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Mindfulness: Acknowledging Intention During Recovery

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.”

We help people with addictions and substance use disorders recover. Get mindfulness training and learn the 12 Steps for deeper healing.

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

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

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.

Dear Renewal Lodge Visitors,

My name is John Bruna, co-founder of the Mindfulness in Recovery® Institute, and more importantly, a grateful member of the recovery community. I am incredibly fortunate to have found my recovery in 1984. Of course, I did not achieve continuous recovery through willpower or my own efforts, but through the guidance and caring support of countless others that selflessly taught me how to live through the 12 Steps.

My journey of recovery brought this once homeless, shame-based, traumatized, insecure young man to a life far beyond anything I could have ever imagined. I discovered self-worth, the joy of helping others, the gifts of parenting and grandparenting, and most importantly the ability to live a meaningful and purposeful life with integrity.

One of the greatest gifts of recovery is that I have the opportunity to give back and help others discover their self-worth, dignity, and the skills to fully live lives that they find truly meaningful. This is the inspiration for developing the skills of Mindfulness in Recovery® (MIR) to meet the needs of new generations struggling with alcohol and other substance use disorders. MIR is a set of evidence-based skills designed to help people fully integrate their tools of recovery in ways that are personalized, practical, and in alignment with their deepest values.

While we train counselors and therapists throughout the United States and abroad, I personally have chosen to work directly with the amazing team and clients at Renewal Lodge to develop the model MIR 12-step program for the nation. I choose Renewal Lodge because of the vision of its mission and the dedication of its team. Renewal Lodge is an extremely rare environment in which the staff embodies the very mindfulness and 12-step practices and skills they offer their clients. The results have been beyond my expectations. It is an honor to be here and I treasure my personal time with every client I meet.

With Gratitude,

John Bruna
John Bruna
Director of Mindfulness