Fact Checked and Peer Reviewed
February 07, 2019
Being active in the CrossFit community has helped me grow in my recovery.
When I first got sober nearly six years ago, I utilized things like 12-step meetings in order to maintain my recovery. But as time passed, I began to realize that much of my views didn’t align with such groups and found myself questioning if meetings were proving beneficial for my wellbeing anymore. After deciding they weren’t, I stopped going and began relying more on social media and the internet to connect me to like-minded individuals also living in recovery.
Still, I was still missing that in-person aspect. Then one day, at the height of my struggle with self and body image, I walked into a CrossFit box and there of all places, I found that connection I’d been lacking. I never expected my recovery from alcohol use disorder to benefit so much from the community at a CrossFit gym, but it truly has saved me on more than one occasion.
Here are a few ways being active in the CrossFit community has helped me to grow in my recovery.
1. The people provide a great support system — and some of them may even be going through similar battles.
The people at my CrossFit box really have become more like family than anything. In the few years I have been working out there, they have seen me at my best and worst and have loved me through both. When I’ve faced struggles with anything, including my recovery, they’ve been a sounding board and voice of reason and have brought me back to reality. Through being open and vulnerable, I’ve also learned some of their stories. Regardless of what they’ve gone through, the stories don’t differ that much from my own. I’ve always noticed that a certain type of person is drawn to CrossFit, and often it’s the ones with intense personalities who have been through struggles in life. I think that’s part of what makes the atmosphere so beautiful.
2. The workouts provide an outlet, which is a necessity in recovery.
If you’ve been in recovery, even for a short amount of time, you’ve likely come to realize how important it is to have some sort of outlet for when things feel unmanageable. Outlets are different for everyone, just like most aspects of recovery. For some it may be journaling, or drawing, or even talking. But for me, there is nothing that resets my mind and body like leaving it all out there during a workout. There is something about going all out and giving something your whole self that makes the other parts of life seem just a little more manageable. Even if a tough workout doesn’t give me the answers to my problems, it often helps me put those problems in perspective and makes them seem just a little smaller. More often than not, this is exactly what I need in order to come up with a plan of attack.
3. Working out has been proven to increase levels of serotonin.
If you don’t know, serotonin is a brain chemical that has to do with mood regulation. Those who struggle with depression often have lower levels of serotonin. Many people who have struggled with substance use disorder have also struggled with depression and may continue to do so, myself included. While exercise isn’t a replacement for medication or therapy, it can still aid in boosting those serotonin levels. Even on my worst days, when I don’t want to get out of bed, I force myself to get to CrossFit and get a workout in. It’s not always the perfect cure, but more often than not I leave feeling much more energetic and centered than I did before working out.
4. It allows you to continually prove to yourself that you can do things you didn’t think possible.
This is, perhaps, my absolute favorite part of CrossFit. Sometimes in the middle of a workout I pause and think about how when I walked in that door a few years ago, I didn’t think I would ever get to this point. It’s a lot like recovery in that way. At the very beginning, I didn’t think I could possibly survive without drinking. But by taking it day by day, it becomes easier and the effort put in adds up. I appreciate CrossFit because it gives me tangible results that I can refer back to when I am feeling down. I also love the fact that as much as you improve and grow, there is always more work to be done. Much like recovery, you’re never officially done learning and improving.
I do realize that CrossFit may not be for everyone. And even if you think it’s not for you, I still encourage you to explore just how much exercise in general can help when it comes to recovery. You’ll be surprised just how much it can improve your overall mood and general outlook on life and sobriety.
Beth Leipholtz is the founder of Life to be Continued, a blog about the realities of getting sober young. She writes about her own experience falling into substance use disorder and how she found her way back out. Beth also works as a web designer and photographer in Minnesota. Follow her on Instagram @beth_leipholtz and on Twitter @el9292.