In the beginning
Mindfulness. Connectedness. Inner growth. These are the ingredients of any type of recovery*, discovered by some of our insightful and brilliant patients at a local Kaiser nearly 20 years ago. Four little words that seem so simple but are actually quite complex – and much more challenging to put into practice than it seems as so many of us have discovered. This month I’ll be discussing the first word of the definition of recovery, “mindfulness,” as this is where it all starts.
At its core, mindfulness is paying attention: to what you’re doing, where you are, what you are putting into your mouth, veins, up your nose, etc. I like to ask current clients to start this process of gaining mindfulness by simply noticing what they are doing, with no judgement. Much like working on a budget, we can’t know where to start if we have no idea where the start is. This can be done by writing down drinks, using a smartphone to
track one’s use, or putting a penny in your pocket for each time you engage in the behavior you’re trying to change (or any number of other options).
It’s also helpful to make a note regarding the need for the behavior at the time, perhaps on a scale of 1-10 where 1 is little need and 10 is I have to have it right now. This information, along with learning to wait just a bit before engaging in the unwanted behavior, can lead to tremendous insight and empowerment over cravings, something the late and world’s foremost expert on relapse prevention G. Alan Marlatt called, “Urge Surfing.”
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