The Hamilton Spectator
Letting the light in - the journey from addiction to inspiration.
MY NAME IS KATIE MCCLELLAND AND I AM THE OWNER/FOUNDER OF DE LA SOL YOGA STUDIOS. MY TWO STUDIO LOCATIONS ARE JOYFUL, VIBRANT COMMUNITIES OF MORE THAN 90 STAFF AND THOUSANDS OF STUDENTS. I HOST A YOGA INSTRUCTIONAL TV SHOW CALLED ‘YOGA WITH KATIE’ AND HAVE TRAINED OVER 300 YOGA TEACHERS TO PURSUE THEIR OWN CAREERS, SHARING THE HEALING, TRANSFORMATIVE EFFECTS OF YOGA PRACTICE WITH THEIR OWN STUDENTS. I LIVE IN HAMILTON WITH MY WONDERFUL HUSBAND WHO IS A BRAZILIAN JIU-JITSU COMPETITOR AND GYM OWNER AND MY MISCHIEVOUS TWO-YEAR-OLD SON EVANDER.
Fifteen years ago, if you had shown me a flash of what my life would look like now I would not have believed it. At that time, I was 7 years into a crystal meth addiction, using daily if not hourly. I was estranged from my family and friends and sleeping on the floor of an abandoned apartment in Vancouver. At that time in my life, I hoped I would overdose and die. I was stuck in such a vicious cycle of addiction and I was too stubborn and prideful to admit it to anyone or to ask for help. How did I get to this place?
I would love to be able to say ‘I was a drug addict and then I found yoga and it turned my life around’. My story isn’t so neat and tidy. I actually started my journey into yoga and drugs at the same time. This may sound paradoxical but, I was trying to find anything I could to self medicate away my feelings of inadequacy, insecurity and anxiousness. Both yoga and crystal meth relieved me from my struggles. The difference, of course, is that drugs lead to destruction in every way, and yoga leads to wholeness. But in the moment, they both brought me some measure of fulfillment. As my addiction to meth grew stronger, so did my passion for yoga, and the hypocrisy was not lost on me. As a yoga teacher I was filled with self loathing for the dual life I was living.
Addiction is worsened by shame, regret and self loathing. The more I lied, stole and abused my body and my relationships the less I believed I was worthy of a beautiful life, and the more this perpetuated my drug use. It’s a vicious cycle that can only be broken by clinging to that glimmer of light, however small, that resides in each of our hearts and souls, and nourishing this light with forgiveness and self acceptance until it begins to glow brighter.
A dear friend said something to me at the time that started me on a path to self love and recovery. I had confessed my addiction to her and was lamenting about how I was fraudulent yoga teacher and she said, ‘Katie, the yoga teacher part of you - the ‘you’ that shares such beautiful wisdom in your classes is the REAL you. The drug addict is the fraud. Not the other way around.’ I had believed my darkness was the real me and she helped me see the reverse was true. This was the start of my light beginning to flicker with hope and promise. I admitted everything to my family and spent a month at Homewood in Guelph. I like to joke that everyone should go to rehab at least once in their lives! It was incredible to take a whole month to learn about myself and heal in a peaceful, supportive environment. I learned that the opposite of addiction is not sobriety but connection. When we isolate ourselves, we will fall back into our addictive ways. When we prioritize healthy, uplifting relationships and connect with others, even when feeling insecure or anxious, we get out of our heads and experience joy and fulfillment without our drug of choice.
Every day, my studios, my yoga practice and my loving family hold a mirror up to me and show where I need to grow and evolve. If there are words of wisdom I can share that I have learned along the way it would be these: According to a Buddhist belief, the chance of being born human (as an incarnation) is as minuscule as a golden ring being tossed into the ocean and a seal poking its head up through it. A human life is such a gift, it’s like winning the lottery! Even the painful parts are a treasure because we have the intelligence and capacity to use difficult times as a chance to learn.
A dear friend said something to me at the time that started me on a path to self love and recovery: ‘Katie, the yoga teacher part of you - the ‘you’ that shares such beautiful wisdom in your classes is the REAL you. The drug addict is the fraud. Not the other way around.’