This weekend I decided to watch the documentary, Anonymous People and was impressed. It gave voice to changes that are needed within treatment for addictions and in the way we as a society view addiction. It spoke to many of the reasons why I decided to start my own mission, Soba Yoga. Soba Yoga is a yoga project I created for recovery that focuses on offering a wellness based treatment option for addictions. I have worked in the addictions field for over 15 years. But my interest in addictions runs deeper than that. The back ground story is not one I share all that openly about these days. Not because it’s something I feel needs to stay anonymous but because it is a part of my past. A past that I feel in many ways I have made peace with. The way I got there was by walking through. I did so in the beginning with the help of a therapist and the fellowship of Al Anon. But something happened along the path that shifted things greatly for me. I found myself within the process. I no longer felt the need to identify solely with my past. A new path had been forged. It is the path that I walk these days and the one that naturally birthed Soba Yoga. Anonymous People spoke to that part of me that has been enraged for some time. It is the part of me that doesn’t get the whole War on Drugs and the mission to eradicate addiction by ignoring the fact that we as a society are entirely focused on promoting self medication and numbing. We DO NOT want to own the fact that addicted people are not THOSE people but they are each and every one of us. We shake our heads and judge others while eating a bagel, a donut, buying scratch tickets, having a second piece of cake, drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, taking out our charge cards, popping
pills of various kinds and smoking weed. We look at those whose lives have spun out of control and say “Thank god I am not them.” But
are we not? Addiction is now being seen as a “spectrum disorder” but if we are truly to accept this to be true than we would have to look at the various ways we all medicate and where we might be on that spectrum.
I could speak for ages about the ways in which I feel the way we speak about addiction is harmful to others. The ways in which we require that people keep themselves chained to the jail cell in fear that at any moment their lives would spin out of control. It happens on various levels from the way self help programs are structured to the way in which we as treatment providers “treat” addictions. I say treat in quotes because that term is a medical term and it connotes this idea that I as the “treatment provider” is the all knowing one and that I do not suffer from the same illness or at least certainly not at the level you do. That simply is not true. Whether you identify as an addict or not, hopefully the people who are doing the “treating” are doing better than their clients but I would rather see my work as guiding than treating. There is a spiritual saying that “we are all just walking each other home.” This saying speaks to me about the work that I do. I feel like I often get guided as well as being the one who guides. This is the part of the work that we often forget. The spiritual side of things. This article from the Huffington Post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/johann-hari/the-real-cause-of-addicti_b_6506936.html speaks to the cause of addiction that I believe to be true. It is our intense disconnect spiritually within ourselves and others that breeds addictive behavior. Any person with an addiction that I have worked with that is not doing well is completely disconnected from themselves, their body, their spirit and the rest of the world. At that moment, they are a physical body devoid of spiritual connection. They may be on medications that for the moment are helping them to not use but those medications have no hope to help them if they do not go into their dark place and meet their pain. In fact it may be the medications themselves that are contributing to the disconnect. By numbing and distancing ourselves from our pain we are simply distracting ourselves and causing the emotional/psychic pain to be stored in the body. This contributes to a variety of illnesses overtime including both physical and mental illness. We focus on medicating away cravings these days as if the craving were the problem and not the symptom. Craving is a natural human condition. In Buddhism it is seen as one of the mental afflictions that cause disconnect with spirit. It is not the problem but it surely is a red flag that there is one beneath the surface.
My vision, through Soba Yoga, is that a community of like minded individuals that want to walk the spiritual path towards healing will be created. We must learn how to embrace our emotions in order to have any hope of healing. This article from the New York Times http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/03/01/opinion/sunday/medicating-womens-feelings.html?referrer=&_r=1 was posted by a friend yesterday. I was so grateful to find it as it gave me hope that there are others out there in the field that feel similarly. It is written by a psychiatrist who speaks to the plague that has spread across America where we see women’s emotions as pathology and try to medicate it away. The only surprise I had was that there is someone else who sees this as clearly as I have. We do this to men too. We don’t like their anger because it scares us so we try to temper it through meds and call it a variety of different mental illnesses. These statements are not to shame prescribers. I believe that people have the best of intentions. The problem lies deeper than any one individual. Our society would rather medicate away emotion than help people learn how to embrace it and feel it. Doing so through legal prescriptions seems somehow more palatable than doing so through street drugs. The need for a pause before diagnosing and prescribing is desperately needed but is unlikely to occur due to the fact that healthcare is run by insurance companies. Also treatment providers feel that they could be taking on legal risks by possibly contributing to someone’s potential overdose. Some people do need meds but a lot of people need to learn that it is ok to feel the way they do. I am finding more people who are starving for someone to normalize their experience rather than diagnosis it. Every time I wonder whether the path I am taking is the one for me, I go to teach yoga and meet someone who is grateful to know today that they are a normal human being who feels. As a whole, we need to pause and take a look at where we are heading. If we want to feel better, we can’t expect that to happen overnight. It would be wonderful if the answer were simple, but from my experience in my healing, it never has been.
More money needs to be spent on prevention. I see the rise in addiction and overdose rates as a scream for help from our youth. In the service of insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies we have left them behind. We no longer support the arts in the way we used to. Rehabilitation stays have grown shorter and shorter. One can only access healing modalities that truly get to the deeper core issues if they pay privately. Private rehabs are popping up more and more because insurance companies refuse to pay for integrative health. I am conflicted about this myself as a practioner who wants to provide healing but can not imagine dealing with insurance companies and needing to lie about what I am doing and then fight them to get paid. All while hoping that they don’t realize that I am provide things they don’t support so that that can then sue me. We are living with a broken system and we are the only ones who can fix it. It takes strength and courage to stand up and be counted as someone who is in recovery. I tell people I am in recovery from life. My life didn’t include addiction to substances, thankfully, but it did include other challenges. Today I am happy to say that I have put a lot of my past behind me and am happier and healthier because of it.
Embrace your strength and courage. Stand up for your own health and well being and be counted as one of the no longer anonymous people in recovery. It doesn’t matter whether you have abused drugs or alcohol or sugar or money. It is all the same. We are all struggling and we all need more love and healing.
Cheers to you all!