Why Former Addicts Make Excellent Spiritual Practitioners…

Why Former Addicts Make Excellent Spiritual Practitioners

In the 1960’s, there was a revolution of music, drugs, and also many young people traveling to India to discover their truth through the practice of yoga. Unfortunately, Woodstock doesn’t cover much of this and for some people, it was just a phase. However, some musicians and former Harvard professors knew right away yoga was their dharma. Thus, they never looked back at their old life.

Many are aware of Ram Dass’ guru, Neem Karoli Baba taking a potent dose of LSD, and not changing. HA! That was the trippiest part of the book, Be Here Now. That took the groovy out of taking altered psychedelic agents away! George Harrison also understood natural yoga-induced elevated states and lost interest in material mainstream activities such as drinking and doping. He even gave up his wife, Patty Boyd away to Eric Clapton. He was so wrapped up in “something” else that he could see through the cyclic dramatic earth games, aversions, and attachments.

SEE ALSO: Why The Word “NO” Is Life Changing

Addiction and Yoga in Popular Culture

I grew up on the young side of the spectrum of Generation X, but I’ve already seen many of my teen idols pass away. We are now living in the world of an Opiate addiction epidemic. There are some people such as the most recent losses, the Beloved, Prince, Tom Petty, and Chris Cornell, who integrated both spirituality and substances into their life. They fought a battle that many of this reading this may or may not relate to. Prince’s two-year death anniversary is this Saturday, the day before Earth Day.

On the other hand, I’ve seen many punk rockers, DJs, hip-hop, and rap artists transform their lives through yoga. Many young generation Xer’s became Ravers in the late 90’s/early 2000’s. Moby was a major player in this scene. Our Raver’s credo is Peace, Love Unity, and Respect, with or without drug usage. Attending raves led me to listen to Moby back in 1998 when he was a younger DJ in New York City.

Somewhere along his path, he discovered yoga and veganism. He not only currently uses music to influence our generation in a positive way, but saves animals and opened up his own restaurant, The Little Pine restaurant in Los Angeles. 20 years later, he’s still a hero in my life. Noah Levine, a former punk rocker, and musician, created and published the book Dharma Punx. Additionally, he founded the Against the Stream Buddhist Meditation Society. Russell Simmons used to literally live the high life and now dedicates his sadhana to the greater good. His meditation app is available for free on the iPhone. It’s called Meditation Made Simple. I remember finishing the Ashtanga Primary Series one day. I drank a cup of matcha tea and slipped into his led meditation very quickly.

Former Addicts to Spiritual Practitioners

From my observation of addicts and personal experience, here are eight reasons why former addicts/or hardcore partiers can become excellent spiritual practitioners.

  • They can’t get enough! One yoga class or two, plus a home practice, and meditation. They will do whatever it takes to stop the craving or the attachment of an altered state. 100% devotion, not 100% MDMA or Marijuana! Addicts are all or nothing until they find the middle way. Addiction is a disease, cured by yoga just like so many other ailments.
  • Former addicts practice until the aversion or attachment is gone. Intellectualizing that consuming drugs is an attachment, done for pleasure, and based on ego helps an addict understand their former motivation. Yoga Sutra 2.3 states there are five kleshas: egoism, attachment, aversion, ignorance, and clinging to the earthly realm.
  • They can skip AA and find support through a Sangha or community who empathizes. This is information I’ve observed by those who have found salvation through yoga and meditation.
  • In the 1970’s, a well-known Kundalini teacher said, “Practicing Kundalini was the new dope.” Ex-addicts understand visualizations and the chemical changes in the brain. They are capable of reaching a state of loving everyone through yoga rather than love drugs, such as ecstasy or LSD.
  • They understand bad trips and good trips. Calming or ceasing the fluctuations of the mind is just as important as being aware of one’s Vritti’s, or the ripples within one’s mind-stuff. Sometimes being grounded is needed rather than feeling as happy and peaceful as a raver on E, listening to tribal trance at an underground rave. They “get this” and are able to understand the highs and lows without the craving to feel different. Addicts don’t always feel good and are okay with applying their restraints, the Yamas, and Niyamas to just say no.
  • They are able to step out of their ego and understand who the actor and observer are. Purusha is the self. Prakriti is the nature or form we are embodied in the form of three Gunas. It takes practice to cultivate this, but a former drug user may just grasp this concept from former drug psychedelic trips.
  • Music and vibrations uplift former addicts. Vibrations are felt intuitively from practice with a catalyst in their earlier days. I’ve seen punk rockers and hippies turn into Kirtan musicians. The music and chanting allow the chakras to spin in much the same way their former music of choice did. Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La. How much does this differ from chanting Bija mantras Lam, Vam, Ram, Yam, Ham, Om? Elevation through sound is available without drug-induced states.
  • They already understand trippy visualizations and the astral plane. Colors and sounds are much like a synthetic trip. Tuning into this state of consciousness may be easier for a past addict or drug user. The main difference being that they are able to control the trip, taking the danger out of drug use.

I remember working in a corporate office. A couple guys found out I was an avid yoga practitioner and asked if I’d join them in an after office party.  I politely declined, and they said, “But aren’t you a Rastafarian that smokes weed?”

Yes, I resonate with the Rastafarian movement and have been listening to Rasta, Jungle, and Dance Hall since my teens; but no, I don’t need to take on anything to enjoy the music. Yoga is the least rebellious thing I’ve done in this lifetime, and thus the reason I continue on the path without resistance.

One of the greatest gifts us former addicts have is non-judgment to those that are still struggling. Some of my closest friends are still battling alcohol and drug addiction every day and I get along with them just fine. Sending sincere blessings and positive vibrations to all those that have succumbed to the battle, passing into other realms, in the recent past, not to forget Buddhist teacher; Michael Stone, who passed last year.

Dedicated to The Artist Formerly Known As Prince and Kurt Cobain who both passed away in this month.


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Brieanne Tanner

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Brieanne is a spontaneous poet, curious yogi, and yoga mama of one. She has a Master’s of Arts certificate in…

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