NotSoZen YogaJen

Healthy Addictions

Posted on: May 9, 2010

Hi, my name’s Jen, and I’m a yoga-a-holic.

I have a highly addictive personality and I’ve always been grateful that this has manifested in relatively harmless soft addictions like coffee and email, and not hardcore drugs, alcohol, or even cigarettes. (Full disclosure: I smoked cigarettes in high school and college but I never got addicted and just stopped cold turkey when I wanted to.  Now I smoke approximately one-half of one cigarette every year and a half.  Usually this only happens when I’m really pissed off and I’ll call my friend Karen and say, “I’m so mad I want to blast gangsta rap and smoke half a cigarette!”)  ANYWAY, suffice it to say that I definitely lucked out with my addictions because given my, um, tendencies for being extreme, things could have gone in a whole different and much worse direction, addiction-speaking.

But lately I’ve developed an addiction that’s not only soft and relatively harmless, but dare I say, healthy.  I’ve become extra-addicted to yoga.  Over the past few weeks I had hardcore anxiety, and every day became mostly about just managing my anxiety.  I’d wake up and think, “OK, I have to get through this day, and I have X, Y, and Z to do, how can I do this given my anxiety?”  And the answer was usually, “Go to yoga.”  Make no mistake:  I’d be super-anxious regardless of if I did yoga or not, but if I did take a class it would bring my anxiety down a couple of notches to slightly-less-super-anxious so that I could do what I needed to do instead of curling up in a ball of anxiety and calling it a day.  At 8am. 

In yoga last week the teacher asked us to notice how we felt at the end of class, and then instructed us to let this be the motivation to bring us back to class.  I’d been noticing enough of a difference to motivate me to go to 5-6 classes a week and take 7:15am classes on many days, even though I am so NOT a morning person and when my alarm goes off at 6am I go through all five of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s Stages of Grief – Denial, Anger, Bargaining, and Depression, during which I hit the Snooze button and hard, and finally, as I drag myself out of bed and reach for my yoga mat, Acceptance.  There is an addictive edge to my yoga practice these days because going to class feels like a compulsion and like I don’t have a choice; I am addicted to how it makes me feel better, and also, sometimes, varying degrees of terrified of how I will feel if I don’t go.  But is this a bad thing?  If I’m going to have an addictive personality, it seems to me that the best thing I can do with that is channel it into healthy addictions.

At a yoga class I took years ago, the teacher talked about how we have these obsessive thought loops going all the time in our brains, but we can use that to our advantage.  Instead of just defaulting to the “I’m shit, I suck” thought mode and then hitting the repeat button and listening to that message day in and day out, we can plant an uplifting thought that makes us feel good and then obsessively repeat that.  I know, easier said than done.  But I love the idea of co-opting our obsessive tendencies for our own good, instead of letting them torture us with destructive thoughts and addictions.

On a side note, I accidentally didn’t have coffee yesterday because I was at an event all day, and this morning I had an excruciating headache, was nauseous, and had shakes.  I told the baristas at Starbucks about my withdrawal symptoms and one said, “This is a wake-up call,” and another one said, “Does this mean you’re going to stop drinking coffee?” to which I replied, “NO! It means I’m going to hook myself up an IV coffee drip and make sure I never have to go through withdrawal again!”

You won’t find me in coffee or yoga rehab anytime soon.

Do you think some addictions can be good for you?  What are your healthy addictions?

Namaste!

YogaJen

Postscript:  My massive anxiety passed, as it always does, and now I am happily back to my normal baseline level of regular anxiety.

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13 Responses to "Healthy Addictions"

Hi Jen, I love your post! Thank you for sharing so honestly.

A few of my arguably healthy addictions (though anything to the absolute extreme I would say is bad)

-Achievement and accomplishments…always need to be in the midst of working on a worthwhile project
-Tracking my finances daily
-my Google calendar

Hi Selena! Thanks for your comment and for coming clean about your healthy addictions! I have lots of “healthy” addictions and am also a workaholic/accomplishmentaholic – I am in precarious recovery for this one but it flares up often and I have workaholic binges. And I love my Outlook calendar but it hasn’t been elevated to addiction status…YET…

Hi, Jessie!

