Mindfulness and Sobriety

Updated: Mar 3

I'm Helen, a Mindfulness Teacher. I have been using mindfulness for many years to help me

with my mental and physical health and wellbeing. I became sober 24 years ago and have

never regretted it.


Mindfulness has helped me to be aware of my thoughts and feelings, to change negative

habits and patterns and gain some control over them.


My aim is to share my skills with others and help them on their journeys to awareness.


Meditation and Yoga

Let’s begin with what these things are. What is mindfulness – or rather, what it is not?! The

general impression that mindfulness involves a lot of sitting around meditating is false. A

good definition of mindfulness is,


“a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.”

That’s a bit of a mouthful, but in essence, mindfulness is about being aware of yourself, your

thoughts and feelings and the world around you. You don’t need to be meditating to

achieve that.


Sobriety actually means, first, not being intoxicated.


“It is about the person's being alert to and proceeding in life. The word "sober"conveys an overall seriousness and purpose a person has.”

Whatever your reason for sobriety, it’s going to be a journey of self-discovery and

awareness. The awareness of what life can be like if we are not constantly poisoning our

systems with alcohol, and the discovery of who you can be when not impacted by this

behaviour.


Both mindfulness and sobriety require practice, self-awareness and getting more

accomplished over time. They are both journeys, personal and complex, just like us.

No-one’s journey is going to be the same as anyone else’s, but we can all share the

techniques and approaches that help. The attitudes of mindfulness can help with our

description of sobriety (becoming alert, proceeding in life, with seriousness and purpose):


● Non-Judging

● Beginners Mind

● Acceptance

● Letting Go

● Trust

● Patience

● Non-Striving (Non-doing)

● Gratitude

● Generosity


In the next few months, I will explore the attitudes of mindfulness and how they relate to

our journey of sobriety. Let’s begin with non-judgement, although they are not in any

specific order and of course, can all be done at once. Mindfulness is an excellent way to

begin a clean and sober lifestyle.


Non-judgement

One of things that you will probably have to learn is to be non-judgemental, of yourself and

others’ reactions to your choice. I have learnt over the years that people find sobriety a very

strange concept, almost an unnatural state of being. There is plenty of judgement from

others on the choice to be sober, which can shake your own convictions and make you

doubt your own reasons. A key attitude of mindfulness is non-judgement to remove the

criticisms and faulty thinking that we all experience, we are all very judgemental.


In itself, being judgemental is not a bad thing – it’s kept us alive as a species to be able to

label things as good or bad, safe or dangerous. Learning those patterns has enabled us to

survive and evolve. But in the modern world, its less about survival and more about what

we think we should or should not be doing. Or likes and dislikes, as simple as “that dress

looks nice on me” or less pleasant “why am I so stupid?” Judgements like this are made so

quickly we don’t pay attention to them, but they leave feelings behind. Managing our

awareness with mindfulness can save us from a lot of harmful negative emotion, particularly

directed at ourselves.


Mindfulness is about looking at things objectively and from a non-judgemental perspective.

This takes time and practice, just like so many other things we do. We learn to see the

judgements we have, acknowledge them so that they don’t hold power over us and we

learn to act the way we want to, not letting our negative thoughts about ourselves take

charge. Non-judgmental means, looking at the negative criticism and letting it go,

acknowledging it, and then moving on as if it were just a useless bit of information. It

eventually becomes as easy as noticing that, “Oh I’m telling myself I’m stupid again,” and

then moving on from that, not fighting it, but also not giving it any more attention. Apply

that same thinking to a craving or compulsion and you can see how sobriety can be

supported by this mindfulness attitude. When an uncomfortable feeling like a craving,

withdrawal symptoms or anxiety arises, mindfulness teaches us to recognise these

discomforts, and observe them non-judgementally, instead of automatically engaging in

previous behaviours.


This improved level of attention in our journey helps us to gain a better understanding of

our triggers and cravings, including our automatic behaviours, like having a drink when you

get in from work – not because you want one, just because it’s a habit. Changing our

perception and focus has an impact on our brains, making this a more permanent, healthy

pattern of behaviour.


For more on mindfulness visit https://theawaremind.org/mindfulness-now/.