I’m a wiry 6’3” figure walking through the parking lot of the yoga studio. My shirt is off and I’m still sweaty. I can feel my heart beating through my neck as my carotid artery pumps. I just worked my ass off in a led primary class. Practicing in there today was a difficult experience, physically and emotionally. I felt myself shedding so many layers. As I hop into my car, I make a plan to drive straight home and melt into my bed. I can feel the pain in my arms as I drive. They hurt all the time and still bear the marks of heroin addiction. They are covered in needle scars from using them as human pincushions while I shot up as many as thirty times a day. I have permanent black lines as thick as cables running down my left forearm and across my elbow. My muscles are in a state of atrophy and I look frail, damaged.
I’m eight months sober and crystal clear about the fact that I don’t want to live that way anymore. My sponsor tells me that if I want a different life, I have to do different things. As part of my recovery, I’ve been exploring spirituality and religion. Now I get down on my knees every day and pray to something without even knowing what it is. I’m desperately doing whatever I need to do to maintain my sobriety. That’s why I reluctantly tried yoga after a friend relentlessly asked me to attend her class. After going just twice, I’m overwhelmed by the powerful effect that yoga is having on me. I’m trying to wrap my mind around all of this as I drive. I glance at my throbbing arms and remember the red, puffy, oozing mess that they used to be when they no longer functioned. When I was using, I had so many infections that I was continually on antibiotics and fighting a constant battle just to keep my arms. They were always cold because my veins were destroyed. But now my arms are changing. I realize that practicing yoga has already started to bring circulation and warmth back to them.
I walk into the sad looking efficiency apartment that I share with my dog. There is no color except for the dirt on the carpet and the tan sheets that cover the windows. The single room is mostly unfurnished beyond a mattress that is laying on the floor. My only possessions after my divorce are a computer and a 50 inch TV. I know it’s a bleak scene, but I’m happy here. I don’t care that I have no stuff. The other three apartments in the building are filled with sober friends and I know this is where I’m supposed to be right now. I cook some food and prepare to relax and process the stuff that just happened on my yoga mat. As I lay down, there is something weird going on in my body, and I don’t understand what it is. I am aware of every single scar in my arms, each place I stuck a needle. I can feel all of the pain that I caused myself and all of the damage that I did. I know I am in desperate need of more healing. I need physical healing, of course, but I also need to be healed from the self-hate and darkness that is leftover from my life as an addict.
I notice something I’m not used to – a profound sense of calm. My arms are starting to burn and I can actually feel the blood running through them. I’ve been told that the yoga practice is meant to boil the blood and burn up the toxins. I’m not sure exactly what’s happening, but I know it’s significant. It feels like someone/something is physically removing each one of the needle scars from my arms. They are all being extracted, burned away. I can sense the energy of the practice inside of me. The old is being swept away and the light is finally outshining the darkness. I am being cracked open and shedding a powerful layer in the process. My being is starting to feel lighter and life is returning to my soul. I’m getting a glimpse of a new path being cleared in front of me. The damage is being undone. The pain is decreasing. I feel like my arms are back. I’m healing…
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