I haven’t written about recovery lately as I’m pretty much in full-time cycling mode but I am reminded of recovery every time I get on a bike. When it comes to recovery from addiction, there are many facets to the diamond that is adding fitness to the mix…
In a nutshell, I have a history, though distant, of giving up everything and anything that brings me joy for a drink. Once I start, there’s no stopping the freight train until it’s all gone.
The story doesn’t end there, though.
Recovery isn’t all that enjoyable without fitness, without getting out to move. Out of the 23 years I’ve been sober, only six of those were what I’d term sedentary years. My first year and from years five through ten were spent on the couch (work not included – and I did have physically challenging jobs, especially through those five years).
My first year was understandable and not all that bad. All of my energy went into learning how to live a sober life. With a good foundation, I branched out looking for enjoyable activities that would round out, add balance to, my life and give me a smile or two. As a naturally athletic kid, I went for rollerblading first, then softball, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Then came a gap that lasted five years. Along with that gap came five years of stagnation in my recovery and about 45 pounds. I didn’t take a drink in that time but I was dry as a popcorn fart. Specifically, being dry is a period of not drinking but also a time lacking in progress as it pertains to being a better me. Recovery is just as much about being a good, contributing member of society as it is about not drinking. As is commonly said, if you sober up a horse thief, you still have a horse thief. The idea of a recovery program is to fix the horse thief part while we’re at it.
Enter physical fitness, and in my case, cycling. After a period of running, about nine years, I grew bored. I actually started out quite against running but it beat getting fat and I was starting to push maximum allowable density… Anyway, I decided I wanted to get into triathlon, thinking a bike ride and a swim might make that run a little more enjoyable. After a year I realized the swim and the run were messing up a perfectly good bike ride so I switched to cycling almost exclusively except for leisure time with my wife and kids.
Cycling checks a lot of boxes for me. The physical activity clears my mind and sets off dopamine receptors in my melon like a brilliant fireworks display. If you didn’t know, those same receptors fire up when alcohol or some other drug enter the system of an addict. Let’s just say there are very nice benefits to fitness in recovery. It’s not an intense “high” but if the recovering person pays attention to it, it’s very nice.
Then there’s the bikes themselves…
Lived properly, a life of recovery needs the drop of a little cash from time to time. Choosing to live a responsible lifestyle is easier when one rewards oneself from time to time. I’m big on the rewards part – and what better way to reward oneself than with something that runs on fat rather than a wallet?
Now, we recovering folk strive for better than to be a glum lot. We’ve lived through and hopefully emerged from our own little hell that we created. Therefore, when it is responsible to do so, we take the liberty of rewarding ourselves for a job well done. Choosing cycling is probably a little bit rare, but now that I understand just how much can be done with it, as far as road trips and other adventures go, I recommend it to any recovering person looking for a fun way to burn off some energy and calories – and as a way of setting some endorphins free.
These are just a couple of the reasons cycling appeals to me, where fitness and recovery intersect. The list is truly too long to put into one post but for now, this covers quite a bit. In recovery we like to say, “If we’re not moving forward, we’re moving backward”. There is no end zone in recovery. There’s no finish line. There is no resting on one’s laurels – oh, how I wish this weren’t true. There is always something to work on.
Choosing a fitness activity, sticking with it, and taking a reasonable amount of time out of every day provides a recovering addict or alcoholic with something they very desperately need: A break.