DL Yoga ruined my addiction. I’d been bulimic for over a decade when I went to my first class. I unrolled the well-used loaner gym mat, situated myself, and waited for class to begin. When it did, the first thing the teacher said was, “Take a deep breath, and feel your feelings.” I took a deep breath and cried for the next hour and a half. It took a lot more than that single yoga class to find eating disorder recovery, but, looking back, yoga was the beginning of the end of my self-destructive cycle. My latest book, Yoga Cocaine, is loosely based on my experiences.
AW What inspired you to write Yoga Cocaine?
DL Although this is a work of fiction, I have empathy for Jessica's character. I was never drug or alcohol addicted, but, from the ages of 14 to 26, I suffered from anorexia and bulimia. I was admitted to residential treatment 18 times and very nearly died because I couldn’t stop hurting myself. I wanted to write a book that spoke to the shame and self-loathing a person feels when he or she is trapped in an addictive cycle. For me, writing Jessica's story well into my own recovery — in which yoga played an integral part —was an opportunity to capture the complexity of the recovery experience. And, to be perfectly honest, I couldn’t bring myself to write about anorexia and bulimia in detail. It was still too close for comfort.
AW How did you come up with the title?
DL The title was the easy part! I had just finished teaching a yoga class and one of my students came up to me and said, “Thank you so much. I’m addicted to your classes.” That was the spark that ignited a flame. In that moment, I knew I wanted to write a story that conveyed the message that a positive addiction, such as yoga, could help dispel a self-destructive one.
AW What was the most challenging part of writing this book?
DL As much as I love Jessica, she can be a difficult person to like. She does what she wants, resists help, and reminds me of myself in a lot of ways. Spending my days with her could be frustrating at times because she felt like such a vivid and distinct personality that I couldn’t quite control her. She did what she wanted and I was forced to follow along. It was also difficult to convey the complexity of her feelings for Dwight. She was far too sympathetic towards him, but because I was telling her story, in her voice, I found myself submitting to her will.
AW Who should read this book? For whom was it written?DL I wrote this book with a female reader in mind, but some of my beta readers were men and they loved it! I think this book appeals to anyone who understands that we all have elements of darkness and light within us. It’s a book about addiction and recovery, sure, but it’s primarily a book about the ways we try to sublimate pain and shame. My hope is that it conveys the message that the only way “out” is through.
AW How does the overall style and structure of the book relate to its content?
DL The style and structure were the easy parts. Because Jessica’s path involves yoga, meetings, and step work, I wanted to structure the book around postures, steps and promises.
AW If you could only leave readers with one lesson from the book, what would it be?
DL I’m not sure that the lessons from this book are easily conveyed with words. My hope for my readers is that they come to understand that self-love isn’t intellectual, it’s experiential. I wanted Jessica’s journey, which loosely follows the archetypal Hero’s Journey, to convey that self-love requires action steps. I want my readers to be inspired to confront whatever in their lives might be unresolved and to be brave enough to do what it takes to find their own path forward. We all have demons, struggles, and regrets. Jessica’s example might be extreme, but it’s also extremely relatable. I guess the lesson I’d want readers to emerge with is that they should be willing to learn whatever they need to learn about themselves to practice greater self-care and stop sabotaging themselves.
AW Is relapse an inevitable part of recovery?
DL Not at all. My hope for every addict is that he or she gets and stays sober and never has to revisit old, maladaptive coping mechanisms. That said, based on my own experiences and on Jessica's experiences, which are distinctly hers, every relapse offers an opportunity to course-correct. There are invariably a lot of choices, thoughts and emotions that lead up to the decision to revert to old patterns of behavior. So being able to look back at all the moments that led to the decision to revert to one's addictive substances is an opportunity for awareness.
AW What’s next for you, as a writer?
DL I’m really excited about the next stage in my writing journey! I’m currently working on a memoir project, which I don’t think I’d ever have been willing to do if not for this novel. Telling Jessica’s story was a tremendous gift because her courage inspired me to confront my own past. I’m finding the experience of telling my story to be beautiful, hard and addictive.
about the author… When Daralyse Lyons isn’t doing splits or jumping out of airplanes, this former yoga teacher and eternal adrenaline junkie can be found with pen in hand furiously scribbling her latest novel. To date, she has written more than two dozen full-length books, a handful of short stories and countless articles. A member of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), the host of a successful podcast, an actress, a storyteller, and a summa cum laude graduate of NYU, Daralyse brings intelligence and enthusiasm to all her endeavors.