Yoga for 12 Step Recovery (Y12SR) uses the analogy of the vessel. The human experience as a vessel (or as one of my teachers calls it: water sac).
Addiction turns our vessel upside down. When I’m upside down, not only do I have no idea what is up or down, but I also have no sense of right or wrong, what I want, what I like, where I want to go or who I want to be. In short: I have no idea who I am. I’m completely submerged in the upside down experience of active addiction. I’m in complete darkness and denial.
The first step is the awareness that I’m in darkness, that something is wrong (not wrong as in bad, but wrong as in out of alignment with the truth and fractured). This awareness comes with dawning of thought that maybe it’s more me and less the rest of the world that’s out of alignment. I must accept that I’m powerless over this force that lives inside of me and holds me upside down. This was the greatest revelation for me about the disease: The understanding that I can’t control it. This key awareness opened the door for surrender and willingness.
The last time that I was in treatment was not the first time I was in treatment. I found myself in a bathroom with an unbreakable mirror in a room with one blanket, thinking to myself: “how did I get here again? It’s only been 6 months since I was in treatment and now here I am again”. Now I know that there are no coincidences in life, that the universe unfolds exactly as it should.
I had a piece of recovery literature that someone had given me. The moment that I was having this thought…asking myself how did I get here again? I opened the book without looking at what page I was going to, I opened to the page where it told me that once I put that one in me I was in the grip of something more powerful than me. I had heard this over and over again in meetings and from people in Recovery, but I hadn’t fully accepted the truth of this: That I could not control what I did or what happened after I took that one. That lack of acceptance made it possible for me to keep taking that ONE. The first step is the recognition and acceptance of this powerlessness.
The second step is the other part of that admission, that it’s not me that’s going to get this vessel right side up. Every time I try to fix what’s happening, every time I try to control my using and get my life on the right track, really I’m just pulling myself farther into the darkness, I’m kicking my legs and flailing around and making a lot of movements and noise, but I’m not really going anywhere. In this state I am entrenched in a belief system that has my power generating from my fractured personality and malfunctioning spirit. In step two I connect to the stillness inside and open to this possibility: I do not know where my power lies, and If I can stay in the stillness I will find my real power.
Now I come to step 3 to let go, to surrender, to make a decision to turn my will and my life over to a power greater than myself. That power doesn’t have to be known and it doesn’t have to be God. It’s the decision part that’s important, the decision cultivates the willingness to face fear and spurs action towards the antidote of disease thinking: Honesty. In the second step I come to understand and believe that I am not the most powerful force in my life. The third step is learning not listen to everything I think, to embrace the idea of “I don’t know” and to make the decision to follow. Deciding to practice Faith by following the path of Recovery laid out before me by countless other pioneers in this new life.
In the next 3 steps (4-6) we get ready for the spiritual journey, we’re going somewhere so we need to get ready. By Step 3, I’m committed to the adventure, but I still have all of this shit attached to me, the baggage I’m carrying from before I used and all the shit I picked up along the way. The middle steps clean the baggage up, getting it manageable for the journey. I look at everything I know about living and relationships. I decide what works, what doesn’t work, what can be stitched up and used.
In the last 3 steps we are ready for this spiritual journey. The spiritual journey means being present and authentic in my life to the best of my ability. The best of my ability means fear is not a stop sign, it means accepting that I will get it wrong and I will get it right. The best of my ability means committing to participating in my life as if I am the person I was born to be. It means saying yes when I mean yes, no when I mean no and “I don’t know” when I don’t know. The spiritual journey is the path back to the authentic self.