Peach founder Tim Hayes shares the lessons he’s learnt from working with recovering addicts over the years for Addiction Recovery Awareness Day in this week’s blog.

It’s Addiction Recovery Awareness Day today, a subject that is close to my heart: over ten years I have worked with a myriad of clients at various stages in differing addictions, some more in the public eye than others. Almost all of us will know somebody affected by addiction in one way or another – even if we are not aware of it.

Whilst I am not a qualified addiction clinician, I have seen and experienced enough to feel compelled to share some of the lessons I’ve learnt from some of these incredibly strong people. Nobody is immune to destructive behaviour, so we can all learn a lot from those coming back from the brink.

Spiritual fitness

The way I see it, being spiritually fit is the key to either avoiding addiction or getting yourself out of a bad cycle.

Just as we assign and schedule time to go to the gym to continually strengthen our bodies, we need to schedule time to look after and strengthen our minds and spirit as well.

If you feel able or have the financial means to do so, schedule in time with a qualified therapist just as you would a personal trainer. I’ve found twelve step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous have helped my clients too. Stay in regular contact with friends and loved ones and never be afraid to ask for their help.

Routine

The life of an addict is often defined by total chaos, but enforcing routine on yourself can really help you feel spiritually fitter. It can be as simple as taking time out each evening before bed to review the day. Were you present, or were you worrying about the past or the future?

Did you achieve what you set out to achieve? How was your nutrition? If you needed to exercise did you manage that? What, if anything got in the way? What effect did all of these factors have on how you felt that day? What solutions can you put in place tomorrow? Taking each day as it comes and being mindful in the moment can prevent a sense of being overwhelmed, yet each day’s individual actions can all add up to huge change.

Exercise

If it’s physically safe to do so, reintroducing forms of exercise can greatly help with the creation of routine, and it’s no secret that activity helps to raise endorphins.

However, with low self esteem and self centred fear being at the core of an addictive mind it’s crucial that exercise becomes a meaningful experience that goes far beyond weight loss goals. Self esteem strengthens on esteemable acts, if our fitness goals are centred around a comparable image of others then that contradicts the very reason we exercise, to be happy and healthy. This is especially relevant to those struggling with addictions, who may be more at risk of developing eating disorders, body dysmorphia and exercise addiction. So I work very closely with clients looking at dysfunctional belief patterns and always focus on the solution rather than the problem. Achieving physical goals, however small, helps to raise self esteem – something that is sorely lacking in those with substance issues. Many recovered addicts I have met cite exercise as a key part of their recovery.

Do what gives you goosebumps

I know from my own experience that doing something that feels meaningful is the key to me staying spiritually fit. During my time working in the City I saw so many colleagues engaging in increasingly destructive cycles of behaviour and I needed to get out. If you are feeling dissatisfied to the extent that you need to escape your reality every Friday night, it could be time to think about switching jobs. Not all of us are financially stable enough to take a risk, but it’s worth evaluating your job satisfaction levels and having a think about what steps you could take to improve it.

In 2007 I completed my diploma in sports science, I wanted to pursue a more meaningful career. 2008 I set up as a freelance personal trainer. Fast forward a few years and the idea for Peach was born: I wanted to build a personal training company that delivered high quality training and a level of service that was unrivalled. I discovered that for me, my spiritual growth depends on how much service I can to others.

When a client turns around to me, and looks me in the eye having got their results and says thank you, that is why I do my job. It brings joy to my life, it nourishes my soul, it’s beautiful, it’s a privilege. I get goose bumps.

If you or anyone you know is affected by the issues of addiction, mental health charity Mind has a great list of helplines available to view here