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For those in addiction recovery, one of the challenges of sobriety is finding new, healthy ways to cope with life’s many stresses. Some people discover that focusing on their physical health is an effective way to stay on track. Regular exercise is not only a positive distraction from temptation, it’s good for the body, mind, and spirit.
Brandon took the time to tell us about the role healthy living played in his life both before and after his addiction took hold. His is a story of how making a single mistake can lead to life-altering consequences; but it is also a tale of courage, strength, and redemption that we can all feel inspired by.
An athlete for much of his life, Brandon’s substance abuse began after he graduated from college. Ultimately, he said, his experimentation with painkillers stemmed from one factor:
“I think I just got bored with myself. So, I tried Oxycontin and I liked it.”
He said he never expected it to take control the way that it did, but soon he found himself unable to stop using.
“I didn’t realize how bad it was going to get,” he admitted. “I started off just taking one or two here or there, and then it became more and more. I didn’t know what ‘dope sick’ meant — I thought I’d just be fine the next day. But by the time you figure it out, it’s a little too late.”
Brandon said it didn’t take long until his life revolved around his habit. And since he was a functioning addict, he said he could use every justification under the sun to continue.
“I was using on a regular basis. I would lie to myself saying, ‘You’re not an addict — you went to work, you got everything done, you just happen to use pills.’ I didn’t want to hear that word. But my excuses were just that — excuses. I was lying to myself,” he explained.
Normally an active person, he started to feel the physical effects of his substance abuse in addition to his altered state of mind. And the more he used, the worse he felt.
He noted, “I was becoming a different person, and when I looked at myself in the mirror — like, really looked at myself — which was rare, it wasn’t pretty.”
“I had a second job: Getting high,” Brandon continued. “I’d wake up every morning worried about being sick or not being able to get anything. I was used to having a lot of energy, but by 1 or 2 p.m., I was shot.”
Eventually, the repercussions of his addiction — both physical and mental — were so dramatic that it became nearly impossible to hide.
“I wasn’t the funny, nice, sweet guy I had been,” he said. “By the third year of using, people started piecing it together — I had lost 50 pounds. I had always been athletic, in the gym every day, two hours a day — but I wasn’t focused on working out anymore. I would lie and tell people I was trying to lose weight.”
No longer able to contain their worries, Brandon’s family sat him down and asked him about his addiction. They told him they wanted him to seek help. He resisted the idea at first, but he finally realized treatment was the only way he would be able to regain control of his life.
Brandon booked a flight to Texas and checked into the Treehouse — a decision that he said gave him the insight he needed.
“I started reflecting on myself, having deep conversations with other people, and I realized there’s not a special recipe to get sober. It has to be about what works for me. … I knew part of my sobriety was going to be working on me and focusing on bringing the old me back,” he explained.
Getting back into physical shape has given Brandon something positive to focus on, and constantly reaffirms his choice to stay on the sober track.
“I was always into the gym, but when I was using, I stopped working out. I became gaunt and shriveled up. I hated it,” he confessed. “But I’m getting back to what I love and people are noticing it and complimenting me, and that feels really good.”
Brandon’s story is an inspiration to anyone who worries their life has become unmanageable, whether or not it’s because of a substance abuse problem. It took a lot of hard work, but he advised anyone facing a similar struggle to push through whatever their obstacle may be.
“It is tough at first — really tough … but you’ve got to stick it out, and it will be worth it,” he said.
Written by: Contance Ray, Recoverywell.org
Lindsay Nagle is a Lake Tahoe-based USA Weightlifting Sports Performance Coach, NASM Certified Personal Trainer, CrossFit Level 1 trainer, Eat To Perform Coach, Qualified TRX Level 1 Trainer, and founder of Fitness Journey Personal Training.