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How one man won his battle against booze and drugs

PUBLISHED: 10:53 11 January 2007 | UPDATED: 10:30 07 September 2010

JAMES Chapman knows from bitter experience how hard it is to struggle free of addiction. The 36-year-old former city worker ended up in The Priory after burning out on a lifestyle of booze and recreational drugs. I used to work in a responsible IT job fo

JAMES Chapman knows from bitter experience how hard it is to struggle free of addiction.

The 36-year-old former city worker ended up in The Priory after burning out on a lifestyle of booze and recreational drugs.

"I used to work in a responsible IT job for a big corporate law firm with long hours and lots of stress.

"I had been drinking heavily since a child but had kept a lid on it. The work hard, play hard drinking culture in the city became too much for me."

After spending a small fortune on conventional treatment that involved taking tranquillisers and anti-depressants, he finally found success with holistic therapies at the Core Trust in Marylebone.

"AA and The Priory are based on the 12 steps, which is all about your higher power - 'I drank because my higher power wanted me to.' But that didn't work for me. I accept that I don't have any control once I start drinking - but it's my choice whether I drink or not. The whole mind body spirit ethos at the Core Trust helped me come to terms with my emotions so I could deal with them. It is an amazing, loving compassionate but tough point of view that doesn't let you get away with anything."

James hasn't touched alcohol, drugs or medication for more than four years, thanks to a regime of yoga and meditation.

After training as a yoga teacher, he now offers Kundalini Yoga classes to people with drug and alcohol problems at the Kriya Centre in Bickerton Road, Archway.

"Some can be suspicious of it but most people are generally up for it," he says. "I still remember my first yoga class, trying to hide at the back while the teacher chanted, and thinking, 'What am I doing here?' But after that I felt so good I went back.

"Most people in rehab come to the point where they realise they haven't got any answers and are quite open to trying new things."

James says anyone affected by drugs and alcohol can come along to the Wednesday classes. They pay what they can afford and he doesn't insist that students have to give up.

Kundalini Yoga, which uses breathing, movement, meditation and relaxation, is especially good for helping people overcome their addictions and requires no previous yoga experience.

"The whole idea of yoga is communication with yourself. Being able to be with yourself. The problem with addiction is you want to change your level of consciousness with drugs. Yoga is the same thing but you do it in a safe way through sitting, breathing and movement."

As a former addict, James wants to help others trying to live free from drugs and alcohol. But he is sensitive to the fact that they can often feel lost, vulnerable and exhausted by the struggle of it all.

"People in recovery have very low energy. During mine it was all I could do not to drink. But yoga stretches and breathing give a sense of balance and wellbeing. I want people to give it a try. It might make them feel good and, at the end of the class, they will have a deeper understanding of themselves physically, mentally and emotionally."

o James's class is run by the Guru Ram Das Project (www.grdp. co.uk), a Sikh charity which sends teachers into drug rehab projects in Camden, Islington and Haringey and runs classes at St Mungos and Wormwood Scrubs.

bridget.galton@hamhigh.co.uk

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