The Twelve Steps & Ending Dickish Behavior….

Dr. Mark Borg is the author of a provocative new book, Don’t Be A Dick! The book looks at the underlying reasons people behave badly and offers a roadmap for change through inventories, journals and other hands on tools. This is the final interview in a five part series with Dr. Borg. In this episode, I discuss how and why the Twelve Steps can play a role in ending dickish behavior. If you are interested in learning more, visit http://www.centralrecoverypress.com.

Are You A Dick? Take the Dick Quiz….

Here’s my second interview with Dr. Mark Borg, the author of a provocative new book entitled “Don’t Be A Dick, Change Your Mind, Change Your World”. You can watch the interview below or on the blog at www.spiritualadrenaline.com. If you want to purchase his book, it’s available at Barnes & Noble, on Amazon or at the Central Recovery Press website: www.centralrecoverypress.com. Central Recovery PressMark B Borg Jr….


Why Meditation Can Eliminate The Destructive Forces of Stress

shutterstock_381784540Just like our computer has an operating system, and everything relies upon the functionality of that system, we also have an operating system in our brain. Sometimes, we have to reboot the computer due to a glitch, virus or some other problem. Other times you need to upgrade the operating system so the computer can continue to run smoothly.

Think of meditation as an upgrade to your brain’s operating system. Studies prove that by practicing meditation regularly, we rewire the way our brain processes information, and how we react to people, places and things in our everyday life. One of the slogans at twelve step meetings is “Think Differently,”with the “Think” upside down. Science has proven that we can in fact change the way our brain operates, and really think differently.

Meditation was originally an ancient Buddhist technique designed to quiet the “monkey mind.” Buddhist sutras teach that without the ability to quiet the mind, it is not possible to bring an end to actual or perceived suffering and move closer to enlightenment. Fast forward to the present where meditation has adapted these teachings for the modern world. The goal of meditation is to stay in the present, and simply notice feelings and thoughts, as they come and go.

Here is the undisputed evidence of the benefits of a regular meditation practice:

Less Fear: MRI scans prove that after an eight-week course of mindfulness, study participants’ fight or flight center (the amygdala), the primal region of the brain that handles our most basic instincts, appeared to shrink. This area of the brain is associated with fear and emotion, and is responsible for our response to stress. The degree of change was directly correlated to the number of hours of practice.

Less Pain: Researchers studied the reaction of experienced meditators to painful stimuli. The studies showed that the more experienced and committed meditators reported less pain in response to the stimuli. Even though participants reported feeling less pain, scans of their brains showed the same or more brain activity in the pain centers. So according to their brain function, they experienced the same degree of pain, but experienced less pain. Researchers attribute this to the meditators’ ability to exercise control, or become “uncoupled” in the anterior and cingulate cortex regions of the brain.

Feeling Zen: Even when not meditating, experienced meditators’ brains’ default, or baseline function, was substantially different than that of non-practitioners. Their brains functioned at the same level of non-practitioners when the non-practitioner’s were meditating. The researchers characterized this as the continuing state of “zen,” the result of years of experience and training in meditation.

My Experience

There is no dispute that meditation works. Science has confirmed the benefits that practitioners have enjoyed for thousands of years.

Cover of Spiritual Adrenaline

When I first started meditating four years ago, I could not sit still for ten minutes. My monkey mind was all over the place – thinking about the past, the future, and everywhere in the present other than where my physical body was located.

I was never really present. In early recovery I smoked which made meditation and being present all the more difficult. Nicotine was an enemy because I always wanted a cigarette. I would have constant thoughts about whether I could sneak out of wherever I was to have a smoke. I was also constantly “craving” the smoke, so I was unable to stay in the present and enjoy.

I struggled through meditation, but over time, was able to focus for 20 minutes, then 30, then 45, and then more. Currently, I can meditate for about an hour. When I am under stress, even ten minutes is difficult, but I force myself to stay planted and focus. This helps to calm my mind, and move me past the stress. For the most part, I am able to rein in my “monkey mind.” Quitting smoking really made this easier.

