CK addictions conference focuses on mindfulness

An addictions committee in Chatham-Kent is bringing “mindfulness” to the forefront of treatment with claims it is as successful as medication when it comes to curing the disease.

The Chatham-Kent Addictions Awareness Conference was held Thursday at Club Lentinas in Chatham. Cynthia Workman is on the conference committee, which is made up of local health organizations. Workman started using mindfulness to treat addictions roughly seven years ago. She said the committee decided to invite Valerie Mason-John, who specializes in the area, as the keynote speaker.

Mason-John, based out of Vancouver, said she used to struggle with extreme anorexia and bulimia which eventually led to cocaine addiction. She said she was a “chronic relapser” and it wasn’t until she discovered mindfulness that she was able to beat her addictions.

“It was through those teachings of learning to come back to the body that began to interrupt my addictions,” Mason-John said. “Through the mindfulness teachings, I learned to love myself again. I had so much self-hatred, but through the teachings, I was able to give myself self-compassion.”

Mason-John said mindfulness is about meditation and accepting the moment instead of trying to escape it, which often leads to people giving in to their addictions.

“Most people with addictions will have these facilitated thoughts like ‘oh I had a long day at work I need a drink’ or ‘I’ve sober for a few weeks I can have a drink,'” Mason-John said. “Mindfulness teaches us that we are not our thoughts and our thoughts are not facts. It interrupts that flow so we don’t begin to identify with all these thoughts.”

She added the first thing mindfulness does is calm the central nervous system down. According to Mason-John, the nervous system of anyone with addictive or compulsive behaviour will be “out of whack” due to emotional trauma, usually from childhood. She said practitioners are using mindfulness more, particularly meditation, in combination with other methods to help cure addiction. She said a lot of therapists begin a session with a three-minute breathing exercise to calm the patient down.

Workman said the committee’s goal with the conference was to reach anyone they could.

“Addictions impacts everyone in the community,” Workman said. “We’ve gone out of our way the past few years to go far and wide to find amazing speakers and bring them to our community of Chatham-Kent.”

Workman said next year’s event will focus on sex addiction as the committee has recruited Paul Lavergne to headline the conference. Lavergne is a registered Psychotherapist and Certified Sexual Recovery Therapist.

Workman said there will be three free workshops on domestic violence held next week in the municipality. One will be at the Chatham-Kent Community Health Centre’s office in Wallaceburg on Wednesday at 6 p.m. The other two will be at the organization’s facility in Chatham. The first will be Monday starting at 10 a.m. and the second will be Thursday at 6 p.m.