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How Can I Overcome Addictive Urges and Compulsions?

Mindfulness can be an invaluable tool in our recovery from addictive urges and compulsions in that it allows us to bring our conscious awareness to our thoughts, emotions and behaviors. When we are in the grips of addiction and depression, we very often are not conscious on a deep level of what we’re experiencing. We’re caught up in the issues, the problems, the fights, the day-to-day struggles. We have a hard time processing what’s going on within us because there’s too much noise, commotion and confusion blocking us from our inner selves.

Let’s slow our breathing down and take a few deep breaths. We can quiet and still our minds by focusing on our breathing. When the urges arise, what thoughts and feelings are we having? What behaviors are they calling us to do? How do we feel when we’re acting on our urges, and how do we feel afterwards? Exploring these things helps us learn more about what’s going on underneath the surface of our urges, what emotions, fears and trauma are driving them, and what causes are at the root of them.

Sit with the urge when it hits. Accept it. You don’t need to act on it, or fight it, just let it be there. Feel what it does to your body. You might feel a physical rush of anxiety or panic. Allow the physical sensations to rise. Breathe through them.

The urge might increase in intensity. You might feel desperate to act on it. You might find yourself feeling scared you will give into it, worried you’ll relapse and go against your instincts about what’s best for you. You might feel sad that you can’t have the hit or the fix or the rush that comes with giving in to your addictive urge. You might feel angry you have to deal with this and resentful of your addiction. Sit with the feelings, and keep breathing.

This allowing of our emotions and sitting with them is a form of meditation. It helps us to learn emotional resilience, patience and acceptance. As we practice this mindful meditation, we learn how to navigate our difficult compulsive urges without giving into them. Over time as we work through our emotions, we learn how to cope with them in healthier ways, and we learn new constructive behaviors to replace our addictive ones.  

The Riverside community includes people with personal experience with recovery. We’re here to help. Call (800) 871-5440.