Why is meditation — which is basically nothing but sitting quietly and doing nothing — so helpful in dealing with alcohol abuse?
A natural technique like meditation is not designed specifically to overcome addiction. Yet various scientific studies have proven its efficacy in breaking bad, harmful habits like excessive consumption of alcohol.
In a recent interview, meditation teacher Helen Evans from Cardiff, UK, explained the physiological and psychological reasons behind this positive effect.
Alcohol, a ‘normal’ trap door
“Before I learned to meditate, I drank almost every day,” Evans told.
“I wouldn’t have called myself an alcoholic, of course not! You have a couple of glasses in the evening, it’s considered absolutely normal in our society.
Alcohol is a sort of escape. When we’re drinking, we seem to leave our problems behind.
However, the thorny issues actually don’t go anywhere. It’s more likely that we are creating fresh problems on top of the old ones…”
A rational decision
“I found that within 3-4 months of having meditated, that desire for alcohol just disappeared. So I suddenly caught myself thinking, ’Why waste money on alcohol if I don’t need it anymore?’
In fact, quitting alcohol was as easy as that!
As you’re doing Transcendental Meditation, you see the clear stupidity in pumping all that poison into your system. From there comes the rational decision to give up alcohol.
But the bottom line is physiological.”
Less stress, less incentive to drink
“You realize all the damaging effects of various addictive substances. You just stop enjoying them, on a purely physiological level”, Evans said.
“As your stress is gradually and gently cleared away by meditation, you lose the physiological need for these stress-relieving outlets.
I’m not an out-and-out teetotaller. If I go to a wedding, and there’s a toast, I raise my glass! But that’s about it. I’m doing it because it’s the social protocol–there’s simply no urge to drink.
This point is important: the entire process has to be gradual, has to be natural.
The cold turkey is simply not going to work, as most people who have tried to quit their addiction probably know too well.
The stronger your addiction, the more time you have to give meditation to clean out the underlying stresses. A very sudden cleaning would be extremely damaging – it would come as a shock to your body.”
It works without your brain knowing
“It’s just enough to trust the process,” Evans confirmed.
“Stress is being relieved, but you even don’t have to know which part of it is dissolving, which knots are being untied at that moment in time.
That’s the difference between the Transcendental Meditation technique and, say, psychotherapy – you don’t consciously delve into your problems, and you don’t relive old situations or hang-ups. ’Which stress came out this time?’ Doing TM, you do not know it; nor do you have to know!
That’s exactly why this technique is so successful.
There’s no analyzing, no intellectualizing involved. It’s a very simple, innocent, and natural process which works for everyone who cares to be regular in the practice.“
Treating alcoholism: Scientific studies on how to quit drinking most effectively
Meta-analysis of scientific studies on different treatments shows that the effect of Transcendental Meditation on reducing alcohol consumption is 1,5 to 8 times larger than other programs (including relaxation programs, programs to resist peer pressure, driving-under-the-influence interventions, and other prevention programs combined).
A drinking problem is often a response to negative feelings, thoughts, and experiences. People get trapped in a cycle where problems cause drinking, and drinking causes problems – and that again makes one turn to the bottle. To escape this vicious cycle and continuous relapse, a person must be given a tool to improve all aspects of his/her life. It is therefore highly relevant that research has documented, for meditation practitioners, positive changes in the following areas:
- ability to cope with stress;
- emotional well-being;
- inner fulfillment;
- personal relationships;
- hormonal balance;
- cognitive functioning.
In addition, the latest research shows that meditation practice improves rates of abstinence and the emotional well-being of recovering alcoholics. Positive results come even from studies including chronic alcoholics with little social or financial support.