In their own words

Richard Jonas

Louise: I don't have a problem with answering questions about alcoholism. There might be someone out there struggling who will think, "My God, that girl's an alcoholic, perhaps she can help me."

Tori: It's turned out to be such a source of strength for me, to know that I had this problem and I could overcome it.

Louise: AA [Alcoholics Anonymous] was an amazing experience. From that day on, for the next three and a half years, I went every day.

Father Joe: Rock bottom is a basic realization that I don't have to deny who I am. I am who I am, and it's beautiful.

Brad: I thought I could do it on my own. That's a big part of most addicts: they
want to do it on their own or just can't ask for help.

Jack: [On the way] to my first meeting, I was trying to convince myself to turn around and go home. And then suddenly I realized how many hundreds of times I had tried to approach this problem through my own efforts, and I said, "Jack, you're not going to recover by yourself."

Brad: I always had a Valium or something. To just have nothing in terms of a substance was such an uncomfortable feeling. I probably went to three meetings a day,
I probably made 300 meetings in my first 90 days. It was the only place where I
felt safe.

Kevin: When a person comes into the program they're not receptive to complex ideas. You have to keep it simple.

Tori: I was incredulous at the deep honesty, that people were baring their souls in a roomful of strangers, that people would feel that trusting and comfortable to describe really intense feelings.

Louise: The stories can be so amazing and so magical. I've heard people making the most amazing amends. You are filled with admiration for their bravery, and then you see the sparkle in their eye from having a completely free conscience.

Robert: That's really what twelve step is about: it's enunciating your own experiences and letting others take what they will and leave the rest.

Kevin: I felt at home. I felt, "We're all on the same page here, and it's not about the externals." I identified, and that opened something in me that gave me a little bit
of hope.

Robert: Treating other people better, being compassionate, is an important thing to learn how to practice.

Jack: The program is a stopping ground for someone who is running. It's the place to stop and say, "Wait a minute, my life is unmanageable."

Tori: That first step was the one that they told me I had to do perfectly. You have to get this first one, you have to really admit you're powerless over alcohol, you have to really know it and feel it.

Brad: As an addict, I always thought I had it completely under control. Denial really means you don't even know you're lying.

Father Joe: In the very first step, yoga helps. We have a set of restorative postures which calms down the person and leads that person to say, "I am all right. Deep down, I am all right." … Hope comes in the second step when faith is expressed.

Father Joe: Recovery people, before
they came into this practice, were soaked in lies. And a human being is made for
the truth.

Tori: Going to meetings, working the steps with the sponsor, and then eventually you become a sponsor and you work with other people who are new and guide them through the steps. And through this process, you can't help but be confronted with yourself.

Louise: [Step 3] is my favorite, because
I am a control freak. Step 3 completely
let me off the hook. Somebody else is
in control.

Jack: I realized right away I was going to have a problem with "God." [But] there I was on my knees, with my head on the floor, prostrated. Suddenly I realized, I can pray here [in Adho Mukha Virasana]. Yoga enabled me to approach "higher power."

Robert: One of the things that helps to see one's true self is surrender to a higher power, Isvara Pranidhana. Your whole being is absorbed in the experience.

Father Joe: The first thing that hits a human being in any recovery program is the truth about themselves. Humility, for me, is truth. You can't see the truth if you are filled with egoism.

Robert: The first three steps really connected to yoga in a strong way. I
was fascinated.

Lindsey: When people do yoga poses they have to know whether they're doing them accurately. They have to know, "Is it true I'm straightening my leg? Is it true I'm straightening my arm?" That constant self-assessment and self-observation develops someone's ability to adhere to the truth. Yoga gives someone a very practical way to keep their feet firmly on the ground.

Jack: It clicked that yoga was the way I was going to move through my recovery.

Louise: Step 11 is my yoga step. It's about coming back into myself and my body. When I'm doing my yoga, my breathing slows down, I'm completely in the moment, feet on the ground, in the universe, right now.

Kevin: What keeps me practicing? Simply put, it makes me feel good. It calms me, it allows me to focus, it gives me energy, it seems to fulfill a relationship with my body that seems eternal.

Brad: Every time I would finish a class, I felt better. Feeling physically stronger helps me deal with life stress. My yoga practice helps me stay sober.

Lindsey: Yoga brings emotional stability. One of the things that drives people to addiction is emotional disturbance.

Father Joe: As soon as you get into a practice like yoga, you start seeing the glimpse of where you're going to be. Those few moments lift you up from darkness into light, from a deathlike situation to life, from a total denial to a truth that sets you free.

Jack: Yoga changed my mind, changed my thinking. I became more self-accepting. As I did asanas, there were days when I would feel very elegant and graceful. Other days I was stiff and sore. Self-acceptance is one of the primary components of recovery. You really have to accept that you're not perfect.

Father Joe: The final step is a psychosocial step that says, "Having had this spiritual awakening, we practice these principles in all the affairs of our life." Now that is very true about yoga. Because when you practice yoga, you take that calmness, that serenity, into every event of your life.

Kevin: [Now] there's distance between what's coming at me and how I react, and I've learned that in my body, I've learned that from the practice.

Tori: Yoga offers a sobriety of mind and spirit that is really beyond satisfying. Relying on a crutch like alcohol or drugs to give me some altered state of consciousness—for me, that's not even interesting.

Lindsey: People ask, "Is yoga going to help?" My answer is, "Yes, yoga helps in conjunction with a twelve-step program. The chances are you can be successful with this, put your life together and come away with a tool that will help you develop yourself further, beyond recovery."

Even for those seemingly lost in their addictions, yoga and twelve-step programs beckon a way back.

NOTE: Some quotes from the film Addiction, Recovery and Yoga have been slightly condensed and edited for length