Sexual Recovery Blog

Meditation as a Recovery Tool 

Posted by Anthony Liu on

I think back fondly to one of my favorite twelve-step meetings when I was in early recovery. The meeting focused on meditation. After introductions, group members turned off the room lights, closed the doors, and drew the curtains shut, creating an atmosphere of complete darkness.  A meditation bowl released a deep resonating sound, signaling the start of ten minutes of silence.

Sometimes my mind drifted in the silence; other times I felt a great sense of consciousness, sitting in the midst of thirty other people in meditation.  It was a cool, weird, and surprisingly connecting experience.  I never knew what to expect, but I always felt glad afterward that I had practiced quietly noting my thoughts instead of acting upon them.

Addiction is a disease of poor impulse control.  The alcoholic may think, "I am just popping into my favorite bar for one drink," only to gulp down so many as to get drunk.  Alcoholics Anonymous advises members to not even put themselves in a situation of taking the first drink, lest one drink lead to ten. Similarly, the sex addict may think, “I have twenty minutes free, so I'm going to log on to this adult site for a bit," only to go down a rabbit trail of extended porn-watching sessions and other acting out behavior. 

Psychiatrist Viktor E. Frankl wrote the book, Man's Search for Meaning, a memoir of his experience during the Holocaust in four different labor camps.  He wrote something that has always stayed with me, as it applies to dealing with pain and addiction: "Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom." 

For many sex addicts, practicing daily meditation or silent reflection can help increase the space between a triggering event and the specific sexual acting-out behavior that they later regret. 

To intentionally pause, to connect with a higher power, to focus on breathing -- these help the body's parasympathetic nervous system calm things down during times of stress. The brain is then more capable to consider the consequences, either positive or negative, of our actions.  As a program friend once said, "Thinking thoughts is one thing, but once you do something, it's been done.”

One of the exercises that I assign my therapy clients is to take a few moments of the day to slow down and breathe. Try it and see the difference for yourself. Set aside the same time and space to meditate for a week or month. Do so especially when your schedule seems hectic. Those moments of quiet contemplation may lead to more satisfying recovery results over the long run.


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