How My Exercise Addiction Almost Took My Life: The Journey to Recovery

The Dark Side of Fitness: Navigating Exercise Addiction

Finding Solace in Fitness

As a young drug and alcohol addict with an eating disorder, I believed that getting fit would somehow make me a better person. So, in an attempt to escape my messy life, I would half-heartedly go to the gym and run on the treadmill. But these feeble attempts at fitness never lasted long, as I continued to smoke and eventually quit after just a few sessions. Nevertheless, the idea that fitness held the key to my improvement remained ingrained in me.

A Change Within

After getting sober, I took up a physically demanding job as a metalworker. While my body grew stronger, I still remained unhealthy, continuing to smoke, starve myself, and eat unhealthy food. I felt trapped in my own body, like a hostage in a room. However, in my late twenties, during yet another attempt at running, something shifted. It wasn’t a physical change, as I was still a mess, as evidenced by my running log. But for the first time, I found the willingness to push through the discomfort and keep going.

Obsessed with Pushing My Limits

Within a few months, I found myself running 10 to 15 miles, exploring all the bridges in Brooklyn, the West Side Highway esplanade, and Central Park. Running became an obsession, not just for the sake of fitness, but as a means to disappear into my own world and test the limits of my endurance. My body became harder and more taut, fulfilling the desires I had always held. However, my feet suffered from the constant strain and began to peel apart in layers.

Recognizing the Addiction

It wasn’t until my thirties, while enrolled in an MFA program, that I first used the phrase “exercise addiction” in my writing. By then, I had three gym memberships, multiple coaches, and a long list of group fitness classes. I was constantly training for marathons and lying to friends about the extent of my exercise regimen. I was in constant pain, unable to sleep properly or walk without discomfort. Yet, despite the toll it was taking on my body, I received constant positive feedback about my physique.

Living in Denial

During this period, I rushed from one gym to another, barely pausing to eat cold slices of sweet potato in between workouts. Despite my deteriorating mental and physical health, I believed I was doing everything right. I followed all the Instagram wellness influencer trends, avoiding processed foods and sugar, and engaged in intense workouts like Hiit and weight-bearing exercises. If the metrics of health praised by these influencers showed I was doing great, why were my body and mind suffering?

The Unacknowledged Problem

Exercise addiction is not recognized in addiction medicine, nor is it mentioned in the DSM-5. The lack of research and understanding about this behavioral addiction makes it difficult for doctors to provide a firm definition or treatment plan. As someone who had attended recovery meetings for over a decade and a half, I hesitantly shared my concerns about my troubled relationship with the gym. However, unlike other addictions, exercise addiction was met with confusion, jealousy, or a lack of comprehension.

Seeking Help

As I struggled to find the right words to describe my increasingly unmanageable experience, I realized there were limited resources available. Conversations with doctors and therapists proved useless, with suggestions to simply exercise less. It seemed as though the medical community was uncomfortable with the unknown and the grey areas of addiction. Feeling dismissed and misunderstood, I stopped trying to seek help and began to accept that athletics had become another aspect of my life that was out of control.

Navigating the Grey Areas

While exercise addiction may not be clearly defined or widely understood, it is a phenomenon that affects many individuals. The lack of research and understanding should not undermine the seriousness of this issue. Just like any other addiction, exercise addiction deserves to be taken seriously and addressed with empathy and support. As we continue to explore the complexities of addiction, it is essential that we acknowledge and provide resources for those struggling with exercise addiction and its impact on their mental and physical well-being.

Original Story at – 2024-02-05 13:17:00

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