There isn’t a whole lot that is fun early in recovery. When you do it right, you realize that your life sucks – and it’s all your fault. There isn’t much sexy in trying to fix that. The sexy part rolls in once the results, inherent with cleaning up the wreckage of the past, become recognizable. Doing the emotionally uncomfortable work comes first and it’s no fun.
Enter physical fitness – I needed a way to burn off my angst.. Roller blading was my passion of choice for years. At 150 pounds dripping wet (back then) and six feet tall with long legs, I was fast. Really fast. I could climb hills faster in blades than I can on a bike. My average pace was in the upper teens over eight miles (my best was 20) – faster than most people can ride a bike. Instead of escaping into a bottle, I escaped with a pair of blades on my feet. Alcohol (and the bad decisions that came with consuming copious amounts) tore my life to shreds, the latter, along with a program of recovery, set me free.
Then life got in the way for a bit and I left my fitness behind. After a time, about thirteen years ago now, I started running and that fixed much of was wrong with me. I’d gotten a bit heavy, and sedentary.
Then I tried triathlons for a bit last year because I became bored with running. The addition of cycling gave me the spark that I needed. Now I’d just call me a straight up cyclist who runs occasionally and I’ve found heaven on earth in terms of recovery. Not because my love of fitness overshadows any other aspect of my life but because it provides the last little piece of the puzzle that brings my life into balance.
Recovery is a game of growth. You’re either moving forward or you’re moving backwards. Fitness isn’t all that different. I’ve written countless times of my need for releasing endorphins. Dozens of times about the natural connection between recovery and fitness. Admittedly, much of my enthusiasm for the two assumes quite a bit. I don’t bother much with searching for scientific data to explain every little aspect of why I believe fitness is such an important part of recovery. I simply accept it and roll on because they both make me happy.
That last point is really what matters. Naturally, I have a neat outlook on ‘happy’. I was miserable for quite a few years and I remember that time vividly so, put mildly, my ‘happy’ bar is pretty easy to jump over. As I like to say, when you’ve already lived through hell on earth, it’s pretty easy to find happy once you’re pants have stopped smoking.
In that context, I’m a pretty content guy. I’m pleased with who I’ve become. I’m pleased with my recovery, marriage and relationship with my higher power. I’m pleased with my health, fitness and physique… and from what I see on a daily basis, I’m a rarity.
The trick is that all of the major aspects of my life rely on each other to work and that’s really what I was getting at – it’s all interconnected. There’s no way I’d be cycling if I still had my head in a bottle. Nor would I be married (or a dad or employed for that matter). An old friend, long passed, used to say that sobriety is a lot like a bar stool… If you’ve got the first three steps you have a solid foundation. Take one away and you become unstable. Take two away and it’s a near impossible balancing act… For me, fitness is like adding a fourth and fifth leg to that same bar stool. I’ve got my sobriety, my relationship with God, my marriage and family – that’s a strong foundation. Add in fitness and health and I’ve got a foundation that would take a hurricane, flood, tornado, earth quake and a fire – all at the same time – to knock me over.
And that is what it’s all about.