I'm an addict. And so are you... Let me explain.
I was fortunate to attend the International Yoga Festival in Rishikesh this past spring and I was just reading through my journal from the trip. I took a 2-hour class led by Tommy Rosen called The Wonderland of Your Consciousness, and near the beginning, he said, "I'm an addict. Raise your hand if you are, too." I felt safe from this label and awkwardly looked around at the other yogis, wondering how many self-identifying addicts would be sitting in this room on a muggy morning in the Himalayas. A few people gingerly raised their hands. Then Tommy said, sweetly but bluntly: "You're an addict. We all are. Whether you're addicted to status, people, your habits or routines, food, material goods, creating an image for yourself - whatever it is, there's always something."
I was initially taken aback by this, because I had always thought of these attachments we have as invisible threads that tie us to our desires (rather innocent, I suppose). But Tommy was framing the idea in such a way that I couldn't ignore the actual result of letting your attachments go unchecked: addiction.
Our culture is so quick to judge and vilify the obvious addicts, assuming these people are somehow lesser than us because they've simply given up. But I know it's not that simple: they are us. There are still so many people struggling with addiction behind closed doors, and many others who have yet to identify or acknowledge their own addictive patterns. As Tommy believes, likely all of us are struggling with our own addictions, at some level.
When I was younger and first starting my yoga practice, I used it as a way to replace some of my bad habits (substance abuse and self-deprecation, particularly): a cleaner alternative. But I was using yoga in a large part as a method of punishment, and also, I think, as some way to atone for whatever it was I felt I needed to make right. I was doing something energetically positive, so I believed, and therefore it had to just be good, plain and simple.
But I started to notice that I was an insufferable B without my yoga practice; I'd come to depend on it, but I was doing yoga rather than living yoga. I could also see that I was addicted to a sort of self-immolation ritual: I was practicing Bikram (hot) yoga exclusively at the time, and I just wanted to burn everything in that fire, so I could start over. Every day, every single time.
My current addictions tend to be a little less dramatic - I still find myself seeking validation from others to determine my self worth, for example - but the mental work is the same: acknowledge the attachment or addictive behaviour; just try to let it go. My current yoga practice has also changed since the early days: it includes much more meditation, a greater variety of asanas (so I don't get too attached to certain poses), more emphasis on pranayama, and most importantly, an overarching attitude of love and compassion in every moment, with every breath.
"Fall in love with the subtle." ~ Tommy Rosen