Starting Over with Recovery

Sad Man in CornerRelapsing. It’s the dreaded word for anyone in recovery. Unfortunately, it’s more common than one may think, but it doesn’t mean you’ve failed or your recovery process didn’t work. You’re human and relapse is common, with relapse rates being between 40 and 60 percent, per the National Institute on Drug Abuse. This rate is very similar to rates of relapse with other chronic diseases like hypertension, asthma, or type I diabetes.

I’m bringing this all up as I personally slipped up in the beginning of January after becoming more frustrated about my health issues: I was dealing with a broken foot for 8 weeks and previously had surgery that prevented me from bike riding. My ways of dealing with life (being active) were taken away from me, and I didn’t think of other outlets. So, after many years of avoiding narcotics, I slipped up.

The next day and following week I felt like a complete failure. I felt like I let everyone down: my family, friends, and supporters. I kept on thinking, “How could I possibly continue Active For Recovery if I’m a complete screw up?” I was being extremely harsh on myself. The feelings of being ashamed began to overwhelm me. I went into a dark space.

Over the next week, I felt like I could no longer be who I previously was… someone that was an example of being sober.

And then I heard a song while listening to an auto-generated playlist on Google Music (“I’m feeling lucky”). It was by Macklemore called “Starting Over“.

Once I heard the first few lyrics, I focused in.

And every kid that came up to me
And said I was the music they listened to when they first got clean
Now look at me, a couple days sober
I’m fighting demons
Back of that meeting on the east side
Shaking tweakin’, hope that they don’t see it
Hope that no one is looking
That no one recognizes that failure under that hoodie

If I can be an example of getting sober
Then I can be an example of starting over

I was honestly in complete shock that something so appropriate played when I needed it the most. I began reading more about Macklemore and his path from being a drug dealer/user to a prolific artist. That one song brought me back on track as I realized that while relapsing may be a reality we all face, what we do afterwards makes the difference. I began to open up and share what happened with others; I let them into my life rather than ignoring phone calls.

What I learned is that there’s a major decision point when someone relapses, especially after being sober for a considerable time. You could easily say screw it and go back to your old ways. The other option, the harder option, is to accept what happened and realize you’re not a screw up, like I did originally. Take the hard road: Be honest with yourself, treat yourself well, and begin opening up. It’s not easy starting over, but if you have an open heart and mind, it can be an incredible growing & learning experience.

So, what’s helped you when you had to start over? Is there a song you think of? A community you go back to? Leave your comments below!

Path To Recovery

path to recoveryIt’s been a while since my last post and I figured those of you who follow my blog deserve to know what’s going on and hopefully it will help others by sharing my story and being open about it. In a previous post I mentioned that I had a mild form of bipolar and I hit a low point and suffered from major depression for a few months. I was in a vicious cycle where I was depressed, didn’t want to exercise or eat healthy… and that only made me more depressed. I began abusing alcohol. My relationships suffered. Sure I was seeing a psychiatrist every month, but I never disclosed my true feelings because I was too embarrassed. I felt like the worlds largest hypocrite and a fraud. However, this month I finally grew the courage to tell my psychiatrist what was going on. To finally let someone know about my secret lifted some weight off my shoulders, but then I went back to The Breakthrough Weekend again as a student. In front of at least 60 people I told everyone that I had a problem and needed help. Talking about it and letting others know that I was suffering brought me huge relief. That weekend I learned that I had the power to overcome any obstacle that stands in front of my dreams. My dreams are to make Active For Recovery a non-profit, bring attention to recovery programs, and, in the future, provide health coaching services.

Since that weekend, I haven’t purchased any alcohol for my home. Instead of sitting home and drinking, I had to make the very conscience decision to do something else. So, I signed up to the gym that’s less than 5 minutes away and now go there. I go biking, walks, anything that would replace the time of drinking. If I’m doing something, I’m not drinking. I went to a few AA meetings, but really didn’t feel like they were for me. I enjoyed the company of people who want to be sober, but don’t care for the 12 step program (I’m also not very religious). What’s interesting is that I’ve relearned how to have a healthy relationship with alcohol. I went out with some friends and had a drink and was content. I no longer wanted to feel the way I felt after drinking to the point of being drunk. I also learned that drinking alcohol messes with the medication I take to control my bipolar/depression.

So now I’m back on track. I’m working on losing the weight I gained during my depression and realize that it’s a process. I’ve relearned that you just need to take it day by day. The biggest take away/message I can give to those that are struggling is to reach out. You may not realize it, but everyone has some problem going on in their life. They may not be able to understand your addiction, but by sharing it and being open to support you’ll have a huge weight lifted off your shoulders and will be able to take the next steps toward recovery. Everyone’s path is different. And that’s ok. Find what works for you. Attend AA/NA meetings. Go to a therapist or psychiatrist. Find “communities” in your own community like The Breakthrough Weekend. Learn to become vulnerable and accept the love that others are giving you. Eventually, you’ll find your own path and life will become fun again.

If you have any questions further questions about my recent recovery, please post below in the comments or contact me directly.

Thank you,
AJ

Exercise for Treatment & Better Habits

Make no mistake about it, I’m a fan of exercise as a form of treatment for those struggling with their addiction(s) or mental illness. It’s why I started Active For Recovery. I truly believe a missing component in many treatment programs is the introduction of personal fitness and health into an individuals life. However, exercise doesn’t have to be an ultra-strenuous session at the gym, it can be as simple as a bike ride, going for a walk, swimming, or finding something else you enjoy doing that keeps you moving. It’s not just me, but there’s plenty of research to suggest that exercise is a great addition to any treatment program. Here’s an excerpt from the study “Stimulant Reduction Intervention using Dosed Exercise”

Clinical data examining the use of exercise as a treatment for the abuse of nicotine, alcohol, and other substances suggest that exercise may be a beneficial treatment for stimulant abuse, with direct effects on decreased use and craving. In addition, exercise has the potential to improve other health domains that may be adversely affected by stimulant use or its treatment, such as sleep disturbance, cognitive function, mood, weight gain, quality of life, and anhedonia, since it has been shown to improve many of these domains in a number of other clinical disorders.

Not only can exercise help decrease use and cravings, but it also has the added benefit of possibly reversing some of the adverse affects substance abuse may have caused on your body.

You’re Playing With My Endorphins

When someone is trying to recover from addiction, they’re not only going to be going through withdrawls, but their body’s endorphins are also going to be all out of whack. The previous “high” feeling you had is no longer there and, at first, it seems like the only way to be happy again is to get back on whatever you were doing. But, this is where exercise comes in. Exercise leads to the release of endorphins.

Studies show exercise releases endorphins in the brain, which cause us to have what is commonly known as a“natural high” or a“runners high.”You may not realize what caused it, but most of us have felt it. Most people will attest, it’s the best drug in the world with wonderful residual health benefits.

Overall Happiness

For me, exercise has been the key to me staying addiction free and completely relapsing. When I exercise, even for the smallest amount of time a day, I tend to eat healthier overall and my day goes by smoother. When I don’t exercise for a period of time, I recognize that my eating habits tend to become a little worse and it becomes more difficult to startup my routine again.