Frequently, feeling good is not what leads someone to drink or use drugs. Instead, a feeling might arise that prompts you to want to avoid or escape that uncomfortable emotion which could lead to a relapse. You might suddenly desire a glass of wine or smoke a joint. It’s easy to want to turn to drugs or alcohol as a means for avoiding life.
However, usually, uncomfortable feelings arise out of thinking about the past or future. If you have thoughts about the past, particularly thoughts about what you could have done better or what you might feel guilty about, those thoughts and feelings can easily lead to the desire to use. At the same time, thoughts and feelings about the future might create feelings of inadequacy, worry, or anxiety.
For instance, some think about the future and worry about how they are going to afford rent. Others might think about the future and wonder how they are going to manage their emotions during a particular upcoming event. Both the past as well as the future can create uncomfortable feelings inside. In fact, most of the stress in our lives comes from thinking about the past or worrying about the future.
Stay in the Present to Overcome Anxiety and Relapse
Of course, this kind of anxiety can disrupt the progress you’re making in recovery. You might have disturbing thoughts about the past or future. And if you have used drugs or alcohol as a means for managing anxiety in the past, then cravings for using again might certainly show up again.
However, when all of your attention is focused in the present moment or on what you are doing right now, then there is little room to worry about anything else. There is little space in your mind to worry about could happen later.
In fact, in his book, Coming to Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and the World through Mindfulness, Jon Kabat Zinn details how returning attention to the present moment can immediately shift your experience. By using the senses, such as smelling a scent, touching an object, or experiencing a bodily sensation, a person can remind themselves of the moment they are in versus an imaginary moment that is often the source of uncomfortable and challenging emotions.
Shifting experience to the present moment through the use of your senses can be an incredibly healing practice. It facilitates emotional awareness in the moment. It aides in being able to know one’s personal experience and how that experience may or may not be contributing to an argument or conflict.
A constant return to the present moment also helps create an opportunity to pause before making destructive choices. Often, we tend to make choices unconsciously or out of habit. And this can be true for drug use and drinking.
Breaking Habit to Making Bettet Choices
However, with the developing skill of returning to the present moment, you can pause before making certain choices. Instead of reaching for a drink when you feel anger, you might call a friend. Instead of getting high when you feel lonely, you might ask a friend to visit.
You can return to the present moment any time of the day, such as when you’re standing in line, stopped at a street light, stuck in traffic, or feeling overwhelmed. This can be a practice that facilitates your recovery, prevents you from relapsing, and supports your overall well being.
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