“He who has health has hope;
And he who has hope has everything.”
Scottish philosopher and writer
I was an alcoholic. No surprise, I still am. However, and this is a big difference, I put the word “recovering” first. So does my doctor, my therapist, and the other guys down at my local meetings, where they’ve duly celebrated every year-anniversary for the last 6 years. Yes, that’s what I am today. I always will be a recovering alcoholic if I keep doing what I’m doing, with the support of some great people around me. And that sits fine with me. You don’t want to know about the alternative.
Getting clean in rehab (my treatment), and then being given the resources to actively stay clean and healthy once I left (my recovery) has, for want of a better expression, revamped my life. I’m fitter, healthier, more sociable, and (no surprise here) clearer thinking too. Do you know something? I even feel more intelligent. The boy who scraped through college (just) more intelligent? Yes, go figure…
So, this article is about the healthy habits (my Top #5, if you like) that my addiction recovery has first educated me in, and then become as much a part of my life now as my utter refusal to ever drink again. Fact, my friend. Was I a health-minded individual before my sorry descent into drink-infested oblivion? No. Definitely not.
Recovery (which, for most people, is actively pursuing a life of abstinence) has taught me the true importance of actually caring about everything you do that contributes to or reduces your state of health. I may have got a second chance at life, for which I’ll be eternally grateful, but I still occupy the same body. No-one brought me a new one when I got sober, and said, “Try this on for size. What do you think? A little off the back?” Yep, the same body, just a better mind to operate it.
This is the biggie. One of the physical therapists at my rehab took one look at me when I came out of withdrawal, and said, “Honey, we need to put some muscles on you. You look like one of my coat hangers!” Yes, she sure had a way with words, that one, bless her. But she was right. I’d look at myself in the mirror, skinny arms, sagging gut, no energy, and knew she had a valid point.
As part of her personal little program for me, she’d dump me on a rowing machine for an hour, same time every day. To this day, I still do it. I have an old rowing machine in my apartment (kind of a testament to my rehab memories), and, regular as clockwork, same time every day, I’m on the thing for a decent workout. Just like my rehab days. It’s just now I dump myself on it.
It’s not just the rowing machine either. I run daily when I’m exercising (or should that be chasing) the dog. Staying sober also includes trying new physical activities that never entered my head in my former life, such as rock-climbing. Yep, I’ve done that, seriously challenging, and I didn’t fall off the mountain. Alcoholism is an incurable disease, but it is treatable. In other words, I’m not prepared to fall off that particular mountain either.
2. A Healthy Mind
Although my recovery led to the discovery of some physical health issues, none of them gave the doctors too much cause for concern. However, the state of my mind was another thing. Alcoholism, or alcohol use disorder, to give it its medical title, will alter your brain function, how you think and act. It’s why, as determined as an addict may be, permanent cessation of drinking is really only a pipedream without proper medical treatment.
My mind was a mess. Getting healthy played a big part in unraveling it, and then putting it back together. The sessions with my psychiatrist helped too, don’t get me wrong, but there’s a lot of credence in the old adage: a healthy body, a healthy mind.
Additionally, I learned to meditate, from which I learned about mindfulness definition, the art of living in the present. As part of my daily routine, I exercise my mind too, meditating and concentrating on the experience of the moment. Boy, does that work for me. My cognitive abilities are probably better now than they ever were, and I’m so much calmer and thoughtful in a good way now.
I couldn’t even begin to describe the diet of my former life. I simply can’t remember most of it. I ate, that’s about it. However, part of my education in rehab was exactly that – diet and nutrition, its importance, what’s good for your body and what’s not, even what’s good for your brain. I learned about the various food groups, and what our bodies need in terms of vitamins and minerals. In essence, I learned how to properly feed my body.
My diet today is balanced and healthy. I’m not vegetarian, let alone vegan, but I do watch the quantity and quality of any meat I consume. Plus, all my meals are complemented with either healthy fruit-based snacks or home-blended juices.
4. A Happier Mood, More Often
Alcohol, when it all comes down to it, is a depressant. It’s mood-changing, and you can’t escape that, whether you’re an occasional drinker or someone in the grip of its addiction. I really was a miserable drunk, very unfriendly, and prefer my own company. Recovery has returned, to a degree, a more stable and happier mood. And it’s every day. Some days, I still have to sometimes force myself a little to be more sociable, but it’s worth the effort.
This much happier mood makes me more approachable by others, which has done wonders for a social life being reborn like mine. However, I am now very choosy about the company I keep. Certain types of people are potential triggers towards relapse for me.
And More Energy
Do you know the phrase “Sick and tired of feeling sick and tired?” There’s a poster with those words at one of my AA meetings. As an addict, that’s exactly how you feel every single day. With the combination of these 4 healthy habits that I now enjoy and live by, such as exercise, being mindful, having a good diet, and actively being sociable, I have found myself with a much greater level of energy. And, it seems, the more energy I have, the more I enjoy my life. That, for me, is the very reason to continue with these healthy habits, and get the best out of my life, even if it is one spent in recovery from my addiction. I’m good with that.
If there is something that you’d like to add in the form of a comment below, please feel free to do so. For example, what healthy habits have you discovered when giving up a not-so-healthy one? Let us know your thoughts.
Lastly, thanks for reading. You’ve made a recovering alcoholic even happier by doing so.