☰ Show Menu


Fitness and the Path to Recovery

Photo Courtesy of Taylor Jacobs on Unsplash

Drugs and alcohol take an enormous toll on your body. Studies show that drugs stunt your bones, atrophy and cramp your muscles, and injure your liver and kidneys. Many drugs flood your brain with feel-good neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin and endorphins, sending you to euphoric heights.

Once the effect wears off, however, those same chemicals decrease, leaving you depleted. For people who did drugs for years and are now sober, recovery means investing as much effort in getting healthy as they once put into getting high. That generally comes down to eating right, doing cardio and lifting weights - tips to improve your mental health and your outlook on life.

Best Types of Exercise: Cardio & Pumping Iron
Physical fitness as widely regarded as a catalyst in bouncing back from addiction. And the consensus among recovery experts seems to be this: Don’t reinvent the wheel. The exercise you’ve chosen (swimming laps, deadlifting your body weight, riding a bike around the park as dawn breaks) doesn’t really matter so long as you keep doing it. And so long as you still like it. The moment exercise becomes an obligation instead of a joy, cancelling your membership to Hard Bodies Gym or letting your basketball dribble into the corner of the garage is probably in your near future.

But if jogging, shooting hoops, even intense gardening, are all fun to you, the activity releases reward chemicals in your brain that have much the same effect as artificial highs. (Keep in mind, however, exercise is a strategy of coping with recovery, not an easy switch-out for habits developed after years of addiction.)

Appetite for Change
Treating your body well doesn’t just mean shedding pounds and carving out a hard abdomen, though. You may stop doing drugs, but if you’re eating sweets, you’re actually still doing drugs. With each new study, it seems, sugar is increasingly coming under fire for the appalling effects it renders on your body. These include fattening your organs, spiking your cholesterol, cracking lines through your face and priming your system for diabetes. In short, sugar hurts you in much the same way that drugs did. So, grab an apple, instead, and definitely drink more water - which may be the healthiest decision anyone can make.

Gulping down 2 liters of water a day lights up your skin, boosts your memory, heals sprains and cramps, and prevents against heart disease. Elementary school kids are taught that two-thirds of our bodies are water, but, as adults, we frequently forget the nourishment that water provides us.

Photo Courtesy of Becca Tapert on Unsplash

Healthy Habits: Mental Health
Think of recovery as a road leading in the opposite direction of addiction. So, if you were a partier before, now you’re a monk. Look around you. Even if you live in a humble abode, it’s your abode. And it’s safe. Sure, training for a 10K or doing TRX chest-presses are great for your health. But equally important is working on your mental state - making it safe from all the anxieties that used to seep through it.

Practice being kind to yourself, including realizing that bedtime is a thing. If that sounds trivial, look at all the benefits of sleep: controlling weight, boosting heart health, dispersing mental fogginess, and (unlike sugar) battling the risk of diabetes. No need to stop having fun, but adopt a quieter rhythm - drink tea, meditate a few minutes a day, and, yes, rest up - that soothes you.

Finding your way out of drug addiction is one of the most arduous undertakings you can face. The point, though, is not necessarily to lose weight or beef up your biceps, but also to seek an inner balance and maintain it for the long-term. Sleep. Eat well. Learn to like yourself again. Check your bank and credit statements regularly. Revamp friendships that you squandered while you were in the worst throes of addiction. Cultivate all these healthy habits (and more), so that your lifestyle is a bulwark against the temptation - always present - to return to those old conspirators, drugs and alcohol.


Jennifer McGregor

Jennifer McGregor is a pre-med student, who loves providing reliable health and medical resources for PublicHealthLibrary.org users. She knows how difficult it can be to sift through the mountains of health-related information on the web. She co-created the site with a friend as a way to push reputable information on health topics to the forefront, making them easier and quicker to find.

The 45 Warning Signs of Prescription Drug Abuse

For many, medication is an essential part of pain management — unfortunately, some people become addicted to their prescriptions. This article discusses the critical signs of prescription drug abuse to watch out for.


My Picks


Good Health

Maintaining good health is an essential part of achieving happiness and success in life. Pain and discomfort can stop you from living an active and productive lifestyle, because when the body doesn’t feel good, the mind doesn’t either.

Learn How We Can Help