From desperate youth to yogi
After battling drugs as a teenager and coping with a life-threatening heart condition, Jonathan Springthorpe is now training to be a yoga teacher. Here, he tells his story in his own words
I was 14 years old and my world fell apart, after finally meeting my biological dad: his first lasting impression on me was that he had a heart condition. He broke this news to me on a bus back from a shopping trip by handing me an article on Long Q-T (sudden death syndrome). I had absolutely no idea what I was looking at. I only managed to pick out one word: hereditary. Fast forward a couple of weeks and I am sat in a consultant’s office with tears streaming down my cheeks and completely overwhelmed with emotion. He didn’t break it easy either: “you must stop all exercise immediately and especially no competitive kickboxing, until we have sorted you out with some medication. You are at risk of death.”
Bang, my world was over. I couldn’t compete in kickboxing anymore, I wasn’t allowed to play in my football teams and my dream career of being a pilot had completely vanished. I was 14 and I had absolutely no back-up plan.
My mum tried her best to be there for me during a period of constant hospital trips, tests and the difficult situation of getting my medication correct. However, she was struggling with the diagnosis, and the feeling of not being able to help me. I saw her go through this and it only worsened how I was feeling.
Unfortunately, it just wasn’t enough. I gave in to a feeling of worthlessness and felt lost in a world I had once been so confident in. I was categorically told that any illegal drugs would have a high chance of killing me; even anti-inflammatory medicines could cause me to have a fainting episode, potentially worse. I absolutely did not care in the slightest. At one stage, I was determined to die; I had nothing to live for, no career prospects and no activities to look forward to. I was severely depressed and angry at the world. I took as many drugs as I could and used to drink alcohol while waiting for the school bus at seven in the morning. It’s cliché, but it was the only way to cope. If only I could just pass out once more, it would pass another day. I would often spend days skipping school and completely high, only just making it back to the bus. Weekends were just a haze, and that was just the way I liked it. To this day. I still have no idea how I wasn’t put into prison.
Hovering through life
But my behaviour was not going unnoticed and I was finally kicked out of school for dealing drugs. As ashamed as I am about it, I saw it as the only way I could to make money. I just don’t think that my 14-year-old mind was able to comprehend all that was going on.
At 16, I was eventually put on the right medication and have now had a total of three heart operations to fit a defibrillator under my pectoral muscle, just in case the worst should happen. As I write this (and touch wood!), I have been lucky in that so far I have never even had so much as a symptom of Long Q-T. The only reason I got my defibrillator is so that I could go back to playing football and kickboxing without the fear that if the worst happened then there would be no safety net.
My doctor spent some of his holiday in America researching how to best fit the device in a young person so that it would not become damaged by activity. To this day he is, and always will be, my hero.
Also, at the age of 16, I became a father. This changed me, but I still hadn’t come to terms with how my life had been disrupted.
I had, however, managed to use this blessing as a big enough reason to come off the drugs and drink.
I spent the next 10 or so years in what would best be described as hovering through life. I was trying to fill a dark void inside of me that gave me meaning, something bigger than myself. I tried all sorts of things, from boxing, coaching, back to kickboxing, mountain boarding, back to football, playing guitar, being a DJ, ice skating and lots of other hobbies. None of it satisfied me as I could no longer do any of this competitively.
I met my now wife at the age of 20 (we married six years later) and she gave me a happiness I hadn’t felt since childhood. We moved in together and had some incredible experiences - but still I continued to try and find that ‘something’.
In 2012 I thought I had finally found my calling. I became a qualified hypnotherapist and life coach and set up my own business. My feeling was that I wanted to help others who had been suffering the way I had and intervene before it went too far. It was great, and it did give me a purpose but still I needed something else. During my time running this business I continued to flit from hobby to hobby.
But I now understood my mind better and had begun to meditate and know my thought patterns. I still needed something else to help me heal and come to terms with everything. I realised I needed movement; not just any movement, but something that was sustainable and wasn’t going to cause me injury or be something that I one day had to give up again.
Just before our honeymoon to Thailand I was doing a lot of research on Buddhism and this resonated with me. Through Buddhism I found links to yoga, which really resonated with me. As soon as I came back from Thailand, I went to my first yoga class.
I won’t pretend that in my first class I melted into an emotional mess and wept uncontrollably. It wasn’t until I met my third teacher that I really started to discover what yoga could be. It could be something that not only provides me with the physical challenge and movement that I was craving, but could also provide a way of living that brings everything into perspective, gives me a fresh outlook and a positive way of life.
Three-and-a-half years on and I am now halfway through a 200 hour yoga teacher training. I hope to bring yoga to people who are going through rough times or battling with addictions. My dream is to eventually own a holistic rehab centre, run as a charity, which will also have accommodation to help people get their lives back on track. It’s a long way off for now, but hey, if you can’t dream it then you can’t do it, right?
I can honestly say that through yoga I have found acceptance and have actually come to a mental state of gratitude. I am pleased and proud of everything that I have been through because it has shaped who I am today. If it wasn’t for these personal challenges, then I may have enlisted in the air force and been forced to fight in wars. Most importantly, I wouldn’t have met my wife who has been patient with me and accepting of the challenges I have faced through the years we have been together.
I certainly wouldn’t have found the life-changing practice that is yoga.