Spirit is the journey, body is the bus. (Johnny Clegg)
Had there been a crystal ball at birth, there are two things, amongst the gazillions, i never would have countenanced in my future: addiction and yoga. Amongst all the plans, goals, pie charts of life, controlling outcomes has never been a human strength. Like metaphysics 101. But even knowing this at the cognitive level, it was equally improbable i would ever grace the room of a twelve step meeting as it would be to find myself finding myself in a yoga studio. The words did not belong in a sentence together. And neither of these categorical opposites spoke to the me i thought i was. The former predicated on my unequivocal commitment to never become my mother—with a fixed belief that unlike her, i had the strength of character to stop—in the unlikely event drastic measures were required. The latter fell into the category of things least likely ever. Below golf and scrapbooking. Not even remotely tethered to my consciousness. I remember being on a beach in mexico years ago, waking up hungover like i did every day of my life for more than ¾ of my then time on earth, getting ready to do some sort of high spirited detox run when i happened upon those morning namaster’s. More like na ma style. flat out sleeping, eyes closed arms and legs akimbo. existential exercisers? It’s not even 10 am and they’re napping?
Alas. I was mistaken. I was woefully wrong. Mostly about everything; but specifically the recurring theme of dissing—out of hand—anything that would not conform to my world view as a plausible explanation for the cause of my incessant suffering, or a means to fix it. Mine was not dissing of the ambivalent variety. If it was mapped out on a bell curve of normal reaction distribution, it would fall just to the right of self righteous indignation and arrogance.
To be fair, this assessment comes from a place of perspective today and solid self inquiry over time. And therapy, and the best shrink EVVVVer, and the “we” of active 12 step recovery; having a sponsor, unlearning the lies, and slowly finding freedom from the bondage of self. And oddly enough, much of this nothing-short-of-a-miracle metamorphosis took place on a yoga mat. Which is the point. None of us can know what we don’t know we don’t know until we know it. It’s an existential tail chase. We must name it in order to tame it. the attitudinal shift necessary to consciously change behaviour is often referred to in the rooms as the HOW equation: (honesty, openness and willingness) + surrender = victory. Surrender is an act of giving in; not giving up. The outcome of this commitment to authenticity is, according to the 12 step promises, a life of serenity and freedom.
I make it no secret that i am an addict. I mean, seriously, just what would be the point? i learned when alcohol brought me to my knees that my brain covets anything in the category of more. Declaring myself to be an alcoholic is not a big enough category to describe the “ism” of addiction; because ditching one’s drug of choice, in my case alcohol, made me prey to all people places and things wanting to squat on the recently vacated real estate of my means-to-manage-everything love affair with the bottle. i had assumed drinking was the problem; ergo to stop was the answer. This, however, is not how she rolled. As it turns out, alcohol was my solution and i am the problem. I had it backwards. And what i presumed to be a lack of willpower in the years leading up to my bottom was the dis-ease of addiction: a dysfunctional relationship between mind, body and spirit; characterized by a deep emotional soul hole that will pursue any means, however maladaptive, to become a whole soul. Work with me.
I didn’t get sober and get better. I got sober and felt like shit. There was no smooth descent to the recovery tarmac. I had absolutely no place to land. I had no wellness perch from which i fell and could now return to with my new soul. Instead, it was the year of blind faith and free fall. I was almost 50. My first run in with drugs was an overdose of baby aspirin at age 3. The life management system i had employed for the previous 47+ years, was now my enemy. I was on my own no fly list; jettisoned by the winds of surrender toward a labyrinth of discovery.
By my first anniversary of sobriety, i was bonkers. It felt as though one foot had been staked to the ground and my universe consisted of walking in circles. I knew that post acute withdrawal can last a very long time (PAWS) for those, like me, whose neuropathways were cauterized by early childhood trauma. What is addiction after all? According to my hero, Gabor Mate, all addictions are characterized by escaping the experience of being present and the unconscious avoidance of emotional pain. The actual substance, object, activity, behaviour is less critical to the life of an addict than facing the pain—fear—shame—guilt—emotional chaos—resentments at the core of personhood. I wasn’t going to bounce back overnight. I was diagnosed with complex post traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder and ADHD. I took the medication. I did the do things. Cognitive behavioural therapy. Neurofeedback. I went to meetings. I did service, signed on for addiction awareness, addiction counselling, relapse prevention…
To be continued next week.
Jude Bursten would have described herself as the least likely person ever to become a yoga practitioner no less RYT200 certified. As would anyone who ever knew her, ever. until that actually happened. “i didn’t know what i needed in order to ask for it, even if i could have asked for it.” Today she uses that specific example to guide her life, not just her yoga practice. NeverSayNever. Jude is a certified leader of Y12sr, a yoga practice based on spiritual principles of the 12 steps of recovery. This is a meeting, not a class. It is focused on self awareness using practical yoga interventions for moving energy in our bodies that live as “issues in our tissues.” Like the 12 steps, the meeting serves as a resource to create the space in our heart, mind and body necessary to change, be of service to others and to practice these principles in all our affairs. Jude is a graduate and practitioner of the Mona mantra: be yourself, everyone else is taken. Authenticity and integrity are the cornerstones of her message.
Y12sr is a donation based class. All proceeds support the provision of y12sr programs in correctional facilities and institutions.
This meeting is open to anyone in 12 step recovery. Out of respect for the studio and the personal recovery of those in attendance, we ask those in active addiction to refrain from attending.