Soul intentions for recovery

Posted 3/20/19

CALLICOON, NY — Resources for recovery have become more diverse in today’s world, offering recovering addicts a multitude of options. Increased research has significantly expanded …

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Soul intentions for recovery


CALLICOON, NY — Resources for recovery have become more diverse in today’s world, offering recovering addicts a multitude of options. Increased research has significantly expanded knowledge of addiction, its causes and effects on the brain, and how recovery involves reconnecting the physical, mental, and emotional pieces of ourselves.

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), founded in 1935 by Bill Wilson and Bob Smith, is the most well-known program for recovery, followed by Narcotics Anonymous (NA), founded in 1953. Both programs are modeled after “The Big Book,” which is a basic text describing how to recover from alcoholism, primarily written by Bill Wilson. The “12-step method,” introduced into AA through Wilson’s text, is a blueprint for recovery.

Although many have found great success with 12-step programs, there are some that have a difficult time connecting with programs such as AA or NA, and it is important that those seeking recovery know there are alternatives and supplements.


Separation versus connection: a prescription for wholeness

Yoga for recovery has become an increasingly popular resource for those battling addiction. Research has proven that when a person stops using substances, their brain chemistry is severely affected. It has also been proven that exercise increases endorphins and dopamine production in the brain. However, this isn’t the only reason yoga can be applied to recovery.

Photos provided by Erika Duffy 

Erika Duffy teaches yoga for recovery at addiction rehabilitation centers, schools, private residences and studios. She describes yoga for recovery as a holistic program. It isn’t only a class, but “it becomes a lifestyle where you may start off doing it because you can’t use anymore, but it guides you to a life where you don’t want to anymore.”

Duffy’s first introduction into yoga was in 2001, when she moved to Honesdale after having her second child. Without any family or familiar faces in the area, she began to experience severe depression and anxiety. Because of this, she was inspired to attend her first yoga class. She recounted, “I believe, however, I had been practicing other aspects of yoga long before I knew what it was or took my first formal class… It felt more like remembering or learning the name of something [I] already had some awareness of. I could be alone in a room full of people but connect to myself and, in time, connect to others.”

Duffy’s style for her yoga for recovery class varies depending on environment. She will set up the room  to accommodate to the sensitivities common to those struggling with addiction or just starting out on their journey to recovery. She will sometimes incorporate the 12-steps language. She also emphasizes that addiction does not necessarily coincide with substances—people can be addicted to anything. It is not a moral failing or fault in our code, but it is a human condition.

The main focus of Duffy’s yoga for recovery class is the concept that addiction is a state of separation and yoga is a state of connection, and she believes the practices of yoga can guide people from states of separateness toward their inward state of connection.

As with the AA and NA programs, yoga is not a religion; it is a spiritual practice. Most people, when they are seeking recovery, are turned off by the “religious overtones” of the programs. However, yoga and the 12-step programs are based on spiritual principals. Carl Jung, a Swiss psychologist, shared his ideas for treatment with AA’s founding member, Bill Wilson, through a letter. This letter was one of the major inspirations in the creation of AA.

 A quote of Jung’s that stood out to Duffy most was, “his craving for alcohol was the equivalent on a low level of the spiritual thirst of our being for wholeness.” She believes those addicted are all dedicated to becoming whole but search in the wrong places. Those who look to feed or fill their spiritual cravings do so with the wrong spirit, or fill our spiritual craving with the wrong spirit, or through relationships, gambling, sex, social media, eating, cutting, shopping, or exercising.

Duffy’s proudest accomplishment is being able to serve the community. “Yoga is a prescription for wholeness.”

Channeling energies for protection and healing

Andrea McDowell is a Reiki therapist who is focusing her healing on those seeking recovery from addiction.  Reiki is a Japanese healing method in which the therapist channels energy into the patient by means of touch or hovering. This practice aims to naturally restore the patient’s physical and emotional well-being. Recently, Reiki has been introduced into the world of recovery as an alternative or supplemental program.

“I think in my heart, I really believe the people that I had the most power to affect would be those struggling with heroin or opioids.” — Andrea McDowell

Her program, Reiki for Recovery, will be comprised of Reiki sessions and group work. She conducts free one-hour Reiki sessions at River Family Wellness. While there is no charge for people working toward their recovery, donations are accepted and go to River Family Wellness to support their business and her continued use of the space.

Intuitives and chakra systems became part of Reiki practice when it traveled to America. McDowell weaves these principles into her practice because her main focus is “understanding energetically and being able to communicate to people what is shifting or needing shifting in their body.” For her, the most important thing during a session is to give her client a place to relax, feel safe and heal.

When McDowell began considering dedicating her Reiki program for addiction recovery, she had a strong focus on who needed her help the most. She said, “I think in my heart, I really believe the people that I had the most power to affect would be those struggling with heroin or opioids.” She expressed that those addicted to opiates suffer from both physical and emotional pain, and just want to feel relief and have a sense of well-being. Reiki is able to provide those healing benefits as an effective supplement to the recovery process.

 Andrea McDowell offers free Reiki sessions for anyone looking to overcome addiction.

McDowell wants to steer people away from labeling themselves as addicts, fixating too much on their addiction and any feelings of guilt they may have. “Target fixation,” similar to the Law of Attraction, happens when “an individual becomes so focused on an observed object that they inadvertently increase their risk of colliding with the object.” By fixating on the addiction and the desire to avoid it, it is inevitable that one will stay stuck in it. She wants her guide her clients to look beyond the struggle and to the future.

Starting in June, McDowell will hold group meetings to explore the underlying motivators for substance abuse in a way that’s delicate and approachable. Within the group, clients will learn about a number of psychological and spiritual subjects, such as inner-child work and the yin and yang energy principles, that will lead to uncovering and working through self-judgments, fears, insecurities and trauma.

The topics discussed in group meetings will be designed as lessons that build upon one another, but newcomers will be able to join at any time. She is creating resources for people that will guide them through approaching this inner-work safely, teaching them how to ground themselves if they start feeling triggered or overwhelmed by it.

She is also hoping to integrate other practitioners into the groups, with one week being yoga and another being sound healing. She hopes to encourage people to “explore a number of these incredibly rich and fulfilling activities that bring a sense of joy and well-being to everyday life.” 

Currently, she is working on her master level certification, which will allow her to align others into the Reiki energies. She wants to empower other people by enabling them to do this for themselves, specifically during a difficult time. If a recovering addict experiences cravings or a trigger, McDowell feels it is important to provide them with the skills to channel energy to heal and protect themselves.

Essential oils, crystals, tuning forks and healing herbs Andrea uses during her Reiki sessions.

McDowell’s hope is to expand her program throughout the community in order to make it more accessible, as there aren’t many alternate resources for recovery in Sullivan County. She wants people to know that her program, Reiki for Recovery, is not a replacement for the 12-steps, but rather a supplement to them. “AA and NA have been some of the most influential and successful programs, without a doubt, but I hope to take people on a different journey to recovery.”

You can find both Erika Duffy and Andrea McDowell at River Family Wellness in Callicoon, NY. Call 845/887-9004 for more information.

To make an appointment with Andrea or find out more information visit 


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