Yoga for recovery from addiction – Mel’s story

My name is Mel, I am 32 and I’m a mum to George, three, and Harry, one. I work full-time as a writer and I have been a fervent yoga practitioner for ten years. Nowadays, it is common to read about the many benefits that yoga bestows on our physical and mental health, but back then, it was my last hope, for I had just finished a stay at rehab and I had already had two relapses one month later.

Yoga for recovery from adiction

When I was a child, ‘conflict resolution’ was basically non-existent in my home. When Dad passed away, Mom raised my sister, Evelyn and I, desperately struggling to pay the bills and meet all our needs while she worked day and night at a nearby factory and cleaning and doing odd jobs for neighbours. Mom never raised her voice at us, but that was because when she was home, she usually kept company with a wine bottle and the television. She said she needed to unwind for a few minutes before going to bed, as the day had been hard (the days were always hard). There was no conflict because we were allowed to do as we pleased – party until late though we were still in our teens, cut class to smoke and drink, and date whomever we pleased.

By the time I was 17, I felt like I had no future. I was failing at school and was already partying most of the week, drinking every night with my friends. I realized that I had a problem when I blacked out more than once and woke up in public places – in the park, at a train station, by myself in the middle of the pitch black night. When I graduated, I took a job at the local supermarket. The pay was bad but it was enough to pay for my rent in a shared house and even save a little money.

A second chance in life

One of my regular customers at the supermarket was Jayde, an older lady who would always take the time to chat with me. One afternoon we went for a coffee after I finished work and she told me that it was important that I go to rehab. I had originally planned on using my savings to travel, but I decided that unless I went to rehab, I probably wouldn’t be around long enough to go anywhere. It was at rehab that I first discovered yoga, since it was offered as an optional activity. I thought you had to be extremely fit and flexible to join, but the teacher at the center focused on the basics, teaching me how to breathe and complete a few simple asanas. When I completed my stay at the center, I continued to attend yoga classes and I have to say that this was one of the reasons I am here today.

I had two relapses after leaving rehab; one because of a fight with a boyfriend and another when Mom passed away. Despite feeling like I had failed, I refused to let myself sink and used yoga as a way to lift my spirits. When I suffered from a panic attack, felt stressed or too sad to do anything or see anyone, I put my comfy outfit on and headed for yoga class. Through controlled breathing and mindful meditation, I learned to accept the pain and disappointment of the present without sinking in it. Yoga gave me a sense of control over my mind and body at a time when I felt like everything was spinning out of control. It taught me how to use breathing to stop a panic attack in its tracks, and to refuse to let negative thoughts be a trigger for another relapse.

Yoga for recovery – and more

My love affair with yoga has lasted for 10 wonderful years and I even met my husband, Tom, at a yoga class. He has inspired me to go back to school and I am now also studying alongside my writing work. I know that regardless of the changes that take place in my life, I am strong and capable and whenever I need a pick-me-up, I can always head to yoga class.

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