A nutrition and exercise based lifestyle that is practiced along with the twelve steps of recovery.
Spiritual Adrenaline

Recovery Exercise: Relapse to Running

Christy P. and others at the finish lineRunning a marathon was never something I particularly wanted to do, and was NOT something I envisioned doing when I got sober. Marathon runners are impressive and inspiring. They train, with dedication, are committed to their goal, have tenacity and strength of spirit and fierce determination. When I got sober, I wanted all of those things, but did not believe for one second that I had them.

The disease of addiction didn’t impact my life until well into adulthood. I started drinking in an unhealthy way when I was 35 years old. Prior to that, I had a pretty great life. I had built a successful career as a nonprofit development professional, I was married with two beautiful children. I had a lovely home and was fairly healthy. Things came pretty easily and were generally good.

And I’d had pretty normal experiences with drugs and alcohol up to that point—shenanigans in high school, experimentation in college—nothing crazy, nothing alarming. Nothing to indicate what was to come.

Divorce, Drinking and My Bottom …

When I was 35 everything changed. My marriage ended. I immediately entered into a long-term relationship with an alcoholic and addict, though I didn’t recognize that at the time. He had a couple drinks after work every day, drank at all social events, drank before all social events, drank after all social events…. He drank a lot. So I did too. It just became what we did, and it happened so naturally that I didn’t ever think too much about whether or not it was normal or healthy.

Over the course of the next six years—from 2009-2015—I went from drinking fewer than a dozen drinks in any given year to drinking every day, then drinking during the day, then drinking all day and all night, day in and day out. My life completely deteriorated. I lost my job in the fall of 2014, and the relationship with the alcoholic ended the following spring. I had no income, no relationship, and a house I could in no way afford on my own. I had lost everything—including my self-confidence and sense of self-worth.

Miserable, Alone, Wanting to Die …

I spent a year in and out of treatment, racking up fewer than a couple weeks of sobriety at any given time. I went through detox three times within four months, went to group therapy, tried 12-step programs, started working with the best addiction psychiatrist in the area. But I just couldn’t stay sober. I was miserable and alone and I wanted to die. Because I wanted to die, I drank. I drank to make the days disappear and to escape the reality of my life. I hit bottom and bounced up and down there a couple times before I finally got sober in January of 2017.

Sober Energy I Did Not Know What to Do With
I checked myself into a rehab facility in North Carolina for six long weeks. Once sober, I had all this energy that I didn’t quite know what to do with. I started walking a fast mile before and after every meal and spent my one free hour every day on the elliptical machine in the center’s basement gym. I did 10,000 meter endurance rows when we went as a group to an off-site gym twice each week.

When I got home I was terrified. I had no job and this huge hole in my resume that I had no earthly idea how I would explain to potential employers. I was still single and splitting custody with my kids’ father so I had all this time alone. I was facing this monumental task of rebuilding my entire life and I had no idea where to start or what to actually do and I felt incapable of doing anything…. So I started running.

I was so slow, and I ran a painfully boring street route, but I made myself do it every single day. Then a friend introduced me to trail running and I got hooked. I started running five miles in the woods three days each week, slowly building up my endurance for the elevation gains. These became my favorite hours of the week.

ROCovery Fitness and Finding Hope …ROCovery runners

I’d been stalking this amazing nonprofit on Facebook called ROCovery Fitness. It’s a sober active community using fitness and wellness to promote recovery from addiction, and they were just about to open a new community outreach center in an old firehouse that had been gifted to the organization. I decided I’d look into volunteering… I had nonprofit experience which could be useful, but I was willing to do anything. I just wanted to be around other people in recovery, and I needed to be active.

I reached out to Yana Khashper, ROCovery’s co-founder and asked about volunteering. She checked out my resume and saw my experience and asked if I’d be interested in joining the board: “Absolutely” I said. I met with Yana and Sean Smith, the other co-founder, once or twice before my first board meeting, and knew right away that what they were doing was special and I wanted to be involved. It was just the two of them on staff, along with a small army of volunteers supporting their efforts. Within a week of joining the board I approached Yana about volunteering in a more official capacity—I wanted to volunteer like it was my job. They agreed, so I just started showing up every day.

