Indiana & Yoga Magazine Summer 2016 Issue 1 | Page 45

FEATURE: YOGA AND ADDICTION RECOVERY Slaying the Pink Elephant Taylor Hunt is serious business. He’s a Level 2 Authorized Ashtanga teacher, one of only about 100 in the world. He’s at the helm of Ashtanga Yoga Columbus, teaching as many as forty students a day in Ohio’s capital during the week and traveling all over the country--and sometimes world--on the weekends to teach workshops. He practices six days a week, no matter what, and he expects his students to do the same, coining the hashtag #bringyourasstoclass. And he means it. could recognize that there was a problem, but you didn’t know that there was a solution. Hunt is the proud parent of Makayla and Isaiah and husband to Jessica, and the whole family travels to India for two months every year to study with Sharath Jois, the living master of Ashtanga. Along with Jessica and Dawn Blevins, one of his assistants, he launched the Trini Foundation, a nonprofit that supports recovering addicts. He’s also an author. In February, he released A Way From Darkness, a memoir that’s moving readers to tears and receiving rave reviews. TH: Well, the last time, I wanted it even less…Before going in the last time, I lost all of my convictions, all of my morals…and I was doing stuff that was not healthy and bad for society. His life wasn’t always this full. A decade ago, Hunt was hanging out in crackhouses, shooting up heroin and speedballs, and selling guns illegally. The first time he injected heroin, he stopped breathing for four minutes. He’s lucky to be alive. Emma Hudelson from Indiana Yoga Magazine sat down to chat with Hunt in his home, surrounded by the sounds of his children playing and their new French Bulldog puppy barking. EH: You just finished a book that tells your whole story of recovery. Can you give me the short version? TH: There is no short version. It was years of me coming to terms with figuring out that I needed to change. It started with moments of clarity…I remember crushing up Oxycontins [on the sink] and the pill slips out and goes down the pipes, and I rip the whole sink apart to find it. There’s something wrong there, and when I first went into treatment, I had never heard that there was a solution. EH: In those moments of clarity, you INDIANA & YOGA MAGAZINE ISSUE I TH: Yeah. As I had those moments, it reached a pinnacle where I was like, ok, what’s the solution? Or is there one? And I was going to kill myself as a result of not knowing the answer. EH: I know it took you a few tries to get sober. What was different for you the last time? EH: Such as? TH: Hanging out at crackhouses and selling guns to people who shouldn’t have guns…I was part of a bunch of people that were just bad. One lady was stealing, one was a prostitute, one was a pimp, one was a burglar, one was running a drug ring out of the crackhouse. I wasn’t doing any of that, but I was involved in it by witnessing it and being in that environment. I’m frail…I didn’t want to live, but they were forcing me to [get treatment], so I thought, “I guess I’m going to do it.” After I was chemically withdrawn from the drugs, I had another moment of clarity, where I realized that I did want to live. EH: What was different between that moment of clarity, where you decided you wanted to live, and the other ones, where you only recognized that you had a problem? TH: I had a solution at that point. I knew that I could surrender to something. I’ve heard people say surrender to win and that never made sense to me, but in that instant, it did. I surrendered to a program that I didn’t really want to do, but I surrendered to it and I did what people with good sobriety said I was supposed to do. Once I aligned my behavior with what they were telling me to do, I was able to get better. And I kind of live my life like that, too. I pay attention to what other people are saying… I think we need to listen more and talk less. EH: You found Ashtanga within your first year of recovery? EH: So how did you end up walking through the door [of a treatment center]? TH: During my first serious attempt at sobriety, yes, I found it at about six months sober. TH: I was kicking and screaming as [my family] drove me up there. I was pinned in a corner: you either do this or you lose everything. Family, house, all this stuff. I reluctantly went in. EH: What did you get out of that first class that made you come back? The disease at that point had such a grip that…it seemed like it was better to do what I was doing than to change. I didn’t feel worth it…They’d tell me that I needed recovery and I would be like, it’s probably better if I’m no longer here. They pack my bag and set it on the curb, and I walk in. My arms are beat up from all of the needles. I’m skinny, I’m not eating, I can’t go to the bathroom. TH: It worked. The first class, I got done and I was angry…I had no frame of reference for what yoga was supposed to look and feel like. I definitely didn’t think it was going to bring up my perfectionism, my compulsive or competitive nature, and it did. Like I said to my sponsor, “I don’t know if I should do this. It made me feel too vulnerable.” And he said, “So basically, you’re telling me it worked too good?” And he laughed, because he knew. EH: How did it make you feel vulnerable? 43