I’d like to be able to speak with you about your recovery using the terms that you most identify with. What language or labels do you use to describe your previous substance use and current recovery?
My former use was pretty much everything. My recovery to me is liberation.
I really enjoy that your email is “liberation luke”. Is that a reference to your recovery?
That’s what it’s about!
Why is that language important to you? The term “liberation” and using that to define your recovery?
When I started my journey I got heavily into yoga then I designed a yoga sequence. I taught yoga in the prison for almost four years and I designed a business plan. I named my yoga liberation yoga. I have a logo and everything; it is freedom from bondage and restraint through the union of the mind, body, and spirit. I still have plans to open up a yoga business but Covid has put a stop to everything.
Yeah, we’re kinda stuck right now. That’s so cool though! What started your journey into yoga? Where did it connect with your recovery?
What started my journey into yoga was when I went to jail I was really messed up mentally, physically, and spiritually and I just needed to find a balance. Me and my wife had done yoga before so I knew a little bit of yoga but as I started doing it and practicing breathing techniques my body started to heal. Then with my meditation I started to get clarity and balance. My journey began when someone sold me bath salts mixed with meth and I ended up being lost in Harris Park for six days.
Then I ended up in the ICU for ten days with a cracked sternum, punctured left lung, acute renal failure, starvation, dehydration, and when they found me my core temperature was 89 degrees.
It almost killed me.
And then you ended up in the ICU.
I ended up in the ICU for ten days. My mind had played a lot of tricks on me out there, like, I’d have moments of clarity and then psychosis. I remember a lot but a lot of the stuff I remember, I don’t know if it’s true or not.
Do you consider the bath salts moment the moment when you started using drugs or was that a turning point in your substance use?
No, I actually started using when I was eleven years old. Actually I started smoking weed when I was eight and then I started using other drugs when I was about eleven. So that was when I started and it just continued on. It was like a vicious cycle that just kept repeating itself.
How do you define that moment when you were in the ICU? Was that a moment of rethinking or changing your path?
At that moment, when I was in ICU I was out on bail and I just couldn’t stand the thought of going back to prison. They released me from ICU and then put me in general care. When I was in general care I told them to take the IV out of me and I left. Then I left and I was pretty much like a walking zombie. I continued that cycle for three weeks before I finally went to jail and then went to prison for four years.
And then it was in prison when you started doing yoga? After the ICU?
Yeah, it was after the ICU. That’s actually where I learned to love myself for once in my life.
What sort of environment were you surrounded by that helped you come to that love state?
I don’t think it was necessarily the environment. The environment was not good. I was in Coyote Ridge which was like a madhouse. But somehow I dedicated a part of my day to just do my meditation and do my yoga. Then it was kinda weird because a lot of people came to me after I started doing that. It was like gravity, all of these people were pulled to me who wanted to escape. Then I got a job in the gym and I started teaching yoga. Then I ended up in the Legacy Program which was an intensive in-patient treatment inside the prison.
So from there in the Legacy Program the counselors actually got together with the company called the prison yoga project and then those people came in once and week. They would teach me how to teach. They would come in and teach a class and for those people who wanted to learn more they would guide them to teach.
So you started teaching your other inmates and you developed a reputation as the yoga person?
Yeah pretty much. [laughs] I had a beard and I was into my yogi state.
So it was through yoga that you were able to find self love, how did that move you through your recovery?
I started reading a lot of self-help books: A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle and then Edgar Casey books. Every yoga book that I could get a hold of I would read. I would find companies in the back of the books and I would buy envelopes. I probably wrote ten companies a month and told them a little bit about my story and the next thing I knew they would send me pamphlets and books and different yoga sequences. That put me in a place that I needed to be to learn how to love myself. Through my meditation and journaling I started seeing breakthroughs and acceptance and forgiveness. All the stuff in the past didn’t really matter.
Were you able to teach that love and acceptance and forward moving attitude to others while you were in jail?
Yes. All the time. I was in Coyote Ridge for eighteen months and not only would people come out and do yoga with me on the back patio and do meditation but people were comfortable talking about all types of stuff with me. I would try to push them in the direction of acceptance and loving yourself. I would tell people all the time that this was one of the only times in my life that I’ve actually loved myself.
After being in Coyote Ridge for eighteen months I was sent to Two Rivers which is in Umatilla County. First thing I did when I got there was I went outside and went in the grass--it was a minimum security prison--and I did yoga. The next thing people started asking me about yoga and asking me about yoga. Then I had about six to eight people doing yoga with me outside. One day one of the COs came outside and said, “You guys can’t do this out here. It’s a group activity.” So then I was like, “Ok, no problem.” So then I went through the counselor and the counselor ended up being a yogi herself and she ended up getting it approved for me to teach a class out there in the back. She got us yoga mats and yoga blocks. I was there for twenty four months and out of the twenty four months I think I taught yoga for eighteen months.
You had a whole career!
And then all those books that I had--I still have around 400 books--when I saw people who were really interested in learning or sometimes I would teach people meditation for the first time and they were just relieved. I’d tell them to focus on their breath and I’d guide people through the meditation and then people after the class would have these moments of clarity. They’d be like, “Damn.” You could see, you could tell that people were learning and healing. I’d pass them a few books and let them read the books. It was a really good experience in a really bad place.
You were able to make this whole community of healing and growth through your knowledge.
That’s so cool! Why do you think self love is important? It seems like it’s integral for people who are just entering into recovery.
To me, I learned that if I can’t love myself there’s no way I can love anybody else.
