Alcohol reared its ugly head in my life when I was nine years old when I managed to sneak some at a family party. That was the first time I got drunk. Our relationship extended throughout my teenage years. I drank every chance I got, while finding creative ways to hide it from my parents and teachers. At 14 I started smoking marihuana and by the time I was 19, marijuana just wasn’t enough for me anymore. I tried meth and was hooked after the first hit.
I had a great childhood. My parents loved me and did their best to keep me safe and happy. Still, curiosity got the best of me. I thought I was just experimenting with any normal teenager and before I knew it, I was hooked and sliding down a path of self-destruction.
Before I knew it I was 22 years old in the back seat of a cop car, watching my life crumble. My conviction was on drug-related charges. I spent two years locked up in the state penitentiary.
Although at the time I didn’t know it, going to jail was a blessing. During my two year stint, I was introduced to Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. That was the start of my recovery process. It was in those meetings where I found the motivation I needed to embark on the difficult journey of self-healing.
It’s surreal to think about how much my life has changed since then. I’ve been sober for 9 years now and there have been many lessons learned and people that have helped me on this challenging road.
As an addict/alcoholic something that we are urged to do is to find hobbies to fill the void left when we quit drinking and using. For me, exercise became a big distraction for me, in a good way. Jogging became my favorite form of exercise and it has helped me immensely. It has given me the push I needed to climb the intimidating mountain that we call sobriety.
1- Body and Mind Benefits
Exercise is known to decrease chances of developing heart disease and keep bones strong and healthy. Once I made jogging part of my regular exercise regimen I noticed positive changes in my energy levels and vitality. Abusing my body with drugs and alcohol for so long had made me weak, jogging helped me recoup strength.
Early in my sobriety, I noted that by jogging regularly my mind felt sharper. Through research, I found that exercise can foster new brain cell growth, as well as improve the healing process in the areas of the brain that were damaged by years of substance abuse.
2- Anger Issues
One of my many character defects was handling resentment and containing my anger. I always had difficulty controlling my anger, especially when I was in the midst of my addiction, this is sometimes referred to as a co-occurring disorder. The main issue was that it didn’t only affect me; it affected everyone around me as well.
Once I got sober, jogging became a way for me to deal with my emotions. From the beginning, it became my time for reflection. Furthermore, I learned that running reduces stress by increasing the body’s production of endorphins, which are natural “feel-good” hormones that promote feelings of well-being.
Today, jogging is a part of my exercise routine. I also hit the gym 3 times a week and play basketball. I’m 36 years old, but I’m in better shape than when I was a 23-year-old drug addict/alcoholic.
3- Coping With Problems
Even after years of being sober, the cold truth is that I sometimes get cravings and fantasize about using.
Life has put many challenges in front of me, addiction and recovery were the toughest ones, but not the only ones. However, as soon as I put on my running shoes and hit the road, all my problems seem to vanish, my head seems to clear and I’m able to put things into perspective.
4- Boosted Self Confidence
Addiction has the terrible side effect, among many others, of crushing your confidence and destroying your self-esteem. An important stage of the recovery process is learning (or let’s say re-learning) to recognize your self-worth, and begin to love yourself again.
I remember this one time a few months after leaving prison. I was at a friend’s place for a small gathering. I just couldn’t help but feel like I couldn’t talk to them on the same level anymore. They all had jobs and very productive lives. My friends made me feel like I wasn’t good enough and didn’t deserve to be out of jail in the first place. My confidence had decreased considerably having spent 2 years away from society.
Jogging was a huge motivational beacon to help me navigate the dark, murky waters ahead of me. The sole act of setting my own goals, like being able to run 10 kilometers every second day, and then achieving them, gave me a sense of accomplishment that can hardly be matched by any other activity or motivational tool.
By achieving the goals I had set for my running routine, I also realized I could achieve any other goals I set for myself in other parts of my life. There was no limit to what I could achieve if I just set my mind to it.
This is what I would call: the most underrated benefit of jogging.
There was a time after I got out of rehab when I found myself with too much free time on my hands and nothing to do with it. I just needed something to keep me busy so I wouldn’t be thinking about drugs. That’s when I got a job which took up all of my time. I realized it was counterproductive.This job was making me depressed and setting me on the verge of relapse.
When jogging became part of my routine, I didn’t want to make the same mistake twice, that’s why I was very careful not to push myself too hard. I taught myself proper jogging form and all the specifics of it.
I learned that I should take baby steps first and then slowly move up from there. I started confronting life one day at a time. Still, even if it was just a half an hour jog, I felt fulfilled because I knew I was employing my time in a way that was beneficial to me instead of brooding over things that could be detrimental to my well-being.
6- I Sleep Like A Baby
Another consequence of being an addict was that my brain was altered in much different ways. One of the hardest side effects of addiction for me was not being able to sleep well. There were times when I would stay awake for three days straight. Both while using and while in the recovery phase. I suffered from extreme insomnia.
It all changed when I started jogging, my life became more balanced and my sleeping habits were reestablished. When I began sleeping well, I felt more energized and that contributed to my body recovering faster from the damage it had suffered as a result of my addiction.
Let’s fast forward to the present day. My brother and I co-own a website development company and I can finally say that I feel happy and healthy. I’m a totally different person. When I look back on the long and harsh road I came from, I can objectively appreciate all the benefits and motivation that exercise added to my recovery.
If I could go back in time to that 24-year-old me, who was still struggling with recovery, I would try and convince him to start jogging on a regular basis. The benefits your body and mind receive when you exercise are an invaluable asset to your life and recovery. So if you are considering including jogging into your routine, I’d say go for it, you’ll thank me later. No, actually, you’ll thank YOURSELF later.
Have you had any life-changing experiences with jogging? Let us know in the comment section below.