It seems ever where you look these days you see the term “mindfulness.” In our work with people struggling with chemically dependency, we agree with the author Susan Greenman in her SKG blog who notes that “mindfulness and awareness are two sides of the same coin.” Considering that Mingyur Rinpoche and Swanson in their book “Joyful Wisdom: Embracing Change and Finding Freedom” note that mindfulness and awareness work together to slow the “rushing river of thoughts and emotions” in order to discover and investigate thoughts, emotions, perceptions and sensations without becoming carried away by them, it is important to help chemically dependent people slow down their “self talk” or inner dialogue. Those of us who work with individuals struggling with chemical dependency understand that early on it becomes a daunting task to help a person whose brain has been chemically impaired to attempt to sit quietly or calm their mind when it seems to them that they are caught in a storm of anxiety.
At Awakening, we believe that a major goal of treatment should be to help clients discover, learn and implement healthier ways to accomplish whatever they had been previously hoping to achieve through their use of mood altering substances: relaxation, feeling “better,” self confidence, turning one’s brain off, escape, numbing, etc. With that in mind, Awakening uses a dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) group designed specifically for the purpose of learning and utilizing mindfulness based prevention practices designed to prevent a return to mood-altering chemical use.
Simply stated, mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment without judgement. This practice is intended to foster increased awareness of urge triggers, destructive habitual patterns, and “automatic” reactions that seem to decrease a person’s ability to remain abstinent. In our DBT group, clients learn Mindfulness practices to help them pause, observe present experience, and bring awareness to the range of choices before them in their daily activities. We want them to learn to respond in ways that foster their growth, rather than react in ways that are detrimental to their health and well-being. Ultimately, we want them to work towards freedom from deeply ingrained habitual patterns of behavior that have caused them to seek a substance or chemical to alter their mood and/or meet their psychological and/or physiological needs.
Similar to cognitive therapy for depression, DBT is designed to integrate mindfulness practices and principles with cognitive-behavioral reuse/recycle prevention practices. The primary focus of DBT is to support clients who have made treatment gains and wish to develop a lifestyle that supports their well being and path to Discovering a new life free from mood-altering substances.
The primary goals for this new group are to help clients learn to quiet their mind and sooth their emotions in order to learn how to deal with anxiety, depression, resentful thinking, circular and repetitive thinking in order to develop inner peace and solitude as they learn to live life without mood altering chemicals. In other words, Discovering a new way of thinking and living.