Tag Archives: meditation

Mindfulness Meditation and Substance Use Disorders

BrainWave
A Systematic Review of Literature

(This systematic review of the literature was written in March 2014 by the Site Administrator in partial fulfillment of the Masters of Science in Social Work at the University of Louisville)

In 2010, between 153 million and 300 million people aged 15-64 worldwide used an illicit substance at least once in the previous year (UNODC, 2012).  According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (2013), in America alone, an estimated 23.9 million persons age 12 and older are current illicit drug users.  Of these, an estimated 22.2 million persons aged 12 and older were classified with substance dependence or abuse in the past year (SAMHSA, 2013).  These numbers raise serious concerns because addiction has far reaching health and social consequences.  It is estimated that there were between 99,000 and 253,000 deaths globally in 2010 as a result of illicit drug use which includes unintentional overdoses, suicides, HIV and AIDS, and trauma (such as vehicle accidents) (UNODC, 2012).  Additionally, drug abuse leads to maladaptive behaviors that interfere with the individual’s ability to function normally in the family, at work, and in the community at a cost to the nation in excess of $600 billion annually (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2012).  Given the prevalence of addiction in the population and the toll it takes on individuals and society, the development of effective treatment interventions is of utmost importance.

Continue reading

Stepping Out of Automatic Pilot

airplane-taking-offI have come to view the years I spent in active addiction as my having been trapped in state of perpetual unconsciousness.  That is not to say there was no mental or emotional activity.  On the contrary, whether I was getting high or not, my mind raced incessantly and my emotions swung to extremes.  I say that I was unconscious because all of this mental and emotional activity occurred without much if any apparent effort on my part as if it all were happening automatically.  I have since learned that these reactive patterns were conditioned in me from a very young age and were likely reinforced by both genetic and other biological factors.  Initially, alcohol and drugs soothed the perpetual state of anxiety (or, dissatisfaction, discontent, dis-ease, or dukkha, if you will) which pervaded my existence.  However, these powerful chemicals ultimately turned on me as they acted upon vulnerable reward, memory, and motivation circuitry in my brain to ensure that I would fall into the vicious downward spiral of addiction.  Thus the trap of addiction is complex and composed of myriad personal and environmental risk factors which conspire to form the trance of automaticity.  And so, for me the process of recovery has essentially entailed an awakening to the causes and conditions of these automatic reactive patterns.  More importantly, it has also been about learning to step out of and interrupt these patterns through cultivation of mindfulness.

Continue reading

Killing Buddha: Reflections from Clouds in Water

Last December, when I learned that Clouds in Water Zen Center in St. Paul, Minnesota would host the 6th Annual Buddhism and 12-Step Retreat, I immediately began making plans to attend.  It was with great anticipation that I boarded a plane on March 7 and flew to the Land of 10,000 Lakes for the 3-day retreat.  What follows are my initial thoughts and reflections from this remarkable event; but first, some background information is in order…

A panoramic shot of the zendo at Clouds in Water

Upon reaching the 8th Step last summer, I had made substantial progress in freeing myself of the closed-mindedness towards spiritual matters that had previously blocked my recovery.  Leading up to that point, while working the 3rd Step, I had come across Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching and for the first time felt that I could honestly trust the process of recovery — an experience which I wrote about in an essay entitled An Appeal for Pantheism.  However, as I moved forward with the work of Steps 4 through 7, further spiritual investigation was forestalled in favor of Albert Ellis’ rational approach to cognitive restructuring.  Ellis’ techniques proved practical and effective.  But as I began to consider the 8th Step, I was drawn back to the search for a spiritual underpinning from which I could make sense of the amends process which I was about to undertake.  It was time for me to face, once and for all, the deep-seeded shame and resentment which had fueled my addiction.  And so, the search for a spiritual antidote to these problems resurfaced.

Continue reading

Doing Time, Doing Vipassana

This award winning film takes viewers into India’s largest prison which also happens to be one of the toughest in the world.  The film documents the dramatic change brought about in both inmates and prison guards under the visionary leadership of Inspector General, Karin Bedi who oversaw the introduction of Vipassana meditation into the prison.

Mindful Living: A Proposed Relapse Prevention Project

Substance abuse prevention is generally thought to involve primary and secondary prevention strategies which target populations that have either not yet engaged in use of alcohol and drugs (though they may be at risk to do so), or those who are in the very early stages of alcohol and drug use (Wilson & Kolander, 2011). Though efforts to prevent the onset of addiction are important, of equal concern is substance use relapse prevention wherein the stabilization brought about during treatment is preserved, and long-term abstinence is promoted.

Unfortunately, it appears that relapse prevention is often viewed as an afterthought of treatment wherein patients are discharged with little meaningful guidance nor provision of resources to aid them moving forward in recovery (McClellan, Lewis, O’Brien, & Kleber, 2000). As experts in the field continue to acknowledge that addiction is a chronic rather than acute condition, the provision of continuing care for those who have completed treatment must likewise adapt to meet this emerging awareness. To this end, the following substance use relapse prevention project, Mindful Living, is proposed.
Continue reading

Taking Steps 8 & 9

Those who work the 12 Steps are promised to have a spiritual awakening — a notion which, at first, seemed to me to be unattainable if not outright fanciful.  After all, how could someone like me, with all of my prejudices, ever become awakened to the mystery and beauty of this life?  Looking through the prism of active addiction, life appeared bleak, purposeless, and vacuous.  However, faced with no other alternative than to surrender or die, I set aside my prejudices and opened my mind to new possibilities.  Now, having undertaken the work of the 8th and 9th Steps, I have no doubt that a spiritual awakening is not only possible for me, but that it has been happening all along.

Continue reading

Forgiveness Meditation

Jack Kornfield

Jack Kornfield trained as a Buddhist monk in the monasteries of Thailand, India, and Burma. He has taught meditation internationally since 1974 and is one of the key teachers to introduce Buddhist mindfulness practice to the West.  A prolific author, Kornfield has written more than a dozen books that have been translated into twenty languages.  He holds a PhD in clinical psychology and is the co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society and of Spirit Rock Center in Woodacre, California.

The following meditation on forgiveness is taken from his website at www.jackkornfield.com:

Continue reading