Each April is Alcohol Awareness Month and this year I wanted to share an invaluable tool with you: how to use your breath in recovery. You know the saying that says the best things in life are free, it can easily be said that the best tool in recovery is free as well. Using breathwork in recovery is a powerful tool and can make all the difference for anyone struggling with an alcohol problem. We refer to this breathing technique as conscious breathing in our residential program.
We’ve repeatedly seen that when we’re stuck in a fight-or-flight response, we are stuck in a mind that keeps firing very rapidly.
Modern psychology refers to this as fused thinking. Imagine an incident occurs. The response happens immediately because in the thought process, there is no space between the stimulus and the response.
They’re fused together.
So, the key to begin to create change, is to actually create that space.
This is an essential piece to overcoming an alcohol addiction. If you build the muscle to a place where you continually have space, this could in fact resolve your substance abuse issue.
The process is fairly simple, but you must be diligent in the steps. I would invite you to do this every day – even twice a day if you can manage it. I would start with 5 minutes and eventually build up to 15 minutes.
- Get your timer ready. You’ll always want to time yourself as your mind has a hard time tracking time in this state.
- Sit in a chair with your back very straight. Relax your body and face your palms upward.
- Look down at about a 45-degree angle in a soft gaze with both eyes open.
You’re going to breathe so that your stomach and upper chest area fill with air at the same time.
The key is to breathe in a fashion that is circular – meaning that its continual. Imagine that your stomach is a balloon, and you’re filling and releasing the balloon of air. As soon as the balloon is out of air, you want to refill it immediately.
The focus needs to be on this movement of the breath. The more you practice this method, the less you’ll follow your fast-firing thought process.
Remember that the simplest things in life are oftentimes the hardest. When you’re practicing this breath exercise, many things are going to pop up in your mind: your thoughts, awareness of your thoughts, and anxiety about your thoughts.
The goal is to become an observer of what comes up. By keeping your focus on your breath until your timer goes off, you’re are teaching yourself to create that space.
If you want to create a permanent change in your life, you need to make this breathing method a part of your daily routine. You can’t pick and choose when you have time to do it. At our center, we teach our clients that this breathwork is as important as food and water.
So, take the first step and try this technique out this month in honor of Alcohol Awareness Month. You’ll be surprised how this seemingly small addition to your day can profoundly change your behavior.
Step-By-Step Instructions to do Breathwork in Recovery
- Sit on the edge of a chair with your back straight
- Time yourself for 15 minutes (4 times per day)
- Get ready to do a belly workout
- Keep your eyes open looking down at a 45 angle (soft gaze)
- Breathe through nose only (you should hear the sound of your breath)
- Breathe in and push in the breath below your belly button
- Release the breath naturally without pushing
- Immediately push the next breath in once the out breath is over
- Put all your focus of attention on your breath
In your mind say the following words:
- In breath “I”
- Out breath “AM”
- In breath “HERE”
- Out breath “NOW”
- In breath “IN”
- Out breath “THIS”
Repeat pattern until 15 minutes is over
Visualize filling up your belly area with air like a balloon and see yourself emptying the air out of the balloon on the out breath.
What to expect during the breath work:
- You should feel all kinds of mental, physical and emotional discomfort
- Let everything come and go by simply putting all of your attention onto your breath
- Your mind will wonder from time to time (there’s no need to control anything); keep your focus on your breath
- You might yawn or want to fall asleep; keep your focus on your breath
- You will feel dizzy from all the oxygen going into your brain (that’s good)
- You will feel tingling sensation through your arms and body