I am a former alcoholic and drug addict. I am proud to say that it has been over 8 years since I last tasted alcohol or took a hit.
I got drunk for the first time at a family party when I was just 9 years old. After I was very sternly turned down when I asked for a sip of the Aguardiente the adults were having, I went ahead and snuck a large tumbler full when everyone was busy dancing. After that, I started chasing high after high. What began with alcohol was accompanied by a whole myriad of other substances as I got older.
I ended up in prison for two years in my 20s, received a rude awakening when I saw what the future holds for an addict, and made a firm decision to stay clean when I got out. I went about it in all the wrong ways, sublimating my alcohol and drug addiction into work, and ended up in a terrible relapse. After an attempt to take my own life, I was admitted into a wonderful rehab center in Idaho where I was given the tools and guidance to truly turn my life around.
In rehab, I was introduced to many ways that I could better the quality of my life so that I no longer felt the need to turn to alcohol or substances to make me feel better.
Once I left rehab, I took what I had learned and began to seek more ways to not only enhance my life but also to better myself. That is when I found bicycling.
After I started to really get into it, I couldn’t imagine my life without cycling because, honestly, I feel better now than I have ever felt in my life.
Bicycling has really been the key ingredient to my successful, 8-year long recovery and here are the top 5 reasons why:
1. It gives me a legitimate reason to get up and out the door
Before discovering my love for bicycling, I was a very stay at home and lie around kind of guy. The only reason I would bother getting dressed and out the door would be to get drunk, get high, or restock. I never really enjoyed being outside or stopped to smell the roses.
When I’m on my bike, it’s like I’m living ‘La Vie En Rose’. Rain or shine, I love being outside, breathing the fresh air and admiring the beauty in the little things. I can never get enough of it, so I’m rarely sitting around with the curtains drawn anymore.
2. It helps to relieve stress, tension, pressure, anger, all of the above, and more
You can’t escape life. You can be the most optimistic person in the world and you will still have your bad days. When you’re in recovery, those bad days can be the beginning of a giant avalanche if you allow them to be. When I’ve had a rough day at work, an altercation with a family member, or just one of those days, I find that getting on my bike tends to really turn things around for me.
I have a rhythm that I unconsciously follow when trying to clear myself of negative thoughts and feelings; I start out slow and work up to the fastest I can go until I slow down again. With the energy and force it takes me to pedal as fast as I can, I get to release the frustration in a way that benefits me. I get a solid workout and an experience that can sometimes be far more effective than (traditional) therapy.
3. It helps keep me fit
I’ll be honest, I never liked exercising. I never really had a problem with my weight so I didn’t think I needed it, and my not so great experiences in gym class didn’t help either. The only reason I started biking is actually because one of the guys in my local AA group swore by it. I gave it a try, enjoyed it, next thing you know I’m biking religiously.
The best part about cycling is that it doesn’t actually feel like you’re working out. Every time I get on that bike, be it for a half hour or 5 hours, I enjoy myself. I love that I’m not in one place, and the feeling of the wind on my face. I love that I can control the pace according to my mood and energy levels. The fact that suddenly my muscles are more toned than ever and going up a flight of stairs doesn’t have me feeling winded, is just an added plus.
4. It has allowed me to meet some pretty cool people
Life as an addict is a pretty lonely one. Aside from my immediate family, I didn’t really have people that I could call my friends. I went to parties and even had a group of people that were on a similar path as I was, but I never experienced a real connection with those people.
After I started biking, I found myself making all kinds of genuine connections. When I’m on my bike, I tend to end up in places like parks, trails, and other public places. There is such a variety of people that enjoy biking and having that one thing in common really allows you to bond. People I’ve met thanks to this hobby of mine have accompanied me in marathons, bicycle tours, races, organized rides, and other great activities that make for some really great memories. Most of these people have great energy and are really motivated about life, which is quite infectious and fun to be around.
5. It has made me love myself
Needless to say, as an addict, I never genuinely felt good about myself. I really only felt good when the alcohol and drugs had me in a state where I could barely control myself. I thought that made me cool, that I was more fun. But without the booze or the substances, I never felt like I was enough.
After I started biking, whether it be for the sense of freedom it gave me, the fact that I was more fit or the fact that I suddenly had incredible, supportive people in my life, I started feeling like I was more than enough. Now, I am confident and I feel like I am capable of anything. Being on the bike has allowed me to push myself physically, mentally and spiritually, go places I’ve never been, and take chances that I would never have taken before.
Recovery was very difficult before I started bicycling. Addiction was all I ever knew, and without my fix, I felt like I would fall apart. Through bicycling, I was able to see all the things that I had been missing out on. I am now incredibly grateful for every day that I wake up healthy, with a roof over my head, and food to eat. I am grateful for all the little things that I once took for granted. And the joy of riding around on my bike fills me so much that my former addictions no longer have any effect on me. I am finally free.
Image Source: Flickr