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I was an alcoholic and a drug addict for my entire adolescence and a chunk of my young adulthood.
During all these years I didn’t think about my future.
I couldn’t care less about my health, whenever I wasn’t high.
The only thing I thought about was when I would get my next fix.
My problems with substances began when I was only 9 years old.
At that age, I got drunk for the first time, after stealing a bottle of liquor at a family party.
I had never felt anything like it, it made me feel less awkward, less shy.
I loved it and kept drinking every chance I got.
What started with alcohol soon escalated to drugs: at 14 I started consuming marijuana, and then got hooked on more hardcore drugs like cocaine and meth.
My wake up call was being sentenced to two years in prison for drug-related charges when I was 23 years old.
It was only then that I realized I had a problem and decided to get clean.
When I was let out of prison I checked into a rehabilitation center, and during my treatment and recovery process, I started thinking about my future.
I realized I had the chance to rebuild my life.
I decided I wanted to make up for all the years I spent hooked on drugs by leading a healthy lifestyle.
I have been sober for almost a decade now and I would like to share 8 tips that have helped me stay healthy and happy with you.
Working out regularly is key to staying healthy and living longer.
It can improve your overall physical health by reducing your risk of heart problems and stimulating your respiratory system, as well as helping you stay at a healthy weight.
It makes you feel happier too since it allows the release of serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin in your brain.
These are chemicals that give you a natural feeling of euphoria and satisfaction.
It’s fundamental you make it a regular practice in order to get all of these benefits and more.
What I would recommend you do in order to make it part of your routine is set small goals at first and build up from there.
That way it will be easier for you to adjust and actually enjoy it.
The best part is, you can choose any type of exercise you want.
I’m not big on gyms, but I do love hiking since I love being surrounded by nature, which reminds me of how much beauty there is in the world.
I also enjoy playing basketball with my friends every now and then.
I started exercising while I was in recovery, and, even though it was hard at first because I was completely out of shape, soon enough I started enjoying it.
It helped me so much that I haven’t since.
Drugs and alcohol are substances that poison your body whenever you consume them, but they were not the only way I was poisoning my body.
There are foods, many of which we consume daily, that are full of chemicals and toxins, as well as a ton of calories with absolutely no nutrients.
Refined carbohydrates and sugary foods are some examples.
My diet used to be based exclusively on hot dogs and mac and cheese.
Sure, they taste delicious, but they don’t do much for improving your health.
While it’s okay to indulge in your favorite junk food every once in awhile, it’s important to base your diet on healthy, rich in nutrients foods such as leafy greens, fruits, whole grains and lean meat.
These foods contain amino acids, antioxidants, protein, calcium, among many other nutrients that will improve your health in ways you wouldn’t imagine.
After I started cutting on junk food it wasn’t long before I started feeling more energetic, less irritable and more focused.
Besides, since my new, healthy diet was paired with regular exercise, I started noticing changes in my body: I lost a couple of extra pounds, my muscles were toned and I looked better, which really improved my self-esteem.
These are only a few of the benefits you get from eating a balanced diet.
Between work, relationships, and bills to pay, stress can be overwhelming, and, believe it or not, it can affect your physical and mental health.
Sometimes stress is inevitable, life will always put obstacles in your way, but you have the choice on whether you let that stress control you or learn to deal with your problems in a more calmed, productive way.
When I was in rehab, my therapist suggested I try mindful meditation to help with my stress, which was very high at that time.
I did, and, after making it a daily practice, I started noticing changes, for the better, in my mood and overall emotional state.
Mindful meditation helped me be more aware of the moment, experience everything to the fullest, and to not worry so much about the past or the future.
I stopped feeling overwhelmed.
I was more relaxed, I started handling situations that would normally stress me out with more calm.
It even improved my sleep.
Even though clearing your mind from all thoughts might sound difficult, it is actually very easy if you practice it constantly.
A good way to start is to just sit in silence, close your eyes, and focus on your breathing.
Be conscious of every inhale and every exhale. Do this for 5 minutes, more or less.
The first couple of times you might not be able to completely clear your mind and relax, but if you start doing this every day, you’ll start feeling the changes I was just telling you about.
When I started exercising I learned the importance of training and strengthening my body.
The problem was, I didn’t know how essential it was to strengthen my mind as well at the time.
Just like any other muscle in your body, if you don’t exercise your brain, it can develop atrophy.