I am still a beginner, and I do not really like meditation. It makes me feel uncomfortable. That’s exactly why I force myself to do it.

The Spiritual Adrenaline Solution

In my book, Spiritual Adrenaline: A Lifestyle Plant to Strengthen & Nourish Your Recovery, I include lots of variations for simple meditations you can do in the privacy of your own home.  I also include evidence-based research  confirming the short and long-term benefits of mediation.  Check out Chapter 11, pages 162–181 to learn how to integrate mediation into your daily life.  I’ve got mediations you can do while cooking, eating meals, attending twelve step meetings and exercise.  I’ve also included a full body mediation that refocuses you back on your own health and helps you make conscious contact with your own body.   For more information on my book, visit http://www.spiritualadrenaline.com.

Recommended Reading for Beginners: Meditation for Beginners, Jack Kornfeld, The Power of Now, A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, Echart Tolle.

We would love your feedback on this and other blogs. Shoot us an email or short video to: blog@spiritualadrenaline.com.

Sober Hike to Machu Picchu, April 2020…

If you are looking to supercharge your recovery, join other sober adventures as we hike the four day Inca Trail from Cusco to Machu Picchu. This is a hike, not a technical climb, so no prior climbing experience is needed. So far, the age of those who have signed up goes from 30 to 70 years old. No one has any prior climbing or major hiking experience. What all of them have in common is the desire to do something new, challenge themselves to step out of their recovery comfort zone, and be with other people who are supportive and looking to do the same. For our day-to-day itinerary, visit http://www.spiritualadrenaline.com and check out the adventures page. You didn’t get sober to be bored. So join us on this bucket list adventure.

Gratitude Trip: Grand Canyon – Day Four, the Final Ascent…

Indian Garden to South Rim

Twilight at Indian Garden

We woke at 3:30 a.m. on the final day of our hike with the goal of getting started by 4:30 a.m., to beat the sun and allow some hikers who were having trouble more time to ascend.  I packed up my tent and camp for the final time and was excited to embrace the challenge this day would bring.   I said my final goodbye to Indian Garden and The Plateau and silently thanked this place for hosting me for the previous night. I recognized the privilege I had been given as I embarked on the last major portion of the hike.  I decided to break with my group for the day and challenge myself to ascend as fast as possible.   I still have a heavy load of about fifty-pounds in my backpack.  However, I want to see just how hard I could push my heart and lungs and what they are capable of.   

The final ascent was harder than I anticipated.  I had seen many-out-of-shape day hikers come down into Indian Garden and then head back up and thought to myself if they can do, it must be a piece of cake.  However, I hadn’t realized I saw them after they came down, not after they went back up. The ascent is a consistent incline and continues all the way up.  I pushed myself and continued to motor up.  As we started out so early, I did not pass any other hikers who were on their way up.  I also didn’t pass many hikers who were on their way down until I was almost all the way to the South Rim.   I felt amazing!  My body was still able to perform after four days to rigorous activity.  I could feel my heart pounding. I thought to myself how blessed I am to have a heart capable of such physical activity at the ripe old age of 51.   My lungs never failed me and I kept breathing deep, in an out, without any wheezing like eight years ago.  I kept thinking to myself how miraculous the body truly is and how it can heal itself with self-care and time.   

View down into Canyon from Bright Angel Trail near South Rim.

