June 25, 2015

Walking the Conscious Line: Yoga & Addiction.

 Noel Reynolds

Why do we view addiction through the prism of shame?

I think it is a fair statement to say that we are all addicted to something.

Yet, we get jokes like “Rehab is for quitters” or “I’m addicted to breathing.”

Modern medicine has turned the treatment of addiction into a big business.

Addiction is viewed as a binary issue. Either we have to be completely nonfunctional to have a problem, or the dividing line between addict and non-addict becomes an internal struggle with denial.

What do I do if I feel like I am an addict, but do not want to put my life on hold to go through a 30 day detox?

Addiction has changed over the past fifteen years. People prescribed addictive medication for pain, sleep, depression or anxiety had no intention of being checked off in the addiction column. Now, with drug laws changing, people no longer have access to these addictive medications and turn to the black market for relief. Have you noticed that heroin usage has spiked in the past few years?

With access to good health care becoming more difficult, I think the yoga community can help alleviate the addiction epidemic.

My personal story with addiction is a long one. I suffered from insomnia since I was about fifteen years old. Countless nights were spent tossing and turning, worrying and staring at the clock. Usually, I would try sneaking in a few puffs of a cigarette, thinking it would relieve my symptoms.

Later in my life, I thought God fell from heaven in pill form. That pill was Ambien. The first time I took it was first restful sleep I think I had in many years. It was so convenient. I just took a pill 45 minutes before bed, let the vivid euphoria set in and it was off to dreamland. Well…I take that back, there was no dreamland. In a way, I made a pact with the somatic devil—short term advantages for long term addiction.

Ten years later, I struggled to get sleep as my pill addiction became bigger. Sleep became a roulette wheel of switching medications.

Yoga helped my face my addictions head on. It was not the easy way.

Addiction is a mask I wore as a short term fix to deeply entrench emotional and psychological issues. Yoga removed the layers of protection I placed over my problems like a ten wet blankets on a humid day. When I started meditating and practicing Kriya Yoga, I did not know what I was in for. Sitting in an Asnana, probing the deepest parts of the mind, strong feelings bubbled to the surface like anxiety, depression and mania. I mistook these for the need to mask them more.  Years later, I found out that these emotions I was suppressing were real.

I was feeling again.

When using Yoga to treat addiction, we need to keep in mind that the practice does not alleviate the problem itself. It brings it to the surface, like oil rising to the top of water. We then need to use the fire of experience to burn off the oil as we work to repair ourselves.





Relephant Read:

Yoga & Addiction: A marriage of Tolerance and Acceptance.


Author: Kevin Keegan

Apprentice Editor: Carlene Kurdziel / Editor: Renée P.

Photo: Noel Reynolds/Flickr

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