“Going jogging makes me feel powerful and free….” – Jennifer Hudson, actress and singer.
“The only reason I would take up jogging is so that I could hear heavy breathing again.”
– Erma Bombeck, humorist and columnist.
One of the best pieces of advice anyone ever gave me was this:
“Start running. And if you can’t run, jog.”
I was not long out of rehab, no real work to speak of, and, as all addicts are painfully aware, way too much time on my hands. And we all know what the Devil makes use of…. I sort of laughed it off at first. Me? Jogging? I hadn’t done any significant exercise for quite a while. In fact, going through withdrawal seemed to sap me of all the available energy I had. Yes, at the rehab, I did feel and get stronger, and exercise was part of their daily routine for us. So I did know that if I was to follow this advice (given to me by a fellow Narcotics Anonymous group member), I would start slowly, and gradually build up pace and distance. Heavens, he actually had me considering it! Now all I needed was the motivation to do so…. I found it in one word. Sobriety.
It is a proven fact that exercise as part of addiction recovery, is highly beneficial; it can provide a sense of accomplishment, make you feel stronger, improve your health, and (probably most importantly) it will make the goal of clean and sober living a more realistic one by giving you much greater confidence in your ability to control the things around you. Those are the physical benefits. Now let’s look at the mental side of it all. As recovering addicts, we used to chase that artificial high, sometimes simply to get wasted and, other times, simply to feel normal. Exercise will give you a natural high.
During recovery, our addict brains (lacking a better expression) still crave the happy chemicals we used to supply them – endorphins. Exercise will naturally stimulate the release of these same endorphins, along with endocannabinoids. Together, they will give you a completely natural euphoric feeling. Additionally, exercise can help with all those negative aspects of an addicted life: anxiety, depression, weight issues, and sleeping difficulties, as well as issues of sadness, frustration and anger.
As you can tell, I did my research. I then told my Mom about what the NA meeting guy had said. Her reaction? She bought me my first pair of Nikes… Bless her heart. So, here are 6 reasons I have found after I started my jogging path. They have (literally) helped me along my road to recovery and I hope they do the same for you:
#1. Body & Mind Benefits
Jogging, in the form of regular exercise, along with that all-important nutritional diet, will improve your body’s natural immune defenses against such medical issues as heart disease and type-2 diabetes, even some forms of cancer. And, for those who are in addiction recovery, jogging can repair and increase the nerve connections in your brain, healing it from the devastating effects of continued substance abuse. My thinking is clearer, my decision-making is probably at its best and my energy levels, once so depleted from addiction and then the subsequent effect of withdrawal, are seemingly inexhaustible.
#2. Anger Issues
My addiction stemmed from an inability to deal with my personal anger at an event over which I had no control. No-one was to blame so there was no-one I could confront to find a resolution. So, I just became angry at the world in general – family, friends, work colleagues and strangers all suffered unduly at my addicted, angry hands. However, jogging has given me an outlet for this pent-up anger. Don’t get me wrong. I do hit the occasional punch-bag down at my local gym. That seems to be happening less and less now though because of my jogging routine.
#3. Life Goes On… And Jogging Will Help You Deal With It
Always remember that life is still going to throw up the challenges it did when you were an addict. However, through jogging and the benefits it brings, you are going to be better placed to deal with such episodes, even crisis. Hit one? Put on those running shoes and just set off down the road. You’ll reduce the inevitable stress, compose your thinking and be doing something positive as your reaction to the issue.
#4. Grow Your Self-Confidence
When I was in High School, I was one of the quickest runners on the track. 200 and 400 were the distances I topped my year. Alcohol, dope, painkillers and then harder drugs took that all away from me. Along with pretty much every ounce of confidence I had. Once I started jogging, which, to be honest, seemed a little alien to me (just memories of running a lot quicker, I guess), I started to realize that these long legs still had something to give. It’s been a few years now, and I’ve got stronger and better. Before I knew it, the confidence I seemed to have lost started to come back. Not just in what my body could do, but what my mind could do. If there is one thing I know for sure, it is that I am better placed, and more confident, in what challenges lay ahead for me.
#5. Not So Useless Hands
As I mentioned in this article’s introduction, I once had way too much time on my hands after rehab. For me, that was a real danger sign that my life before rehab could simply walk right up to me and just take away everything I had worked so hard for. Jogging gave me a self-imposed regime, a schedule, time to live right in the present. I listen to music and audio books as I jog now (at first, this was a complete no-no; I needed to know exactly what was happening around me). As I jog, I’m learning stuff or just relaxing to my favorite music. So, however you look at it, jogging is time well spent.
#6. Sleep Like A Baby
I have trouble still believing I used to do this, but it wasn’t uncommon for me to be awake for 3 days non-stop. 72 hours. My addicted life. Known as circadian rhythms, they are the reason we feel tired and wish to sleep at certain times. Addiction takes these rhythms and kicks them to the highest possible level. Jogging has given me a much more balanced and healthier way of life, and in doing so, has re-established these natural rhythms for me. I really do sleep like a baby most nights now and I know that a well-rested body helps me heal quicker from the physical ravages of my addictions.
There was once a time that if my Mom gave me a present of value (like a brand new pair of Nikes), I could literally see the fear in her eyes that I would just take off down the street and sell them just to get another fix. So times are changing slowly but surely with the healthier, better life that recovery is giving me. Jogging has formed such an important part of this, I am sure. It has improved me physically and mentally, helped me deal with my suppressed anger, literally helped me with life’s challenges, grown my confidence, given me purpose and routine, and helped my body rest when it needs to.
Maybe, while reading this, you, dear reader, will have thought of other ways that exercise has helped you deal with addiction recovery or other major challenges that life has thrown your way. Please feel free to share these in the comments below. Thank you for your time and remember that the road is there to take you where you want to go.