Years of drinking and using drugs takes it toll on the human body. With addiction also comes other negative factors to health including poor nutrition, lack of physical exercise and poor sleep patterns. All of these contribute to an overall drain on physical health which in turn leads to poor mental health. Energy levels drop, thinking and judgment begin in wane, self confidence can plummet due to gaining or losing excessive weight. Too many recovery programs fail to address these issues and their importance in recovery. Sure, many take the medical approach and address the detoxing off substances and many touch upon physical exercise in the form of yoga or "getting in the gym" but few truly recognize the power of regaining ones physical health and in turn the positive role it plays in mental health as a integral part of recovery.
I have experienced many of these same health issues. I have not experienced the rapid weight loss to my dismay but weight gain and other health problems seemed to compound one after another. This year shortly after getting sober I was experiencing chest pains and fatigue that was beyond description. Being that I was now taking care of myself and trying to become healthy I went to visit my doctor. Upon hearing my symptoms I was given a EKG and 15 min later I was in the emergency room having suffered a minor heart attack. My blood pressure was an astronomical 260/150 and now I have to include a variable cocktail of heart and blood pressure drugs to my diet. It was an eye opening experience in that it really underscored the years of abuse I had put my body through. Jack Daniels and late night McDonald's is not a healthy diet.
The physical fitness I had enjoyed during my short stints of sobriety was always a great feeling. I had tried using that as a program to stay sober in itself and it seemed to fail time after time. Physical fitness is not a replacement for a real program of sobriety but it is a very important addition to incorporate into any program that works. Fitness is not only a physical characteristic but a mental one as well. In particular, I feel that combat sports and martial arts lend even a deeper level to fitness and recovery. The mental fortitude that is gained by training and sparring in a combat sport can even be described as a meditative state if done correctly. When sparring or fighting you must be complete in the "Now" and release from the mind other outside thoughts. Stress of work and family seem to melt away has hyper focus begins to emerge. New neural pathways begin to fire as one must incorporate mental and muscle memory to perform a technique under pressure. It is on the highest levels of mental and physical conditioning. In addition, competition tends to bring out, and develop, a warrior mentality. Even in defeat, as long as one shows up the next day and learns from that defeat, mental fortitude grows. These characteristics can be very important when confronting and battling ones inner demons as a result of addiction.
Now on my own path of recovery and trying to repair the damage I did to my own body, physical fitness is key to my program. Getting back in shape is now a requirement for me if I want to live a long and productive life. Nutrition now must be balanced and gone are the Big Macs and Quarter Pounders. I am learning how to enjoy new foods like quinoa and kale. Unfortunately, the damage from the bottle has put a damper on my "all or nothing" mindset and gone are the plans to train till I drop and enter the cage or competitive Jiu- Jitsu right away, but I take it as learning another lesson in my growth...Moderation.