Win By Showing Up

I learned in recovery that what really matters is just showing up.  Whether it be to a meeting or anything that we do, the decision to actively engage in life rather than isolate, makes you a winner.  In this video, I describe why I compete in men’s physique at the ripe old age of 48 ½.  It’s really not about coming in first, but rather increasing my level of discipline, being around healthy minded people I aspire to be more like and having a great time.   In many ways, the reason I attend twelve step meetings is exactly the same.  I hope you enjoy this blog and maybe get inspired to step out of your comfort zone.

Recovery Spirituality – Send Someone An “Other” Gratitude List

fatherandsongratitudeAn “other” gratitude list is a collection of reasons that you are grateful for having a particular person in your life. As important as creating the “other” gratitude list is sharing it with that person.   I use gratitude lists for myself all the time as they are an effective tool for reminding me just how wonderful my life is, and, to not take all the gifts of the program for granted.  One refrain you will frequently hear here at Spiritual Adrenaline is a “grateful alcoholic or addict will not use.”

So how did I come up with the other gratitude list? Two things occurred in my life simultaneously which resulting in this idea.

Buddhist Teaching of Being “Other” Occupied

I was reading a Buddhist text about the virtues of being other occupied rather than self occupied.   The text describes at length the virtues of being other occupied and reminds us that we must recognize this on a daily basis and make it our business not just to aspire to think and act this way, but to affirmatively do so.   Being other occupied is a Buddhist tool to end our personal suffering and find happiness.


Diagnosis and a Sudden Death

At the same, a member of my extended family passed away quite suddenly.  Everyone was shocked by the diagnosis and two months later, by her death.  By all accounts, this person was an amazing Mom and Grandma and was universally loved.  So many people who interacted with her and who had the privilege of knowing her posted the most beautiful tributes on Facebook.   The church was standing room only for her memorial service as hundreds of people turned out to pay tribute.


Two Concepts Merge

I was thinking to myself how beautiful it would be if the deceased could’ve read the tributes on Facebook and at her memorial service.   I reflected on how powerful it would be to share those strong emotions, most notably immense gratitude, with someone while they were still alive.  I often shy away from expressing strong emotions as a result of the cultural taboo of doing so.  It is often perceived as a sign of weakness rather than strength.  Then I realized that it really doesn’t matter what others think.  If it is a positive action for me and makes one other person feel more loved, that’s what matters.


Other Gratitude List

             So I decided to prepare my own other gratitude list for my Mother.   Over the course of a few days, whenever I remembered something that made me particularly grateful for my Mom I wrote it down. I collected all of these memories as they came to me and prepared my top 100 to share with my Mom.   I mailed the other gratitude list to my Mom along with a thank you card that explained my creating the list.

My Mom loved it.  She called me up and was very grateful for the list.  She explained that so many of the things on the list happened so long ago she was surprised that I remembered.  In fact, she hadn’t thought about many of these events or other things on my list in years.  It was an opportunity to rekindle some of her own fond memories of the wonderful life we have been able to share together.

So many beautiful memories lie dormant, just waiting to be rekindled.


Send Someone You Love an Other Gratitude List

I encourage you to send someone you love or for whom you are grateful an other gratitude list while they are alive and here to share with you how it makes them feel.  For me it was my Mother.  For others it may be a brother, sister, teacher, colleague or friend.   All that matters is that the person is someone who helped you get to where you are in life and for whom you are grateful.

I would love your feedback on this and other posts.   Email me at    Thanks so much for being part of the Spiritual Adrenaline community.



Introduction to Soulfest: Video

Music can change our mood, our thoughts and play an important role in our lives.  Music can play a role in our recovery by keeping us positive, serving as an inspiration and just helping us have fun.  This week we take a look at Soulfest, a Christian, faith-based multi-day concert at Gunstock Mountain in New Hampshire.  Soulfest has a huge recovery presence and is big time fun.  I hope you will check out this video and consider attending Soulfest next year.

Study Confirms Link Between Exercise and Overcoming Addiction

young fitness woman runner running at forest trail

A recent study conducted by U.C.L.A. has confirmed the link between exercise and overcoming addition. The specific conclusion of the study was that exercise contributes to the regrowth of dopamine receptors in the brains of people recovering from addiction to crystal meth.   After reading the full study, I was very excited to learn that the positive results also have a broad application to folks who have a history of abusing alcohol and other drugs and wanted to share it with you right away. Check out the UCLA article here.

The Control Group

For eight weeks, ten people were given an exercise routine that combined both cardiovascular and weight training.   The ten people walked or jogged on a treadmill three times a week for one hour and then engaged in weight training.  The weight training combined machines and free weights.  A second group of nine people were exposed to health education for the same eight weeks.   All of the subjects had a PET scan at the outset and conclusion of the study.

The Results

The results were unequivocal: The ten that exercised regularly had an average increase of 15% in the number of dopamine receptors. The nine that did not saw an increase of just 4%.

But Wait, It Get’s Better

But that was not all.   Exercise appeared to affect other components of the striatum, the part of the brain that releases dopamine. The striatum has different regions that are related to different brain and body functions.  Among the ten participants who exercised, the average increase in the numbers of receptors in the associative region (responsible for memory, attention, perception, awareness, thought and consciousness) was 16%, in the sensory motor region 16% and in the limbic region (responsible for emotions and memory) 8%.   By contrast, the group that did not exercise showed increases averaging only 5% in the limbic region, and 4% in both the associative and sensory-motor regions of the striatum.

The study focused on methamphetamine, an addictive drug that causes the brain to release a spike of dopamine.   However, because many different drugs mimic the effects of methamphetamine in the brain (albeit most not as severely), the results are applicable to people in recovery from a variety of drugs and alcohol.

A methamphetamine high can last up to 6 hours. Dopamine allows cells to communicate, but it also has a role in responding to external stimuli—including drugs—providing sensations of pleasure and satisfaction. Repeated use of meth causes the dopamine system to suppress production and reduces the number of dopamine receptors.

Why Should You Care?

The study proves that brain receptors can recover over time, even more so if you incorporate exercise and healthy nutrition into your recovery.   The only caveat is that the rate at which the brain receptors recover varies widely.  That shouldn’t matter to you:  The fact is that they do recover.  Lastly, we must be patient, as it will take at least six to eight months to restore brain function to what is considered normal levels.

I would love your feedback this and other post.    Please also feel free to share your experiences on this topic with us.  You can email us at