Indiana & Yoga Magazine Summer 2016 Issue 1 - Page 40

FEATURE: YOGA AND ADDICTION RECOVERY Nikki Myers and Y12SR If you’ve heard of yoga and addiction recovery, you’ve heard of Nikki Myers. She established Yoga of 12-step Recovery, also known as Y12SR, in 2003, and it’s grown from a one-time six-week intensive with 12 participants in Indianapolis into a thriving international community with more than 200 weekly meetings and 600 active Y12SR facilitators in the US and beyond. Myers is a slender, vibrant woman in her early sixties with a big grin, big ideas, and big wedge heels. She isn’t the only one to integrate 12-step recovery and yoga, and she’s the first to admit that, quipping, “Nothing’s original,” with a chuckle. She attributes the Y12SR system to her teachers Gary Kraftsow, Aruni, Peter Levine, and Seane Corn, as well as Dr. Bob Smith and Bill Wilson, the two men credited with founding the original 12-step program, Alcoholics Anonymous, in the 1930’s. She created Y12SR to help 12-steppers learn more about yoga and teach yogis more about the 12 steps. We spoke at CITYOGA, the studio she founded and since passed on to Dave Sims, another supporter of Y12SR, on a rainy Thursday morning. Interviewing Myers means listening to laughter, wisdom, and a few f-bombs. Emma Hudelson: What’s your elevator speech for Y12SR? Nikki Myers: Y12SR is ultimately a relapse prevention and reintegration program…. We connect the dots between yoga philosophy and practices, the very practical tools of the 12 step program, and all of the research in neuroscience, yoga, meditation, and recovery from trauma to provide a foundation for what we’re calling sustainable addiction recovery. EH: You always say that the twelve steps were your life raft, and yoga was your launching pad. How were the 12 steps your life raft? NM: They’re still my life raft. They provide a very practical and structured way to look at the spiritual principles [of the 12-step program]. So those structures are my lifeboat. And I still need a lifeboat from time to time…the structure of having accountability, working with a sponsor, working with sponsees. And yoga’s been my launching pad. It’s allowed me to go to places that I never thought—I never imagined—I could go. EH: Tell me about your own recovery story. How did you first encounter the 12 steps? NM: Thank God I encountered the 12 steps. The 12-step program talks about jails, institutions and deaths. And I know jails, institutions and death. I found the 12-step program in 1987. My addiction had taken me into commercial sex work, divorce, domestic violence, all of that stuff. When I walked in the rooms, I could barely put a sentence together. What I found were people who could love me until I could love myself. That’s the lifeboat stuff, and it’s still there. In the first eight years of my recovery, lots of things happened. I was separated from my kids before getting sober, and I got my kids back. I got my undergraduate degree with straight A’s and got my MBA with one B… So I knew I had some smarts. I started progressing in the ranks of corporate in this software company and they sent me on this trip to Garmisch, Germany. I arrived hungry, angry, lonely, and tired. In the 12-step program, we learn that those are states to be vigilant about, because you don’t make great decisions when those energies pop up. By the time I get to the conference…they were serving dessert: orange sherbet in champagne. I made the decision to go for it. Then I got back to my room, and it was grand, big, and overlooking the alps, and there was a mini-bar. I drank like Denzel Washington drank at the end of the movie Flight. I drank the whole mini-bar. I was “functional,” so I got up the next day to do what I needed to do, but instead of coming home from Germany, I made my way to Amsterdam, and immediately I found that I knew what to do, where to go, and how to act, even though I hadn’t had a drink or a drug in eight years. That’s the samskara. You can’t bullshit yourself about it. It’s always there. Unless you’re a Jesus, or a Buddha, or a Krishna, it’s always there. Maybe for the enlightened ones, it goes away, but I can’t bank on that, because I say “fuck” way too much. So I have to do my work, because that samskara is always there. After eight years clean, I knew exactly how to find my drug of choice. EH: What was your drug of choice? NM: Lots of cocaine at that point…I like crack, straight-up. The first high was Samadhi. And I spent a lot of time chasing that first high…the addict is just looking for the same thing the enlightened one is. That’s why there can’t be any judgment. We’re all looking for the same thing. We have to take the stigma and the judgment out of this shit. That’s my big soapbox. I finally made it back to Boston after spending some time on the streets of Amsterdam…and some things happened, and I found my way back into the rooms and back into yoga. EH: What were some of those things that made you go back to the rooms? NM: Well, I was destitute. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I was humiliated, and I was full of shame, totally disgusted… I knew the 12-step program had saved my life before, and I knew it was the life raft I needed at that point. Simple as that. And it is simple. Not easy, but simple. I love that phrase. Then I found my way back into yoga. At that point, I decided that yoga and yoga philosophy was all I needed—I didn’t need the 12-step program anymore. So I was clean for 8 years, then I relapsed. Then this period, and then I relapsed again, and I was like, what the fuck? I let the 12-step program go, I delved deep into yoga and philosophy, and then I relapsed again… Another relapse. What the fuck, right? The dis-ease of addiction is beyond intellectual. I had some smarts, but the reliance on the intellectual was one of the things that took me out… A platform for sustainable recovery has to cover all five of the bodies. The 12-step program does a great job of covering the cognitive approach. The yoga asana practice gives me the somatic, the body-based stuff, and I assert that there are some other things needed in there now 38 INDIANA & YOGA MAGAZINE ISSUE I