Integrate CrossFit into Alcohol and Addiction Recovery: Sober Sundays

Meet Tim Mustion of Temperance Training in Boca Raton. Along with his sponsor, Anthony Fazio and Rob Thomas, owner of CrossFit Hype, Tim is helping to integrate CrossFit into the recovery of former alcoholics and addicts in South Florida. I hope you enjoy this look at some cutting-edge work in the holistic recovery movement …

Addiction Recovery: Mike H’s story of sobriety

I have been sober for more than thirty years. I am pleased and honored to share my journey with you.

picture of Mike H.

Growing Up Around Addiction …

My family has a history of addiction and many of my loved one’s have died as a result. As a child, I remember my Mother clinging to her father while he lay in his casket. She was showering him with kisses and tears and she had to be pulled away so the casket could be closed. My grandfather was a wonderful man but an alcoholic. My family tried to get him to stop, but he never was able to conquer this addiction and died far to young from the life-long damage. I remember hearing my Mom tell how they knew he was hiding bottles every where and they had to search the house daily. I can still remember the familiar smell of stale beer that permeated his skin like cologne.

Sowing The Seeds of Addiction …

As much pain as I saw this disease cause my Mom, it didn’t stop me from having my first drink of Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill Wine when I was in the seventh grade. I abandoned wine altogether after having gotten into a friends Grandfather’s homemade wine. That left me so sick and with a hangover that even today the smell of wine rushes me back to the memory of that night and next day. I switched to beer which tasted horrible at the time, but I would force down the three that would give me the buzz I needed. It took more for my friends to get drunk. I was considered a light weight. By the end of my high school years I could handle a six or twelve pack and hangovers were few and far between. Once I started drinking, I couldn’t stop at three or four even if I was drunk and feeling good. I never saw my parents drunk although they would have a glass of wine each evening together after dinner.

From Student Athlete to Full Blown Alcoholic …

In high school I was on the soccer, gymnastics and tennis team so athletics played an important role in my personal development and social life. As drinking became a regular activity on the weekends I was able to stay away from the invitations to smoke pot and do other drugs because I didn’t think it would help with my performance and I had this innate feeling it would corrupt my body. I not really sure how I rationalized the drinking, but I did. I started a gymnastic school in my backyard the summer after my freshman year at college. Although I was a good athlete, I was never the superstar, so I decided to coach. I opened the first home in the country for gymnasts to live and train away from home called GYMNEST. I started to produce state, regional and nationally ranked gymnasts. I became the youngest member of the United States Junior Olympic coaching staff and spent many weeks throughout the year at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.

Those were my glory days, but did not come without lots of stress and pressure. This escalated my drinking problem. Sometimes, it was the only way I could sleep. I also used the stress and pressure to justify immoral behavior and other vices. I would then fall back on my drinking as a defense to my inappropriate behavior. When confronted about it, I would always say “I was drunk!”. Many things transpired in my life that were not positive due to alcohol. Finally, with alcoholism causing problems in many of my relationships coupled with the memory of the pain alcohol caused my mother, I decided to quit cold turkey. I told myself “I am never touching a drink again!” Although this doesn’t work for most, it did for me and I have been sober for more than thirty years.

Embracing Recovery and Outside Issues …

I was always into working out and staying in shape, but once I made this commitment to never drink again, I used personal training as a ground to strengthen not just my body, but my spirit and will. AA meetings didn’t work for me because at that time smoking was allowed and I just couldn’t exist in a smoke filled room longer than five minutes. I did use the twelve steps in a natural way, as I simultaneously returned to my faith. I trained myself to be sober like I would train one of my athletes to become their best. There are the obvious physiological benefits from exercise and eating healthy, but I was and still am gaining strength in areas that help me win my daily battle against addiction.

Train To Be Sober …

Here is a synopsis of what worked for me and that might benefit you!

Set Goals …

The first is having GOALS. An athlete thinks and dreams about winning and sets goals to make it a reality. Some people start working out to lose weight, others to gain muscle or to run a race with a better time. Those of us in recovery need goals as well: That goal is to be sober for today! If you just have a desire to be sober the rest of your life it can almost seem overwhelming and impossible, but to be sober for one hour, three, six, or a day is within reach and you know it can be done.