This got me going on a full-body mediation.  I started with my toes and made my way all the way to my head.  As I hiked up the switchbacks, I tried to pay close attention to how each body-part felt, the work each was doing to help me ascend and to identify the other parts of my body that were working together to make all of this possible. For example, I really focused on my how my calf, quadriceps and hamstring muscles all worked together to permit me to lift my feet.  The more attention I paid, the more I realized that each-and-every-step is a miracle.  How each and every breath is in-and-of-itself a miracle. I was sofocused on how my body was functioning one step at a time, one breath at a time, that when I looked up, I was almost at the South Rim.   Hours had seemingly turned into minutes and I was very close to my goal.  Just as I was about to reach the South Rim, a young man who I gotten to know over the last couple of days of passed me and said: “Ha, ha, I’m going to beat you up!”  I was so impressed by the fact that he beat me, I bought him breakfast.  Turns out, he is also in recovery.  His drug of choice was crystal meth and he has been sober for two years.   I then met his Dad, sister and nephew who were hiking with him.   His Dad had twenty-years in recovery from alcohol.  I thought to myself, what a small world.  I also thought to myself, miracles are all around us if we chose to recognize them.  I have seen so many miracles over the last eight-years and know that by continuing to live the Spiritual Adrenaline lifestyle, I will be blessed to see many, many more.  

My Final Gratitude List and Reflections

As we drove back to Flagstaff, my brain was overwhelmed by the sensory overload that is the Grand Canyon. It’s a lot to take in and I think it will take me a long-time to truly digest all of what I experienced over the last four days.  I am grateful for being in the natural splendor of the Canyon, which reaffirmed my belief in a higher power.   I am grateful for the people I met in the Canyon and shared the journey with.  I met a father and son who were hiking together and enjoying an experience that neither would ever forget.  I could sense their love for one another and that each recognized the opportunity to share this experience together as something incredibly special.  I’d have given anything to have the same experience with my Dad, who passed away fifteen-years ago.  In a way, watching the two of them allowed me to imagine what it would have been like for me to have been able to do this with my Dad. This was a very special and unexpected gift.

Tom at South Rim after four-day hike.

I watched members of my small group struggle to get through each of the days but never quit.  I watched as things got tougher and we all supported one another.  What became important was not that Imake it to the South Rim, but that we, collectively as a group, make it to the South Rim. The power is in the collective, rather than individual experience.  I am grateful to have had the opportunity to have been of service on two days, and carried the backpack for another hiker who was struggling.  I am grateful to have met other members of the recovery community along the trail.  This reinforced my belief in the power of combining exercise and nutrition, a/k/aself-care, into an addiction recovery program. Also, the power of being in nature and way from the concrete and crowds of the big city.  Lastly, I am grateful to no longer have my life confined to a small and unhealthy comfort zone.  I’m grateful that I now recognize that life truly begins outside of my existing comfort zone.  

People, places and things matter. I am grateful for all of the people, places and things, I experienced over the last four days!  

Tom Shanahan is the author of Spiritual Adrenaline: A Lifestyle Plan to Strengthen & Nourish Your Recovery, published by Central Recovery Press in January 2019. You can purchase Spiritual Adrenaline on Amazon or at Barnes & Noble. For more information, visit www.spiritualadrenaline.com.

Gratitude Trip: Grand Canyon – Day Two

Cottonwood to Bright Angel Camp Through “The Box”


I slept like a baby last night at the Cottonwood Campground. From inside my tent, I could see the star’s shining bright up in the unobscured night sky: It was magical. I woke very early and watched as twilight started and a blue silhouette arose above the red rock cliffs all around me. The sky turned slowly from black to blue and then the sun came up with beaming rays of pink and purple, before turning to an unobstructed blue sky over Cottonwood and the Grand Canyon.

After our grilled bacon, egg and hash brown breakfast, we packed up and set out at 6 a.m., for another day of hiking along the Bright Angel Creek. The only way I can describe the cathedral like red-rock walled canyons surrounding Bright Angel Creek is spiritual. The area is known as “The Box”.   Being in The Box felt like attending a mass or sermon in a beautiful natural cathedral. I felt as if the rock canyon was speaking to me.  Being here reaffirmed my belief in a power greater than myself.  Some call that a higher power, others call it God and still others call that the Creator.  For me, I spent many hours communing with the Creator as I made my way through this spectacular place. Towards the end of our hike, we pass the world-famous Phantom Ranch as we arrived at our next campsite: Bright Angel.

