Moving from Addiction to Recovery: Transformation Through Yoga.

Via Diane Ferraro
on Apr 2, 2013
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Diane Ferraro, contributing elephant journal writer and founder of Urban Siren, LLC—a socially-conscious communications company helping advance agents of positive change–interviews Tommy Rosen—yoga instructor, host and co-producer of the recent far-reaching global online conference Recovery 2.0: Beyond Addiction and participant in the upcoming Yoga, Meditation and Recovery Conference.

Diane and Tommy discuss the many ways that living through addiction and recovery has proven powerful in helping others.

Diane Ferraro: You were interviewed in The Huffington Post in an article featuring the term ‘The United States of Addiction.’ What does this term mean to you?

Tommy_Rosen.1Tommy Rosen: Our society encourages, markets and promotes addiction.  It’s neither a conspiracy nor is it a theory. All you have to do is watch people’s behavior.  We are collectively working hard to avoid the present moment, to avoid ourselves. We use, drugs, alcohol, food, sex, relationships, money, gambling, shopping. We have a large percentage of our children who are obese.  We are dying from diseases that are preventable and fueled by addiction. And now we have new addictions like texting. Most people are unable to stop themselves from texting while they drive.


Over the past 40 years the U.S. has spent one trillion dollars in The War on Drugs. The result has been more addiction, more non-violent people in prison and more suffering. Addiction is the greatest social problem we are facing in our world today.

Diane Ferraro: Those in recovery are often asked to pinpoint the positive aspects of their life since breaking free of addiction. Can you name a quality about yourself that you loved even during the darkest moments of living with addiction?

Tommy Rosen: With a few exceptions, each day I wake up on the right side of the bed, good humored. I have always loved people and laughter. However, it needs to be said that in my darkest moments, which for me was crack cocaine addiction, there was no light at all and I was cut off completely from love. At that time, I cannot say what I loved about myself, yet there was a sense that deep down I was a good person and had a shot at living a meaningful life. What is that? Grace? I’m not sure what you call it.

Diane Ferraro: It is often said that once an individual has lived with an addiction, and has gone through a successful recovery, old addictive habits latch themselves onto other aspects of that person’s life. Have you experienced a transferal of one addiction to another, regardless of whether the latter is more socially acceptable than the former?

Tommy Rosen: If you look closely at my life you would say that I have been a compendium of addictions. (Laughing!). The creation of Recovery 2.0 came out of my desire to help people break the force field of addiction altogether and not just getting beyond their primary drug or behavior of choice. I had a nasty protracted bout with gambling addiction. Cigarettes were tough to let go of, but I finally did 10 years ago. Relationships and sex have been confusing to say the least.

Diane Ferraro: Prior to when you stepped on the path of recovery in 1991, can you summarize what a typical day was like for you?

Tommy Rosen: No one has ever asked me that before. There is nothing typical about my lifestyle as any day depended on several factors. Sometimes I was using more drugs than others. Sometimes I was seeing Grateful Dead concerts. Other times, I was in school. Weekends were very different from weekdays. I will answer the question as if I am in Boulder, Colorado in college on a weekend.

Wake up, Eat, Smoke Pot. Go up to campus café to have tea. Try to exercise – Gym, mountain bike, basketball. Work diligently to find a woman I would be having sex with imminently unless I had a girlfriend then work diligently to have sex with her while trying not to think about other women. Smoke more pot. Eat lots more food, Go to the movies. Smoke more pot. Go to see The Grateful Dead if at all possible. Start doing other drugs if they are around as it’s the evening now. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.


Diane Ferraro: Is there anyone in your life (past or present) who is or would have been most surprised at your 21 years of sobriety?

Tommy Rosen: There’s a guy I used to do drugs with at the very end.  He is still alive, but never managed to get sober. He has had a hard life—addiction, prison, loss of family, loss of self-esteem. I have heard from another friend that he is still alive. I do not think this guy could have conceived or would grasp now that for 21 years I’ve been without drugs and alcohol in my life.

Diane Ferraro: In your opinion, what is the most single important message someone living with addiction needs to hear?