The Rochester Marathon …

A couple of months in, there was talk in the office about a group from ROCovery that was going to run the marathon. Yana and Sean had signed up a young guy named Michael as a surprise to him. He’d never been a runner and he was very early in recovery, but he was motivated. He was showing up at ROCovery every day, working hard. This was a kid who had literally died TWICE from overdose. And they believed he could do it, so they signed him up. And he was excited—you could see how much it meant to him that they believed in him. It was inspiring.

So I signed up too. I was running every day and had been for a few months. I looked into crash training programs for running marathons and figured I’d give it a shot, knowing full-well and reminding myself often that I could always switch to the half marathon if I wanted to. Secretly I intended all along to switch to the half marathon, but that didn’t happen.

I’d been coaching a “Couch to 5K” running group to prepare people for a 5K for ROCovery, which was a week after the marathon, and Michael had come to a few runs. We’d agreed to stick together for the first half, which was all I intended to do, and agreed to go slow and walk as needed. I knew he could do the full marathon, and I knew he would. He had done a couple long training runs with a group from ROCovery, but at that point I still hadn’t run more than 8 miles in my life, so I was not at all sure that I could do it.

The Beast Unleashed!Christy P. approaching the finish line at the Rochester Marathon

The day before the race Michael told me he’d been bragging out his “running partner” with his friends. He referred to me as a “beast,” and I suddenly realized that he thought I could actually run the whole thing. Maybe even a little easily. I was stunned, and knew right then that I had to do it. I believed that Michael could do it, so why didn’t I believe that much in myself?

So I did it. Michael and I stuck together, along with Yana from ROCovery, for the first 13 miles, then we each kept to our own pace and got separated. There were six of us total running from ROCovery, and Michael was the last to finish. The whole ROCovery team crossed the finish line with him. Just thinking about it now makes me cry. He has said since that it was the best day of his life.

I could so easily see Michael’s strength of spirit, even when I couldn’t see my own. I needed to believe in myself, but I also needed to believe in other people, and I needed others to believe in me. THAT is the power of community in recovery, and it’s at the heart of everything at ROCovery Fitness.

Sharing The Gift With Others …

I now work as director of development at ROCovery and it’s the best job I’ve ever had. I’m nine months sober and going strong. For the first time in almost a decade, I believe in myself again, and in the power of the human spirit. I am living proof that recovery is possible, and I am one of thousands who realized that possibility through ROCovery Fitness.

Provide Your Body with Nutrients and Water it Needs in Recovery

When I train to compete in physique competitions, I cut back on carbs and dehydrate for the two days before the competition. In this video, I share how this impacts my physical and mental condition in ways that are not positive and why it’s important to provide your body with the nutrients and water it needs in recovery.

Hell’s Kitchen District Leader Win: Living Proof Promises Come True

This past Tuesday (September 12, 2017), I was elected the male District Leader for Hell’s Kitchen and parts of Chelsea in midtown Manhattan. My running mate, Marisa Redanty, was elected the female District Leader. The male and female District Leaders act as direct liaisons between constituents and their elected officials and often organize and advocate on local issues along with other elected officials. I was worried that with my history of substance abuse, I would not be able to garner support or otherwise be an unattractive candidate. That turned out to be untrue and all local elected officials ultimately endorsed me. The campaign then began in earnest. Since April of this year, we had been working towards this goal. It was a tumultuous summer as the campaign was hard fought. However, the Twelve Steps and the Spiritual Adrenaline lifestyle helped me get through the chaos of the campaign successfully, but more importantly, with my sobriety intact. I want to share some with you some of the lessons I learned along the way.

Sober community: A number of individuals involved with my campaign came from my home group and other meetings I attend on a regular basis. It meant a lot to me that so many people I had gotten to know “in the rooms” over the last 6½ years came out to support my campaign. Not only did they support my campaign, but they supported me in a healthy and mature way. I noticed that people who take the program seriously have a great serenity, even when confronted by the chaos of a hard fought political campaign. When things got nuts, I was able to have intelligent discussions with these individuals about what course of conduct they recommended. I took their advice, as it was almost always drama free and prudent in light of the circumstances.

I went to the same meetings that I have gone to for years. It was important to stay connected to my support base and the aspects of the program that worked for me all these years. At night, I made sure to do a tenth step inventory and write about how the stressors of the campaign and the aspects of the political world that I found challenging. By doing my tenth step every night, I was able to really focus on challenging issues and come up with “sober” ways to handle them.

