Addiction is a lifelong battle. For many of us, that will always be the case. Fortunately, there are avenues for all of us to cope. One of my time-tested coping mechanisms is sports. Yeah, sports.
You may be wondering what sports has to do with addiction, or rather coping. The answer lies in the fact that, like much of coping with addiction, it’s the process of how we integrate sports into our life-design rather than sports itself. Below, are a few time-tested strategies that have been my “go-to” activities in the sports arena (pardon the pun) when I sometimes just “wanna get away.”
1) Playing Sports – This is, by far, the best mechanism for coping with addiction. There have been many times in my recovery when I’ve been feeling depressed, lonely, and helpless. What I’ve found works best is, rather than wallowing in my misery and sitting on the couch, I get up and do something active. Anything active. I never really understood as an addict, why playing sports was so integral to my recovery. Recently, however, science has shown why we addicts flock to sports like fish to water. In addition to being a positive distraction, playing sports engages our brains and releases many of the same hormones as using drugs and alcohol.
I’m sure many of you are familiar with the phrase “runner’s high”, that feeling of euphoria that runner’s get at certain times, deep into a long run. Well, science has shown, that feeling very accurately mimics the feeling of actually getting high regardless of what activity you choose. It release the same exact endorphins and dopamine that we experienced while we were using.
2) Fanaticism – Sometimes, you just can’t get out there and play sports. Maybe you have a nagging injury, perhaps you’re traveling, or maybe you’re just not in the mood. It doesn’t matter, you can still use sports to help you cope by being a fan. That’s right, just being a fan. The word fanatic implies a single-minded devotion to a cause or dogma. In the modern sports sense, it’s a dogged commitment to a team or sport, in lieu of everything else. And that is the key.
When you are a fan, a true fan, you start obsessing over your team and, just like exercise, that can serve as a healthy distraction. That single-mindedness helps us cope with cravings. Just imagine the last time you were watching your favorite sport on TV or the stadium. Do you remember thinking about anything else other than the action on the field or court? Nope, you didn’t. What you do remember are the highs and lows, the excitement, the tension, and ultimately, win or lose, the fun you had. Being sports fans takes our minds off of our troubles. It’s entertainment and fantasy wrapped up in pure enjoyment.
3) Talking Sports – This last sports coping mechanism may seem like it falls in line with being a fan, but it’s a bit more nuanced. As most recovering addicts know, talking with others is one of the most powerful mechanisms to aid you in your recovery. Talking sports is just another path along that line. Communicating with others, about any positive topic, can go a long way to helping us cope. So, the next time you feel distracted or uneasy, call up that childhood friend who rooted for the other team, and just talk smack to each other for an hour. You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel afterwards. Letting your mind roam via the ancient art of communicating is a tool that you can always fall back on in recovery.
One word of caution when it comes to coping with sports. Just like everything in recovery (and in life), moderation is the key. Play sports, but don’t become maniacal. Watch sports, but don’t let it effect your mood negatively. It should only be used as entertainment. Talk sports, but don’t take anything personally. As always, live life and cope every day. Dealing with recovery, it’s about the journey, and that alone will give you the result: sobriety.