When someone says they are in Recovery, physical exercise and proper nutrition rarely spring to mind as being part of the Recovery process.
I strongly feel this is a huge missing piece of many people’s Recovery process, a piece that is vital for enhancing our quality of life in a variety of ways.
Recovery literature/studies very clearly state that the disease of addiction or alcoholism, or whatever it is you want to call it, is a physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual malady.
Because our disease attacked us in all four phases of our lives, we must, in turn, recover in all four phases of our lives.
Of those four areas, many times our physical health is the last to be addressed in our new, clean and sober lives.
The desperate desire to want to simply stop using or drinking (or eating, gambling, sex, etc.) is so strong in the beginning, that as a newcomer, abstinence is all we care about.
We can be so badly shaken that there are but a few small things we can handle addressing in the beginning, and working on restoring our physical health rarely makes this list.
So we work like hell to abstain from our “suicidal weapon(s) of choice” in the beginning, then after some time and success with doing so, we hopefully work on our mental, emotional, and spiritual health.
Sure, we in turn, start to feel and function better, but our physical health is often not addressed yet as it seems like the least of our worries.
Getting through another 24 hours without relapsing, without ripping the head off of a total stranger, without breaking out in handcuffs…those are our biggest concerns.
Not our health.
NOTE: A 2010 study published in Scandinavian Journal of Public Health did note that people early in Recovery who adhered to an exercise program did have higher rates than usual with success remaining drug-free. Their thoughts were the natural dopamine release may have helped reduce their cravings and ultimately relapse rates.
Our “suicidal weapon(s) of choice” are but a symptom of something far deeper, something that exists in our mental, emotional, and most importantly, spiritual lives.
For myself it, was the total absence of anything resembling self-worth, a constant need of validation from others, and absolutely lacking a true internal identity.
For you it may be those things, but most likely they are a separate set of issues.
While there should not be a blatant attempt to worsen our physical health as a form of self-inflicted punishment for our past deeds; the deeper unresolved issues should be addressed first and foremost if we are going to have any chance to truly recover.
Without doing so, any period of abstinence from our “suicidal weapon(s) of choice” will surely be followed by a relapse ending in, quiet possibly, a worse outcome than what we were facing before originally coming into Recovery.
Therefore, I say put all of your effort into identifying and resolving the issues that led you to become addicted, to escaping from your reality through whatever vice you were using to do so.
Use whatever methods work for you to accomplish this – hell, I don’t care if it’s church, therapy, 12 step fellowships, recovery programs, rehab….whatever helps you, then that’s exactly what you should do.
It’s similar to fitness and training countless individuals – just because something works for me doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you.
Once your deep issues have begun to be worked on, then I feel physical healing and rebuilding should start to take place, too.
Working on repairing and rebuilding our physical health greatly impacts our sense of well-being as a result of improved energy, endurance, confidence, and ability.
This directly translates to our mental health, which in turn improves our emotional stability, ultimately impacting our spiritual condition.
I don’t know about you, but if I feel good physically I tend to think positive mentally, which in turn makes me more emotionally stable and therefore spiritually fitter.
Just like the Recovery process itself, once you get the ball rolling and keep doing the next indicated step, amazing things will happen.
Physical well-being includes our exercise and our nutrition choices.
By starting to exercise, we are taking the actionable step of working on bettering ourselves.
Make no mistake, physical health, as a direct result of exercise and proper nutrition, should be a cornerstone of your complete and well-rounded Recovery process.
For some people this simply means walking and going for hikes with new friends.
For others, this means a new love affair with hot yoga or Pilates.
For even others, it means playing in softball leagues and a daily jogging/push-up routine.
Or it can be starting to dabble in half marathons and triathlons.
For me it was a re-commitment to lifting weights in the gym in an effort to once again change my physique.
Whatever you want your physical recovery to entail, then that’s what you should do – don’t worry what other people tell you or think – do what makes you happy and gives you the physical health you so desire.
This is MY form of a living amends to myself – the last person I felt I owed anything to after my many years of admittedly-wrong choices and lifestyle.
Hopefully you can find it in your heart to do the same with yourself.
We want your physical exercise of choice to empower you, not used as an excuse to beat yourself up when you feel like you haven’t done your best or missed a day.
You’ve come so far already, healing your mental, emotional, and spiritual health…now it’s time to heal your physical health, and ultimately, enhance your Recovery
¹Roessler, K. Exercise treatment for drug abuse–a Danish pilot study. Scandinavian Journal of Public Health. 2010 Aug: 38(6):664-9