In my case, it was affected by drugs and alcohol.
I was having trouble remembering things and making simple calculations, so my therapist recommended I start doing puzzles, sudoku, and little things like that which can actually make a big difference.
So, next time you’re bored or you have a little spare time on your hands, instead of watching TV or reading a magazine you can do some of these things which will stimulate your brain more.
Positive Outlook and Gratefulness
I remember I got to a point during my addiction where I thought I had nothing left to live for.
I thought I had thrown my life away and there was no getting it back.
In fact, I even thought about taking my own life.
Fortunately, I realized that wasn’t the case at all before I made any permanent, horrible decision.
Problems are part of life.
There will always be obstacles you’ll have to overcome, but they’re not everything in life.
I lost many opportunities, I wrecked most of my relationships, I was 25 and didn’t know what to do with my life, I was suffering from anxiety and depression.
Thankfully, through therapy and meditation, I was able to realize I still had many things to be grateful for.
For starters, I was given a chance some are not so lucky to get: I could rebuild my life and make it anything I wanted to.
This outlook of positivity and gratefulness was what kept me going and eventually took me to where I am today.
If you stop and really think about it, I’m sure there are many things in your life to be grateful for.
This is what you should focus on, and learn to appreciate every blessing and every struggle.
With this outlook, you’ll feel less stressed and feel better emotionally.
Connect with Others
I burned many bridges because of my addiction.
When my friends and family wanted to help me, I pushed them away, to the point of completely alienating myself from them.
The only “friends” I had were bad influences.
I didn’t have anyone to rely on, which, as humans, we all need to do at some point or another.
One of the most important things I learned while I was in rehab was to feel empathy for others.
I was able to put myself in my family and friends’ shoes and understand how they felt, which was essential so I could reconnect with them.
They empathized with me too and were able to forgive me.
Cultivating, nurturing and maintaining relationships is part of having a healthy life.
Once I could rebuild the relationships I had broken and build new ones based on mutual support and acceptance, my quality of life improved significantly.
Just knowing there is someone you can turn to in a moment of need, someone who you can laugh with, make plans with, and just be comfortable around them can make you happier.
It sure made me a lot happier.
Getting enough quality sleep is part of living a healthy life.
It can really make the difference in terms of your energy, ability to focus on your daily tasks, mood and overall physical and mental health.
Not getting enough sleep, or sleeping badly, can lead to a number of health issues.
Even though you may have heard or read online that you should sleep 8 hours a day, it actually depends on each person’s organism.
Some people might need 8-9 hours of sleep, while others might need less.
The important thing is you feel well rested when you wake up.
I had a lot of trouble falling asleep during my addiction and during recovery, and when I finally fell asleep, I used to wake up several times during the night.
As a result, I was cranky and sleepy all day, which led me to consume drugs to be able to relax, making it an endless vicious cycle.
Meditation, as we discussed it before, helped me reduce these problems and get the rest my body and mind needs.
Sometimes we are so busy we forget how important it is to care for, pamper and treat ourselves every once in awhile.
It is healthy to take some time out from your daily schedule for yourself, detach from the rest of the world and do something you really enjoy.
It can be getting your favorite food, watching your favorite movie, reading a good book… anything that can allow you to think only about yourself for a little bit, which can help you reduce stress and be the motivation to keep improving yourself.
During the first few years of my sober life I used to set myself sobriety goals -one week sober, two weeks, a month — and as I accomplished them I rewarded myself with something I loved.
This gave me the motivation to stay sober, it was something to look forward to.
I still take some time to myself every now and again to remind myself of how much I love me.
This might sound silly, but think about it, sometimes we go out of our ways to demonstrate to other people how much we love them, why not do the same with ourselves?
Living a healthy life doesn’t mean suffering from any illnesses.
It means constantly working to improve your body, mind, and spirit, and most importantly, enjoying yourself and finding happiness in everything you do.
Life will always bring troubles and obstacles, but there’s always a way of solving them without breaking down.
These tips are not hard to adapt to, and following them can bring you the benefits you might just be needing in your life right now.
I had to rebuild my life from scratch, in a moment when I thought it was completely over, and, thanks to these tips, now I can say I’m healthy and happy.
If I could do it, I bet you, you can do it too.
Do you know any other tips for living a happy, healthy life?
If you have any suggestions or want to share your experience, please leave a comment below.
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