I have been fortunate to share yoga with people from all over the country during their treatment. The opioid epidemic has hit certain parts of the country harder than others. However, in the end, it doesn’t differentiate. People are affected everywhere.
While thirty days can make a huge difference in someone’s life. What happen’s after treatment is up to each individual….
To use the metaphor of gardening; while in treatment, some weeds are pulled, the soil is readied and seeds are planted. I see myself as a planter of seeds, with the hope, like all gardeners, that they'll be watered and grow over time.
This is one such hopeful story.
One day, at the San Juan house, there appeared two Daves. Both shared Anthony as their middle name. They stuck together, probably bonded in part by their common name. Outwardly, they could not have been a more unlikely pair. Dave, the younger, had a kind and open face. The other Dave, in his mid-to-late fifties, was short and skinny. His sun leathered skin was covered in tattoos while his shaved head sported a mohawk of black-dyed hair. Looking past the deep lines, his face retained a youthful mischievousness.
The first Dave, who I referred to as Dave from Pennsylvania, had become hooked on heroin, a result of prescriptions given him by his doctor. He had suffered a number of sports related accidents in high school and had done extensive damage to his knees and spine.
A sad and all too common story.
I knew little of older Dave's history. An odd yet endearing character, he told me he had never done yoga before. I was both surprised and delighted when he embraced the practice with enthusiasm. When we finished our first class, a wide grin spread across his face. “I love it!” he exclaimed, as he rolled up his mat and gave me a hug. “When are you coming again?”
At times like these, I walk back out to my car with a big grin on my face, conspicuously loving what I do.
After his initial detox, the younger Dave was transferred to another program. That left older Dave somewhat of an anomaly amongst the younger guys at the house. While the 20 -somethings would skulk around, stalling for time before showing up for class, older Dave was always the first to put his mat down.
One day, while waiting for the other guys to get it together, Dave seemed particularly excited. He had just received a call from his wife in Texas. Apparently, she'd just returned from the library and had brought home some books on yoga. Unbeknownst to her, a thousand miles away, her husband was working on his warrior poses and learning how to befriend his breath. Awed by the synchronicity, Dave was looking forward to sharing their new interest together.
Yesterday, Dave’s mat was right across from mine. We were holding a challenging pose, breathing fully, with the intention of building confidence, strength and resolve. While some of the younger guys looked like they might give up, Dave stood tall, his face curled up in a grin, emanating a Keith Richards-style star power.
The ability to focus on the breath in times of stress takes practice yet is a simple and powerful life skill, especially for those in ongoing recovery. As our constant companion, tuning into the breath can be done anytime and anywhere, effectively lowering cortisol and helping tame a racing mind. The practice of observing the breath cultivates what is known as "the witness consciousness". When the inevitable stress or cravings appear, this witness consciousness provides us a momentary gap of awareness. Questions such as "who am I?" and "what do I really want ?" have a chance to arise, thus providing an opportunity to think and choose differently.
Yoga (which includes conscious breathing) yields best results when practiced regularly. We sometimes mistakenly think it requires a huge commitment or a lot of time, but even a few minutes a day can be an effective way to build a practice.
While yoga was somewhat out of the box for Dave, he embraced it with a sense of enthusiasm. Together with his wife's new interest, maybe their practice will take root, right in the heart of rural Texas.