Addiction surrounds us. Food addiction. Pornography addiction. Substance abuse. Alcoholism. Workaholics. Compulsive hoarders. Sex addiction. Human beings are primed for addiction. And this month, in an effort to take down stigmas, to collect more stories, to help us feel less alone in our addictions, we are thrusting the spotlight squarely upon addiction.
We want your stories - are you an addict? Have you been an addict? Are you the adult child of addicts?
Please join us during our Spotlight On: Addiction Carnival on March 18th and share YOUR story as we tear down the stigmas of addiction.
My drug of choice is exercise.
This is where a lot of people roll their eyes and call bullshit, seeing as we're constantly told that exercise is not only beneficial, but necessary to health and wellness. But for certain people with a brain physiology that makes them vulnerable to getting stuck in obsessive thinking and compulsive behaviors - yours truly - anything can be taken to extremes.
For the past 10 years or so, I've done just that. In those moments of "laziness" when I collapse on the couch, I can admit that, at times, I feel broken. That my body can't keep up with my mind.
I'm beat, I'm exhausted, but I push on no matter what.
There was a long stretch of time when exercise was used for health and fitness, but things changed - life changed - and suddenly exercise morphed from physical health into a way to relieve my anxiety and distract me from emotional pain.
It became an addictive drug I used to numb myself - a compulsion. The more I exercised, the more I had to exercise, and it had to be done at a particular time, in a particular way, for a particular amount of time.
Everything else came second to the exercise/food, and any disruption to this fix resulted in a wild animal look of desperation and plummeting mood levels that rendered me a royal bitch.
But what was perceived as bitchiness was actually fear; fear that I couldn't get that fix and not knowing how to cope without it.
From the outside, it was seen as healthy, but as things got more extreme, it worsened the compulsion. Even hearing someone talk about exercise or seeing someone jogging sparked that craving, and no matter if I had already exercised or not, I suddenly had to do more.
Not because I felt fat; I've never used exercise to control my weight and it's never been about vanity, which is a common misconception, but because I felt compelled.
If I didn't do it, I didn't know what else to do.
What I do now is no longer excessive. In fact, it's a recommended amount, but for someone in my position who has been here for years, anything is too much and the motivation isn't healthy. My body has taken the brunt of my mind and it no longer feels like a choice.
It's something I have to do.
And while what I eat is more than a "normal" person, it's not enough to compensate for the hole I just keep digging. My OCD likes the neat and tidy routines that I have - if I always do what I've done in the past, I'll always know how things turn out.
I'll always be "safe."
But a starved brain is far more vulnerable to getting trapped in compulsive behaviors - the food and exercise routines - which brings us back to square one and to where we are today.
Now let's be clear - I'm not stupid.
I'm educated, have been through treatment and have years of experience working with nutrition, exercise and (unfortunately) the physical effects of overexercise, OCD and restriction.
I know that high volumes of vigorous exercise can trigger things like cardiac fatigue and osteoporosis (among many other things) even in individuals at a healthy weight, much less someone like me who has been underweight for so long.
Let's also be clear that although I'm talking like this is all in the past, that's far from the truth. I'm still very much entrenched, although now I feel it's become something that I've recognized as harmful, but that I've (falsely) reasoned as a healthier addiction than "actual" drugs or the like.
I do know the risks and I do know that what I do does more harm than good. So why do I still exercise? Why do any of us do the things we know we shouldn't do - whether they're simply bad habits like tanning or smoking or tragic addictions like drugs or alcohol?
I don't have the answer to that and I'm not looking for advice or solutions- sometimes knowing the answer doesn't solve the problem.
But I do know that if you want something to change, it's not rocket science. You have to be willing to let go of the unhelpful, harmful behaviors that you believe keep you safe, but, in fact, keep you stuck.
You have to be held accountable, and that means sharing your story.
Thank you for listening to mine.7 Comments