The trail to recovery
Deciding to ride the trail means you’re going to face many obstacles, and no matter how much you avert your gaze from the steep rock slab and slippery roots, they’re always there. Similarly, you can go through life trying to drown your pain in addictions, but it’s always there—floating around deep inside.
As in every path, you can only get to your destination by moving forward, one obstacle at a time. The fear of failure and facing the unknown stops many people from progressing, but your inner terrain must be traversed in the journey to recovery.
Losing your way down the wrong path
Having friend or loved one who struggles with addiction is hard; it’s upsetting, chaotic and anxiety-provoking. Addiction doesn’t discriminate. It’ll take anyone; no matter who you are, how much money you have, where you live or what kind of childhood you had. If you get stuck in its web, it can destroy your career, shatter your relationships, drain your bank account, crush your dreams and asphyxiate your soul. It won’t stop until you’re a shell of a person—lost, hopeless, riddled with shame and utterly alone.
Addiction detaches you from yourself and the world around you. By repeatedly abusing your body with drugs or alcohol, gambling, money, sex or food, you move further and further away from your authentic self and your ability to heal the wounds you’re trying so desperately to numb. Addiction is akin to throwing another band-aid on an infected wound; it covers it up, but until you open the wound and dig out the root of the problem, the infection will grow and begin to consume your whole body.
Watching the carnage
Alcoholism is often hidden in the shadows. No one talks about it. We go to great lengths to avoid the subject and pass it off as not really a problem. The truth is that when you live with an addict, their reality and your relationship becomes blurred like a bad buzz.
I’ve watched people I care about go down the addiction path; it’s dark, it’s janky and it’s not somewhere you want to follow. And as you start to lose sight of them, I can tell you that despite your best attempts to be the hero who leads them back to safety, it’s impossible until they choose to turn back and take your hand.
Finding the clean line
For those who’re ready hike-a-bike out of the jank, it starts by visualizing where you want to go, instead of what you want to avoid. Don’t fight the fear you’re facing, but recognize it for what it is—your brain, your emotions and your body coming to the realization that you’re rolling into unknown territory.
Recovery is about looking directly at your fears, acknowledging your emotions and seeking help from someone who can encourage you to see things from a different perspective. Counsellors, like athletic coaches help remove blocks that keep you stuck, so you can progress and gain the confidence to succeed. Coaches help you find your path and break it down into really small increments, so you don’t feel defeated and give up.
Strung out on health
When you feed addiction such as alcohol, it chemically alters your brain to release dopamine; a reward chemical. When you exercise, this same reward chemical is released, which means you can get the same “buzz” from working out that you can get from booze.
Addiction is formed by repeating behaviours. Therefore, by adopting healthful routines and practices in place of negative ones, you can build new habits and experience profound change and healing. Healthy habits such as biking, yoga, running or pilates are proven methods for dealing with addictions—sports provide an opportunity to reconnect to your breath, body, mind and heart. Getting immersed in something like a bike ride invites you to surrender to the moment, get in tune with body awareness and emotions, and de-stress.
Choose your riding buddies wisely
It has been studied that “You’re the average of the five people you spend most of your time with.” This means if you’re always riding your bike with beginners, you’re less likely to progress; equivalently if you’re always hanging out with unmotivated substance abusers—guess what—that’s going to rub off on you too! The quality of your friendships measurably impacts your well-being. Finding a sport you enjoy will help you make genuine friendships with people in a healthy environment. Those friends will support your recovery, help you cope and positively occupy your free time.
You can’t ride around it
While exercise is certainly better for your body than substance-abuse, pouring all your energy into one activity as a way to ignore your problems isn’t a solution either. You can exercise, eat well and be drug-free, but if you don’t deal with the shit going on in your heart and head you’re still going to be unhealthy…