The process: It’s been about seven years since I was so actively involved in politics. Back in the old days, I tended to surround myself with folks who drank quite a bit and who also smoked. Back then, I smoked as well. It’s interesting to me how these habits impact our friends and the places were we spend time. Back then most of my campaign days would end at a bar or at home with some beer and maybe a bottle. Usually, I was not alone but lingering into the night with others who were also attracted to ending the day with substances.

This time around, it was completely different. I was successful in sticking to my lifestyle, the same one that I advocate here, and it paid off in ways I hadn’t thought possible. I began my day by reading Just for Today and Daily Reflections and made sure to stick to my early morning workout routine. While working out, I was able to meditate and think through important issues without my judgment being skewed by alcohol and/or drugs. I didn’t wake up hang over or otherwise exhausted and made it a priority to get enough sleep. I shut my cell phone off at 9 p.m. every night and didn’t turn it back on until after my morning workout. This let me sleep in peace without the constant texts, emails and calls coming in until late at night.

I made sure to eat healthy to avoid spiking my blood sugar with simple carbs. I brought healthy snacks on the campaign trail to avoid eating fast food and other junk. I watched my caffeine intake to avoid getting myself hyper and over-stimulated. Lastly, I had no nicotine to add to the stress of the campaign and exhaust me by the end of the day. I took things one day at a time and avoided the traps by my opponent. He often caused chaos, hoping either I or others on my campaign would over-react and take the bait: We didn’t.

I got to enjoy the process, which for me was a wholly new experience.

Remembering everything: Because I was not abusing substances, I remember everything and my recollection is clear-as-day. When I was drinking or doing drugs, I never thought my judgment was impaired, but it was. Even a small amount of alcohol can skew my thought process and take me out of the present. That small amount is never enough and I would be off to the races. Often times not remembering much or have very clouded recollections. Thankfully, I can tell you everything that happened from day one accurately given the complete absence of any substances to alter my judgment and/or recollection. It’s awesome to get through such a high-stress endeavor with relatively no drama, no guilt and no apologies to people for blowing a gasket or otherwise over-reacting.

Speaking to the Recovery Community

Accompanying this text blog post is a short video from my remarks after learning we had won the election. I thought it was important for me to include a brief mention to people out there struggling in active addiction or recovery. Check out our campaign’s page.

I want people to know that although they may presently find themselves down, things get better if they work the Twelve Steps and engage in a program of self-care, such as we recommend at Spiritual Adrenaline.

I am living, breathing proof that if you take recovery seriously, you can come back stronger than you ever thought possible. You just have to believe in yourself and never give up!

If you doubt the Twelve Steps or recovery can turn things around for you, stop doubting and get to work. It’s a program of action, not theory. You have the opportunity to succeed beyond your wildest dreams.

Celebrating 4 Years Smoke Free on Mount Rainer

I recently attempted to summit Mount Rainier in Washington State. I didn’t make it to the 14,500 summit but I did climb to 11,200. I plan to get some experience this winter climbing on ice and will give Rainier another go in 2018. Totally beautiful mountain. Hope you enjoy …

The top video is the edited version, the bottom video is the full version.

CrossFit for addiction recovery

Tim Mustion climbing a ropeTim Mustion of Boca Raton, Florida and the CrossFit gym, CrossFit HYPE shares with us his recovery/exercise experiences. After years of mixing drugs and alcohol with CrossFit, I got sober in September 2015 and worked the Twelve Steps. I soon found out that getting involved in the community, being held accountable, and helping others both inside the CrossFit gym and in AA meetings has strengthened my recovery ten-fold and has allowed me to do things I never thought possible. CrossFit and recovery go hand in hand, healing the mind, body, and spirit.

Exercise and Addiction Recovery

“Exercise is a Working Version of the Twelve Steps.” That’s a quote from Samantha S. of ROCovery Fitness in Rochester, New York. Check out this interview and what Samantha has to say about the role of exercise and nutrition, often called outside issues, to success in working the Twelve Steps.

Healthy Fats (Omega 3 and 6) for Addiction Recovery

Healthy fats can play an important role in your recovery by replacing sugar as an energy source. There are many more benefits to including these fats in your diet. I am joined by holistic cooking expert Melanie Albert of EXPnutrition to talk about how these fats can improve your life. FMI visit Melanie’s website at EXPnutrition.com and check out her book “A New View of Healthy Eating.”