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The Heart in Recovery

Meaghan Gorman

Meaghan Gorman, LMFT

Primary Therapist

Center for Change

  “The Heart in Recovery” At the Center for Change, we incorporate the teachings and practice of a meditation technique called “Vipassana”– a non-judgmental, observational Eastern approach that seeks to harness the power of conscious thought and action to replace the identification with addictive impulses.  More simply put, the practice of mediation can help our clients experience a deep connection with the present moment.  This is in stark contrast to characteristic addictive thinking, which often includes rumination about the past and future, obsessive cravings and distracted attention. A 2006 study of addicted and incarcerated individuals found that Vipassana meditation reduced rates of alcohol, marijuana and crack cocaine abuse in those who learned the technique. Brain-scans performed on individuals who practiced only 10 hours of meditation already show differences in the neurochemistry of their brain. During our meditation groups, residents are asked to assume the classic Vipassana pose– sitting position, legs crossed, hands cupped.  They are asked to focus on their cyclical breathing.  As thoughts, images, memories, physical/mental discomfort are naturally experienced they are guided to watch these associations come and go, observing them non-judgmentally as if one were watching leaves of thought flowing down a river.  Returning to the anchored center of the breath, the clients are doing much more than relaxing.  They are actively training their brains to accommodate to the passing nature of all experience– and most profoundly for addicts to gain awareness of the fleeting nature of mental discomfort.  As an addict responds impulsively or even unconsciously to emotional discomfort by using, the practice of sitting through the discomfort and waiting for its natural unfurling creates new “hardwiring” in the brain that begins to dismantle the cause-effect relationship between pain and the drug/alcohol response-remedy.  This psychic re-wiring speaks to the core of a comprehensive recovery program. Meditation helps to experientially incorporate the practice of acceptance, congruent with AA’s teachings of “This Too Shall Pass.” So many of our clients who have learned to deny, minimize, rationalize and repress pain in active addiction are now introduced to the experience of facing toward the pain and it’s essential ephemeral nature.  In early recovery, when cravings tend to be most active, the knowledge that physical and mental urgings to use also “come and go” is vital to maintaining abstinence. Studies show those individuals who practice daily meditation experienced positive physical ramifications, specifically, decreases in cortisol stress-hormone levels. As triggers of anxiety and depression can lead to relapse, meditation can off-set these precursors to use. I recently ran a meditation group where I watched one young man earnestly struggle to hold the classic meditative pose: his arms and legs trembled as he sought to sit still for the entirety of the practice. When his eyes opened, I asked him about his experience. He waited a minute before he responded and then volunteered, “I can get through this…” For me, his expression acutely captured the heart-felt journey inherent in both the recovery and the meditation process. Meaghan Gorman, LMFT ………………………………………………………………… A Licensed Family Therapist with over 12 yrs of experience in the mental health field, Meaghan specializes in the treatment of dual-diagnosed, substance-abusing young adults with a particular focus on helping families and clients recover in tandem. As a system’s specialist, Meaghan has brought her expertise in integrative mental health approaches to a diversity of community and clinical settings. She has been recognized nationally for developing and implementing comprehensive, state-of-the-art clinical orientations as Director of Liberation Program’s Youth Satellite. Meaghan received her Master’s Degree from the Family Institute at Chicago’s Northwestern University. As a therapist with Center for Change, Meaghan utilizes best-practice interventions including cognitive-behavioral, mind-body and solution-focused modalities to encourage wellness. Uniting families and communities in order to prevent high-risk behaviors and to derail cycles of addiction, throughout her career Meaghan has endeavored to empower clients and their families to challenge the dynamics that maintain and perpetuate chemical dependency.