Cooling off in stream near Phantom Ranch


We anticipated a 90+ degree day and lots of sun. It turned out to be 106 degrees!  The heat was exhausting but both Cottonwood and Bright Angel are near creeks with ice cold water.  I got in the creeks as frequently as possible to avoid overheating. It’s an all-natural form of air conditioning and cooling and worked perfectly well.

I’d always heard of Phantom Ranch and was thrilled to finally have the opportunity to see it in person. The Ranch is a 1930’s retreat with cabins and dorms. The Ranch has become an icon of a bygone era. It’s like going back in time. It’s limited number of accommodations are in high demand. The only way to stay at the Ranch is to win a lottery or like us, stay at the nearby Bright Angel Campground along the creek.  The camp is full of adventurous, sunburned, outdoor enthusiasts, most of whom are having the time of their lives. No alcohol is allowed in the camp-sites so the environment is not loud and crazy.   The lack of alcohol also has a lot to do with the fact that you’d have to pack it in and pack it back out.   Carrying alcohol adds lots of weight to your pack so you’d have to be a real alcoholic to bring a large amount with you. The Campground is peaceful and contemplative. I’d describe it as an oasis of serenity surrounded by breathtaking natural beauty.
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Some in my group decided to head to the Phantom Ranch. I decided to turn in early and enjoy the relaxing sound of the creek, review my amazing photos from the day and put together my gratitude list. Here it is: I’m grateful for: the natural beauty of the red-rock canyons that mesmerized me today: my wonderful guide Julie and fellow hikers who I laughed with continuously throughout a challenging day; getting to visit Phantom Ranch, which I’ve heard so much about and never thought I’d get to see; the cool water of Bright Angel Creek that made 106 degrees bearable; my lungs which have now permitted me to hike many miles from the North Rim to Bright Angel Camp without difficulty and a fifty-pound back on my back; the twelve steps and sober activity community which has inspired me to push myself and always do more rather than less; overcoming my fear of heights and not letting fear keep me from hiking here; the absence of internet, text messages and emails that would distract me and take me out of the present; and, a willingness to live a life outside my comfort zone.

As I climb into my tent after one of the most rewarding days I’ve had in my entire life, I get excited to put self-care first.  I went to bed at 7 p.m. rather than heading back to Phantom Ranch to hang out until late.  I’m also excited to look for the Big Dipper through the screen on my tent and enjoy looking at all the other stars without city lights or pollution. I’m excited to wake up tomorrow which wasn’t the case when I was in active addiction. I’m truly blessed and smart enough to know it.  I’ll have sweet dreams given the beaming gratitude emanating from my heart. Good night!

Tom Shanahan is the author of Spiritual Adrenaline: A Lifestyle Plan to Strengthen & Nourish Your Recovery. You can purchase Spiritual Adrenaline on Amazon or at Barnes & Noble.

Gratitude Trip: The Grand Canyon – Day 1


It’s 4:30 a.m. and I’m in a van heading for the northern most point in Arizona to begin my four-day, three-night, hike from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon to the South Rim.  The sun is coming up over the horizon. There are no buildings or other traces of modern “civilization” for as far as the eye can see.  As we enter the Navajo reservation, I cannot help but think of how blessed I am to see the beauty around me and to be getting started on this magical adventure. I am getting quite emotional as I am overcome with gratitude, for the gift of health that permits me to be here to enjoy this experience. 

