Recognize the Roots of Addiction: an Honest Look at Our Life

Roots of addiction shown as a dying oak tree in an illustration

As we begin our journey of yoga and recovery we become able to look objectively at out past. Through yoga practice, we develop our ability to look at ourselves without harsh judgment. When we are able, we want to understand the roots of addiction, specifically the roots of our own addiction. We’re all individuals with complex histories, genetics, shortcomings, and strengths, so the roots of your addiction will be highly personal.

Some common roots of addiction you may relate to:

  1. Mental health: Individuals with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may use drugs or alcohol as a form of self-medication.
  2. Trauma: Experiencing traumatic events, especially during childhood, such as physical or sexual abuse, neglect, or witnessing violence, can increase the risk of developing substance abuse problems.
  3. Stress: High levels of stress, whether from work, relationships, financial issues, or other sources, can lead some people to turn to substances as a way to cope.
  4. Social influences: Seeking a friend group, peer pressure, social norms, and the environment one grows up in can play a significant role in the initiation of substance use.
  5. Lack of coping skills: Individuals who lack healthy coping mechanisms for dealing with life’s challenges may resort to substance use as an escape.

Personally, I can see an interplay of several of these in my own life contributing to my substance abuse. Childhood trauma, lack of coping skills and seeking a social life were major contributors to my behavior. In essence, getting high was way easier than trying to sort out all the broken stuff inside, and it worked for quite awhile. At first I was able to party and have fun while doing ok in school, working and meeting most of my family obligations. Of course, that didn’t last, and slowly the friend group shrank and became devoid of loving friendships, I wasn’t able to succeed in school and I took whatever job I could that didn’t prevent me from using. And then, of course, it got worse still.

What happened in sobriety

When I got clean for the last time, a few things happened, starting with the reality that I had free time to go places, try new things, and just generally think about stuff. It was in this space that I began a somewhat more earnest yoga practice and took much more interest in healthy eating. As I became a bit more settled in sobriety, it became clear I was not like the other adults around me. I didn’t find it easy to make meaningful friendships and I didn’t care about many of the things that seemed to drive others, like career status or visible symbols of success.

When I was partying, I had a built in social network It was toxic, dysfunctional and shallow, but at least I had people to hang with. Now, I had to leave all of them behind and figure out a new way to connect with people. So, I went to 12 step meetings. There was a built in social group available to me and it was one where I more or less fit in. To my mind, this is one of the biggest upsides of 12 step groups, just being with people with a similar life experience. Of course, there are some traps with these relationships but we’ll talk about that in another post.

Yoga classes also provided a social connection that was more or less based on healthy behavior. When we practice as a group, we form what is called a sangha, a community of like minded practitioners. There is something about doing the same poses and sequences with a group of others that creates a familiarity of some sort. Maybe it’s like marching in the military, just engaging in that rhythmic group action turns individuals into a team. Mot of my friendships today have come from the various sanghas I am a part of, and this social network has been a huge service to my sobriety.

We’ve touched on only a few of the most common roots of addiction and our personal circumstances which contributed to our substance abuse. Dig deeper into these issues in our Roots of Addiction posts.

Illustration of a flourishing oak tree, a metaphor for healing the roots of addiction

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