Healthy living is a broad phrase that encompasses different things for different people. For me, healthy living is a combination of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Some days those facets all line up and other days require that I put a little more work into one area or another.
What I’ve come to realize is that there are many parallels between living a healthy life and living a life of recovery. Here are six parallels I’ve found between the two.
1. You have to be ready
For many addicts, it takes hitting a bottom to get to the point where recovery finally makes sense. Until that point, no one can persuade, suggest, or even force you to change the way you are living. The same is true for eating healthy foods and exercising.
A healthy lifestyle is just that—a lifestyle. It’s not a 5-day juice cleanse or a month-long diet so that you can look good for an upcoming occasion. In order to sustainably make healthier choices, you have to reach a point in your life where you are willing to commit to those choices and stick with them.
2. It’s hard work
For someone living with addiction or other addictive behaviors such as eating disorders, choosing recovery doesn’t mean that all of a sudden everything is fine and he or she no longer struggles with the thought of returning to past behaviors. Those behaviors are comfortable and the hard part comes in choosing a different way of life and a different path than the one that’s known. It involves constant work and assessment of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
Waking up early to get a workout in before work requires dedication. Choosing to skip the table full of holiday cookies is a much harder choice than joining in with everyone else. Some days are easier than others, but it’s still hard work.
3. You’ll learn new things about yourself
I’ve become a much more complex and well-rounded person since entering recovery. I’ve learned things about myself that I either chose to ignore or was completely in the dark about through my own journey. Most of my life was spent conforming to the vision that I thought others wanted me to be, so these days I’ve realized what my values are, what I like and dislike, and what I’m no longer willing to stand for.
Exercise has taught me about physical strength, while exploring the mental and emotional sides of healthy living has helped me recognize my strength in these areas as well. I’m constantly learning new things about my physical boundaries (and pushing past them) and what things I need mentally and emotionally to practice self-care and live a fuller life. Also, I like brussels sprouts.
4. It’s a life long journey
I’ve already learned what happens to me when I put recovery on the back burner. I eventually find something else to abuse in order to control the way I feel and escape the everyday flow of life. I know that there will never come a point when I can have a drink and that in order to stay clean I have to work on myself and my recovery for the rest of my life. Life still has its ups and downs even though you’re on an upward trajectory.
A healthy lifestyle is no different. If the goal is to live well in all areas of life, you can’t do one for a month or two and then stop doing it entirely. Exercise gains will dwindle, your body will suffer by returning to unhealthy foods, and any number of mental and emotional issues could arise such as stress, anxiety, depression, and simply peace of mind. It’s unrealistic to assume that you will never fall off track, but the point is to understand that this is something you must maintain if you want it. If you fall off track, simply hop back on.
5. There are no shortcuts
I would love to have stopped using drugs and alcohol and have everything fall into place in my life. Money, career, happiness, etc. Unfortunately, reiterating #2, it requires work. There’s no shortcut in the process of recovery and you have to go through some tough times to reach your goals.
In dealing with my depression this year, I constantly tried willing myself to be happy. I did things I felt should make me happy to try and get there without going through what was actually happening. Working out multiple times a day to make up for a week of junk eating the week before isn’t going to get you to your goals any faster. The body needs a certain amount of time to rest and repair and excessive workouts may actually increase the amount of time it takes to reach a goal.
6. It’s easier with a supportive network
I don’t think I could have dealt with feelings and life in early recovery without people who had been there before me and were willing to listen when I needed to talk.
Surrounding yourself with people who support you in your healthy decisions is vitally important. It’s hard to continue eating clean if you have a spouse or roomate who constantly gives you a hard time for your choices. Working out with a friend is a great way for you both to support each other and hold each other accountable when you’d rather sit at home on the couch.