It was only eight years ago that I had difficulty walking a city block without wheezing. My lungs were damaged from twenty-four years of smoking and eating unhealthy foods. My lower gums were bleeding from putting cocaine on them. I had constant chest pains from the cocktail of deadly substances I ingested as well as the processed and comfort foods that comprised my active addiction diet. I was so sick in May 2011 that on the way to Conifer Park, a drug and alcohol rehab in upstate New York, I had to be taken by ambulance to the cardiac unit at Ellis Hospital near Albany. I spent two days there for observation before being released and transferred to Conifer. I stayed at Conifer for twenty-eight days. Fast forward eight years and I’m on my way to hike across the Grand Canyon. Last year I hiked to the Mount Everest Base Camp and before that to Machu Picchu, the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Rainier and other smaller mountains. 

Tom along the Day One route to Cottonwood Camp.


My trips to these places are called “Gratitude Trips”. When I go on vacation, I try to focus on places I’ve always wanted to go, but only talked about and never followed through.  I focus on celebrating my health and embracing the recovery process: A process of health, hope and healing. My gratitude trips reinforce the radical change in my physical and mental health that happened once I let go absolutely of old ideas that led me to dark places. The lifestyle I lay out in my book Spiritual Adrenaline: A Lifestyle Plan to Nourish & Strengthen Your Recovery, published by Central Recovery Press, is the plan I followed. It incorporates the twelve step into what I eat, how much I exercise and my spiritual program. I’ve learned that self-care is the opposite of active addiction. In my book, I share with you the tools that I utilized to radically transform my life and got me started on my journey.    I invite you to join me for the next four days.  


Day One

We arrived at the North Rim, our start point after a four hour van-ride through the Navajo reservation and rolling empty dessert hills as far as the eye can see. Fear always tries to exert itself when I am starting a hike.  Fear starts to tell me “you shouldn’t go, you’re not going to make it”, “your too old for this” and “turn around before its too late”.  I usedto listen to fear and believe its self-limiting message that sabotaged me on so many levels.  That has changed over the last eight years.  Given all that I have accomplished, I tell fear to go f*?! itself and I push on down the trail into the Grand Canyon.  Fear no longer has the power it used to have. It’s been replaced by the confidence that comes from succeeding one day at a time for the last eight years. As we descend into the Canyon, the landscape looks more like the moon. The rocks and cliffs in the distance give you perspective on the millions of years it took to create this place. It’s awe inspiring no matter which way I turn. I also realize that I am not getting calls, receiving texts or emails and am totally present right here, right now. No external distractions from back home and my professional and private life to interrupt the spiritual connection I am having with nature and my creator.  I have my phone in airplane mode, which I write about in Spiritual Adrenaline.  To me, airplane mode is a spiritual tool that enables me to practice mindfulness. As we carefully head down seven miles into the Canyon, I focus on my breath and how my lungs feel so strong, without any wheezing. I focus on my steps and think of something I am grateful for each time I take a step. I meditate on how radically different my life would have been if I had not gotten sober. I realize I’d probably have had a stroke by now and maybe COPD.  You cannot hike the Grand Canyon with an oxygen tank!  These meditative practices always bring me back to my breath.  My breath brings me back to gratitude.

The spectacular view along the hike.


Today’s hike was no walk in the park. It was exhausting with the sun shining and temperatures hovering around 100.  The sun heats up the rocks, making the terrain even hotter and more challenging.  I had high expectations for the beauty of this place.  They were not only met, but exceeded, on my very first day. The color of the rocks and the vegetation come together in a kaleidoscope that had me mesmerized. The scope of the place also had me in awe. Geologists confirm that for every foot of sedimentary rock is equal to 10,000 years of earth’s history.  We started at the North Rim, where the rocks are 250 million years old. We camped at Cottonwood Campground for the night, seven miles down and surrounded by rocks that are 1.7 billion years old. The scope of this place is almost impossible to comprehend.

I made a short gratitude list at the end of the day to memorialize how I was feeling. I am grateful for: my health, my sobriety: my family: my sense of adventure; friends who are wonderful and extremely giving; people in my life who inspire me and challenge me to be a better person; the amazing people who I’ve gotten to know from Spiritual Adrenaline; nature; god; and, being born in the United States.

