The Role of Prana in Recovery

It’s an average Wednesday afternoon. I decide to stop by my old recovery home to donate a bag of clothes to the residents. When I ring the doorbell, I find the whole house dressed in black attire. “A former resident died,” whispers the program manager. There’s a sinking feeling in my gut as I realize we have lost yet another soldier on the field who was battling a relentless enemy- addiction.

This is the paradox of addiction: It can be a blood-sucking parasite unwilling to leave its host or a launchpad toward enlightenment and spiritual advancement. Those of us who have danced on the edges of death trying desperately to remove the monkey from our backs know that the darkness and despair that accompanies the struggle is a heavy-weight contender in any ring. Even Muhammad Ali wouldn’t be declaring, “I am the greatest,” in this fight; It’s a knockout in round one.

In fact, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), estimates that there were between 102,000 and 247,000 drug-related deaths in 2011, corresponding to a mortality rate of between 22.3 and 54.0 deaths per million population ages 15-64. The extent of drug-related deaths has essentially remained unchanged globally. This is the second drug-related death I have personally come to know about in the last year, excluding the close friends I have lost to the affliction.

So why do some suffering souls perish while others rise above like a Phoenix from the ashes? Even in the final days preceding my resolute decision to get clean and sober the depths of my depression was intolerable. It was either throw in the towel and accept defeat or muster up an ounce of willingness and soldier on. To understand this juxtaposition, it is important to identify one fundamental universal concept: prana.

Prana is the yogic term for “life force,” loosely translated as energy.  This universal principle of energy or force is responsible for the body’s life and maintenance. Dr. Usha Peri MD, reputed Nephrologist, describes the role prana plays in achieving a healthy mind and body. When prana is flowing freely and energy levels are up, we experience joy, enthusiasm, and a zest for life. In contrast, when prana is low and energy is blocked, depression, sadness, and despair arise.

Addicts and alcoholics commonly have very low prana in early stages of recovery because of the enormous toll toxic substances and reckless living take on the physical and emotional body. Often the prana is so low that there seems like no way out except to “take yourself out.” I recall sitting with a client in the emergency room after a botched suicide attempt. Her faint words are still clear to me because they echoed mine at one point in my life. She said, “I’m just looking for a reason to wake up in the morning.” Having low prana is a meager existence. It’s a lifeless body and vacant spiritdoing it’s best to survive. It’s more like “one breath at a time” rather than “one day at a time.”Conversely, when prana is abundant, sobriety is plausible and attainable. So the question remains: how do you raise prana?

There are four sources of energy: food, sleep, the breath, and meditation. When you take advantage of all four of these tools to increase prana, the likelihood of recovery increases which in turn affects the ability to live a full, vibrant life. How many suicidally depressed people do you know who eat healthy, get ample rest, practice yoga and meditate?I’m pretty sure the answer is zero. I’ve yet to meet such a person and I bet all my chips he/she does not exist except as possible a character in a Quentin Tarentino film.

Coincidentally, the woman who I had the privilege of being of service to in the emergency room had not eaten, exercised, or slept for several days. Low prana = one ambulance ride and a very expensive hospital bill. Spend your dollars on healthy organic foods, a yoga mat, and meditation classes instead of another stint in rehab and the ER. You will appease everyone in your life except your health care professionals but they’re busy mingling in box seats at the Laker’s game with Pfizer reps anyway so it’s a slam-dunk for everyone. Recovery isn’t a spectator sport; get on the court and play to win- the shot clock’s ticking.