When I am on the court, hearing the sneakers on the hardwood, the ball bouncing and the smooth swoosh of a perfect shot, it’s like music to my ears. I find inner peace while playing basketball. After a long day, I can tune out my troubles for a few hours. After some healthy competition, my problems seem less serious.

There are thousands of people who have been deep into drug addiction and managed to find sobriety, whether it was by going to rehab, attending 12 step meetings, therapy or even religion. All of these strategies are viable, but what helps me stay sober after all of this time more than anything is sports. Competing, exercising, yelling, friendship, all help me clear my mind after a long day or work week. Drug addiction does not have to be a life sentence, I learned this through my observations and life experiences. Many people believe that once you are labeled an addict, you will be one for the rest of your life. But playing basketball has also helped me meet good friends that I can socialize with. This can be a problem for someone who is trying to stay sober and meet good people.

Exercise and Mental Illness

Exercise has been proven to help reduce anxiety, depression, stress and PTSD. When you exercise, you release endorphins in your brain, which make you feel good. In fact, you’ve likely heard this feeling called a “Runner’s high”. Exercising results in the formation of new activity in your brain bolsters feelings of serenity and happiness. If you are fighting with depression, stress or anxiety, going to the gym or playing a game of basketball can free your mind and change your mood. The sense of well-being, distracting you from your worries, and providing you a natural high are all great deterrents for fighting drug addiction.

When you are active, your body is also less stressed, meaning your muscles are relaxed and tension is released, making you more relaxed, both mentally and physically. When you are new to sobriety, it is common that you may also suffer from one of these mental illnesses, but this is something that can be managed through exercising and daily maintenance. I did not think my anxiety or depression would ever go away in early sobriety, After working out regularly for about 3 months, I noticed my spirits changing. I was generally happier, had more energy and was becoming my old, outgoing self like I was before I became addicted.

Alternative Options to Help Stay Sober

I have been fighting drug addiction with exercise and sports for the past 5 years and I have been winning the fight. I know simply playing sports is not enough to keep someone sober and there are other steps that must be taken. For others who may not enjoy sports or do not have the ability to exercise, there are other outlets that can help in fighting drug addiction. Meditation, massage, yoga, art therapy, pet therapy and social groups are all other ways to find your peace. To me that is what being sober comes down to, finding inner peace, whether it is through exercise or painting a picture, whatever works for you therapeutically…do it!