What happens to us finds its way into the fibers of our bodies. From personal traumas to old injuries that nag us—to the sticks and stones that break our bones and the words we swear never hurt us, it’s easier to prop up a false sense of invincibility than it is to be vulnerable. Enter Jessica, the protagonist of Daralyse Lyon’s novel Yoga Cocaine, who is struggling to recover and break down her own defenses to survive her past.
Recovery on the mat
As someone who recently began a regular yoga practice, I have found yoga a valuable way to unpack and reveal my own personal inhibitions, flaws, and traumas. My relationship with my body has been a tumultuous one, and on that level, I can relate to Jessica. But when it comes to addiction, intimate relationships, and family, Jessica lives in a world all on her own. That in itself is a tragedy, though she isn’t the only one responsible for it. That isn’t a bad thing—instead, it rounds out her dimension, and Lyons ultimately presents us with a character that has depth.
Downward dog days
The book follows Jessica, a woman who just can’t seem to recover from drug addiction and self-abuse, and isn’t quite sure that she wants to. Her AA meetings become volatile events. She receives immense encouragement from her sponsor, April, who recognizes Jessica’s traumas and her potential. Jessica indulges in vices, but not simply with reckless abandon—deep down, she wants to feel something, but she’s afraid to.
She’s also got some serious issues with her parents to resolve. She’s got patchwork to do with other friends and family. But what is it worth?
You gotta have faith
Jessica has lost faith. She’s lost faith in God and in love, and perhaps more urgently, herself. In the beginning, she’s good at going backwards, spiraling farther down in subsequent chapters. This paints Jessica in a fractured light that’s frustrating—to the point where I, too, wanted to give up on her.
That might be the point.
The book reads in a conversational first-person style that is broken, scattered, and unfocused. Jessica can’t hold a thought—let alone any relationship—for long. But she’s not here to deliver some elegant, inspirational tale of self-discovery about how yoga saved her life. Instead, Jessica is abundantly reckless, and that strips chapters of length and turns them into quips. Jess isn’t having fleeting thoughts and one-night stands, she’s protecting herself from herself and the reader. Her brevity as a narrator is a form of her false invincibility.
Recovery isn’t easy. It’s lonely and it’s uncertain and it doesn’t have the right words most of the time. And in the whirlwind she stirs, she tussles for momentum that barely ever comes.
Keeping it real
Yoga Cocaine is an abyssal dive into imperfect meditation, spirituality as a means to recovery and self-definition, and finding the humility to reconcile strained, compromised relationships. Jessica’s unabashed rawness is both dispiriting and rewarding, honest and diverting—it’s human. I enjoyed watching her transformation unfold, even if I did shake the book a few times yelling at her to get it together.
The story isn’t whether you can help someone else. Yoga Cocaine is about the long, painful journey to help yourself.
Editor’s note: Daralyse Lyons is a writer for Broad Street Review.
What, When, Where
Yoga Cocaine. By Daralyse Lyons. Ann Arbor: Modern History Press, 2019. 232 pages; $18.95. Visit here.