Pose the question, “have any of you experienced, been af- es and stocks. he had a serious alcohol problem for which he was fected by or observed addictive or habitual self-destructive behavior hospitalized repeatedly, but he could not recover until he had a spir-in yourselves, your family, friends, coworkers or clients?” nearly ev- When he experienced the urge to drink again, he was away from Addiction is a pandemic disease growing worldwide whose ubiq- home staying in a hotel in Akron, ohio. Bill made a call asking to be uity may inspire us to question the degree to which addiction is an in- put in touch with someone else who suffered from alcoholism. he dividual or a societal disease. Are we a society in denial, considering met Bob smith, a doctor who became, with Bill, the cofounder of that denial is one of the key attitudes involved in perpetuating the cy- AA. Both men had a desire to stop drinking but only with the help cle of addiction? how do we come together in community and address of each other and a higher power could their resolve be strong enough the societal problems of our collective addictions and entrapments to support long-lasting continuous sobriety. the fellowship is based while taking complete individual responsibility for our own life? on one person reaching out to another for help and support.
A Revolution
there are over one hundred 12-step programs active in more than numerous medical doctors. one hundred and fifty countries helping millions. they are offered Many professionals observed without payment of any dues or fees as they are based on peer to that medicine was ineffective peer community support. the twelve-step revolution began in 1935 with Alcoholics Anon- ymous (AA), the largest of the 12-step programs, followed in size ics were hopeless cases and a by narcotics Anonymous (nA), founded in 1953. the majority of psychic change or spiritual ex-12-step members are recovering from addiction to drugs or alco- hol; however, the majority of 12-step programs address other ill- nesses. For example, the third largest 12-step program is Al-Anon a spiritual malady for which we need a spiritual solution. this idea (formed in 1951) which assists family members of alcoholics and coincided with the medical profession’s admission that alcoholism was addicts. About twenty percent of 12-step programs are for addic- a medical condition rather than a moral failing. Doctors agreed that tion recovery, the others address a variety of problems from debt it was a manifestation of a physical allergy combined with a phenom-to emotions and depression. enon of craving that is progressive and fatal if left untreated. the med- While AA serves alcoholics, there are many ways in which people ical community and AA both proposed the incorporation of a spiri- abuse alcohol (binge drinking, maintenance drinking and others), but tual solution, a stance rarely seen for other diseases in our society.
there is only one type of AA. there are a variety of drug-related 12-step When we consider the characters in Bill Wilson’s life, we see that ad- programs, nA being the largest, as well as Crystal Meth Addicts Anon- diction is a pattern not limited to one substance. underlying many ad- ymous, Cocaine Anonymous, Marijuana Anonymous and a long list dictions, we can see the ‘people’ addiction, the codependency. Bill’s wife of others. there is a proliferation of 12-step programs related to food, Lois suffered the ill effects of his alcoholism for many years, affecting including eating Addictions Anonymous (eAA), eating Disorders her living situation, emotional life and finances. Bill had his spiritual Anonymous (eDA), Food Addicts Anonymous (FAA), overeaters experience, became sober and involved with helping other alcoholics Anonymous (oA), Anorexics and Bulimics Anonymous, Compulsive and forming the AA movement. Lois was the person whom we would eaters Anonymous (CeA-hoW) and Anti-nutrient Addicts Anony- now classify as the co-addict. she formed the 12-step program Al-Anon, mous (Junk Food Anonymous). For one substance (food) we see many for the friends and family of addicts. early on in this revolution, there programs based on the different addictive patterns people exhibit.
was the recognition that addiction affects people who are not using AA has a tradition of singleness of purpose; AA helps those are ad- substances, hence alcoholism became known as the family disease. dicted to alcohol, not drugs, not food, not gambling or other behav- Father Dowling was a 240-pound Jesuit priest and compulsive iors or substances. Yet, the same people may sit in different groups overeater who showed up at Bill Wilson’s door asking if he could be with different manifestations of the same addictive behavior.
involved. he became one of Bill’s mentors. Right there in the living Abstinence is the basis of 12-step programs, but abstinence is not room with Bill Wilson were the fundamental addictions of food and easily defined for some addictions, such as those related to food and people as he singularly focused on the formation of AA. to people (such as sex and codependency). engaging with food and other cross-addictions were also represented around the AA found- people is a necessary part of being human, so in these situations, er. Bill was a heavy chain smoker and caffeine consumer; he also had transforming relationships is the practice. a habit of womanizing. he died from emphysema complicated by AA was founded by Bill Wilson, a stockbroker, part of the Amer- pneumonia in 1971. in susan Cheever’s biography of Bill Wilson, ican corporate world, a man passionate about winning with financ- J u n e 2 0 1 0 L AYO G A 3 3
she says, “He was not a perfect man, but he was the perfect man for from well-digested air, water and from food. Regulating digestion the job.” In 1999, Time magazine declared Wilson to be in the top supports the regulation of amino acid absorption and prana. Spices, 20 of the Time 100: Heroes and Icons who exemplified “courage, appropriate food choices and proper portion sizes and timing of selflessness, exuberance, superhuman ability and amazing grace” in meals are some options used to regulate digestion in Ayurveda. the 20th century.
