Healthy Tuesday: Healing from trauma and addiction | TheUnion.com

Healthy Tuesday: Healing from trauma and addiction

Recently, Jon Kimpson caught a ride from a friend to an office building in Grass Valley.

"What's your appointment?" the friend asked.

"Oh, just some hippie stuff," said Kimpson. "It's kind of hard to explain."

What Kimpson didn't tell his friend was the that "hippie stuff" he's been doing has transformed his life.

Kimpson was just 16 when he was in a car accident that killed his father. That trauma took him into a downward spiral that led to a 12-year addiction to methamphetamine. An arrest for drug possession in Sierra County finally forced him into re-examining his life, and he was assigned to the rural county's Drug Court.

In recent years studies have found that punishment does little to address the problem of addiction, and an estimated 70 percent of those released from prison without recovery plans return to drug use. Alternatively, drug courts take a public health approach by accessing community resources that help offenders get into long-term recovery.

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While the success of drug courts has gained traction throughout the country, Sierra County is the first to approve a unique, two-pronged approach that help clients develop coping mechanisms associated with earlier trauma, which is so often linked to subsequent substance abuse.

Instructor Schuyler Bright, founder of the Nevada City-based Holistic Trauma Recovery Institute, landed a contract with Sierra County's Drug Court to introduce "trauma informed" yoga and Ayurveda training to its clients, a program she hopes Nevada County will also consider adopting.

"Holistic Trauma Recovery offers a 16-week curriculum that integrates formal mindfulness training, yoga, massage, diet and lifestyle self-care," said Bright. "It is the only known course like it in America to date. This program was developed for Sierra County Drug Court, but is formatted in such a way that it can be taught anywhere with properly trained instructors. So far it has had 100 percent success with supporting its graduates to remain sober and not recidivate."

While "talk therapy" can sometimes re-traumatize individuals, Bright says that yoga can assist those whose nervous systems have been in prolonged distress, often for years. With the aim of stabilizing the nervous system through breathing and various postures, the goal is to make the client feel safe enough to enter into a meditative state. Studies have shown that mindfulness has been effective in lowering levels of hormone neurotransmitters like adrenaline, norepinephrine, and epinephrine, thereby creating a feeling of calm.

"Restorative yoga postures are meditative, restorative and gentle — excellent for people with high levels of stress, especially for people running in fight/ flight mode, and people with injuries or simply aging," said Bright. "Relaxed supported postures are often maintained for one to two minutes, using support of props like blankets and blocks, as opposed to forcing the body."

"For people who have been shut down in their lives, essentially stuck in the nervous system's freeze mode, it is essential to literally shake them up to find lasting recovery," adds Bright. "Whatever the imbalance may be, there is a root cause that is often obscured, but located in the body as well as the mind."

Ayurvedic self care methods are designed to create an ideal environment for healing. This can include the introduction of healthy foods and herbs, aromatherapy, gentle massage, sound therapy using music and sounds and more.

"In terms of tying Ayurveda in to working with addicts, I like to think of it like this," said Bright. "If you change the input, you change the output, meaning you get different results. It's not hard to see the need for trauma recovery in our society — just look at the recent hurricanes and shootings."

"When I first started this 16-week program I thought, 'What is this weird hippie stuff?'" said Kimpson, who is now busy with a 16-month-old daughter. "It has helped me to physically and mentally keep myself centered. My overall health has drastically improved, so the aches and pains that made me want to use are gone. When I was using, I wasn't even thinking about my body. My perspective on addiction and life in general has totally changed. I encourage anyone who's struggling with addiction to give it a try. They'd might be surprised by how much it will help."

Now that Bright has approached the year mark of her successful Sierra County holistic trauma recovery work with drug offenders, she is eager to see the voluntary program instituted in every county, starting with Nevada County's Drug Court.

"It takes courage to decide to make a change and it usually happens when we are in an experience that brings us to our knees," said Bright. "Jail and getting sober does that. It's easy to be ignorant of your pain if you're using. But in jail, you stop, cold turkey. With holistic trauma recovery work, you can make the pathway in your brain and nervous system to feeling more comfortable in your own skin. That can give you the courage to continue."

To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion.com.

Holistically Healing from Trauma

Instructor: Schuyler Bright, C-IAYT, CAS, CMT, CDVSAC, director of the Holistic Trauma Recovery Institute

When: 1:30 to 2:45 p.m. on Jan. 6

Where: Kinfolk Yoga, 204 W. Main St., Suite 104, Grass Valley.

Cost: $15.

More info: http://www.HolisticTraumaRecovery.org.

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