CrossFit adaptive athlete and podcaster NATHAN GAGNON knew his substance abuse was holding him back from a more powerful version of himself. Recovery freed him.
I started drinking when I was about 13, through high school, and when I got out of college, I started drinking on my own every day in secret. My last days of drinking wasn't any sort of dramatic inciting incident. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I went to a meeting with a 12-step fellowship, and I've been sober for 10 years since.
I was about two years sober when I found CrossFit. I was hooked from the beginning. It gave me something to work on every day. And it’s taught me some important lessons about growing stronger in the gym and in recovery, physically and mentally.
1. It’s one day, one workout, one rep at a time.
If you're like me and you drank and got high every day from a teenager until you're 26, the idea of not doing it for 10 years is crazy. Don't think about not doing it for 10 years—do it just for today. It's like you want to deadlift 500 pounds or run a sub-five minute mile, that's a really daunting goal. Just go do your work today.
2. There is no perfect.
Instead, it’s about progress. If you've got a lot of wreckage of the past, you're not going to mend every bridge today—you might not mend them all ever. Just try and be a little bit better than things were previously. That same thing applies in strength and fitness: Make one step forward in the right direction than you were the previous day.
3. Follow a plan and those that follow the same plan.
People in the Recovery community say, “You want to get what we get, do what we do.” That means doing recovery work for myself and being involved with other people in recovery. That’s just like going into the gym, having a coach, and working a proven training plan. You know that plan is going to work and you stick to it. Week one is before week two for a reason, the same way that Step 1 is before Step 2.
4. Find your path.
As much as I've seen overlap, I don't think that my sobriety or recovery would be contingent on me finding CrossFit. I think everybody needs to find their own thing. I've seen countless examples to know it's true: You can get sober, you can recover under any and all conditions.
A version of this story appears in the May 2021 issue of Men's Health.
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