Updated: Jan 21
"Closing your eyes isn't going to change anything. Nothing's going to disappear just because you can't see what's going on. In fact, things will even be worse the next time you you open your eyes. That's the kind of world we live in. Keep your eyes wide open. Only a coward closes his eyes. Closing your eyes and plugging up your ears won't make time stand still"
-Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore
At this point during your 30 days sober, you have probably experienced most of the benefits sobriety brings making you feel energized and clear headed. You have probably learned new ways to relax and that it’s possible to have fun without drinking alcohol. You have also probably struggled and successfully made it through many triggers and cravings that have urged you to give into your alcohol cravings.
There are several ways to get through a craving for alcohol, and making it this far means you probably have a few that are your favorite. The most common way to get through a craving is distraction. You might have chosen to go for a run, pick up a book, use social media, call a friend, or eat a favorite food. While all these distractions are way healthier and much better choices than ingesting a poison, they don’t require you to deal with the reason you had the desire to drink or what you felt you needed to distract yourself from to begin with.
It is important to examine the reasons you want to escape because think about it, in the past the thing you used to distract yourself with was drinking alcohol. If you don’t figure out why you need distraction to begin with, it is likely that in the future when faced with the bothersome experience, you will either get drunk or choose another unhealthy distraction.
My suggestion is that the next time you have a craving for alcohol, instead of finding a distraction to take your mind off of it, you give meditation a try. Meditation is sort of the opposite of escaping, it’s full awareness and experience of yourself, and your thoughts. If you do this, you will allow yourself to fully feel and understand the emotions that drive you to drink or search for a distraction to begin with. I am not going to lie, this will probably be a little uncomfortable but I promise if you allow yourself to experience the uncomfortable emotions, they will become less intense and easier to accept, meaning the urge to drink will actually go away! Pretty cool huh?
In addition, more than just making it through the urge to drink, it is very likely that meditation will show you things about yourself or your life you haven’t been allowing yourself to see because you kept looking away. In the past, every time your mind or body tried to tell you something was wrong, you shut it out with some kind of distraction. Meditation gives you the opportunity to make improvements to your current situation that you didn’t even know you needed to make.
Okay, so if you have never meditated before, you might be imagining a person sitting crossed legged, finger and thumb touching, and some weird chanting going on. While this is how some people meditate, meditation doesn’t have to look like this at all. You just need to be in a comfortable position, and in a space where there isn’t a lot of noise to take your attention away from your thoughts and emotions. You can do this by lying in bed, sitting on your couch, outside in the sun, really anywhere you are comfortable.
The next time you are triggered to drink, sit comfortably, find your breath and allow yourself to fully experience the craving. Pay attention to the thoughts that come up when you do this. Ask yourself, is there any truth behind the thoughts, and is there anything that needs to be done about them or are they thoughts you just need to accept. You will most likely experience some intense waves of unpleasant emotions, allow them to rise and fall. This is also a good time to practice some mindful awareness. Use your breath to bring yourself to the present and understand that in the moment you are safe. When the experience is over, it isn’t a bad idea to journal anything that came up during the meditation practice, especially any realizations or epiphanies you have.
Meditation isn’t difficult but as you may realize, learning what to do with your thoughts especially unhealthy ones is the complicated part and so, mindfulness is also important. Mindfulness is a practice that helps you to become aware of the unhelpful thought patterns that have been controlling your life and alter the patterns so that they are beneficial to your well-being. These thought patterns have been learned and practiced for most of your life so they require patience and practice to change. This is exactly why I created the 8-week Mindful Drinking Challenge, the challenge doesn’t only challenge you to drink less but it also explores the reasons you drink to begin with, and in reality, this is the real challenge!
If you want to learn more about meditation, mindfulness and the Mindful Drinking Challenge click here or join the Mindful Drinking Facebook group where you can meet people already challenging themselves and learn some ways to start practicing meditation and mindfulness right away!