Addiction is hard on your body and spirit. It also changes your brain. Prayer can protect your spirit as you come through detox and move into treatment. Adding a meditation practice to your recovery process can help to redirect the pleasure-seeking channels that drug use built in your brain. Why are prayer and meditation suggested as tools of recovery? Because they offer both hope and healing.
Prayer offers you the chance to create your own message to your higher power, or to rely on what you learned in childhood. If you don’t feel comforted by your early religious training, new prayers can give you new ways to reach out to the Creator as you feel them. Meditation allows you to clear your mental decks. Instead of focusing o a new message or an old prayer, meditation allows you to find a place of mental stillness. Both practices can be good for your spirit and your mind.
The Addicted Brain
Many drugs create a rush of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is the pleasure or feel good chemical. Overloading or flooding the brain with dopamine limits your ability to feel pleasure in multiple ways:
- your dopamine receptors shut down; the buzz or rush flattens off
- your ability to produce dopamine on your own with great sex or yummy food fades
- you build up a tolerance and need more drug to get the boost
Using a drug to get a dopamine rush fundamentally creates paths or trenches in the brain that come to need the drug to get any rush or pleasure at all. Asking the brain to function without the drug will eventually lead to serious withdrawal suffering
Prayer as a Coping Mechanism
Prayer is a way to reach out to your higher power. To pray is to affirm your belief and ask for help. If you have turned away from religion in general, prayer may not be helpful. Sadly, addiction is often a source of tremendous guilt. Many struggling with addiction hide their drug use until a serious life event, such as a legal problem or a damaged relationship, occurs. Once you can no longer hide your addictive behaviors, you may be forced into detox and treatment.
Many who reach out in prayer are seeking connection as well as help. Addicts build a social structure that revolves around other addicts, from dealers to bartenders to using buddies. Detox and treatment can be wonderful for rebuilding your life, but they will temporarily wipe out your social structure. Treatment is the best way to rebuild old connections and a prayer practice and connection with a pastor may help you move forward into therapy with family that have turned away from you.
Meditation as a Healing Tool
As noted above, drug use shuts down receptors in the brain. These unresponsive zones may lead to grey matter that doesn’t get a lot of activity. As you work through detox, the activated channels in the brain will light up in need of the drug they’re not getting. Meditation slows activity in the parietal lobe and allows the rest of the brain to receive information and reactivate. Think of it as your brain coming fully back online. You will build skills and problem solving patterns to find better ways to manage the cravings. You can also reduce the intensity of the cravings with meditation.
Prayer is reaching out while meditation is looking in. The key to learning to meditate is to be extremely gentle with your mind. Drug use is not gentle; the brain is flooded with chemicals and tossed on a sea of overwhelm. When meditating, consider lighting a candle that will give you something to look at as you breathe and guide your brain to a clear spot of no thoughts. When your brain wanders, gently bring it back so you can continue to keep energy flowing to tissues that have been dormant for too long. Your spirit and mind can be freed up from the false focus that is addictive craving.
Be ready to reach out, in your own words or through devotional reading, in prayer. Take the time to learn to meditate effectively to cleanse your brain and support new thinking paths. Help is available. Our counselors are available 24 hours a day. Call 302-842-2390.