On a sober forum, I mentioned that I couldn’t quite reconcile my daily drinking with my near daily fitness regimen. I know some folks take up a fitness regimen of some sort as part of their recovery, so in this context, I was wondering what the heck I was going to do with the antsy business that would inevitably come with not drinking. “You’d be surprised how many people are fitness freaks except for alcohol,” someone in the forum replied.
I suppose I had it in my head that I might be a bit different because I was fanatical about exercise. Wow. That was silly of me. People with alcohol dependency come in all shapes, sizes and ways of being in the world. One of those ways of being is using exercise to manage your drinking, punish yourself for drinking, or prove to yourself and others that you are well, and in fact “healthy.”
Okay. So I wake up a bit hung over. (Like not today. Before this abstinence thing, I mean.) And do a bunch of work, and then go for a run, and probably do a bunch of weight training after that. And if I can exercise and otherwise be productive like that the next day, alcohol can’t be a problem for me, right? I’m healthy. I’m fit.
So when I started in on Caroline Knapp’s “Drinking: A Love Story” (which is beautifully written), I twinged in particular when she described going for a long, hard row while feeling like hell after a bender: “That’s a pretty common strategy among alcoholic drinkers,” she said, “sweat away the hangovers.”
Man, did that burst my bubble. It also crystallized what I think, for me, has been a mounting tension in my life: a battle of sorts between “fitness me” and “drinking me.” I genuinely love yoga, running, cycling, and going to the gym. But it’s more complicated than that. It’s taken on shades of repentance, shades of addiction in its own right. I would have never imagined that fitness can be used as a denial strategy but hey… this is a thing I apparently didn’t invent. Can you be addicted to alcohol and then addicted to exercise as a way to redeem yourself for being addicted to alcohol?
It’s going to be interesting to see where all of this goes. There are wonderful, healing qualities to my workouts, but they are all entangled with something darker: the relentless push to “achieve” that probably has something to do with my drinking, too.
Am I good enough yet?
It always seems to come back to this question. And the answer has always been “no.”