As a mental health professional working in the Acute Rehabilitation Addiction Recovery Center at Hoag Hospital, the past 18 months have been some of the most challenging in my career. In this time, I’ve witnessed an alarming increase in trauma and suffering related to addiction.
I’ve seen firsthand the debilitating effects that the pandemic has had on people with mental health issues, a history of trauma, or who suffer from diseases of despair—those related to substance abuse, alcohol dependency, and suicidal thoughts and behaviors. I’ve also seen how yoga practices can help them heal.
See also: Trauma-Informed Yoga for Healing
The connection between trauma and addiction
The pandemic has caused many people to experience new mental health challenges, and worsened pre-existing issues in others. Many have turned to substance use to cope: In 2020, there was a 59 percent increase in alcohol use and the number of drug overdoses hit an all-time high. Accompanying this surge in dangerous behavior has been an exponential increase in people needing support for mental health and addiction.
Most people aren’t using substances to numb out of their “perfect” lives, says Ashly Fox, yoga therapist, clinical addiction counsellor, and founder of the Recovery Yoga Network. “They do it because they are living in a way that feels out of alignment with their personal values. They use because they are suffering.”