My story, Addiction and Ashtanga yoga - Part 1

These days, so many people ask me about my story and what led me to yoga that I feel compelled to share. Most of the time I share some feel-good story about how yoga found me and the truth is much deeper and darker than that.

I came to my first yoga class when I was six months sober all because my sponsor told me to. I wasn't open to it and I was definitely skeptical. I didn't really know what yoga was, but I knew it would require me to be outside of this hard shell I had created and I didn't like that. I actually thought it was for girls and that, in order for me to be in a yoga class, I had to give up my masculinity.

I was broken to the core when I started. I was sick from the disease of alcoholism and drug addiction, and by this time in my life, everyone that I ever loved didn't want anything to do with me anymore. I didn't blame them for that; I had earned it.  If you asked me what my mind state was at this point, I would tell you that I was blank and totally numb. I didn't know what life was supposed to look like. I had just beaten a fatal illness and everything was new, but it was so raw and so uncomfortable. Without drugs, I felt like all those old behaviors of using were sitting right there, but I was in a new space (sobriety) without a playbook.  It was scary and I didn't know if I was going to stay sober. It seemed too hard, but using again would take me to the grave, just like it did to countless of my friends.  Living on the streets had left me wondering about everything and trusting nothing. I was rough around the edges in those days. I had no job, no family and no money but that wasn't the worst of it. I felt spiritually bankrupt, mentally unstable and emotionally like it would all be better with out me.

I was in a dark place and the only thing I could do about it was LISTEN to what other people told me to do. My sponsor at that time was my first guru. I loved him. He always told me the truth even when it hurt a bit. I put full faith and devotion into him and the 12 steps of recovery.  He is the one who saved me by putting me to work. We met every week and talked about everything from low self esteem to all the relationships I destroyed when I was a tornado ripping through peoples lives. I started to work on cleaning up my life.

At six months of sobriety, I was working on the 11th step. The 11th step states: "Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood him, praying only for the knowledge of his will and the power to carry it out." Pretty deep, right? This is when stuff in my life started to change.

The week I started consciously trying to figure my next "step" in life, an old friend walked into my life. Her name was Joanie Delph and she would become my yoga mom!  She asked me if I wanted to try yoga. I kindly said no and ended the conversation. Funny thing: I saw her again the next day and she asked again. Now to be real, it kind of freaked me out to see her again so soon. What is totally crazy is that I saw her six more times and usually I would only see her once every couple of months. Each time she asked me again to try yoga. The last time I saw her, I looked her in the eyes and asked her, "What day was the class? What time?"  Saturday at 1pm. In the meantime, I asked my sponsor what he thought. Should I do this yoga class or should I not? I was hoping he would cosign me not doing it. What he said to me changed the course of my life.

He told me that in order to change my life and to live better,  I had to do different things, things that I was not used to and things that made me consciously step out of my comfort zone. He also said I had to step outside and live in the space of change, curiosity and action. So I should do yoga? "Yes," he said, "you should. It seems as if your higher power thinks that it is the next thing on your path, plus isn't yoga meditation? And isn't it like the 11th step you are working on?" I was humbled and that Saturday I went to my first yoga class.

To be continued......