All through my late childhood and teenage years I struggled with substance abuse. The first time I got drunk I was only 9 years old and managed to sneak some liquor at a family party. I kept drinking every chance I got, making sure my parents wouldn’t find out. Soon enough that escalated and when I was 14 I started smoking marijuana. By the time I was 19 I was hooked on meth and other hard-core drugs. I wasn’t an unhappy child or anything like that, I had a loving family who always tried their best to keep me safe and happy. I was just curious. I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong, I was just experimenting like all teenagers do…
It’s all fun and games until it isn’t. At 23 I got arrested on drug-related charges. In prison, I started attending AA and NA meetings, and while the two years I spent in that cell were probably the hardest in my life, it was during those meetings where I found the motivation to turn my life around and start my path towards recovery.
Earlier this year marked my 9th anniversary of sobriety. It still feels surreal thinking about how much my life has changed, how far I’ve come since those days when I felt as if I was on the brink of disaster. Sure, it hasn’t been an easy road, but there were some things that helped me through. Exercise, jogging to be more specific, was definitely one of them. Working out is highly beneficial for addiction recovery. It will improve your overall health, it can give you a sense of accomplishment and increase your confidence, thus making the goal of sobriety feel more attainable. That’s what jogging did to me, and look at where I’m at now. Here are 6 ways jogging helped me during my recovery process and throughout sobriety, that I hope you can benefit from as well.
Body and mind benefit
Jogging, as any form of regular physical activity, can help your body combat health conditions and diseases, since it improves your body’s natural immune defenses against issues like heart disease and type-2 diabetes, even some forms of cancer. I was hesitant before starting to take on exercise. Rehab can be exhausting, especially alcohol detox and withdrawal, so when I first got out I was feeling tired all the time. Little did I know that jogging would actually give me back the energy and vitality I was missing. Jogging is also therapeutic for your mind, it can heal, increase and repair nerve connections in your brain. It can significantly improve the healing process in the areas of the brain affected by substance abuse.
During my addict days, I used to struggle with anger problems that were difficult to control. My family, friends, and colleagues had to suffer the consequences of my emotional instability when they had nothing to do with it. I still remember one specific memory that will probably stay with me for the rest of my life: I was a teenager, and I don’t remember what I was angry about, but I was throwing stuff around in my room, breaking things, screaming, cursing… when I turned to face my bedroom door, my mother was standing there, crying.
Jogging gave me an outlet for all the built-up anger and other overwhelming feelings you tend to get during recovery. I soon began to realize how things that used to make me angry now didn’t bother me as much and I was able to handle them more calmly.
It can help you deal with problems
While addiction and recovery were the hardest challenges life has ever put in front of me, they were certainly not the only ones. Even years after recovery sometimes I still crave it. Not long after getting out of prison I almost relapsed. Not to mention other personal, family and work issues we all have to deal with almost on a daily basis. Exercise, with all the mind and body benefits it brings you, puts you in a better place to be able to deal with troublesome situations. Stress is inevitable sometimes, but as soon as I put on my running shoes and set off down the road my mind clears and I get perspective on the issue, which later helps me fix it.
One of the many, many effects addiction has on you is it drops your confidence and self-esteem levels to the floor. Part of recovery is learning to recognize your self-worth, and while it did help me, what really made me recover confidence in myself was jogging. Setting goals and meeting them gives you a feeling of accomplishment you probably thought you’d never feel again. Little by little, you start realizing if you can reach your exercise goals, no matter how small at first, you can reach any other you set for yourself.
Something good to do with your time
After getting out of rehab I had so much time on my hands it was overwhelming, and what I needed the most was to keep my mind busy so I wouldn’t have time to think about drugs. So I got a job, and I dedicated almost every minute of every day to it. But it was actually counterproductive since it ended up making me so depressed I almost relapsed. When I started jogging I was careful not to overdo it and educated myself on how to jog properly, starting small and growing from there. Yet even if it was just a half hour at first, it made me feel fulfilled and I felt like I was actually spending my time on something good for me rather than obsessing over stuff that could end up hurting me.
Sleep like a baby
Addiction disrupts your brain in many ways, one of them being altering your sleeping cycles, making it so hard to sleep sometimes that you easily stay up three days straight. I used to suffer from such extreme insomnia while I was using, and even during recovery, it was hard to fall asleep sometimes. Jogging gave me a much more balanced way of life, and it helped me re-establish my sleeping patterns to healthier ones. I stopped having trouble sleeping, which in turn gave me more energy and helped my body heal from the damage of addiction.
Flash forward to right now, I co-own a website development company with my brother and I’m healthy and happy. It was a long, tough road, but the exercise was a big motivation throughout the process. If you’re thinking about starting to exercise during recovery, go for it. It brings you so many benefits to your body and mind, you’ll start feeling like you’re in control of your life again. It helped me so much and I hope it can help you too.
In which other ways can jogging help during recovery? If you have any suggestions or questions, please leave a comment below.