It finally happened…
I took my 13-year-old son to the gym for his first workout. Understand, as a person who values his health and recognizes the tremendous benefits of strength training both physically and emotionally, the opportunity to safely train my son is one that I’ve been anticipating and looking forward to for some time.
Especially since he’s into sports and at times struggles with his confidence.
I know all too well what it’s like to be sitting at the bottom of the proverbial school food chain as the unathletic, skinny kid. And I don’t want that same experience for him as he prepares to enter high school next year.
Anyway, as we prepared for his first workout, I sat him down to cover a few ground rules. Principles that are a must for safe and effective training that also apply in many ways to recovery.
I want to share these three rules of effective recovery for any of you who may be just starting out yourself or thinking about jumping into your own personal freedom journey.
1. Don’t compare yourself to others.
I told my son,
“Hey, when we get there, you may feel a little weird because you are going to be lifting very little weight as compared to the other guys in the gym. It can be super intimidating and embarrassing to be struggling with a couple of pounds when the guy next to you is throwing up the weight of a small car. But it only feels that way if you worry about comparing yourself and lose sight of the real goal – growing stronger.”
I explained to him that he needed to have a healthy mindset going into this experience. That he was there to improve and build strength and not compete with other guys.
I told him that what other people lifted didn’t matter and anyone who is serious about their training understands that and will not be judging you.
And the same thing applies to recovery.
Sometimes we feel intimidated because we are still floundering with our addiction while others around us are moving forward by leaps and bounds. But your recovery journey is yours alone and the only thing that matters is how you progress, not how you compare to others.
Anyone who has found success in their long-term recovery efforts knows what it’s like to start out. We understand the frustration and the impatience. But we also know that it takes time and that perseverance is key to eventual success.
Avoid the comparison trap. Just focus on you.
2. Avoid bad form and short cuts.
I told my son that while working out he needed to focus on his form. I explained that proper form was essential for real progress and safety. That “cheating” with his lifts would only rob him of results and could even hurt him. He nodded his head and agreed to listen to my directions throughout his workout.
In the recovery world, guys fall into bad “form” all the time.
In other words, they opt for certain resources in an effort to speed up their perceived progress, only to find themselves in a worse condition than before because they fail to utilize those resources in a healthy way.
Bad form could be:
- Locking down their access so they literally can’t watch porn but doing nothing else with their efforts.
- Using tools like accountability software to force them to tell the truth about their behavior because they fear being honest about their choices.
- Signing up for a small group but failing to attend and canceling after they don’t see any “real change.”
- White knuckling their way through stretches of sobriety but failing to do any sort of evaluation or reflection when they inevitably fall flat on their face.
- Having an accountability partner but never meeting with each other.
The list goes on.
Long-term recovery is hard work. It takes patience and requires follow through.
And the resources you use can help you greatly but only if you use them well and as intended.
It doesn’t change the very real day-to-day struggle and shame you may be experiencing. But keep doing the work, keep engaging in healthy community, keep deconstructing the sources of shame in your life, and eventually you will get to the root of your pain and that’s when you will see God do what he does best.
3. Feed yourself
The last principle I shared with Hunter was this: You need to make sure you are filling yourself with the right foods and nutrients to grow stronger.
I explained to him that while lifting weights would help him build muscle, it would only do so if he ate enough and nurtured his body. Anyone who is serious about working out understands this.
Diet is key to an effective workout regiment.
And while I could also say that for recovery purposes diet is also important, I would rather tell you that while you are in recovery you need to nurture not just your body, but your soul. The journey to freedom can be a perilous one with lots of ups and downs, twists and turns. And when you face challenges in your life, you will need something to feed your soul and emotional wellbeing.
That something is community.
Being part of a healthy and supportive community will benefit you in ways you never imagined. It is the recovery shake you need after a hard counseling session, or a difficult accountability chat, or an argument with your spouse.
Community nurtures your mind and soul in ways that a book or course can’t do. It is the lifeblood for an effective training regiment and something we all need if we want to grow and succeed.
Whether you are just starting out on your recovery journey, haven’t begun yet, or have been on the path for some time, you need to remember and observe these three principles if you want your efforts to prove fruitful.
Like strength training, this journey is a marathon and not a sprint. Just focus on growth and not the time it takes you to get where you want to go.
And if you aren’t quite sure where to start your “training,” check out Small Groups Online. We have groups for men, women, and spouses that meet every week and are there for the purposes of recovery, healing, and mutual support.