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At Saltwater, we believe that everyone is recovering from something. As it turns out, one of our members is recovering from a crippling drug addiction. Check out what he had to say about finding CrossFit and the valuable lessons he has learned.

My recovery from active addiction has encompassed every aspect of my life. Since the first day I got sober, I’ve been looking at and improving every facet of my being that I could; however, physical health was always. I didn’t want to take a look at that. I didn’t want to watch what I ate, and I didn’t want to exercise regularly. Excuses were easy to come by. Hiding behind the other ways I wanted to improve or feigning disdain towards the “Gym Rats” were pretty common ones for me. Truth is, I was scared. I was scared of lifting weights at the gym because I might be made fun of. I was scared of playing basketball with the guys because I wasn’t going to be good at it. And I was scared of changing my diet because I found comfort in eating greasy or overly sweet food. In recovery, I’ve learned to take an honest look at myself. Now I confront my thoughts and feelings as they truly are, to the best of my ability. The longer I stayed sober, the more unacceptable neglecting my physical health became because I knew it was important and I became honest about why I didn’t want to try.

Fortunately for me, a lot of guys in my social circle are all about fitness. Of those, a lot were doing CrossFit. I had tried Crossfit once right when I first got sober. Wasn’t a fan. The movements were new and difficult for me. I didn’t go back for another year. In that time, I watched people go from being out of shape to looking like a professional athlete or something. They seemed happier as well, always excited to go to the workouts despite “dreading” them. The undeniable results drew me to it when I decided it was time to address my health. Luckily for me the company I worked for had a partnership with a local gym that specializes in CrossFit. Otherwise, it would have been difficult for me to afford at the time. So I took the leap and signed myself up.

I was anxious on my first day because the fears that plagued me in early sobriety were still present. I had chosen to go to a 6 am class with a friend of mine, and when I arrived, the gym was already full of people from the 5 am class finishing up their workout. I was pretty damn intimidated by that. My friend began to stretch, as did the other people waiting for previous class to wrap up. I felt so awkward I didn’t know what to do with myself. Some of my thoughts were along the lines of: “I should stretch so I’m not standing here like a weirdo. Wait, what if I stretch the wrong way though and get laughed at? Well I can’t just watch the other class because then I’ll look even weirder. Maybe I’ll just pretend like I’m reading something important on my phone.” Thinking about it now is pretty funny for me. So class got started, the instructor introduced me to the group, everyone clapped and we got started. 

For the next few months, I went about 5-6 days a week, usually to the 6 am class. I’m not a morning person naturally, but I absolutely fell in love with the feeling of getting back to my place when everyone was just waking up, making breakfast and having literally the entire day ahead of me to do whatever. From snatches to jump ropes, I had to learn a lot to be able to do the workouts. The coaches always took the time to help me, as did my friends and classmates. Slowly but surely I started to understand what I was looking at when the Workout of the Day (WOD) was put up on the board. Harder WOD’s I looked at with a mixture of apprehension and excitement. There was always an easier version of the workout that either scaled back the weight, number of reps, or gave a simplified version of the movement. Sometimes I was embarrassed at how much I needed to scale back the workout in order to complete it, but I learned in recovery that what other people think of me is none of my business. So I soldiered through the embarrassment and found everyone to be extremely encouraging. 

As far as my mental health goes, the results were immediate. My self-esteem increased as did my overall sense of satisfaction. My social circle widened to include the people I met through the gym. The camaraderie we forged was something I had not experienced outside of 12-step fellowships. There is something special in sharing your anticipation for, struggles during and euphoria following a particularly difficult WOD with another person. Physical improvement felt slow. About a month in, I considered quitting as I didn’t feel like I was getting anywhere. A friend and avid CrossFitter had this to say: “About a month in for people is hard, and a lot of people quit around that time, but once you get over that hump and begin to see results, you feel amazing and motivated.” That and the positive mental effects I was experiencing drove me to continue. Now, I’m seeing results. Outside of CrossFit, I feel more confident lifting weights with friends. Whereas before I’d feel like the “newbie” trying to fit in, now I am willing to ask people more well-versed in lifting weights without worrying what they might think. 

 It is a thrilling experience watching my muscles grow and gut shrink. As an addict still in early recovery, this is a double edged sword. I never thought I’d be one to prioritize the gym over going to a meeting, but I have done so. I find myself comparing my progress with other peoples and when I feel like I don’t match up, I feel some type of way about it. For me and I assume others, balance is crucial. It’s OK to want to look good along with being physically healthy, as long as I don’t let my vanity control me! 

CrossFit has taught me a valuable lesson: I can’t judge my own progress by where someone else is at. It’s OK to compete with others, but ultimately I am really competing against myself. The finish line is a little better than what I did yesterday. When I internalize this lesson, and let go of that inferiority/ superiority complex, a whole dimension of joy opens up. Watching my friends crush a workout becomes an exuberant experience.