How do you see that fitting into substance use and then a trajectory of recovery.
How does it fit into substance use?
As loving others? When I was using I hated everybody. I learned that I hated everybody, even myself. But when I became sober and not even then, but when I got into yoga and meditation and practicing, I started to feel it. You could feel the energy and the love. After, in my recovery, I love everybody.
That’s the juice of the world! That’s the best stuff! After Two Rivers and after your yoga class that was starting, where did you go after that?
When I got released from Two Rivers April 30th of 2019 I came home to my wife and daughter. It was a new healing path because I’d caused a lot of damage. You can be in prison and say you are going to do things all day long but until you actually do them the words, especially for me--my wife and I had been going on eighteen years. In those eighteen years I’ve been in and out of prison four times. She’s seen the change in me, but wasn’t sure. There was a lot of healing to do in my house. Not only that, I had a wonderful career that I threw away. I lost a house and vehicles and pretty much left my wife with nothing, all because of my addiction. There was a lot of anger there as well.
But today I believe we are in a wonderful place. The relationship me, my daughter, and my wife have is wonderful. We make the most of all the time we have together and just try to enjoy life.
That’s so wonderful and what a beautiful journey. How do you maintain your recovery on the outside?
On the outside I try to keep a balance. I don’t have all the time to do yoga like I used to. I still try to do it once or twice a week. Even while I’m at work I try to do breathing techniques and I stay busy. When I have the weekends off me, my wife, and my daughter are going fishing, hiking, swimming. Even if it’s just down the road, going down to the river and sitting there or throwing our fishing poles into the water we just try to enjoy life. We go around to people’s birthdays and bar-b-ques and just have fun.
What advice would you give to someone who is just starting recovery?
Something that stuck with me when I was in the Legacy Program, the in-patient treatment program, my counselor said, “We all have another relapse in us but we don’t all have another recovery.” If we go back to that life, you don’t know if you are going to get this chance again. My advice to someone just starting recovery would be to not be so hard on themselves.
Something that I’m reading about and starting to learn about in my work as an intern at Trilogy is that relapse is just a part of the recovery journey for so many people. But continuing on from that moment, it’s difficult to reckon with the idea that relapse might be just a part of your recovery journey. I don’t know if relapse has been a part of your journey, but do you have advice on how to continue on from relapse?
I did start smoking cigarettes again, so that is a relapse for me. But, like as far as relapsing on drugs, my best advice would be to choose new people to hang around with. That’s how most people relapse, by being around people who are into that lifestyle. It’s sad to say but sometimes that’s part of it. It’s like me. I grew up in the meth house. My parents used drugs my whole life. But if I go around them they don’t bring it around. But my advice would be to find different people to hang around with and if people are using around you or trying to get you to use, then those really aren’t your friends.
Yes, a supportive environment seems so important going into recovery. Do you wish that services like primary treatment, sober housing, counseling services had been more available for you during your recovery?
I feel they were really available for me during my recovery. The only thing that I had a hard time with is when I got out. I’m on DOSA [Drug Offender Sentencing Alternative] and when I got out my probation officer was like well you’re required to go to Serenity Point and do an evaluation. I was like, “Well I’ve already done the inpatient treatment” and for me I couldn’t get no state assistance and no help from anywhere. I started looking online and I found you guys, I found Trilogy, and I got it approved by my probation officer. I wish there were more services just like this to people just getting out.
I do too. What was the most difficult aspect of your recovery?
I would say the first year of my recovery was like getting my mental and physical strength back because of the use and being lost. That time being lost in the woods messed me up. Like my wife used to come visit me and she would be like, “Baby, are you okay?” I wasn’t the same. That was probably the most difficult part of my recovery.
I’ve been thinking about how in every moment there is power within us to change or to make change in either us or around the world. That freedom and that choice is sometimes crippling because it’s scary when things are entirely up to you, but it seems like you were able to come to terms with that power and see that choice as an opportunity. Do you agree?
I do agree. I feel like there was a wave of acceptance that entered me. I just kinda accepted life.
That’s so beautiful. It seems like accountability comes up for some people when they are reflecting on their past substance use and going into recovery. Did you encounter accountability?
I actually did. When I was in the intake prison in Washington I was praying and meditating and then there was a small voice that told me to write a book. So I started to write a book. It is the story of my life from the first memories and I am still working on my book. That book helped me to come to terms with my past because my life was rough like really rough. The title of my book is God Doesn’t Waste Pain. There was something inside of me that showed me that even though I went through all this pain, it’s not wasted. If I can do it, if I can become the person that I am today after everything that I went through, anybody can do it.
Service towards other people seems to be a big part of your recovery journey. How does that help you maintain your recovery?
I haven’t had a lot of opportunities since I’ve been out, but I have helped. My parents, Mom and Dad, they’re still in that lifestyle but I still try to reach out to them and tell them that I love them and go out and see them as much as I can. And just be nice to people and be kind. That’s kinda like my service right now but eventually I want to be a yoga instructor and I want to teach at risk people like people in recovery, people in the jails, people who are just getting out. I want to teach liberation yoga that embodies the full aspects of transformation because I really want to do that. I want to get my book out there to help people. To show people that if this person that went through all this stuff can become a regular person then they can do it as well.
That’s wonderful. Would you like to share any more insights from your recovery journey?
No, I think I’ve shared!
Thank you so much for your time and your words.
This will be one way to get your voice and your story out there to so many people! This will probably help them a lot so thank you!
I hope it does and I appreciate you guys asking me to do this.