Tom Shanahan is the author of Spiritual Adrenaline: A Lifestyle Plan to Strengthen & Nourish Your Recovery, published by Central Recovery Press. Spiritual Adrenaline is available on Amazon or at your local Barnes & Noble Store.

Ignite Recovery: Wisconsin & The Sober Active Movement!

Ignite Recovery, based in Wisconsin, is the latest sober active group that has successfully integrated a healthy lifestyle into an overall addiction recovery program.   I interviewed the founders to find out how Ignite came to be and to learn about Ignite’s mission.   Here’s my interview with the founders of Ignite.  

A group shot of members of Ignite-Recovery in Wisconsin.

What are your short-term goals and long-term goals for Ignite?

Our short-term goals are to increase the capacity and membership of our sober active lifestyle community.  We are also involved in community outreach to reduce the stigma around addiction and recovery.  We are accomplishing these short-term goals by increasing our class offerings and expanding Ignites’ reach. This has been a grassroots recovery movement and we have been building partnerships throughout southeast Wisconsin. Through these partnerships, we have been able to find new locations to offer our classes.  

Our long-term goal is to start planting recovery outreach centers through Wisconsin. Our plan is to start small, but we are striving to create the Ignite model for these recovery outreach centers.       Our dream would be to have space with a warehouse-style gym, yoga studio and cafe that serves healthy foods. We want to create a space where people can connect with one another and grow in physical, mental, and spiritual wellness. 

The inclusion of Mixed Martial Arts (“MMA”) is unique.   I am not aware of any other similar type program here in the United States!  How does MMA fit into an overall recovery program?  People think of yoga and meditation when they think of recovery but not MMA.  So, let’s enlighten them to the benefits since what you are doing is unique. 

All of our offerings are about serving, mobilizing, and empowering the local recovery community.  When we launch a class or group it is really about what the local community wants to do.  Offering MMA classes came about because a person in recovery reached out to me about being of service.  He is certified as a personal trainer, he trains people in jiu-jitsu, boxing, kickboxing, etc. and he wanted to give back to people in recovery.  For Ignite, it is really about us being able to empower himto help others.  When we talked more, MMA is about self-discipline, embracing pain, and becoming a better, stronger person.  Before we launched the first MMA class, “Fight for Recovery”, we started asking our community what they thought and if people would be interested in attending. The overwhelming response was yes!

For us, Ignite Recovery is about creating opportunities for people to connect and find their tribe. Nobody is pressured to do anything they do not want to do.  If you want to do MMA – do that, if you want to do yoga – do that, if you want to train for triathlons – do that.  As long as it is about creating community and growing in recovery together, we will probably support it.   

Shari is the mother of someone in recovery.  I asked her how a sober active community can benefit the families of people in addiction recovery?

For almost 4 years I’ve been co-facilitating a family support group for those with loved ones who are either in active substance use or in recovery. My sole credentials for first working with families was that of being a mom of a person in recovery.

Aerial yoga and Sharon, one of its founders.

Ignite embraces both harm reduction and the ideology of the evidence-based CRAFT (Community Reinforcement and Family Therapy) approach. There are three things at the core of this: First, is a need to pull families out of their unhealthy entanglements with their loved ones — yes, we get too close and try to micromanage everything.  Second, we share with them some of the best strategies for moving their loved ones toward treatment (no, you can’t force them to do anything). And third, we teach them some of the best ways to support a family member in recovery (lean in when you can, step back when you have to). So, those who embrace CRAFT, also embrace the idea that there is value to understanding as much as they can about their loved one’s condition.  For many families, these basic concepts are game-changers and Ignite plays a part at in each.

