Updated: Sep 8, 2021
There is growing evidence which shows how the impact of exercise and eating healthy can aid in the sustainability of your recovery. Non-medical interventions such as adding fitness and healthy foods and nutrition I believe are the absolute KEY to recovery. By changing your habits, and taking care of your body, it provides an extra barrier against risk of relapse through releasing the same endorphins which your body gets when it has its drug or alcohol. It affects the brain in the same way, replacing the toxic aspect of fueling yourself with destruction to caring and nurturing your body. This is especially important since many alcoholics suffer from nutrition deficiencies such as thiamine deficiency which can affect brain function. When we are in our addictions, we are hardly caring for ourselves, many will not eat or will eat foods that have little to no nutritional value. Exercise seems like an impossible task if your waking up hungover and over the toilet the next morning.
In 2017/18, I competed in a bodybuilding bikini competition. During the time of my preps, I was so focused on my goals, the gym became another addiction (I'm an addict-I can get addicted to anything!), however it was one which made me stay sober while I was training, my cravings were minimal, and the last thing I wanted to do when I was working so hard at being healthy was to put alcohol in my body as I knew it would affect my performance and my nutrition. It provided me with an outlet for my emotions, and even helped me with my PTSD symptoms of hypervigilance and racing thoughts. I stayed sober the entire time I was in prep, it was the longest I believe I have been sober in my life before that point.
Recently, I have been trying myself to get back into a routine-but that all or nothing thinking at times prevents me from taking action, or fills me with negative thoughts of risk of failure, of not working out hard enough, and so on. For myself, finding BALANCE with my lifestyle changes, and doing it gradually has given me the most success in the past. My goals right now are to take daily walks with my dogs, stretch in the mornings, and lift weights 2x a week. Eventually I will work up to doing more, but I know for myself if I put too high of expectations on myself and try to go "all in" my chances of maintaining the new lifestyle changes would be really diminished. More than that, if I set my expectations too high and I cannot attain them, I see that as failure. And failure could lead to relapse. I have learned what works for me, and I listen to my body and my mind. If I am tired, I sleep. If I am hungry, I eat. If I dont workout, I feel like crap, but I am slowly starting to get over that. When you change your lifestyle, your changing your brain, and the way it works as well. Your literally healing from the inside out. I personally think that treatment centers should focus their 30 days or whatever their time for treatment is, on changing habits. Showing clients how to workout and to feel confident in the gym or in their workouts. Teach how to cook healthy meals and how to track macros. Encourage sleep routine, and journaling. I believe if centers focused more on the body and encouraging new habits instead of the same power points or worksheets on information and education about addiction that success would be more sustainable. If the body is healthy, we function better. Our brains work better. We build confidence through seeing our bodies transform with the work we put in through fitness and food changes, and as addicts, we all crave instant gratification, Although this process would not be instant, it would be visible within a few weeks, and the pride and empowerment that gives us in recovery is exactly what we need. Our confidence has been shattered through nights of drunk calling and texting, people judging and shaming us for our actions, and all the losses that we have suffered in our crappy addictions. We need to focus on building ourselves BACK UP, and also need an outlet for when our thoughts get too busy or depression and anxiety strike as usually happens after coming off your substance.
Start small. Buy a big ass water jug and start by drinking the whole thing every day, maybe going for a 15 minute walk. The next week, maybe cut out the sugar in your coffee, or add in a salad a day and maybe a day of lifting weights. And if you miss a day, or mess up, its hardly going to damage you in the way of picking up that bottle and slowly killing yourself. Keep track! I use myfitnesspal to track my food and workouts-its free unless you want the premium to track macros which I use. Or just use a plain journal. Write your achievements, and at the end of the week, look back on the changes you have made, no matter how small, and be DAMN proud of yourself. As changing lifestyle habits when your trying to stay sober is a huge accomplishment in itself and might even save your life. I know it has saved mine, even more than therapy and AA meetings. As when I am caring for my body, its the slow journey to fully loving myself, something I have trouble doing when the guilt and shame from my choices in my addiction come seeping in. And then I go throw around some weights, sometimes with tears streaming down my face, sometimes for only a few minutes, but its progress not perfection right???
If your interested in any coaching, shoot me an email and I'd love to help you in your journey to showing yourself some love through replacing habits. If it can work for a crazy drunk like me, it can work for you!
Lots of love