Talking Spirituality: Meditation and Addiction

by Natalie Grigson on April 29, 2013

Hi, my name is Natalie and I…

I paused, not quite sure what to say.

…and I am just here.

Hi, Natalie, the group said, and moved on to the next person.
I suppose the folks in an AA or NA meeting have seen stranger things than somebody not sure how to introduce herself. I settled back against the wall on my pillow and felt my heart slow, just barely.

I suppose the folks in an AA or NA meeting have seen stranger things than somebody not sure how to introduce herself. I settled back against the wall on my pillow and felt my heart slow, just barely.

You see this was not your standard AA meeting. This meeting was called “Meditation and Recovery” and was precisely what it sounds like. We began with introductions; then the evening’s group leader rang a bell to signal silence. For fifteen minutes the only sounds in the room were those of fabrics moving against each other as people shifted around on their pillows, the occasional clearing of someone’s throat, and the birds that were singing outside.

For some reason I’d felt nervous coming in. Would they know I didn’t belong? Should I even be here? But no, this was silly. And during the meditation that sense of oneness reassured me. Everyone in that room was the exact same.

After the meditation we all went around the circle discussing how meditation had impacted our recovery from [fill in the blank.] And it really is just a [fill in the blank] question.

A) Alcohol
B) Narcotics
C) Sex
D) Cookies
E) Exercise
F) My thoughts
G) My money
H) My “Self”

I could go on, A-Z, about fifty times over. The thing about this little multiple choice is that there is no one correct answer—you can be addicted to anything, from a substance to your ideas.

Of course most of the people in this meeting were working through A and B, but in hearing everyone’s story I realized more than ever how very much the same we all are. Person after person in the circle told the same story—the need for some sort of escape, just to get out of their own head.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

After a few moments of silence I heard someone speaking and was surprised to find that it was me.

Hi, I’m Natalie again.

Hi Natalie.

I told them how much I appreciated this meeting and how much I was getting out of it. After all, even though I wasn’t there as an alcoholic, didn’t mean I wasn’t there as an addict.

Addicted to what?

To thoughts, to life, to the idea of “Me.”

Maybe frozen yogurt.

This is life, though—Dukkha—suffering. In Buddhism this is the First Noble Truth: Life means suffering. It is our human condition to suffer, so long as we attach ourselves, addict ourselves, to things that are not real. And what is real? That which never changes.

Energy. Life. God. Source.


Whatever you want to call it.

That’s why I was so excited about this meeting, not just because I had a great meditation practice and got to meet some really great people; but because I felt a sense of relief. Of letting go. Of “thank god, this kind of meeting is out there!”

Because if you are an addict of any kind [again, see multiple choice test A-Z], the road to recovery does not lie in the external; in filling a void with substances, activities, or even relationships. The road to recovery, for all of us, is in going within.

So whether you pray, you meditate, or perhaps you paint or play music—whatever it takes to find the silence within, your connection to Life, well that’s the key to recovery.

We admitted we were powerless over our addiction; that our lives had become unmanageable.

We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of that Higher Power.

Honestly, I think we could all learn a thing or two from the 12 steps.

Here are some Meditation and Recovery meetings in the Bay Area:

San Francisco Zen Center – Monday nights

Hartford Street Zen Center
– Friday nights

Other unique meetings

As always, I appreciate your feedback. Let me know—do you spot any addictions in your life? Have you tried meditation and mindfulness as a path to recovery?

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