Mindfulness can play an active role in the recovery process. Breathing exercises and meditation are great coping mechanisms and so is movement such as yoga. However, this is not what we mean when we discuss mindfulness. When we talk about mindfulness in recovery, we’re really talking about the concept of intention.
In recovery, especially in Alcoholics Anonymous literature, intention is another word for “motives.”
It takes rigorous honesty to truly understand your underlying motives. Even one of the 12 Steps states that we need to look at our motives.
“Before we begin, we ask God to direct our thinking, especially asking that it be divorced from self-pity, dishonest or self-seeking motives. Under these conditions, we can employ our mental faculties with assurance, for after all God gave us brains to use. Our thought-life will be placed on a much higher plane when our thinking is cleared of wrong motives.”
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Intentions Won’t Get You Sober
Intention can help us when we are already sober and working on a program of action. We can begin to pray and meditate so we can use our mind and think about our motives.
But if you are in active addiction, intentions will do little for you. Chronic relapsers often have the best of intentions, especially once they are jolted out of a binge or spree and seek help.
Addiction is a chronic disease. It will come back if it is left untreated.
From Alcoholics Anonymous: “They pass through the well-known stages of a spree, emerging remorseful, with a firm resolution not to drink again. This is repeated over and over, and unless this person can experience an entire psychic change there is very little hope of his recovery.”
What Can We Learn From Intention in Mindfulness?
Our intention is the reason we do something.
Like a motive, it is the meaning behind our actions and the why behind our thought processes. It’s the thing that influences a person to act in a certain way.
When analyzing intention, there are two avenues to consider: direct and indirect intention.
Direct intention is when we think through an anticipated action and believe the result of our chosen behavior and decide to move forward with it.
For example, if Julie knows she has to get up early for a conference tomorrow but wants to go to a late-night concert, Julie has a choice to make.
She may decide to go to the concert anyway, knowing that the following day will be difficult for her. However, before making this decision, Julie must consider the possibility that attending the event might cause her to accidentally oversleep or or not be as prepared for the call the next day.
The decision to go will be made with full acknowledgment of the potential consequences of her actions. From there, Julie can make a decision with direct intent.
Indirect intention is when your behavior produces a result that you didn’t plan for.
Often, this is a result of a lack of awareness or an inability to consciously think through our decisions.
For example, say Travis left the bar intoxicated. He wasn’t thinking about his actions because he was under the influence.
In his mind, he was only half a mile away from his house. What could possibly go wrong? That was the extent of his thinking.
Pause When Doubtful; Pause to Find Intent
No matter where you are on your recovery path, it’s imperative to constantly ask yourself why.
Why am I doing this? What is my intention behind this? Why do I want this?
In Alcoholics Anonymous, the Big Book states something similar but more succinctly.
“As we go through the day we pause, when agitated or doubtful, and ask for the right thought or action.”
This is where mindfulness and Alcoholics Anonymous align beautifully. To pause and seek guidance, often requires mindful consideration.