I tried mindfulness to quit drinking. It actually worked.
Here are practical advice from a woman who was drinking everyday and managed to quit. Quitting a habit may be difficult, but with persistence and discipline it can be done. Here is a piece by By Keri Wiginton of Washington Post
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I don’t know when I started drinking every day. But as I entered my mid-30s, I realized alcohol had moved from a weekend visitor to a roommate before I even noticed the shift. I’m not an alcoholic, but it was hard when I decided to quit drinking. Acknowledging I’d gone from wanting a drink to needing one to unwind was eye-opening.
I’m a writer and a woman, so wine is around a lot. Trying to go 48 hours without booze was alarmingly difficult. Not only did abstaining really disappoint most of my friends; nothing helped unclench my anxiety-filled shoulders quite like a vodka on the rocks.
“It has become the modern woman’s steroid,” said Ann Dowsett-Johnston, author of “Drink: The Intimate Relationship with Women and Alcohol.” “Something to help her do the heavy lifting in an over-stressed, unresolved culture.”
If you’re a regular drinker, starting the New Year sober is usually harder than just setting a resolution. Thank your brain for that. If you want to cut back, or give up drinking for good, cultivating mindfulness might be the key to quitting. It has been for me.
“Our brains are not set up to think into the future very much,” said Judson Brewer, director of research at the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. “So it’s really challenging until we really pay attention to the immediate behavior to be able to step out of it.”
If you feel bad and do something to feel better — like reach for a drink or check your Facebook feed — your brain learns to repeat this process. Forming a habit, whether healthy or not, can happen in a matter of weeks, said Brewer, a psychiatrist who uses mindfulness to treat addiction. Focusing more on the present moment can help break the cycle.
Practicing just 11 minutes of mindfulness — like paying attention to your breath — helped heavy drinkers cut back, according to a study out of University College London. Brewer showed that using awareness techniques were more effective than the gold-standard behavioral treatment at getting people to quit smoking.
How mindfulness helped me
Paying close attention to my alcohol cravings was like taking the red pill in “The Matrix.” I could see my actions from the outside, which made my nightly habit far easier to stop. I noticed even seeing my favorite cocktail glass or reading a book — something I often did with a glass of wine — triggered my brain into wanting a drink.
Anxiety and boredom were other prompts. When I stopped mindlessly pairing stress-relief with Shiraz, the less I felt the urge to use alcohol. I also felt more present in the evenings, stopped waking up in the middle of the night and no longer noticed morning mood swings.
I had actually turned to mindfulness a few years ago as a long-term treatment for depression. I was on medication to deal with some depressive spells that would sap my motivation and make me feel like I was lugging around an unwelcome, heavy blanket. While on the meds, I gained 20 pounds.
I told a friend I wanted to get off the medication, and he suggested I try meditation. I’d tried the practice before, but it never took. I’m a worrier, I ruminate, and sitting alone with my thoughts hadn’t helped in the past.
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