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It Hurts So Good
I woke up and groaned—every muscle in my body ached—and I wondered how I would move across my small apartment to the fridge. Still, it was the best I had felt in a long, long time. The train wreck feeling was well earned and came as a result of an invigorating, adrenaline-pumping workout the day before with a group of recovery friends at BoxUnion in Santa Monica. For 45 minutes, an energetic, and unbelievably fit, man led us through ducking and rolling, combination punches, and a ton of ab work—the pace was unrelenting. In the background, dance music thumped, lending some rhythm to our awkward movements. We laughed, we begged for mercy, we moaned, and not one of us left without a huge, satisfied grin on our faces.
The next day we texted each other, comparing sore muscle groups and complaining about how sitting to pee was painful. We were also making plans to do it again.
It wasn’t so long ago when waking up feeling like a train wreck was a daily ritual. My head pounded, my stomach lurched, and I couldn’t figure out how to put two feet on the floor and get out of bed…every day. Then the dread and the anxiety would hit—I couldn’t remember what had happened the day before, but I knew it wasn’t usually good.
For me, recovery has been much more than putting down my substance. It has been a journey to find myself again, to reawaken my mind, body, and soul. And I cannot put too fine a point on how important activity has been in this, the more physical the better. After feeling dead inside for so many years, I love feeling alive.
And I’m not wrong on this—there is a lot of science to back up the role physical activity plays in recovery. Here are just a few things exercise accomplishes:
I’m not going to lie—the motivation to get out there is tough at first. Sometimes, just getting through the day sober seemed like enough of a battle. And it often was, in the beginning. But as soon as I started walking, going to yoga with some friends at the Riviera Recovery sober house, playing softball on the Riviera team, my recovery seemed to go into warp speed. I laughed more, my anxiety disappeared, and I would go days without even thinking of a drink.
Today, I jump at every chance to move, to feel alive. So, when Jose texts and says, “Hey, do you want to go boxing?” I don’t even hesitate to say, “Yes!” I know I’m not going to be able to move after, but I also know that I’m going to have a great time with friends, that I’ll sleep well that night, that my body will benefit, and that I’m that much farther from a drink.
And now I just got a text from another friend asking if I want to go skydiving next weekend. I think you know my answer.
- reduces stress and anxiety
- releases endorphins—the same ones that are released when we get high
- leads to better sleep patterns
- it’s great for anger release
- builds self-confidence
- it’s a form of meditation