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The Role of Fitness in Addiction Recovery [INTERVIEW]

In this blog post, we discuss the role fitness may play in your recovery. Fitness and physical exercise are a key means of improving your mood and your general mental health. Thus, investing in your fitness is a highly effective way of working on your recovery.

Improving your fitness is about setting goals that may not pay off for months or even years. Thus, fitness is a form of delayed gratification. This form of gratification is the polar opposite to the instant gratification you derive from taking drugs or drinking alcohol. However, in time, you will see that the delayed gratification you derive from meeting your fitness goals is much sweeter than the instant gratification you get from drugs and alcohol.

At Rehab 4 Addiction, we also believe that working on your fitness requires a shift in mindset. Working on your fitness will teach you that anything worthwhile in this world is built through hard work and determination. This mindset is in stark contrast to the mindset that’s often characteristic of people who are hooked on drugs or alcohol since these people are led to believe that it’s better to seek out instant gratification in ways that do not require hard work and determination.

The mindset that’s needed to succeed with your fitness closely mirrors the mindset that’s required to succeed in your recovery. For instance, both endeavours require constant effort. If you stop exercising, you will begin to lose your fitness. Likewise, if you stop working on your recovery, you will probably relapse at some point or another.

An interview with Phil Darlington

Phil is a 42-year-old engineer from Newport. Phil has been in recovery for three years. Phil is recovering from an alcohol and cocaine addiction. Rehab 4 Addiction placed Phil into rehab back in 2015.

Today, Phil shares some of his insights into how his fitness has worked to strengthen his recovery.

Shaun from Rehab 4 Addiction: Hi Phil, can you tell me about your experiences with addiction and how you got into recovery.

Phil: I’ve been in recovery since 2015. Prior to this, I was a heavy drinker and a frequent cocaine user. When I say frequent, I mean I was using cocaine sometimes two-or-three times a week.

My cocaine use fitted in with my lifestyle until I got married back in 2012. In 2013, my first child was born. Around this time, my cocaine and alcohol use were clearly getting out of hand and my wife began to get fed up with my totally unacceptable behaviour.

I tried to get clean by myself, but I failed many times. I eventually decided to go to rehab, and I’ve been clean ever since.

However, my recovery hasn’t been easy sailing and it’s definitely true when people say that you’ve got to work on your recovery otherwise you’ll lose it.

Shaun from Rehab 4 Addiction: That’s interesting Phil, so what sort of things do you do to ‘work on your recovery’?

Phil: When I was in rehab, I met a guy called Thomas who worked at the clinic. Thomas was a support worker, and he’s been in recovery for around 22 years. He’s a semi-retired fire-fighter.

Although I really benefited from all the different forms of therapy and workshops they run at the rehab, I really did benefit from working with Thomas because of Thomas’ focus on fitness. He’s run countless marathons, and he really believes his running played a major role in allowing him to thrive in recovery.

I’ve been an on-off sports nut myself. I was a keen rugby player in my youth and I continued to cycle for many years until my addiction took hold. I feel my pre-existing love of physical activity meant that the sporting dimension of recovery really appealed to me.

Shaun from Rehab 4 Addiction: So how does exercise help your recovery?

Phil: I think it’s really down to allow my mind to stay active so I don’t dwell on thoughts that bring me down.

When I was addicted to drugs and alcohol, I also used to dwell on the negative side of life. I drank and took drugs to transform my mindset to a better place. Now I’m not taking drugs or drinking alcohol, I really believe my running, cycling and rock climbing have filled that void.

I also believe it’s down to know that achieving happiness isn’t about instant gratification. Instead, I now focus on achieving goals that I know won’t be accomplished overnight. This doesn’t mean I’m going to run 30 marathons in 30 days or climb Mount Everest, but it does mean I will set goals that challenge me personally and goals that I know may take 2-3 years for me to achieve.

In the last three years, I’ve already achieved fitness goals I never thought possible for a guy like myself. I’ve now run a marathon in the UK and I’m due to run the Berlin marathon next year.

So, I don’t think it’s just about the fitness per se, but more about planning on achieving goals that will take 1, 2 or 3 years to complete. That takes some doing, but it’s worth it.

Exercising to maintain your recovery is also about understanding the connection between your physical health and your emotional state of being.

Shaun from Rehab 4 Addiction: That sounds interesting Shaun. Can you elaborate on this for me?

Phil: People may engage in exercise to look better or to gain physical strength. However, many people don’t understand the mental benefits that are derived from exercise. Understanding these mental benefits opens up another layer of motivation to get fit.

As mentioned about, I have engaged in sports on and off for many years before my recovery, but even back then, I didn’t really appreciate the mental benefits that I was deriving from engaging in that exercise.

I also used to do a lot of cycling alone, and I now know that it’s much better to engage in these sorts of sports as part of a group. Doing so makes exercise much more exciting and competitive. I truly believe that we are social creatures, and engaging in exercise with groups of people is almost a guaranteed way to improve your mood and improve your social skills.

I recommend you try to find groups that consist of other people who are also in recovery. However, if you are unable to find such a group in your local area, it’s no big deal. Just go out with any group that will have you!

Shaun from Rehab 4 Addiction: Great advice Phil. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Phil: Yes, I’d also recommend you get a plan together and set goals, no matter how unspecific or long-term those goals may be. Just remember to set goals that are achievable.

I also recommend you eliminate activities or people from your life who get in the way of these goals, no matter how harsh the immediate drawbacks may be.

For instance, I stopped doing weekend work and this reduced my income by around 25%. However, I’ve learnt to live on less as they say and I’m now using that time to do positive things with my life like working on my fitness and spending more time with my wife and my two children.

I know that striking the right work/life balance is important to my continued recovery. I know have more time to look after my own needs and the needs of my loved ones.

Conclusion

If you would like to go to rehab and begin your recovery, contact Rehab 4 Addiction today on 0800 140 4690.

 

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