Mindfulness is gaining attention as a treatment for alcohol dependence. Putting it in the forefront may be due to a recently published book “the mindful path to Addiction Recovery A Practical Guide to Regaining Control over Your Life” by Lawrence Peltz, MD. Although the subject has seen numerous publications in the last 20 years and was first introduced by the Buddha, Dr. Peltz’s book is excellently written and is easy reading given the complexity of alcoholism treatment. The ease is due in large part to his use of examples in three categories. First, he tells us about people and their circumstances and carries them through the book. Secondly, he uses everyday tasks/events to explain concepts. For example: aversion to getting out of bed on a cold morning vs craving to stay in bed. Lastly are examples of exercises to practice learning mindfulness techniques.
The book serves many audiences, the professional and non-professional, the addict and the non-addict. I suppose, like many books, different people take away different concepts from it. What I got was a concrete method to slow down that racing mind and body that are attributes of many addicts, exhibited by darting eyes and twitching fingers or shifting feet and disjointed speech patterns. From body awareness the book progresses to awareness of decisions – ultimately arriving to awareness when confronted with the choice of whether to drink.
I think the book has merit for all people and can be helpful for addicts, but with severe limitations. As with many diseases, alcoholism is progressive. The Mindful approach, in my opinion, has much more merit in the early stages. In later stages, the brain has been so damaged that applying these techniques would be extremely difficult.
And from a societal point of view, mindfulness is one more example of the addict having to take on the burden themselves. Anti-craving medications for smokers are perfectly accepted. Why shouldn’t the same be accepted for drinking?
I feel that the Mindful approach is a Band-Aid until we can have medicinal help as well. And Band Aids are Good!