Having a sober active community is the first line of defense when your loved one is using, and you need self-care. Take a yoga class. Go on a Sunday morning hike with people who are journeying toward recovery (and see what possibilities are out there).   We also provide a valuable resource.  Family members can sit in an open meeting after a class. Listen and learn from the experience of others   Finally Ignite is a useful tool for reconnecting with a family member once they’re on their recovery path.  For example, at one of the Ignite classes, I met a mother and daughter who were doing just that. They were taking one a yoga class together because they had been looking for a place where they could just “be” together.  Ignite provides a neutral space where people can be safe just being themselves.

Given the reality of so many student athletes getting hooked on opiates for sports-related injuries, I wanted to know how Ignite could benefit this growing demographic within the addiction recovery community.

Members of Ingite after a CrossFit workout.

The benefit is enormous.  Many young people struggle to connect with the treatment world, particularly with AA. While all of us at Ignite are huge proponents of the program (for family members, of course, t’s the community of Al-Anon), we know that many struggle with the feeling that AA was the only community for addicts. So, if you’re not sitting in a church basement somewhere talking about your issues, you’re not healing. Often, a person is scared or uncomfortable to open up in a small room filled with chairs in a circle. It’s difficult to develop relationships, true relationships with individuals that way.  For an athlete, it’s easier to work out, sweat, feel pain together and at the end there is this connection over something common you did together.  And, after a few times, it grows from a “Hello”, to a “How was your weekend” to knowing intimate details about another person. It’s funny, because it’s almost like dating. There is a fear of opening up at times, specifically in the meeting rooms. But once you do, it changes your life.  And if that connection you made at Ignite reaches out and goes to a meeting, that person may feel stronger to open up because they have support with them.  There’s a lot of healing that can be done in experiential communities — a lot of bonding that can happen while hiking, climbing, working out at the gym. 

Adam lived in a sober house for a period of time and that experience helped him stay sober.  I asked Adam about how he benefited from that experience and how others could as well. 


Adam and his family



When I first found recovery, I was a mess.  Living in a sober house help me learn how to live life again.  I got connected to 12-step recovery groups and I launched myself on a path spiritual progress.  Being active was also a big part of that early journey that has continued for the past now 8 plus years.  I began going to the gym with another guy in the sober living and working out became a consistent part of my life.  I also got connected with a recovery softball team (where I met Tim), got back into rock climbing, and started playing beach volleyball.  It was really about doing all the activities I loved to do, and the disease of addiction had gotten in the way of.  Working the steps, sponsoring guys, and being active has always been a huge part of my recovery.  I was always trying to grow and be a better person.  I am also pretty competitive, so I spent a few years training for beach volleyball and competing in tournaments.  The importance that being active has had on my journey and my physical, mental, and spiritual growth is what led us to launch Ignite Recovery and create an inclusive active lifestyle community.  We just know how important fitness has been to us and we want to help others find fitness in recovery.

Ben has shared publicly in the past about how his addiction to pain-killers began at the dentist.  I asked him what advice he has for others about pain killers for dental visits or other routine medical procedures? 

I work in the medical field as a Veterinarian and have many friends on the human medical side as well. The government is doing a great job at restricting the access of prescription pain medications. Most practitioners are starting to avoid opioids as a first line of defense for pain management and opting for other, non-addictive substances.  But, more than likely, there will be a time in almost every child’s life when they will be prescribed opioids.  And rather than blindly doling them out without fear of consequence, parents should educate themselves as much as possible. The same care they give to what their children eat, and what they watch on TV really needs to be given to what medications they allow them to have — even more so.  They will need to research addiction and understand its causes and causalities.  

