Hi there. I’m eager to connect with you today, and I’m going to get a bit personal right away. I want to talk to you about addictions.
Do you have one? I’m not necessarily talking about a substance abuse addiction, but rather, a behavioral addiction.
You may not know that, for years, I was an exercise addict. Literally, the 3 years I lived in NYC—I never took even one day off a year. 365 days a year, for 3 entire years (that’s over 1000 days, even on Christmas, birthdays and intense travel days), I either made it to the gym, went running, took a class, or did something active that made me sweat.
I convinced myself that I was doing my body good—and my mind.
“This is for my mental health,” I’d tell myself. Truthfully, exercising every day for some people CAN be healthy—but it’s very dependent on mindset.
But, my mindset was “I have to exercise, or I’m going to inflate like a balloon.”
My mindset was “I have to exercise, or I won’t be able to function.”
My mindset was “I have to exercise, or I will lose control.”
It was not healthy.
The messed-up part—I logically know (and knew then) that these notions weren’t true.
I knew what I preached was true: that exercise, while valuable for general health, actually has very little effect on weight. And while we all should be exercising regularly, I knew that over-doing it could be just as damaging as under-doing it.
I wasn’t just over-working my body, but my mind, too…
…trying to make room for this behavioral addiction. I got up at 4 in the morning, sacrificing sleep to exercise.
On long travel days I would actually wake up at 3 am sometimes, just to fit in a sprint session before heading to the airport.
As a result, I would avoid seeing friends or family if it meant I wouldn’t be able to exercise that day. All socializing, and even work, would be compromised to fit in my workout for the day.
So, how could I know this to be true, but still be so sapped into thinking that taking a day off meant bad news?
Because for me, exercising wasn’t about the exercise.
It was barely even about my weight, or stress, or improving performance. It was my addiction.
Many think an addiction has to involve a substance, like drugs or alcohol. But I am a true believer in “non-substance” or behavioral addictions, and I actually think we all have at least one, at some point in our lives. We use these addictions to escape.
For me, just checking the workout off the list wasn’t enough—it was obsessive. An addiction.
It had to be intense.
The workout had to challenge me, mentally and physically. And what I’ve realized throughout my journey, and doing the work to get to the other side of this behavioral addiction—it was all because I wanted to feel something.
I was numb, and craved feeling.
When I was exercising, it gave me the most temporary Band-Aid of feeling, and it’s the sort of thing you just can’t realize when in the thick of it.
Some people turn to video games, or the internet. Others turn gambling or shopping. Some turn to food, or exercise.
I’ve dealt with many of my own issues with disordered thinking when it comes to food, too. In fact, a lot of my exercise addiction issues were very tied to food—
I would reward myself with food when I had a good workout, or penalize myself when I didn’t workout “hard enough.”
Whatever it may be for you—it’s worth exploring. Maybe you don’t have a behavioral addiction, and that’s great! But we do all have a dark side, and having awareness around it will only make you stronger at fighting it.
What did I do to fight mine? First, I had to acknowledge that this addiction was an issue.
Then, I saw how it was holding me back—I had to express this.
For me, journaling helps. I was never much into journaling until my adult years, but I’ve definitely come to see the value of getting actual words down on paper, rather than fractions of thoughts stuck in my brain.
Every day it requires work, and it’s taken many forms. I’ve even gone through phases where I won’t exercise at all for a week, just to show myself that it’s okay.
I’ve picked up yoga and gone through phases where I allow myself to only do yoga as my movement. This way, I can’t connect food to exercise mentally and “reward” or “penalize” myself.
Most of all I’ve developed a practice of self-compassion.
Because of that, I try to talk to myself like my friend, and while I still have my rough days, having the awareness and intention helps me make it through the day, so I can wake up tomorrow and start fresh.
If you’re dealing with a behavioral addiction, know that you aren’t alone!
Spending time digging deep and doing the work to identify these behavioral addictions will lead to finding that awareness. And once you have awareness, you can develop practices that will help you achieve balance.
Also, please know that I’m not sharing this with the intention of minimizing the experience of someone with a substance abuse addiction—but rather, I hope to validate YOUR own issues, too.
Your feelings are real. They matter. If you’re struggling with any type of addiction, it holds you back. I want you to move forward.
Thank you for hearing my story and being here to connect with me. My hope is to share more on this topic, as well as mental health in general in the coming weeks and months. I’d love to know what you want to hear more about, too. I am always grateful for your support!