Meditation For Alcoholics and Problem Drinkers
Meditation For Alcoholics
This post is for people who want to quit drinking: for alcoholics, problem drinkers, and anyone who experiences suffering through their relationship with alcohol.
Alcohol is presented to us as if it were harmless, that only the weak or the hopeless would have a problem with alcohol addiction.
But it’s a highly addictive drug! Alcohol releases dopamine and endorphins in the brain making us feel instantly relaxed, ridding us of anxiety, and boosting our confidence.
No wonder we love it so much!
Alcohol kills approximately 3 million people every year and is responsible for a huge percentage of mental and behavioral disorders.
This stuff is no joke!
But luckily there’s a solution; there is a way out. When I was drinking, I felt like there was no way out — I felt trapped. But there are millions of people who have gotten sober and who would love to help you do the same. You just have to know how it’s done. The easiest way is through meditation and spirituality.
You don’t have to be an “alcoholic” for drinking to cause serious problems in your life. If you find it hard to control your drinking or would like to drink less than you do, then read on.
I started drinking around 14 years old. I would get “wasted” on a regular basis, and drank far too much from the start. I used alcohol to disguise my social anxiety, and increase my confidence.
Over time, I started using it to keep my suffering at bay. Of course, I didn’t know all this at the time, not until I got sober. By the time I was 18, I was drinking a few days every week.
This continued for the next 10 years. I drank on weekends, and a day here or there in the week. I didn’t drink in the mornings (until midday anyway) and most people wouldn’t have even realized there was a problem. But it was there!
For years, I struggled, trying to control my drinking: I would only drink beer; I would have water between drinks; I would avoid mixing different kinds of alcohol. But every time, it eventually ended up in the same place — binging for days, and then the deep regret and suffering that would follow.
Then it got worse...
It was when we had children that the problem really became apparent. Previously, I would have drunk until 2AM, and then gone to bed. When I woke up, it was nearly lunchtime, so going to the pub seemed like a natural thing to do. And where I’m from, midday is not an uncivilized time to start drinking.
But when the kids came along, I had no choice on some days but to wake up at 5AM. And after just a few hours sleep, feeling miserable and tired, it seemed like a pretty good idea to crack open the wine or finish the whisky that was left over.
And then I would keep drinking. All day!
Those days, my mind was gone….
I was practically a zombie, getting up every now and again to fill my glass. I wasn’t able to look after the kids properly and the responsibility fell upon my wife.
Luckily, I was introduced to meditation at 24. Over time, and with the support of AA and my spiritual community, I‘ve been able to get sober and I’m so grateful for my sobriety.
You might be thinking your drinking isn’t that bad. But I bet it has caused you plenty of problems that could easily have been avoided.
The Insidious Effects of Alcohol
Let’s not go into a sermon about all of the negative effects of alcohol. You can read all about those here.
For now, let’s discuss how alcohol affects you on a day-to-day basis, how it subtly destroys your life, how it strips away your self-belief and self-worth, even if you aren’t addicted.
When you’re young, you might use alcohol as a way to gain more confidence, to feel more fun, sociable, and interesting. But this says to your subconscious mind, loud and clear, that you aren’t interesting or fun, that you’re not good enough, that you need alcohol to socialize.
Perhaps you use alcohol so you can feel confident enough to be around the opposite sex. So you have a few drinks, you get confident and chatty, and maybe you even attract someone, but your subconscious hears the message loud and clear: “I’m not confident. I’m not good enough.”
Then when you get a little older, you start having a glass of wine after a hard day’s work so that you can wind down. So you do, and your subconscious hears, “I’m stressed, and I don’t know how to cope without alcohol.”
You get the point. Every time you use alcohol to deal with a situation, you do two things: you tell your subconscious mind that you can’t handle the situation (which then becomes your reality), and you also don’t allow yourself to grow and face life’s important challenges.
So over time, you come to believe that you can’t handle life, that you need this substance in order to just be ok. And the damage it does to you is immense. It’s like taking a flower and feeding it cyanide a few times a week. Do you think the flower would flourish?
Meditation for Alcoholics - The Research
Many studies now show that meditation helps us deal with stress and discomfort. This is important for problem drinkers because we’re the people who find it hard to cope with uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. We’ve taught ourselves over time to push away negative experiences and emotions instead of process and deal with them.