Marathon runners do not start training by running a full marathon. Rather, by running shorter distances and then as time goes on, developing more endurance. Over time, they can run longer and stronger. When I am strength training, I set a goal at the moment as to the number of reps I want to do and try to push myself to that number. On good days, I try to do some extra’s. The more I do this, the stronger I get. Each and every day I remained sober, the more confidence and strength I acquired. So when we have gained more muscle or lost weight and accomplished our goals, we are more confident to win other battles in our lives. Dream of a life of recovery, free from the pain that addiction causes and set that goal of being sober step-by-step until you stand on top of that victory.

Learn the Art of Discipline …

The second is the art of DISCIPLINE to maintain a workout schedule. Once you make the commitment to workout, go to a meeting, spend time in prayer and meditation, meet with a friend etc., you have to do so with the attitude that “Come Hell or high water, I am doing it”. This basically means you are determined to do it despite what difficulties you might encounter. For over thirty years that I have been sober I have not missed my weekly workouts. If I was to busy during the day and I had to run or workout at midnight, I did and still do. With 24-hour fitness centers we can never have an excuse!

When I went on vacation I always found the nearest church and gym. I had my spiritual and physical workout done before any of my family woke to start their day. My determination to stay in shape matched and complimented my desire to remain sober. They have been like friends that strengthen each other! I don’t believe as much in self-discipline as our need for a power greater than ourselves to fulfill our commitments and his will for our lives. We need the grace of God to fight our human nature that makes excuses and takes short cuts to developing the discipline we need to win each day!

Sober People Have Persevered …

The third is PERSEVERANCE. This is a virtue I learned through my participation in sports and working out. It is also crucial to winning the battle against addiction. There are days when I feel like I am not making any progress. I couldn’t do as many reps as I did in my last workout, I didn’t feel like I was gaining any muscle or for others that they stopped losing weight or they ran slower than their last race. We sometimes eat what we shouldn’t have or skipped a workout all together. So do we just give up and say I just can’t do this? Sometimes it just hurts and my body is screaming to stop. But when I persevere through these moments, it is what really makes me strong.

Some may have a relapse and fall into total despair believing they just can’t go on. I encourage you to go the distance. I used to have a sign in my gym that read: “To fail is to stop trying!” I have always admired when I see someone with a disability cross the finish line at a race when they knew they would not have a chance of winning. Victory for them was just showing up, enjoying the experience and finishing. We are all handicapped in some way and we should learn it’s the journey, not the destination that matters.

Sober People Have Persevered …

The third is PERSEVERANCE. This is a virtue I learned through my participation in sports and working out. It is also crucial to winning the battle against addiction. There are days when I feel like I am not making any progress. I couldn’t do as many reps as I did in my last workout, I didn’t feel like I was gaining any muscle or for others that they stopped losing weight or they ran slower than their last race. We sometimes eat what we shouldn’t have or skipped a workout all together. So do we just give up and say I just can’t do this? Sometimes it just hurts and my body is screaming to stop. But when I persevere through these moments, it is what really makes me strong.

Some may have a relapse and fall into total despair believing they just can’t go on. I encourage you to go the distance. I used to have a sign in my gym that read: “To fail is to stop trying!” I have always admired when I see someone with a disability cross the finish line at a race when they knew they would not have a chance of winning. Victory for them was just showing up, enjoying the experience and finishing. We are all handicapped in some way and we should learn it’s the journey, not the destination that matters.

Crossing the Finish Line of Life Sober …

My sport and fitness training has taught me to never give up and to persevere no matter what. I go through life and my sobriety with the attitude that no matter how many times I might fall down I will never stop trying. If I get knocked down I will get back up and if I have to crawl across the finish line of life sober, I will have won!

Michael H. is the Author of Go For God’s Gold – Developing Your Spiritual Strength through Sports. He is also the Founder and Executive Director of Ministro Ministries and Fit Conscience. Fit Conscience is a gym where people of faith and addiction recovery can come to workout and celebrate their sobriety.

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.

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.”