Freedom from Addiction
Divine intervention or self-discovery? Whatever the impetus, that evening Futuronsky began the quest that helped her gain sobriety and find the spiritual connection to her soul and her physical being. "I don't think I could have gotten sober on the yoga mat," she admits. Most addiction specialists agree that yoga should merely complement the therapy of choice. "But yoga is certainly a great way to reveal the contradictions of mistreating your body and to deepen the spiritual aspect of recovery. After all, what is yoga? It's prayer in motion."
While 12-step programs are the dominant approach to addiction treatment, G. Alan Marlatt, Ph.D., director of the Addictive Behaviors Research Center at the University of Washington in Seattle, says they don't work for everyone. He points out that a 1996 study published by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) concluded that on the average, only 20 percent of those who had a year of treatment were still abstaining from drinking. "Half of the people never come back after one meeting, there's a high drop-out rate, and the somewhat Christian-based approach isn't appealing to some," he explains.
That's why Marlatt and his colleagues have secured a grant from the NIAAA to conduct a study entitled "Effects of Meditation on Alcohol Use and Recidivism." In 1997, the North Rehabilitation Facility (NRF), which houses nonviolent offenders of low-level felonies like drug possession, DUIs, and shoplifting, began offering a 10-day vipassana meditation course, as taught by S. N. Goenka. The curriculum already proved successful in one of the largest prisons in India, and after NRF instituted the voluntary program, they found that among those who took the course the recidivism rate was reduced by one-third.
"The inmates said they were surprised by the painful memories and fears that came up during the 10 days, but they found they could stay with them. They learned how to cope by seeing them as thoughts and learned they didn't have to act on thoughts, urges, or their cravings," says Marlatt. For Marlatt, a cognitive behavioralist, the idea that teaching mindfulness could help deter negative compulsions and behavior is compelling. "It's possible that just becoming aware of the process of enlightenment can lead to de-addiction and impulse control."
Subscribe to YJ
Join Yoga Journal's Benefits Plus
Liability insurance and benefits to support
teachers and studios.