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Treating Healthy Recovery Aids with Moderation

Recovery AidsRecovering addicts are often encouraged to find outside activities to aid in the recovery process.  Healthful practices like exercise, meditation, and natural foods are encouraged in order to refocus attention and help an addict find outside interests and fulfillment other than alcohol or drugs.  Yet a new project or interest, however healthy, can occasionally lead to behavioral addiction as the fixation is transferred.  It is important to learn the distinction between addictive fixation and healthful activity.  Healthy, beneficial recovery aids must be treated with moderation, and it is imperative to not fall into old, detrimental behavioral patterns.  Two common examples of a healthy activity that can become potentially destructive include excessive exercise and “healthy” eating habits.

Exercise Addiction:

Learning to approach a new activity with moderation can be tenuous, as the initial feeling of satisfaction and well-being are fulfilling, and there is a craving for positivity.  A recovering addict attempting to gain control of his or her life may start an exercise regime, enjoy the sense of accomplishment and natural endorphins, and pursue it at the expense of work, family, finances, or his/her own physical limitations.  Exercise is a wonderful outlet to help aid in sobriety, and replace the instant gratification drugs or alcohol can offer, yet it can also lead to a new obsessive behavioral pattern if not handled in moderation.

So how does one recognize the distinction between harmful and healthy exercise patterns?

Obsession or addiction to exercise can show similarities to other dependencies (like drugs or alcohol).  According to some studies, for example, a person can experience psychological and physiological detriments like withdrawal, depression, and severe mood swings.  There are physical complications as well as one can experience heart abnormalities, bone and joint pain, and organ failure.

Orthorexia, or Healthy Eating Disorder:

Choosing to adopt healthy eating habits can be a positive supportive aid for recovering addicts, but can sometimes lead to a new form of fixation.  Orthorexia is a term that coins an obsessive attention to avoid unhealthy foods, genetically modified foods, foods that contain pesticides, unnatural colorings, flavors, fats, salts, and sugars.  In a sense obsessive attention to healthy foods can replace cravings for drugs or alcohol.  It is important to recognize when you’re devoting excessive time towards thinking about and consuming healthy foods.

So how does one recognize the distinction between harmful and healthy eating habits?

As with exercise addiction, orthorexia can show similarities to other harmful dependencies (such as drugs or alcohol).  When one is fixated on healthy eating practices, self-esteem, a sense of peacefulness, and feelings of accomplishment are tied into healthy food consumption.  If one is unable to adhere to their diet requirements they undergo feelings of extreme guilt, depression, and loss of control, and may display physical effects such as malnutrition.  Recognizing these patterns can be key to maintaining balance and healthy relationships with food.

Understanding and recognizing the distinction between harmful and healthy lifestyle patterns isn’t always easy, but learning to adopt a stance of moderation when enjoying exercise or new dietary habits can help aid in the lifelong practice of sobriety.  A new love of organic foods or Pilates can be satisfying, fulfilling, and ultimately healthy for a newly sober person, or someone initiating the steps to addiction recovery.  Just be sure to recognize when a healthy activity or pursuit becomes a replacement for the time, money, and devotion once given to alcohol or drugs.  When discovering the joys of a healthy interest, balance is important for one’s health and recovery, and can help an addict continue down the path of success.

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