By Shelby Stewart
Grasping the peace of mind achieved in yoga may now be a direction for curing addictions and recovery.
According to the National Survey on Drug use and Health, 21.5 million American adults (aged 12 and older) battled a substance use disorder in 2014. And almost 80 percent of people suffering from a substance use disorder struggle with alcohol use.
“I know that it’s a growing problem in our community,” said Brandon Township resident Jessica Toutant. “I’ve been in recovery for over three years.”
Toutant is part of a 12 step fellowship program, and says she began drinking as a teenager.
“I started drinking when I was a teenager like everyone else, but it was pretty clear early on that I drank different from everyone else,” she said. “It picked up around when I turned 21 because I could buy it, and from 21 to 29, I lost control over it.”
She says that while she was still able to attend work and handle her responsibilities, even got married and had a child, she didn’t have control over her drinking.
“The loss of control and inability to find an answer, drugs, alcohol or eating, it doesn’t mater, it’s the inability to find an answer that you were looking for,” she said. “The feelings are the same between all different types of addiction, needing to fill a void.”
Toutant tried to kick her habit on her own using books, even hypnosis, but found that nothing worked until a doctor told her to try a 12 step fellowship.
“I haven’t had a drink since,” she said. “For me it was about being so desperate to find something that worked. The answer is in listening to the people that have found success, and doing it with your whole heart.”
Now, Toutant teaches yoga eight to 10 times a week, and she teaches a yoga for a 12 step fellowship program in recovery treatment centers. She says she had been doing yoga since she was 15, and continued to do it throughout her drinking,
“Getting to rock bottom internally, where I couldn’t keep living as I was, I didn’t know another way to live, I couldn’t live with it and I couldn’t live without it, and for everybody that’s a super different place,” she said. “Seeking the answer outside of myself is key, because if I’m seeking inside the problem to fix the problem, you know they say you can’t fix a broken toaster with a broken toaster.”
She also says that she had lost many people from her high school to addiction, and wants to spread awareness.
“I’ve seen a lot of my friends from high school die due to drugs and alcohol, and these are kids who grew up here, we’ve had a lot of consequences of this,” said the Brandon grad. “Addiction is devastating our world, it’s not going anywhere any time soon, breaking the stigma is important. This disease doesn’t discriminate, it can affect your family, your friends, your neighbors. Having an open heart and mind and being compassionate is incredibly important because you never know when it’s going to affect your loved ones.”
The yoga classes that Toutant teaches are not a replacement for a 12 step fellowship, but part of it.
“I teach all different kinds of yoga in our community and other communities,” she said. “We call it an adjunct, we think that it is a very helpful tool in a spiritual toolbox of recovery that can lead to building a brand new life. The yoga classes are half geared towards yoga and half meeting in a sharing circle that has structure similar to 12 step fellowships. And they’re all inclusive, no one is not allowed to go there.”
Toutant also says that for those struggling, asking for help is the most important thing.
“There are many other programs you can go to, Refuge, Smart, Celebrate Recovery, that people go to find the answer,” she said. “I want the most people to recover as possible, we can’t do it on our own.”
Anyone looking for help in joining a 12 step fellowship or just her yoga classes can reach out through her facebook page, Jessica Starshine, or call her at 248-343-2287.
Those struggling can also call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration national hotline at 1-800-622-4357.