Imagine that you and I go to exercise at a gym and your goal is to lose weight, but all you do is sit there and watch ME exercise. Maybe you do a few pushups or get on the Stairmaster for a few minutes but do no more. Then the next day you don’t even show up at the gym but I do. No matter how much weight I lift, how many laps I swim, how many miles I log on the treadmill, I can’t lose the weight for you! We can work out together and motivate one another, but YOU still have to get your own fat ass on the treadmill if you want to lose weight.
I see a lot of parallels between living as a non-drinker and going to a gym to exercise. You don’t have to go to a gym to exercise—you can do it at home—but there are reasons I believe you should go to a gym but I’ll get to them later. For now, how is it that I see sobering up, then living as a non-drinker and exercising similar? Well, they both really hurt at first. When you begin doing a daily exercise routine your body will be in pain. Your body will hurt so much that all you can think of is, “I can’t and don’t want to do this anymore. It hurts too much and it’s a pain in the ass to stop what I’m doing and go to the gym.” Any of that sound similar to the early days in sobriety?
But let’s say you’ve muscled your way through the first week or two of hitting the gym. The soreness is going away and you feel strong and revitalized. “Why didn’t I do this sooner? I feel great!” Then you get on the scale and you weigh no less than when you started. “Nothing’s happening. How come nothing’s happening? I thought I would lose weight and be happy?” You see no immediate benefit in going through all this. Sound familiar?
Now let’s say that you’ve been hitting the gym and exercising regularly for 30, 60 or 90 days. You feel great, you’re starting to see some progress and you feel pretty confident with yourself. “I don’t have to go today, I can skip a day, what’s one day?” That one day suddenly turns into a week and then two weeks. Next thing you know you haven’t been to the gym in a month. “Oh shit, I’ve gotta get to the gym. I’ll do it tomorrow.” Then tomorrow comes, and the next day. Then it becomes easier to keep putting it off than to actually do it.
Once you do get to the gym you forget how much hard work it is and how painful it is for the first few days. It’s just as painful every time you restart as it was the first time you did it. And starting and stopping is a lot of stress on your body. You’re better off to either dedicate yourself to working out and exercising on a regular basis or don’t do it at all. Binge workouts do your body no good and you can actually injure your body.
When I see overweight people at the gym I applaud and compliment them. “You should be proud of yourself, you’re doing something to improve your health.” I don’t ask how much weight they’ve lost—this isn’t a contest. I don’t care where you were, I want to know where you want to go. I ask what their goals are and what exercises their going to perform to achieve those goals. I also applaud them because I know that it’s extra hard work to exercise a larger body. As they lose weight there’s less mass to move around and exercising gets easier. I work out with some very strong guys and because of their bulk and large size they struggle to do some of the flexibility exercises I easily do. They can bench-press double what I can but they can’t do half the pull-ups I can. We understand that and don’t laugh or make fun of each other, we push each other to achieve within our own limits and congratulate on what is done. This is not a contest—it’s friends with a common goal helping to motivate one another.
And that’s where groups like AA come in. I’ll openly say that I don’t attend AA and I don’t endorse it, but I won’t dissuade you from going or criticize you for following it. I see AA meetings and having a sponsor as similar to going to a gym and having a workout partner. You do it together and you emotionally support one another. In the gym, I can’t lift the weights for you and you can’t lift the weights for me. We each must lift our own weights, but we can push each other along. Sometimes you need a spotter and at other times you will be the spotter. (For those of you who don’t know what a “spotter” is, it’s having someone strong standing next to you while you lift weights, to help out if you get stuck or the barbell is about to crush your face! The spotter doesn’t do the work for you—they yell at you and compel you to do the lifting yourself—they’re your safety net if you get stuck.)
Sobriety and physical fitness are also similar in the way people will ask, “How did you get in such good shape? I want that, I want to be like that, I want what you have.” And just like sobriety (and some AA materials mention), you respond with, “I can show you how.” That’s when I add, “But I can’t lose the weight, build your body or live sober for you—you will have to do the hard work yourself and be dedicated to yourself.”
That concept scares a lot of people. “I was hoping there was an easier way to (get sober, stay sober, lose weight, build strength, whatever).” Sorry, but there is no easy way, there is no detour around the sewer. I come right out and tell the people who want an easy way, “Look, if you want to spend the rest of your life fat, drunk and broke, I don’t care. That’s your choice and I won’t be hanging out with you. But if you’re willing to do the work, I’ll show you how, but I can’t do it for you.” I would rather seem heartless but honest, than lie and give people false hope.
Now, on to why I recommend and endorse membership in a gym:
Going to a gym consumes time and keeps you out of bars, at least for a few hours. I may not always feel like going to the gym, so I force myself to go, and once I get there I jump right into my workout. When I’m all done working out and showered up I don’t have time to hit a bar. I have to get home, make dinner, get to my second shift job of writing, checking and responding to emails, podcasts, etc. I also have to prepare for my fulltime job that I have to be at the next morning. That’s why I go to the gym in the early evening. I’m too busy and don’t have time to get drunk at night.
Picking specific days and times that you go to the gym helps you develop a regular schedule that you follow—you’re practicing self-discipline.
You’ll be making a financial and personal commitment. Fulfilling commitments helps build self-esteem.
Going to a gym offers socializing and networking opportunities. You develop friendships with people because you have a common bond—a desire to live healthy. And both of you know that it requires dedication and work to hit the gym. If you go at the same time on the same days you’ll likely meet someone who has similar workout routines and health goals as yours and become workout partners. There are those days when I don’t feel like going to the gym, but if I’ve made a commitment to a workout partner you can bet your ass that I’ll be there.
There are a lot more benefits in going to a gym than I’ve mentioned here. Why not go discover what they are? And who knows, living healthy and strong may turn into a way of life for you.
So in conclusion. Working out, building strength, losing weight and sobriety are very similar. I can’t do it for you and no one else can do it for you. I can show you how, we can do it together and we can support one another. The bottom line is that you have to get your own fat ass on the treadmill and do it yourself. And I have the feeling that when you do, you’re going to feel great and you’ll be proud of yourself.
Remember that these are my own opinions and observations. Think for yourself and come to your own conclusions. If you enjoy this stuff or get something out of it please tell your friends about my website. It’s LivingSoberSucks.com. If you like what I do and what I write about, you can help me pay for all this by making a donation to my site securely through PayPal: http://www.livingsobersucks.com/donate_to_this_site Donations are NOT tax deductible.