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Is Exercise Addiction a Real Possibility after Drug Rehab?


February 28, 2018

When people are going through alcohol or drug rehabilitation, attention to overall health is important. Addiction can deplete the body of vitamins, minerals, and physical strength, and developing positive dietary and exercise habits can help someone in addiction recovery to improve overall well-being and long-term health.

In fact, some addicts credit new enthusiasm for physical activity for being the defining factor in overcoming their addiction. In 2011, a book titled The Long Run by Mishka Subaly became a number one Kindle download, chronicling the transition the author made from addiction to alcohol, pills, and other illegal drugs to becoming a successful author and ultra-marathon runner. 

Exercise addiction, however, is a real phenomenon, and while it is relatively rare, it is something that can happen to the person in addiction recovery. 

Vulnerability to One Addiction May Predispose People to Other Addictions

Addiction recovery requires hard work and support. Unfortunately, people in recovery from addiction are prone to developing other addictions once they recover from the primary one. It stems from a desire to minimize emotional discomfort and self-medicate. That is why you may notice that the smoker in recovery from alcohol or painkiller addiction smokes more while in recovery. Cross-addiction can also unfold as exercise addiction, something that may seem harmless, but that can eventually have the relationship-destroying effects of other, more “typical” addictions.

What Is Exercise Addiction?

Exercise addiction may start off with the experience of the so-called “runner’s high” which is caused by the natural release of endorphins in the brain. Exercise is important, and American doctors have for years encouraged people to get more of it because of the effects on health and longevity. Exercise addiction, however, subtracts from life rather than adds to it, by taking away important time with loved ones and time spent doing other constructive things. It is a version of the chasing after a feeling that gets people addicted to alcohol, opioids, gambling, and other substances or behaviors. 

Addiction recovery

You can use the following checklist to determine if your commitment to exercise has turned into exercise addiction. The more statements you agree with, the higher the risk that your devotion to exercise is turning into, or has turned into, an addiction:

  • You miss out on important family and social obligations to exercise
  • You give up other interests and social activities so you can exercise more
  • You are irritable and difficult to be around when you miss a workout
  • You prefer exercise to other joys in life, like good food and sex
  • You exercise even if you are injured, sick, or exhausted
  • If you find extra time in your schedule, you always use it to exercise
  • Others have complained about the amount of time and energy you devote to exercise

Living in a Society That Praises Athleticism

Exercise addiction can be tricky in a society that praises athletic achievement, and which is always urging people to get out from in front of their screens and go do something. If you are in addiction recovery, it is important that you balance your very real need for physical activity and overall health and well-being with your actual recovery from addiction. Substituting one addiction for another is not the same thing as real recovery.

Addiction recovery continues long after you complete rehab, and it requires attention to daily living that most people who have never experienced addiction cannot fully understand. We encourage you to contact us today if you have questions about long-term addiction recovery. The road is not always well-marked, and we want to help you navigate it.

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