I have always had an addictive personality. When I was 16, it led to a problem with alcohol. As I aged, this morphed into problems with meth and other drugs. At 25, I should have been at my peak, but I felt like I was on my last legs. I wasn’t healthy, I wasn’t strong. I was a dead man walking.
So, I decided to do something about it. I stopped the drugs and I developed another hobby: running. I took to this like I had previously taken to drugs. I went all-in and I became obsessed. But unlike my previous addictions, this one vastly improved my health and my life.
These are the 4 ways that jogging has helped me through my addiction.
Methamphetamine puts a lot of strain on the body, as do all drugs. My heart was being put under immense stress everyday, even though the most exercise I got was when I cleaned the house in a frenzy or walked to my dealer’s place.
I was unfit, I was unhealthy. As a result, my initial jogging sessions mainly consisted of a few short spurts and then several days in recovery. Still, the more I jogged, the more my body adapted to the changes. The soreness and fatigue caused by recovery began to ebb away. My strength increased. I became fitter. Healthier.
It’s hard to describe how good it feels to be healthy, especially if you’re used to relying on a chemical to make you feel good. But at my healthiest and my fittest, I felt considerably better, happier and even more euphoric than I did at my highest.
Lack of exercise does something to your mind as well as your body. The less you do, the less you want to do and the less you’re capable of doing. In the early days of recovery I struggled to take satisfaction in anything that I was doing. I was incapable of joy. I was constantly bored. Basically, I was on a fast-track to relapse.
When I started jogging, I felt a fog being lifted. I was able to think clearly. I was able to take satisfaction in small things. The more I jogged, the fitter I became both mentally and physically and the more I knew I would never use drugs again.
I had tried to stop using many times in the past, but never successfully. On most occasions I tried to substitute another drug for my drug of choice. Whether it was alcohol, painkillers, sedatives or even copious amounts of caffeine, I always wanted to have something to provide me with a buzz. But it always ended up giving me another issue to deal with, before eventually sending me back to my drug of choice.
With jogging, however, I found an activity that I could get as passionate about, and something that was able to provide me with a buzz. Exercise triggers a rush of endorphins, a natural high that is cleaner than the high provided by drugs and also has no side effects.
In the early days the only thing you look forward to is the moment you’re chilling on the sofa after a run, with your muscles completely relaxed and your brain de-stressed. But in time you begin to appreciate the act of running just as much.
Like many long-term addicts, all of my friends used drugs. It was the only thing I did with my time, so it made sense. But when it came time to kick the habit, I couldn’t confide in any of those friends and I knew that if I kept them in my life then I would start using again.
Not long after I started jogging I began to make new friends. I would meet them on my route, I would meet them online in the communities I joined. When you’re so passionate about a hobby like this, you begin to absorb yourself in it, and when that happens it’s just a matter of time before you meet likeminded people.
These days I have close friends who support me in my new life. I also met my new partner jogging. Not only is she the first girlfriend I’ve had as a sober adult, but she’s also the first sober woman I’ve been with.
Martin Luther King once said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase”. This is what recovery has always felt like for me. You can see what needs to be done right now, but you’re blinded to the good that it will do you. This applies to recovery on the whole, as well as to the things that you use to help you recover, such as jogging.
It’s going to be very difficult to go for that first jog. It’s going to feel near impossible to get up early, to sweat and struggle through a run, and then to keep doing it day after day. I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a pain. But there are small moments of joy that make those first few days worthwhile, and these are followed by huge life-changing moments.
So, take that first step, because while it may seem like a difficult decision to make right now, it’s one that could lead to a healthier, happier life.