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.
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
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
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):
● Beginners Mind
● Letting Go
● Non-Striving (Non-doing)
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.
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
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/.