This study found that just a short amount of meditation every day is enough to reduce alcohol consumption. Mindfulness based interventions are now helping many people recover from addiction.
Here’s how it works.
Meditation helps you to start processing the mental and emotional pain that you’ve kept inside for years or decades.
Unpleasant emotions may come to the surface during meditation: pain, anger, and sadness. When the pain manifests, we allow it to be there without judgment.
Over time, you begin to realize that you can cope with difficult emotions and stress. Through this realization, you see that you can live your life without alcohol. At this point, you begin to see a way out.
How to Quit Drinking (Spiritual Style)
1. Seek Help
If you want to stop drinking, it’s going to be, if not impossible, then incredibly difficult to do it alone. One of the hardest things I’ve ever done was telling my wife I was going to AA and then going to my first meeting. Also telling my parents was hard. It changed everything. But it was one of the best choices I ever made. I highly recommend AA, but if you’re not comfortable with that, there are many people online who can help you like Annie Grace or One Year No Beer, which is becoming popular. Whatever you decide, make sure you get some sort of help.
2. Notice your drinking patterns and the suffering that results
Pay close attention to the way you drink and what happens afterwards. Notice the reasons why you drink, the things that trigger you to want a drink, and how you feel. Awareness precedes action, so try to be aware of what’s going on in terms of your drinking. Usually we act out of habit on autopilot mode. By noticing our habits, we can begin to interrupt them.
3. Admit that it’s a problem
You don’t need to go and bellow, “I’m an alcoholic” from the rooftops, but it’s important to admit that it has become a problem in your life and that you aren’t in control. People addicted to alcohol really don’t want to believe that there’s a problem, so they hide the truth from themselves. But think about how easy it is to just admit it: “Ok, I think this has become a problem for me. I think I need some help.” It’s that simple and then a huge part of the problem is solved, because only then can you get the help you need.
4. Accept a higher power
They say that alcoholism is a spiritual disease. It often stems from spiritual disconnection of some kind. That’s why most recovery programs involve a “higher power.” Try to think about what that means to you. Are you a complete atheist with no beliefs at all? Or are you willing to accept some form of higher power? Spirit? God? The Universe? The Divine? Consciousness? By praying and asking for spiritual guidance, we find ourselves healing.
5. Write down your fears and resentments
Some people will recognize by now that many of these tips are straight from AA. Part of the AA journey is to write down all of the fears and resentments that you have that may have led to your drinking: things that hurt you in the past, or people who caused you to suffer. Write down everything you can think of. Are you angry with your parents? Why? Are you upset with someone at work? Write it all down to exorcise it from yourself. All that stuff keeps you stuck. You have to let it go.
6. Share what you wrote with someone
In AA you would share your fears and resentments with your sponsor, but if you aren’t going to AA, you can share them with someone else, maybe a friend or someone you know who would be open to listening. Tell them everything, all the things that have hurt you and all the reasons you feel resentment. Tell them all the things you’ve done wrong, anything that you’ve been keeping inside. This is hard, but it’s important. Don’t leave anything out.
7. Make amends to people you hurt
Think of all the people you have wronged during the course of your drinking. Perhaps you said unkind things to people or mistreated them. Maybe there were people who worried about you because of your actions. If appropriate, speak to them and make amends to them. Tell them you are sorry.
8. Pray and meditate every day
The more you meditate, the easier it’s going to be to stop drinking. In meditation, we come to terms with who we are and our true emotional reality. You learn to cope with sadness, anger, and frustration. Praying and meditating helps us connect with spirit and this is so important for sobriety.
9. Study yourself daily
As you move forward, keep asking yourself how you are doing. Are you making the right choices? Are you being kind, helpful, and positive? Try to notice any time that you spiral into negativity and catch yourself. If you do wrong, admit it and seek to be honest with yourself.
10. Help others
If you can find a way to help others, you’ll have a much better chance of not drinking. Even helping other people in small ways is helpful, particularly those who show signs of wanting to quit drinking. By helping other people to stop drinking, you will find it much easier to avoid drinking yourself.
Meditation for Alcoholics (How to)
This is a simple introduction on how to meditate in 4 simple steps:
It’s important to prepare appropriately for meditation. Start by doing some relaxation exercises like gentle yoga, a body scan, or some simple breathing techniques. Once you’re relaxed, sit up in a chair or on the ground with a straight spine.
