaching people to retrain their brain to interrupt the habit of overthinking is both empowering and esteem building for them and to observe the changes created by successfully incorporating mindfulness techniques is also rewarding for the practitioner.

Stress negatively impacts optimal wellbeing: adrenal fatigue is caused too much cortisol and not enough exercise, poor nutrition, sleep deprivation, and the absence of stress management

The issues are in the tissues. Mind body soul total health is mindfulness in action. Mindfulness helps us thrive, overcome addictions, be in community and connected to others and ourselves.

With over five decades of experience, I expertly guide people through a transformational journey of meditation with the practical application of breath work.

Clients learn breathing techniques and exercises that can make them happier, be more reflective rather than reflexive, gain focus, and make better decisions.

The power of meditation changes lives forever.
Elizabeth Hearn, Hypno-psychotherapist CHP/NC. Founder of the London-based UNIVERSAL RECOVERY MOVMENT

Elizabeth works as a psychotherapist, consultant, educator, advisor, and broadcaster in London, Glasgow and Edinburgh. and is the founder of: