Exercise and Addiction Recovery

exercise and addiction recovery

Exercise is truly the gift that keeps on giving, what you put in in terms of efforts comes back 10-fold in how you feel. Getting in shape, as the phrase suggests, will also have you looking better. Unfortunately, between looking for drugs, getting wasted or drunk and then dealing with the hangovers and withdrawal those who abuse substances to the point of addiction most likely aren’t fitting in a workout.

Doesn’t land too highly on the to-do list of an addict.

This really is a shame because working out offers so many benefits and you don’t even necessarily have to incur the costs of a gym membership if money is tight.

Benefits of Exercise in Addiction Recovery

Getting started with exercise may not come naturally at first but going through that initial bumpy batch of getting into the swing of it is absolutely worth it.

Better Mood

Working out releases those feel-good chemicals into the brain, replacing the garbage you were putting in before. A good exercise releases endorphins, dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin and leaves you feeling fantastic. If you’ve ever heard the phrase “runner’s high”, that’s pretty much where it comes from and it certainly has the power to put you in a better mood.

Healing the Body

Drug and alcohol addiction don’t just affect the mood though, they devastate the body. Exercise puts you on the path of immediate physical recovery and maintaining a workout regimen sets you up to lower risk for possibly developing other health issues down the road as you get older. Exercise functions to keep your blood pressure in check and make your heart strong to reduce the risk of cardiovascular and heart disease.


An uncomplicated but powerful tool, having a structure in your day means you know what you’ll be doing with your day. Creating a routine that includes dedicated exercise time goes a long way towards avoiding finding yourself in situations that may trigger you.

Dealing with Stress

Exercise is a time-tested coping mechanism and a healthy one at that. There are plenty of not healthy ways to deal with stress as any addict knows but getting the stress out at the gym, or wherever you choose to exercise, by working up a sweat is AOK. 

Meeting People

If you used to meet people bars, clubs or other places that revolved around drugs and alcohol and are wondering how you’re going to stay social in sober life, exercise presents a perfect opportunity. A gym is a wonderful place to meet people who are on the right track so to speak and if a gym is maybe a little too intimidating for you, trying a sports league or pick up games at the park. All good options for creating new, healthy connections.

Different Types of Workouts

This is the fun part: figuring out what works for you. Working out comes in so many different forms and finding what you like is only a matter of research and then some trial and error. The big categories are aerobic, strength and stretching/flexibility.


These are your cardio workouts that get your blood pumping and heart rate up. Running, biking, swimming, team sports, HIIT (high-intensity interval training), etc. fall into this category.


Pretty much what you think it is, strength training is about resistance, things like lifting weights, machine exercises, using bodyweight, etc.


Workouts in this area are all about improving range of motion, flexibility and balance. They tend to be more low impact, think yoga and Pilates.

Benefits of Addiction Recovery

The benefits of recovery far outweigh the alternative and exercise is a simple, yet profoundly effective way to keep yourself on track. We’re big fans of working out at Newport Beach Recovery Center and would be happy to tell you all about the positives that come from an active lifestyle in your recovery journey. Call us to learn more.

Connection Between Trauma and Addiction

trauma and addiction

It’s inescapable. That’s how it feels at least. The dread of it all just sort of ever-present in one way or another.

The American Psychological Association describes trauma as an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape or natural disaster. That’s not the end of it though. After initial feelings of denial subside, you find that the trauma lingers. Incessantly.

It causes flashbacks, stresses relationships to the breaking point and can manifest itself physically in the form of headaches or nausea. 

Dealing with it is not easy but people find ways to cope, especially with the help of a professional treatment center.

What Is the Connection Between Trauma and Addiction?

The sad reality of our world is that trauma is not a rare phenomenon, numerous studies have shown that through the course of our lives, 51% of women and 61% of men will have had a traumatic experience.

Worse yet, experiencing trauma as a child has been linked to substance use disorders. The results of one study showed that in a sample of highly traumatized people, rates of dependency on drugs and alcohol were particularly high.

Data from 17,000 patients in another study by Kaiser Permanente showed that if a child experienced more than 4 traumatic events they’d be 5 times more likely to end up an alcoholic, 60% more likely to become obese and 46 times more like to use injectable drug.

And that’s the thing, substance abuse doesn’t happen in a vacuum and addiction isn’t something people just fall into by chance. Often there’s a motivator and addiction is, in many ways, a symptom of deeper-seated painful experience. A way by which the user can “escape” the hold of it, if only for a brief moment in time. 

Traumas bury themselves deep in the psyche and will torment us until we face them or they destroy us.

It doesn’t have to be the latter.

Addressing Trauma in Substance Abuse Treatment

Fortunately, there are options out there to manage trauma and substance abuse at the same time. In some ways, it’s part of the whole recovery process, addressing substance abuse requires working through the trauma that preceded it. There’s no safer place to unpack that than in the warm embrace and with the oversight and guidance of caring professionals.

This breaks down into a few methods, trauma-informed, trauma-specific and dual diagnosis. The National Trauma Consortium lays out the basics of the first two:

Trauma-Informed Services consider “knowledge about trauma—its impact, interpersonal dynamics, and paths to recovery—and incorporate this knowledge thoroughly in all aspects of service delivery.”

Trauma-Specific Services have a more focused primary goal “to address directly the impact of trauma on people’s lives and to facilitate trauma recovery and healing”.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment generally encompasses the same ideas as above and means that someone with substance abuse is also dealing with mental illness. Trauma can, of course, present itself as any type of mental illness, be it; depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, anxiety, etc. the way our minds deal with and process these experiences is unique to each individual.

A dual diagnosis, or a co-occurring disorder, treatment regimen works to treat both aspects. To truly kick the addiction to drugs or alcohol once and for all, it requires properly dealing with the trauma you’ve experienced, otherwise, you’re just setting yourself up for a potential relapse.

How to Get Help With Addiction

Help with substance abuse and the trauma that led you or your friend or family member down the road to addiction is only a call away. At Newport Beach Recovery Center in Orange County, we have a combined 30+ years of experience getting their lives back, both physically and mentally. Reach out to us and let us know how to help.