Book review: The Mindfulness Workbook for Addiction

We have continued to read about approaches to helping people cut back or quit drinking, and recently finished a book on the mindfulness approach. We’ve got to say we loved it.

First, a definition. 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, used as a therapeutic technique.”

Here were the salient points made in this book that we really liked:

  1. Emotions should be embraced, not suppressed. We’ve all seen how well it works to tamp down anger (hint: not well; it tends to come screaming back out!). But this is true for all sorts of emotions. If we embrace them, we can learn from them, and come to expect them as a part of life. If we try to suppress them, we may end up trying to escape our feelings with alcohol. Mindfulness is a fabulous antidote to drinking, because heavy drinking leads to worse awareness of our surroundings, emotional numbness,

  2. We’ve all got ingrained beliefs about how life works that sometimes handicap us today. They were usually formed in childhood. They may not be something someone explicitly taught us, but an assumption we made based on our observation and understanding of the world as children. If we understand what these beliefs are and how we got them (things like “I’ll always be alone” or “friendships don’t last” or “men/women can’t be trusted”), we can understand why we sometimes react strangely or in an extreme way to the world around us. We can then better understand our feelings, and change our thoughts so that we react more appropriately (usually in a more measured way) to what happens to us.

  3. Meditation is about observing your thoughts without judging them. You don’t try to suppress your thoughts and get to a place of perfect inner quiet (a common misconception about meditation). Instead you develop an inner peace by realizing that a certain level of turmoil is normal, and that your feelings are perfectly natural.

We recommend the book as a fascinating read, and will continue to learn more about mindfulness as a way to deal with addictive behaviors.

Drinker’s Helper focuses more on exercises drawn from cognitive behavioral therapy and motivational enhancement therapy as it stands. If you’re planning to cut back or quit drinking, we’d love to help. Try out the app today and get exercises, a support group, tracking and insights to help you on your path to sobriety or moderation.