How Meditation Helped Rewire My Brain After 11 Years Of Alcohol And Substance Addiction

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How Meditation Helped Rewire My Brain After 11 Years Of Alcohol And Substance Addiction

Before I learned to meditate my mind was out of control. I was coming off 11 years of drug and alcohol addiction, suffered from acute anxiety disorder and had an extremely stressful job in finance. Staying in the present moment was a concept completely beyond my comprehension. For an addict in active addiction or early recovery it's common to have a “washing machine” head – unwanted negative thoughts on repeat, swirling around and around.

When I started meditating I noticed positive changes within three weeks and started to regain control over my mind.  

Here are three ways meditation changed my life.

(1) It helped me stop catastrophizing.

As a sufferer of an anxiety disorder and the disease of addiction (often referred to as “dis-ease,” and rightfully so) I didn't feel comfortable in my own skin. I had low self-esteem and my brain was hardwired to catastrophize about everything. Even the most trivial of situations, like getting my car serviced. 

Neuroscientists at Stanford University found that people who practiced mindfulness meditation for eight weeks were more able to calm the fear centre in the brain known as the amygdala. I certainly believe this was the case for me.

Meditation provided me with enough space to catch a thought pattern before it dragged me around for hours or days on end. I was able to access a part of me where peace and tranquillity existed. I started to understand that I was not my thoughts and let them pass on by.

Clarity of thought came through the deep relaxation I found in meditation
— Michael Andrew

(2)  It became easier to make decisions.

In the early days following drug and alcohol addiction, sensible rational decisions were few and far between. Instead, I made decisions quickly and without proper thought. I made a couple of really poor career moves during this time that took a while to dig out of. 

Clarity of thought came through the deep relaxation I found in meditation. This freed me up to consider a myriad of options that would otherwise have not revealed themselves. I now felt guided by my intuition and was able to make decisions that were in tune with my goals and values.

(3) I was finally able to relax

In early recovery I was exhausted. Addiction had ravaged my mind and body and left me an anxious wreck. I needed to heal and rest not just from life itself but also from my mind.

Mindful meditation allowed me to stop overthinking. Sitting quietly for just 15 minutes a day and focussing on my breath decreased the adrenaline coursing around my body. I was finally able to access a peaceful place within myself. I recuperated and found my footing.

Saying goodbye to the washing-machine head

Meditation has been a game-changer that helped me calm my busy mind. If you are caught in the pain of addiction or lucky enough to have found recovery, or if you suffer from an anxiety disorder or work in a stressful environment, I would strongly suggest meditation as a go-to tool. It changed my life and it can change yours too.

If you’re interested in giving meditation a try, I’d recommend starting with 10 or 15 minutes per day, ideally first thing in the morning. My favourite guided meditation app is Headspace.


  • Meditation provides access to a place within where peace and tranquility exist.

  • We are not our thought

Michael Andrew - The science behind the Mental Health Pillars

Michael talks about the science behind 4 of his Mental Health Pillars

In this episode you'll learn:

  • Why the Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders thinks mindfulness meditation makes perfect sense for people with anxiety

  • Your brain only functions best when it gets premium fuel

  • Journaling can help you manage anxiety, reduce stress, cope with depression

  • Life purpose and meaning are the “missing links” when it comes to emotional and mental health.

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BlogMichael Andrew Bowie