Along with repairing the digestive system and dealing with appro- Bill Wilson met Dr Abram Hoffer in 1960; he was impressed with priate food choices and nutrition, the brain itself is nourished. In research indicating that alcoholics given niacin (a B vitamin) main- Ayurveda, the doshas, vata (air/ether), pitta (fire) and kapha (earth) tained a better sobriety rate. Bill began to see niacin “as completing all have specific subdoshas, or categories regulating functions of the the third leg in the stool, the physical to complement the spiritual and brain and heart. These subdoshas are: prana vayu (vata), tarpak emotional.” He believed that niacin had given him relief from de- pression. Hence, the importance of nutrition entered the field of ad-diction recovery over fifty years ago. Bill Wilson was a synthesizer of ideas who pulled together various Prana vayu (vata) controls and manages the intake of sensory im- threads of psychology, spirituality, and democracy into a workable pressions, transmits messages and governs energy, creativity, percep-and life-saving system of the 12-step programs. This synthesis must tion, growth of consciousness and self-realization. Tarpak kapha be continued, and we can continue to look holistically at integrative nourishes the brain, creating a feeling of happiness; it makes up the approaches rather than reductionistic thinking espoused by some or- nerve issue, insulates the neurons and is present in the sensitive film ganizations today. In a reductionistic approach, addiction is seen only of white matter where experience is recorded. Sadhak pitta compris-as a brain disease. If we integrate spirituality, philosophy, psychol- es all of the neurotransmitters and transforms sensations into feelings ogy, abstinence, right relationship, physical treatments and rejuvena- and emotions. In addiction or disturbance affecting all of these levels tion along with fellowship and community, we are taking an ap- of the mind-body-spirit experience, we are dealing with PranaTar- proach that is holistic in nature and walks in the footsteps of Bill’s pakSadhak Dysfunction, or PTSD.
revolution. If addictions are coming from our collective society hab- Ayurvedic remedies for these subdoshas include herbs such as ash- its then much of the healing must come from the collective and our wagandha, shatavari, nutmeg, valerian, haritaki, peppermint and sage. contributions to the whole. (See a qualified practitioner for individual herbal recommendations.) Shirodhara, pouring of warm oil over the forehead or third eye, can be Ayurveda and Integration
beneficial for calming and nourishing the brain. Almonds, milk, ghee, Ayurveda sees the effect of addiction on the brain but also notes vegetable-based essential fatty acids (such as flax, hemp, purslane, acai, that it is a cultural disease. Even if the brain does not explain the dis- walnut and avocado) all feed the tissues. Herbs delivered in ghee help ease in its totality, this organ is central to the disease of addiction. In to repair the nervous system, which is damaged by drug and alcohol a holistic approach, the physical brain must be repaired and brought abuse as well as behavioral disorders. Ghee or other oils, such as sesa-into balance. Properly firing neurotransmitters are necessary, the pre- me oil, inserted nasally (nasya) have a direct effect on the brain. cursors of which are amino acids (AA again, this time Amino Acids Since prana fuels the brain and mind, regulating prana is vital for all of us, whether learning how to manage our own addiction, coping Nutrition is vital in addiction treatment, especially in acute detox- with addictions in our family or friends or as a practitioner holding ification when people need to clear alcohol or drugs from their sys- the space for healing. Managing our own prana helps us stay strong tem and normalize the body. Since we absorb amino acids from food, and stable particularly in the face of society’s reductionism and con-we can look to the part food plays in our addictive tendencies and fusion. As practitioners, by healing our own lives we can become a mood disorders – especially in children. According to Ayurveda, junk light that attracts people who want to cultivate balance. This goes food and junk impressions can contribute to conditions such as mood along with one of the main guiding principles of 12-step programs of disorders and ADHD. The current trend is to repair the brain with food high in amino In the process of looking for ways to alleviate addictive symptoms, acids; in mainstream clinics, these are often non-vegetarian choices. the underlying cause of the addictive pattern may still exist. how do Ayurveda suggests questioning the practice of using tamasic (dulling) we understand the underlying cause? This may be the most challeng-food substances to remedy a tamasic condition (addiction). Tamas ing lesson of all - addictions indicate wrong lifestyle so how much are is counteracted by sattvic, or peace-creating foods, most of which are we willing to examine our whole way of living and ingrained patterns plant-based. Many rehabilitation centers use supplementation and of dependencies? IVs because people are not able to absorb nutrition from food as Durga Leela developed an integrative approach to 12-step, Yoga and substance abuse and our life-addictive behaviors have vastly inter- Ayurveda through Yoga of Recovery: She leads retreats and works with people individually worldwide. A truly holistic approach addresses the digestive system, the brain and the heart in an integrated manner. Ayurveda’s first point of call This article is adapted from Durga’s talk on Yoga of Recovery for is to consider the state of the digestive fire (agni). Our ability to di- the California Association of Ayurvedic Medicine (CAAM) in May gest ultimately supports the ability to produce fuel for the mind, 2010 at the Sivananda Yoga Center in Los Angeles, California. Talks which includes prana along with the physical fuels. We obtain prana on Ayurveda are held by CAAM monthly: 3 4 L AYO G A June 2010


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