Meditation Techniques to Aid in Addiction Recovery

a woman doing meditation technique

If you or a loved one is in recovery from a substance use disorder, you know that any tools you have to help you through recovery are valuable. Meditation, especially mindfulness, are increasingly popular and common in substance abuse treatment. Here, you can now opt for everything from Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Therapy to meditations, yoga, and Zen meditation as part of your treatment. Depending on where you go, you might even get daily meditation as part of rehab.

Taking that and applying it at home can be challenging. Here, you might want to go to a course or a class to ensure that you have access to continued guidance while you learn meditative skills. However, for many people, taking some techniques and learning them can be more than enough to give you the toolsets you need.


Mindfulness is one of the most applied forms of meditation in the western world. This technique is about letting go of worry and the future or the past and focusing on the present. It means practicing engaging with the present, as it is, now. That starts with meditation sessions where you learn to let go of worry and to clear your mind. But, the largest part of mindfulness is in letting go of thoughts and living fully in the present. That means noticing the small details, being present to notice things, and being present to experience life as it’s happening.

Mindfulness is helpful to everyone. But, in early recovery, it gives you a toolset to help you engage with and enjoy life. You might not have noticed little things like how pleasant it is to put effort into making your space nice before. You might not have noticed there are dandelions or bees or a dog in the park that makes you smile. And, if you learn how to redirect yourself away from thoughts and into being present, you can destress, you can experience calm, and you won’t need to escape from worry with drugs or alcohol, because you’ll have the skills to do that on your own.

Body Scan

Body scan is a meditation technique where you purposely direct your attention across your body, paying attention to each part of your body and how it is doing, and acknowledge yourself. Body scan techniques are often used to follow up longer meditation sessions, yoga, tai chi, or other active sessions. However, they can be extremely useful on their own. Often, you lie on a mat or a bed and start by focusing on breathing and bringing yourself to a state of calm and clear mind. Then you move your attention to a part of your body such as your toes and slowly work your way up.

Body scan means you get to know your body, you get to improve your ability to figure out how you’re feeling and where that’s coming from. You also get to identify how emotions affect different parts of your physical body. Mostly, body scan techniques are about finding calm and acknowledging the self which can be a powerful part of recovery. For example, by being able to destress, you can take away your need for drugs and alcohol to reduce stress. By being able to recognize where you’re hurt or upset and to acknowledge how you feel, you put yourself in a better position to be able to deal with those things. And, by learning to apply that as a normal part of your routine, you can improve your relationship with yourself, create patterns where you respond to pain by figuring out what’s wrong and trying to fix it, and creating patterns to fix it.

Breath Session

Breathwork or a breath session is a type of focus meditation where you focus on breathing in a specific way. Often, this is a form of guided meditation, because it’s normally easier to listen to someone telling you what to do so all you have to do is focus on doing it.

Breath sessions normally mean breathing in specific ways, such as at a specific pace or in a pattern. It also means focusing your attention on the breath, the rise and fall of your chest, on breathing at a specific pace, rather than on your thoughts. That can prove to be a crutch for clearing your mind, because you have to pay attention to this very physical thing rather than to thoughts.

Here, you might want to use an app like Headspace or a class to get started. Breath work or breath meditation sessions are very common and are normally integrated into mindfulness and stress release meditation classes as well.

a young man sitting on an outdoor stair focusing on clearing his mind


A focus meditation is one where you sit down with a single thought or goal in mind and focus on clearing your mind, setting your intentions, and giving yourself space to think that through. Focus meditations can also mean focusing on an object, on part of your body, or on an image. But, if you’re in recovery, they can be a great way to focus on things like joy, on enjoyment, on good things that happened, on your goals, on progress, on something you want, etc.

Here, you normally need to learn the basics of meditation first. However, once you do, being able to meditate on a problem or on something you want can quite literally give you new ways to find insight, to understand your problems, and to feel good about yourself.


Moving meditations are one of the easiest ways for newcomers to get into meditation because they allow you to clear your mind by having a focus point of movement. These meditations normally incorporate yoga or tai chi or another slow-moving but physically challenging exercise. Here, you typically have to expend a significant amount of focus in achieving the movement you want, which takes your mind away from whatever it is you might be worried or stressed about. These meditations give you freedom to release stress because you aren’t experiencing stress at the same time. While your mindset needs to be right (e.g., you can’t be worried about how you look or how well you’re doing) that, coupled with the positive effects of physical exercise, can be immensely beneficial for your mental health. Being able to let go of stress improves your mood and your ability to cope with new things, so you’re less likely to need drugs and alcohol and more likely to be able to navigate the rest of recovery.

Eventually, meditation is just one tool in your toolbox. It’s important to try things out, to see how they fit you, and to stick to them long enough to see how they actually affect you. For many people, mindfulness techniques can be extremely beneficial in supporting recovery and in supporting therapy. However, they don’t replace therapy and treatment and will never be more than one of the interventions you need to live a healthy and balanced life in recovery. If you or a loved one needs help with addiction recovery, it’s important to reach out and to talk to your doctor so you can get started on treatment and learning everything you need to live a healthy life without drugs and alcohol.

About Jim Sugel

SEO and Digital Marketing Expert Jim Sugel is an SEO and Digital Marketing Expert in addition to having achieved the coveted Google Partner status for PPC expertise. Prior to focusing on Digital Marketing, Jim worked in Information Technology roles at a variety of national firms as a software engineer and consultant, resulting in many years of professional coding and consulting experience. Jim holds a Bachelor of Science, cum laude in Computer Science and Psychology from Loyola University Chicago. After relocating to Southern California from his native Chicago, he became involved in the recovery industry here, discovering a natural niche in helping treatment centers with Digital Marketing and other technology projects. Jim is the Founder and CEO of Airtight Digital, a firm that specializes in digital marketing for the behavioral health industry. His other interests include hiking, canyoneering, urban exploration, and screenwriting. Jim now lives in beautiful and sunny Orange County, California.