The first Vicodin (Hydrocodone) I ever took was prescribed for my wisdom teeth.  I remember it vividly:  Sitting in a living room chair, staring at the wall, thinking this was the greatest thing ever.  But, as stated earlier, education is key.  Because of this experience I definitely had a genetic component in me that would have reared its ugly head at any time.  The next thing to consider is that while my prescription was only for 5 days, I had easy access other opiates. The problem arose when I realized my mother (who had a significant medical condition and has had many operations), had a cabinet full of Vicodin (hydrocodone) that she never finished.  I had direct access to something that my parents never in their wildest dreams ever thought was a problem. It was not locked up, not thought about, or ever checked on. I stole that medication for months with no one being the wiser.  Herein lies the larger issue.  Potentially, if these unused prescriptions were disposed of correctly, or accounted for in a lock box or safe box, itmayhave slowed my progression.  But as an addict, I would have found a way.  I would have bought them or lied in the locker room to get them.

Most parents think, “never with my child” and I had a white collar, privileged upbringing.  That is how my parents thought.  But addiction doesn’t care about income, race, sexuality or any defining factors you can think of.  Its all-encompassing and can affect anyone.  So, if there are controlled substances in the house.  Lock them up.  Keep track of them! Do not put them under the bathroom sink and forget about them. 

I asked Tim about how got started and why CrossFit has become an important part of his program personally and at Ignite….  Here is what he had to say.   

A.J., a member of Ignite getting his pump on

A good friend who I met through a co-ed recovery softball league came to me with an idea about a community non-profit that was based around fitness.  He showed me what The Phoenix (then known as Phoenix Multisport) was doing and how it was centered around CrossFit.  I thought that idea was great! I have my CF-L1 and I also coach classes at CrossFit Waukesha which is where Ignite holds its functional fitness classes right now. I’ve been to prison twice which is where I found time to do correspondence courses through ISSA. Ultimately, I received my personal trainer certification. Almost seven years later, with a lot of work by a lot of people, we’ve launched interest meetings doing CrossFit and it has blossomed.

Why is CrossFit so popular in the addiction recovery community?   How does it benefit members of that community?

So many reasons!  In general, CrossFit is about fitness.  Our physical, mental, and spiritual health are all interwoven.  I love how CrossFit talks about fitness being beyond wellness.  Where wellness is normality, being healthy, and the absence of disease.  Fitness is having a heightened defense against disease.  When we look at our physical, mental, and spiritual wellness we actually want to be FIT.  We want physical, mental, and spiritual fitness to provide a heightened defense against the disease of addiction.  Like you would say, we want to supercharge our recovery – and CrossFit enhances our fitness. 

CrossFit naturally creates community.  Tim, Shari, and I along with some others in our community all belong to CrossFit Waukesha and the structure of classes create opportunities for people to connect.  It is not like going to some chain gym where everyone is listening to music on headphones, their face is in their phones, and they just want to work out and leave.  At CrossFit, people are talking, connecting, encouraging each other.  They connect with those who work out at their box and they notice when somebody misses a class.  CrossFit’s ability to build community and relationships is perfect for the recovery community.

CrossFit is both a physical and mental test.  Physically it’s about the sport, there is infinite room for improvement and growth.  Everything is measurable so you can really see where and how you are getting better.  Nothing feels better than a new PR – hitting a big lift or smashing an old time.  At the same time, CrossFit is just as much about the mental aspect of the sport – the sports psychology.  It’s about embracing the pain and knowing what your body can do.  So many times, it’s about a mindset.  My legs, arms, and lungs will be on fire and my mind will tell me to stop, yet when we embrace the pain and keep pushing a breakthrough is often waiting.  Nothing feels better than physically doing something your mind tells you that you can’t.  This carries over into our recovery journey.  We are going to deal with pain and things that are uncomfortable and being fit helps us overcome adversity.  

CrossFit is often referred to as “functional fitness” and many of us in the recovery aren’t just looking for something that helps us tone or look good — for many of us ‘fitness’ is about being able to function in the world and to do the work that has been given to us to do. So, the term “function” takes on a whole new meaning. It really fits us.Ultimately, CrossFit enhances our physical, mental, and spiritual fitness so we can have resilience in recovery!

To learn more about Ignite, visit their Facebook page @IgniteRecovery or their website: www.ignite-recovery.org.