Healthy Addictions….
– YOU
– Self Help Books (you could have included this one for yourself as well, seeing as you helped feed mine!)
– Knitting
– Reading
– Watching Good Will Hunting

LOVE YOU!
xoxo,
Brooke

Ha! Yes, that is another one, I am addicted to self-help (but I’m getting better!). I didn’t realize that I was your self-help dealer and contributed to your self-help addiction! And all the rest are excellent addictions, especially watching Good Will Hunting…and quoting it… “How do you like them apples?”

xoxo!

Thanks for the great and honest post. I see myself there, and the similarities are striking. A little over a year ago, many of my days were like that. I could barely get myself out the door and to work due to this inexplicably crippling anxiety. Without BIkram Yoga, there’s no way I’d be where I am without some seriously delicious meds 🙂 Yay, yoga. And good for you for getting to class despite it all.

I love healthy addictions! Mine are:

Playing Irish music – must do this weekly or an out of sorts!
Banana-tini Shakes
Running
I’m with Selena on tracking my financial expenses too.
Hot tea – yum

Hi Jen — Great post. I wish I could say I have healthy addictions — certainly the most unhealthy is Chocolate Haagan Daaz … but one thing I do to calm myself when I’m anxious is to go on a mad dash to de-clutter my home. It is almost manic but when I am done I feel better and I have a few more black garbage bags waiting by the curb. I guess that can’t be a bad thing.

Food for thought: What makes yours an addiction to Yoga versus someone who wants to experience a healthy lifestyle and knows exactly what will make her feel better? Even it means daily. I was thinking, perhaps falsely?, that addiction might mean you lose your friends and avoid social engagements just to participate in said activity. Perhaps I am thinking only of extreme addictions.

Either way, I loved your post and your thoughts. I think you are doing a great job following what makes you feel better and in turn surely health and longevity will follow.

Each time I read your posts, I am getting closer and closer to wanting to experience what you experience. After all, there is a yoga studio at the end of my block. what the heck am I waiting for!??!

Steph

Hi Jen,

Great post. My addiction is chocolate, every day, several times a day I have to eat a little bit to keep going… No coffee for me, I get all the caffeine I need from chocolate. 😉 It’s not as healthy as Yoga, but that’s OK.

All the best,

Elisa

Hi Jen,

Love this post! Healthy addictions?! Hmm–I recently discovered that I may have a budding addiction to Zen Mediation?! Does that count? (yeah, WTF?! my thoughts exactly!) I’m not sure if I love the blissed out peaceful feeling (like you get in yoga, but w/o the sweat!) OR I’m seriously sitting-deprived and this is my body’s way of telling me I need to sit more, OR I’m just plain lazy. Either way– I miss it when I don’t do it.

I have a yoga addiction too, but the edge is gone. I suspect I’ve maxed out my current tolerance for it, so I might have to up the ante to get the same buzz– Bikram, (which I’ve been avoiding) could be the next step for me. I’ll let you and Bridgette know when I’m ready…

My approach to handling addictions (healthy or questionable) is to go all in, baby! Do it ’til you’re sick of it! Worked when I was obsessed with Momofuku’s pork buns, ditto with the Compost Cookie– made myself have it every week until, I couldn’t anymore. Now I can take it or leave it. I’ve moved on. Its a good feeling.

If Elisa ever wants to get a handle on her chocolate addiction, the next time I have to dip a few hundred truffles she can hang with me. By the end of the day, trust me she won’t want any chocolate for a while! (caveat: she will have to sign a waiver and will not be allowed to call me “KILLJOY!”)

xo
Deb

Yolk E – Thanks! Happy to hear that Bikram helps! YAY YOGA!

Suzanne – thanks for sharing your healthy addicitions!

Stephanie – thanks! And great point re: what makes something an addiction vs. a healthy habit. AND so great that you are getting closer and closer to your own yoga experience! I can’t wait to hear all about it when you stop by the studio at the end of your block 🙂

Deb – I definitely want to know when you take the Bikram plunge!

Elisa & Deb – hope you can connect over chocolate addictions, Deb is an extraordinary baker and I’m sure an out-of-this-world chocolatier who could take any chocolate addicition to a whole nother level!

You have done it again! Incredible post.

Thanks Madelyn!

[…] have perhaps, possibly, casually, once or twice, maybe mentioned my yoga addiction.  Now, I’m not doing yoga by myself in a dark closet, or guzzling coconut water out of brown […]

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