sober lifestyle


Someone at work commented on my arms yesterday. Well, what he actually said was, “You must really be into working out! You’re all muscle! What do you do…like, CrossFit?”

I laughed. This poor guy stopping by my office had no idea what he was in for! He clearly didn’t know: I’m one of those people who’s programmed to launch into her entire life story in response to any remotely personal question!

It’s genetic. I can’t help it. Have you met my mom?

These genes also gifted me with muscular arms. They look athletic — even, apparently, when I’m addicted to sugar and pretty much all I’m lifting is my bodyweight on a yoga mat — and people have been staring at/commenting on them for most of my adult life.

You know how some women can’t have a conversation without the other person’s eyes darting down to their chest? I have zero experience with that specifically, but I can kind of relate.

“Uh, yeah, in a former life,” I told the guy standing in my office. “I barely lift at all anymore. I mean, I still do some type of exercise every day. But, you see, I’m 43, and I have this job, and I’m tired all the time, and I eat dessert every night, and then there’s this issue with my digestive system…

“Things are just really different now.”

They are. It’s actually mind-boggling to sit here — these days, my entire life seems like it revolves around sitting…at a desk, in a car… in front of the TV in my living room shoveling dinner in my mouth before collapsing into bed… — and think back to the days when fitness was my top priority.

Well, fitness and drinking. Let’s be honest! If you don’t count work assignments, the only places I went for a span of like 10 years were the gym and the liquor store. Sometimes, I went straight from the gym to the liquor store. If you ever got to the Wine & Spirits on State Street in Newtown before it opened and had to wait outside, we’ve most likely met before! 🙃

Anyway…these days, my priorities are:

  • Eat
  • Sleep
  • Move for at least 30 minutes a day
  • Avoid wrecking the car while schlepping up and down Almshouse Road twice a day at rush hour.
  • Figure out what the hell I’m currently doing for a living and what the hell I eventually want to do with my life.
  • Squeeze in recovery meetings, calls with my sponsor and blog-writing time.

Whew! My arms might look strong, but this feels like all the heavy lifting I can possibly handle.

I don’t necessarily yearn for the days when I obsessed over clean & jerks and muscle-ups — or what my arms/abs/legs looked like. And yet, that seems like a much simpler time. A lot less confusing. A lot more…comfortable.

I feel like worrying about my “score” in the daily “WOD,” or my upcoming enrollment in a local fitness competition, which was how I spent most of my mid-to-late-30s, would be a vacation from worrying about how to manage five different social media platforms and improve Google search rankings for a small shutter company. It might be preferable to worrying about how I’m going to manage grad school in the fall, on top of this current ass-kicking schedule, and not revert back to old, unhealthy coping mechanisms because I can’t stomach the stress.

I know, I know. I chose this life.

It’s not that it’s bad. It’s just hard. I’ve had to shift my priorities, like most people do in the course of growing up, and learn to gauge progress with a new set of metrics. I’m learning to be OK with whatever I can get done in a given day.

I’m not always totally OK.

Sometimes, while mindlessly scrolling through social media, I see posts by people from my past who are still immersed in the fitness world. On the one hand, it’s like reading a foreign language, while on the other, it’s like reading an old diary. It’s a weird mixture of feelings. Detached. Nostalgic. Blasé. Jealous?

Recently, someone in my feed wrote something like, “If you’re putting the same weight on the bar or doing the same rep scheme every day, you’re not progressing! You won’t get stronger unless you’re uncomfortable!”

I wanted to comment: “Maybe some people turn to exercise for comfort because literally everything else in their life is uncomfortable.”

“Maybe just making the time to pick up a weighted object of any kind is a huge victory.”

Of course, I wrote no comments. Facebook is not the place for adults to vent personal shit; that’s what blogs are for! 🤣 Seriously, though, that post had nothing to do with me. I’m not the target audience. And in a fitness context, what that person wrote was true and valid.

Actually, now that I’ve stepped back and thought about it, their overall point is true and valid in any context. All the uncomfortable stuff we choose to take on does make us stronger, whether it’s in the gym or our careers or our family dynamics or whatever. Even as my body inevitably softens up, the farther I get from my old intense exercise regimen, I’m working the shit out of my mental and emotional muscles by being willing to make big changes and take on new challenges. And then, actually facing those challenges without self-medicating to mask the pain is its own intense activity! Believe you me!

My mental and emotional muscles were woefully underdeveloped, as is usually the case with addicts who found their drug of choice at 19. Now, if those muscles are sore, that’s a good thing.

So, given all this growth that’s happening now, maybe someday, if I’m lucky enough to still get comments about my arms, I can flex my amazing mature adult strength and just say, “Thanks. I’ve been working really hard.”

1 thought on “Strength”

  1. Great point, Jen! Can’t afford to overlook my mental, emotional or spiritual muscles because my obsession is out there doing push-ups everyday!

    The largest room in the world is the room for improvement!


    Liked by 1 person

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