Tommy Rosen: Don’t be alone. Get help from another person or people who have come through the same thing you are fighting to get through yourself. Humble yourself as best you can to see what you are and what you are not. Addiction is not your essence. Love and the pure light of consciousness is your essence. Find that as soon as you can and everything will work out.

Diane Ferraro: Recovery 2.0: Beyond Addiction* is a global online conference. Besides addressing addiction issues in the United States, what other countries and communities do you feel need to be aware of the conference?

Tommy Rosen: We had nearly 20,000 people from 70 different countries participate in this first conference. Many of them wanted to buy the tapes as well, which was encouraging because there is so much to take in. I’ll be studying them for the rest of my life. I think everyone needs to see these tapes whether you struggle with addiction or not. There is so much life wisdom there. You watch one and it’s like you are set up for the day in a great way.

Diane Ferraro: How did you develop the idea for the conference?

Tommy Rosen: The conference comes out of my direct needs as a person in recovery. These are all the elements I needed to break the force-field of addiction in my own life. Necessity is the mother of invention.

Diane Ferraro: If you had to name three public and prominent figures that you hope will listen to the conference, who would they be and why?

Tommy Rosen: I mostly want the President of The United States, his wife and the White House office of Recovery to watch this so that we can begin to get major resources put towards the idea of holistic recovery in this country and beyond.

On a personal note, I’d love Robert Downey Jr. to watch the conference, to call me and to say something like, “Tommy, this is Iron Man and you rock.”

Diane Ferraro: How has yoga played a part in your recovery?

Tommy Rosen: Whereas the 12 Steps lifted me up out of the darkness of drug addiction, the path of Kundalini Yoga, which I found 12 years into my recovery, gave me the tools to break through the force-field of addiction and to live in the present moment.

The keys to the kingdom are waiting for us in the present moment. Of course, it takes discipline and know-how to get into the habit of returning there as often as possible.


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Ed: Kate Bartolotta


About Diane Ferraro

Diane Ferraro, an only child and Metal Pig, has fancied herself a writer since she can remember. Probably because her imaginary friend told her she was pretty good at it. In yoga, we call those friends our “higher self.” Vacillating between yang and yin, she gets giddy and goes digging in the dirt in equal measure. As a New York-based, worldly-wise executive with fifteen years of experience in fundraising, event planning, publicity, and organizational management, and an entrepreneur leading her own socially responsible communications and growth strategies consulting company, Urban Siren (, Diane is dedicated to advancing the melioration of individuals, communities, and the environment. Looking back on her bio, Diane is a little creeped out that she’s been referring to herself in the third person but she’s really excited to be a part of the Elephant Journal crew as a contributing trouble maker writer. Feel free to heckle reach her at [email protected] and Twit with her @urbansiren


6 Responses to “Moving from Addiction to Recovery: Transformation Through Yoga.”

  1. Debbie says:

    Thanks for posting this article. It is SO important to get this message out. I highly recommend the book "Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America's Greatest Tragedy" by David Sheff. My heart feels happy when I read stories about recovery, as there are many that don't recover, and it is beyond sad.

  2. Rob says:

    I got sober in AA 13 years ago and dabbled in Yoga for a number of years. I committed to a regular practice (3 to 5 classes a week plus daily meditation) about 2 years ago. I enjoyed excellent quality of life and much happiness in sobriety but suffered from periodic depression, addictive eating patterns, sex addiction, cigarette relapse, and just general lethargy, ennui at times.
    Yoga (regular, sustained practice) has made a huge difference in all those areas. I feel like I live in the moment, see things more clearly, worry less, have more self control and generally am progressing toward a non dual awareness. I can see through the veil of illusion that our western materialistic society embraces. I used to feel like an alien here, now I realise its actually the majority that is living in illusion. Kind of like I was right all along that the world is crazy! I know who I am and its not my ego or all the other crap that used to worry me.

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  5. jearuiz01 says:

    I do feel like I live in the moment, see things more clearly, worry less, have more self control and generally am progressing toward a non dual awareness. I can see through the veil of illusion that our western materialistic society embraces.

  6. Awesome Diane. My sister teaches yoga for recovery too and I am sure she would agree too when you say that Kundalini Yoga helps the most in fighting addiction. The benefits of Yoga are never going to die out.