I am a financial practice manager and athlete who has always believed that a healthy lifestyle, both physically and mentally can drastically improve one’s experience. In 2011 that belief was put to the test. Lyme Disease stopped my life in its tracks and for three years I couldn’t exercise and could barely make it to work. When medication helped me to the point of starting to jog again, I added yoga and meditation and know with all my heart that I am cured today because of the total mind and…
I am a financial practice manager and athlete who has always believed that a healthy lifestyle, both physically and mentally can drastically improve one’s experience. In 2011 that belief was put to the test. Lyme Disease stopped my life in its tracks and for three years I couldn’t exercise and could barely make it to work. When medication helped me to the point of starting to jog again, I added yoga and meditation and know with all my heart that I am cured today because of the total mind and body connection I used to fight my illness.
That same year my brother died of a heart attack at age thirty-nine. The most tragic part of his death was that after dealing with a drug addiction for many years, he died following seven years of a successful life in recovery. In his memory, my family started an annual road race to benefit the treatment center that turned his life around. In addition, I volunteered to lead a walk/run at the center’s residential program for women.
While volunteering, I met many women of all ages and backgrounds and I witnessed firsthand the difference that exercise, yoga and other activities were making in their recovery. For some, yoga taught them to breathe and feel comfortable in their own bodies. For others, higher intensity athletics was an outlet for anger and frustration. For almost all, exercise led to a sense of accomplishment; feeling stronger; improved health; and increased confidence in staying clean and sober.
The problem was that after leaving treatment they were unable to continue these activities. They would often have trouble finding work, they couldn’t afford a gym or they had so many other struggles that exercise just fell to the bottom of their priorities.
To address this issue, I decided to shift my volunteer efforts and founded WellStrong. WellStrong is a new nonprofit whose mission is to bring healthy activities such as running, fitness training, yoga and meditation to lives of people in recovery of substance use disorder. By offering these activities in supportive substance-free community, free to those who can’t afford it, WellStrong will be the bridge to a healthy, active, fulfilling life in recovery.
Today addiction has touched just about everyone, whether personally or through a friend or loved one. Our nation has declared an opioid epidemic due to substance use disorders involving prescription pain relievers, heroin, and now the much more potent drug, fentanyl. This epidemic is affecting millions of Americans regardless of age, education, gender or wealth. But it has hit our youth hard. Our hearts break as we watch the disease of substance use disorder take the lives of the youth of our communities.
Currently in our own state of Massachusetts over four people a day die of an opioid overdose. If an addict is lucky enough to make it to treatment, relapse rates hover at around 90 percent. One study of heroin addicts in treatment showed 99 out of 109 will relapse within a year, 64 of those in the first week.
The chemistry of the opioid drug is different from other drugs. It attaches to receptors in the brain and blocks the creation of endorphins, creating the strongest cravings. Exercise creates endorphins and as studies have shown reduce cravings and thus relapse rates. For this reason, most treatment facilities have added exercise, yoga and meditation to their programs.
There is no center in Massachusetts that currently offers all these programs in a substance-free, supportive community, affordable to people in recovery. They are beginning to open in other states because they have been proven to work. WellStrong will bring this success to our communities.
WellStrong’s first center will open in Falmouth, MA where we can partner with local treatment programs, and where there is a large, vibrant recovery community. Once open, our long range plan includes opening more centers across the state.
Addiction is a family disease. The pain and suffering goes beyond the addict and affects many around them. A person beginning a life in recovery is searching to find strength and hope but every day is fighting shame, guilt and a lack of self-respect. Their lives have been shattered. Their families torn apart.
Fitness and meditation programs offered by WellStrong help in many ways. They add something positive to a person’s schedule, helping one feel useful and productive. They increase energy, reduce stress and lead to better moods. Exercise helps sleep and adds balance. It boosts immunes systems which helps fight illness and depression. It can be an outlet for anger, and as a person becomes strong and fit in mind and body it builds self-confidence.
WellStrong’s center will offer multiple classes per day and will have open gym hours and can offer programs to hundreds of members each year. Members who have been in recovery longer can mentor and provide support for those starting anew. WellStrong will be a safe, supportive place to go. As part of a team, members will be able to plan activities outside the center such as attending a road race or other local events, thus allowing involvement with local communities as well.
Members of WellStrong will build confidence and experience success that will extend to other areas of their lives. It will help them keep jobs, build relationships and live a fulfilling sober life. As shown in studies, rates of relapse will decrease, and so will overdoses. WellStrong will ultimately help save lives.
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