A Guide to Finding Your Zen in Recovery

Addiction to alcohol and drugs causes profound devastation to the body as well as to one’s mind and spirit. Often beginning as experimentation with substance abuse, individuals enjoy the sense of euphoria or intoxication that recreational alcohol and drug use can offering, but as they develop tolerance to their substances of choice it takes more and more of the substance to achieve the same effects.

By the time they realize what’s happening, it’s too late: They’ve developed a physical and even a psychological dependency on alcohol or drugs.

As addiction robs these individuals of their physical health, the disease also stunts them psychologically and spiritually, preventing them from experiencing fulfillment or enjoyment from life and many of the things about which they used to be passionate. What’s more, oftentimes addicts’ relationships are either damaged or sacrificed over the course of active addiction, leaving individuals feeling lonely and insignificant. Between the physical effects, the emotional and psychological effects, and the social and spiritual effects of addiction, addicts entering recovery have a lot of healing to do. Fortunately, addiction recovery programs offer comprehensive treatments that target and address many of the symptoms of chemical dependency and addiction.

Between the physical effects, the emotional and psychological effects, and the social and spiritual effects of addiction, addicts entering recovery have a lot of healing to do. Fortunately, addiction recovery programs offer comprehensive treatments that target and address many of the symptoms of chemical dependency and addiction.

Based on the tenets of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), much of addiction recovery entails identifying harmful thought patterns and their resultant behaviors, then working on learning and developing healthier alternatives. However, there are many other important components of a comprehensive recovery, some of which isn’t included as part of an inpatient or outpatient addiction treatment program. In fact, there are important parts of recovery that one must take an initiative in order to address, putting effort into achieving lasting, comprehensive sobriety.

In fact, there are important parts of recovery that one must take an initiative in order to address, putting effort into achieving lasting, comprehensive sobriety. Finding lasting peace with both you as an individual and your struggle with addiction can be achieved by following the tenets of Zen in recovery.

An Introduction to Zen Buddhism

Most people have heard of Zen, but aside from vague connections to Chinese culture and Buddhism, many wouldn’t actually know what it means or how to define it. However, to make matters more confusing the precise conception of Zen Buddhism will vary a little depending on who exactly you ask.

According to scholars, the word Zen is derived from the Japanese pronunciation of a middle Chinese character 禪 (dʑjen), which itself is derived from the Sanskrit word dhyāna, which translates as “absorption” or “meditation.” Speaking generally, Zen is about being aware and mindful, being present in one’s body at the moment. In fact, Zen Buddhism often sees the present as the only time that’s actually real with the past and future being fantasies since one’s memories of the past can become distorted with time and the future has not yet happened and cannot be foretold.

The tenets of Zen teach that each moment in life is a peak experience that’s full of depth, meaning, significance, charged with magic, brimming with mystery, and is infinitely precious. Cognitive scientists have asserted that it takes the brain roughly one-third of a second for a brain to process a sensory experience, or for it to register a tactile, sensory experience verbally into thoughts from which we can transcribe the sensation.

As such, Zen is about reaching a state in which the experience of life is immediate since, to a Zen Buddhist, requiring a third of a second to process an experience would mean not fully living in the present. The practice of being present is actually more work than it sounds; it takes much psychological training to stop the brain from filtering sensory perceptions through belief systems and a number of other preconceptions that can taint or alter an experience in such a way as to dilute its purity. It’s often said that the practice of Zen is simple, but not easy. As an individual learns Zen mindfulness, he or she faces one’s true nature and the experience of the present that’s undefiled from neuroticism and cultural conditioning.

The Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path of Zen Buddhism

The most essential teachings of Zen Buddhism are distilled in the Four Noble Truths, the knowledge and acceptance of which provide a basic grasp of the philosophy of Zen: (1) There is suffering in the world that is both physical and psychological or emotional, (2) the cause of suffering is ignorance and craving—filling a void by seeking pleasure—, (3) it’s possible to escape the life of suffering, and (4) there is a path to end suffering.

The fourth step, the path to end suffering—the Noble Eightfold Path of Zen Buddhism—is comprised of right thoughts, right understanding, right effort, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right concentration, and right mindfulness. Between the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path, one has the comprehensive principles of Zen Buddhism. But how does one put this into practice?

Practicing Zen in Recovery

When an addict first becomes sober, they may feel as though their life lacks meaning. Although active addiction is by no means a healthy way to live, the daily preoccupation with and fixation on seeking and using mind-altering substances gives the impression of having purpose; with the onset of sobriety, individual might wonder what it is they’re supposed to be doing now, which is a dangerous mindset in which to be because it’s often used to justify relapse.

Instead, Zen in recovery can offer a way for individuals to extract meaning from life by sourcing it from within. Since Buddhism has no supreme deity and doesn’t place such an emphasis on following strict dogma as other faiths, Zen Buddhism is considered a philosophy rather than a religion, which means it doesn’t require one to give up their current religious affinities or any sort of conversion process; rather, the tenets of Zen Buddhism are simpler and more constructive.

As a whole, the Truths and the Eightfold Path are used to help individuals become aware, present, mindful, and virtuous. In order to achieve this, individuals often participate in mindfulness exercises, which include zazen or seated meditation, guided breathing, clearing the mind, and being conscious of the sounds, smells, sights, and sensations all around. Other exercises that are common when practicing Zen Buddhism in recovery include chanting and koan practices, which involves analyzing sets of paradoxical ideas as a means of forcing the brain to think in new ways. It’s about not perceiving the present through the warped sociocultural lens, but seeing oneself and experience reality as things truly are.

In terms of addiction, Zen in recovery helps addicts understand the extreme attachment that they have developed to substances to which they’ve been addicted. What’s more, Zen in recovery helps them to learn that addiction means continuing to use in the hope that intoxication from alcohol and drugs will alleviate suffering and fill a psychological, emotional, or spiritual void. What’s more, Zen suggests that this void arises when individuals don’t see themselves as they really are and wrongly see themselves as being entirely separate from existence rather than part of reality. However, when an addict can see themselves as they are and become conscious of reality as it truly is, the void that the addict had tried to fill with substance abuse will cease to exist, according to the tenets of Zen Buddhism.

Recover from Alcohol and Drug Addiction Today

If you or someone you love suffers from chemical dependency and would like to learn about Zen recovery or other types of addiction treatment, Drug Treatment Center Finder is here to help. Our team of recovery specialists has helped countless individuals find their way to sobriety through addiction treatment. Don’t wait—call us so we can discuss recovery programs and treatment options today.

Staff Writer :