Now focus on the breath. Try to feel it as it comes in and out of the nose. Breathe naturally and watch the breath flow without controlling it. When the mind wanders, bring it gently back to the breath. Avoid getting frustrated. Just come back to the breath again and again.
After you’ve focused on the breath for a while, stop watching the breath and just enjoy the peace at the end of meditation. Try to go deep into that stillness. If your mind is still very busy, keep focusing on the breath, but try and leave a few minutes for silent practice at the end.
Finally, open your eyes gently and come back to the room. As you go about your day, try to stay connected to the breath and practice some mindfulness. This is where we keep our attention focused on the present moment by watching and experiencing instead of judging and analyzing. This will help your meditations become easier and more peaceful.
If you want to learn more about how to meditate, grab this free meditation starter pack. It includes everything you need to get started including a guided meditation.
Meditation for Alcoholics - Final Tips
1. Join AA
It’s scary, I know, but I promise that being around people who have been through the same stuff you’ve been through, and hear them tell their stories, is so powerful. They will guide you to where you need to go. Trying to do it alone is a huge mistake.
2. Realize that it’s not easy (especially at the start)
It’s going to be challenging. You’ll have to go into situations where you used to drink and avoid drinking. You’ll feel nervous, uncomfortable, and sometimes you’ll crave a drink. So don’t expect it to be a walk in the park. It’s a huge change if you were a heavy drinker, but if you really want sobriety, you will do it, as so many others have.
3. Beware the “pink cloud”
After some time, you might start to feel great, like you’re on top of the world, and that it is easy to stay sober. It’s a nice feeling, but unfortunately it doesn’t last. For most of us, there is a lot of buried pain, anxiety, emotional turmoil, and it doesn’t go away overnight. It’s a long journey, but after a while, we will know an incredible freedom and peace that we hadn’t known before.
4. Avoid drinking situations
Especially at the start, it’s going to be wise to avoid situations where everyone is drinking. It’s not always possible, but tread carefully because it only takes one drink to slip up, and that’s it. How many months of drinking will follow? You can’t afford to take that drink. As much as possible, avoid parties and drinking affairs, at least for a while.
5. Get yourself out and busy
All that being said, you don’t want to hermit yourself at home. That might lead you to the conclusion that, “Life is boring without alcohol” which is a terrible conclusion to come to and completely untrue. So go out with friends without drinking, go and visit people, and keep yourself busy with hobbies or tasks that you connect with. Starting a new hobby or duty can be helpful.
6. Accept awkwardness and social discomfort
After a while you might be comfortable going out with people who are drinking. You may find that you feel a little awkward and socially uncomfortable, because before you would drown out those feelings with booze. But those feelings are natural. Kids get shy all the time. It’s just part of life. It gets less as you deal with it more frequently. Just remember, it’s ok to feel a little uncomfortable and anxious sometimes. It’s not the end of the world.
7. Be prepared for some comments
People are going to ask you why you quit drinking. Others might make digs. I find that a lot of the time, people start talking about their own drinking. “Oh I only drink on weekends!” Whatever it is, people will talk about it because it’s a big and slightly uncomfortable change for some people. I wouldn’t tell your life story. Just make a joke, like “I’ve had enough,” which is kind of true. Find ways of responding that suit you.
8. Call a sober friend
When you feel the need to reach for a drink, have some phone numbers ready to call people who can talk to you about it. This is another reason why AA is so helpful. The first time you attend, people will be throwing their phone numbers at you because they want to help. Call someone if you need the support or if you are in a tempting situation.
9. Stay vigilant
Over time, you might start thinking that it’s ok to have a couple of drinks, that you have got it under control. Let me tell you a secret. If you are not in control of it now, you are never going to be — that’s the unfortunate truth. Once we lose control, it is forever. Don’t let your mind convince you that you’ll be ok if you have a drink. You may be for a while, but in the end, you won’t!
10. "It’s not the last drink that kills you; it’s the first."
This final piece of advice was one of the most important things I ever heard. If you take that first drink, it will likely be a downward spiral until you are back to where you were before. Do everything you can to just avoid that first drink, because that’s the one that will kill you, not the last one.