There are four causes of addiction. The main cause is a weakening of willpower. The second cause is feeling a vacuum in life, an absence of joy and happiness, and an absence of external, social and family support, love and affection. The third cause is not having an aim in life. This leads to an addiction to different forms of stimulation through which an aim can be created based on fantasy. The fourth cause is the desire to experiment with something new.
Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati
In 2000 a special rehab program, in conjunction with Greek psychiatrists, was commenced at the Greek ashram. The program had three main functions: (i) to provide the participants with the experience of an ashram lifestyle (ii) the application of Satyananda Yoga practices, and (iii) the provision of individual and communal support.
A typical day in the ashram begins at 5 a.m. with early morning class or shatkarmas, and breakfast at 7 a.m. From 811 there is seva yoga (cleaning) and departmental seva yoga or a lecture, followed by yoga nidra and lunch at 12 noon. In the afternoon there is cleaning at 1.30, seva yoga project at 4 p.m., with a gardening or meditation session from 56 p.m. Dinner is at 6 p.m. followed by the evening program at 7.30 p.m.
The ashram provides each participant with a safe environment to experience the many varying states (both positive and negative) of the rehab process. They live with people who are non-judgemental and supportive, and who come from a wide range of nationalities, educational backgrounds and cultures. Although they are expected to fit in with the basic ashram program, there is no undue pressure on them to conform to strict social norms that they may have encountered in the outside world. In the ashram they encounter a larger measure of freedom to express themselves creatively and to learn new skills and modes of behaviour.
It has been found that the rehab program works more successfully with no more than 10% of participants within the ashram. This ratio allows for an easier transition and assimilation into communal life.
In the ashram five different types of yoga are integrated within the daily program: (i) seva (or karma) yoga (ii) hatha yoga (iii) raja yoga (iv) bhakti yoga and (v) jnana yoga. In addition, daily yoga nidra sessions (deep relaxation) are held, as well as karate classes to build up stamina and release aggression. Various arts and crafts projects are also included to develop creativity and individual self-expression.
The program is assisted by the ongoing input, support and contribution from a psychiatrist who monitors each participants medication, and who liases with ashram personnel regarding the daily dispensing of medication and any other medical needs the participants may have.
The time that people spend in the program varies according to need. Each participant is accepted individually and their program is supervised on an individual, not group basis. This means that people enter the program at different times and via varying circumstances. Some participants are more advanced in their rehab program than others. It has been found useful, to both those more advanced and the newcomers, to let the more experienced assist the beginners. Often a kind of mentoring occurs, which is beneficial to both parties and builds additional self-confidence, esteem and support.
The healing and rehab process is allowed the time and space it needs to unfold, and no undue pressure is placed on the participants to speed up their progress. The coordinator sannyasin of the project contributes in any discussion regarding duration of stay, but the final decision is made by the individual participant. Although they are encouraged to feel part of the wider group of the ashram community, nobody is forced to conform to group activities if they are not ready to do so. Participation is regulated according to individual skills, talents and needs.
The ashram also includes families in the rehab process. When people enter the program, they are required to be accompanied by a member of their family. This is not because the family is considered responsible for the addiction, but because we consider a family contribution can greatly assist the healing process. The family member, as well as the participant, signs an agreement regarding the rehab program, which states that the person agrees to abide by certain conditions during their stay in the ashram. The family is encouraged to visit the ashram once a week, and the program coordinator keeps in regular contact with them about their relatives progress.
A support group for families has also been set up which meets at the ashram once a month. This group is for the families of current and past participants, as well as for parents who are seeking advice on how to help children in a drug abuse situation. The three hour meetings include yoga practices, information on addiction and relevant talks from medical practitioners or ashram staff. There is also a time for questions and general discussion, and a healing meditation is also conducted.
The aims of the group are: to provide parents with ways to ease their pain and to promote their own healing; to enhance their awareness about their own personal and family problems; to encourage them to express themselves in a non-judgemental and supportive environment where they feel comfortable; and to encourage them to seek healing through sharing their pain with others.
This part of the rehab program leads to a transformation in the parents which is as profound as the change that takes place in their children. It is remarkable how quickly parents, with no yogic background, readily take to the ashram environment and spontaneously join in the various activities. Many continue to practise yoga even after their children have successfully left the ashram program.
We believe that the key to the success of the ashram program lies in its holistic approach. It also depends on each persons determination, effort, courage and resolve to overcome their drug addiction. Those who cannot manage to stay for a lengthy time, find it hard to transform their old habits and continue with their former addiction. However, those who do follow through with the program, and allow the transformation to take place, succeed in changing their lives. They are able to return to their families and society to begin or resume their work or studies.
From 20002004 twenty-one participants were involved in the ashram program. Of these, nine people successfully completed the program and are now leading healthy and fulfilling lives in the community. Nine participants stayed for no longer than one month and unfortunately resumed their drug addiction. Three people were still undergoing the program, as well as a sannyasa training course, and we are confident of their future success. Out of the nine successful participants it is encouraging that three decided to return to the ashram and offer their help to others on the program. They also decided to undergo sannyasa training and serve the guru and his mission.
The other six were working or studying and were free of any drug addiction. They and their families keep in contact with the ashram and practise yoga regularly. Three have undergone the Yogic Studies course and have resolved to become yoga teachers. All successful participants, as well as their families, are engaged in some kind of service to their community. They actively support and encourage the ongoing activities of the Overcoming Addiction Program.