This week's blog the second part to last week's blog, both covering people using yoga to overcome problems with addiction. Last week I used part of my own personal story as an anecdote to illustrate how yoga has helped in one person's life. This week, I interviewed my friend Dan, also a person living in long term recovery from substance use disorder, to illustrate another yogi's take on how yoga is an integral part to their recovery.
Dan is a friend and former roommate who is active in recovery. I had the pleasure of watching Dan's emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical state completely change for the better -- slowly but surely -- as he started attending yoga classes and adopted lifestyle changes considered to be more 'yogic'. Before, he was angsty, borderline depressed, and uncomfortable in his own body. Cardio and the gym were not helping him lose weight or feel any better about himself.
*'Dan' is an alias, as the real subject requested his identity to be withheld.
How has yoga helped you stay clean?
Yoga has helped me stay clean by teaching me to be still, and to live in the moment within each moment of each day. Yoga is a journey, in a word... and I am becoming more attuned with who i am and enjoy taking care of myself. I simply have no desire to hurt myself like I used to anymore.
How did you get started with yoga?
I dated a girl I met in a CoDA (Co-Dependents Anonymous) who was a yoga instructor. We aren't together anymore but she introduced me to people in the yoga community and some great studios. When I was younger, I took classes at a gym but I didn't understand or connect with yoga. After I got clean and tried it again, it clicked.
Is there any style of yoga that you have found to be particularly helpful in enhancing your recovery?
Yes. Any class where the focus is on the breath like Yin yoga. I need classes where we are breathing purposefully, learning to breath with intent, and where we think about how we are breathing. Really, any class where the teachers instruct us in a way that turns the mind inward and we focus on the philosophy of yoga. I really love acro (acrobatics). I started the classes intending to work on my flexibility but ended up realizing as a person, I was lost. And I found myself here. I loathed myself for such a long time. I didn't think I was worthy of interacting with other people. Through acro I took a good look at my insides and was able to let go of all these lies I was telling myself.
Do you attend Y12SR meetings?
I have before. But not regularly. I look to Rolf Gates for inspiration. Every single day I read from Meditations from the Mat. Gates was at one point in his life a destitute alcoholic. It's kind of a recovery yoga book. It combines life lessons from AA and yoga practice and you can relate.
How can you use your extensive knowledge and understanding of both yoga and recovery to help a newcomer (someone looking for help)?
I don't know if i'd be in recovery if yoga didn't help me to care about myself again. I felt awful on the inside and could ultimately find no reason to take care of myself. Now I am more stable, centered, and balanced. I have cultivated empathy and love for not only myself for once but for others as well. I can actually listen to other people and connect now.
I can tell you that yoga is transformative. Savasana after class: this is where I reflect. Most people just lay there but I would find myself laughing out loud. I was calm and laughing because i felt so good. I haven't been myself in years. I started to become the person I was meant to be… smiling a lot more, and I am truer to who I really am. All you need is an open mind and willingness. Most people are hurt and broken, and seeking a way to fill the emptiness they feel inside the best way they know how. Some people drink or start using drugs, others take medication or look for doctors, there is group therapy and other tools that can actually be useful. There are healthy choices and options and there are bad ones. And there is no one solution that will work for everyone. When I stopped using I went to 12 step meetings and was still so sad inside. I was ready for yoga. Yoga has the ability to change one person, and one by one, yoga can theoretically change the world.