The Benefits of Meditation for Individuals in Recovery

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Hands of young beautiful woman practicing yoga indoors


“Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.”

Meditation (Step 11 of the 12-Steps)

Once seen as a helpful adjunct to addiction recovery, meditation is listed in the 11th step of the 12-step program. Mindful awareness methods taken from Buddhist practices are being developed as addiction interventions in their own right.

Drug and alcohol addiction are both difficult to treat and each typically requires a comprehensive treatment plan. In addition to detox, therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and rehab, complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) practices, particularly meditation, can provide a vital source of additional support during recovery.

At the University of Washington, Professor Alan Marlatt, director of the Addictive Behaviors Research Center, is researching the effectiveness of mindfulness-based therapy in relapse prevention. He sees Buddhism as less of a religion and more of a “manual of how to deal with the behavior of your mind.”

Elements Behavioral Health says meditation is effective because it rewires critical pathways in the brain. By changing how their brain processes self-awareness, introspection, anxiety, and stress, addicts can reasonably evaluate everyday situations, and react to them more appropriately without the help of drugs or alcohol. Meditation’s positive effect on stress and anxiety is especially important because both are frequent triggers for relapse. In addition, two of the primary advantages for including meditation into a recovery plan are:

It’s Easy to Learn — Any recovering alcoholic or addict can learn to calm his or her mind with meditation.

It Can be Done Anywhere — This is one of the most valuable aspects of using meditation for addiction recovery. Since stress is one of the primary triggers for relapse, meditative techniques are particularly beneficial because they can be done whenever and wherever stress is felt.

Further References

Against the Stream Buddhist Meditation Society  is a  non-traditional movement that is bringing traditional Buddhist principles into the practice. It is a place to educate and practice buddhist meditation with multiple Centers throughout the United States. For people in recovery, there are Refuge Recovery meetings, which many use in conjunction with the 12 steps, or as an alternative support group.

The Buddhist Recovery Network aims to promote Buddhist meditation methods for addiction recovery and encourage further research. Go to for reading recommendations, to source research papers, or to find out about conference presentations.

In their book, Mindful Recovery: A Spiritual Path to Healing from Addiction, doctors Bien and Bien describe meditation exercises to aid addiction recovery based on their experience as therapists and meditators; .

Kevin Griffin applies a Buddhist perspective to the 12-step recovery program in his book, One Breath at a Time: Buddhism and the Twelve Steps, giving useful meditations to practice throughout. For info, go to