2014 - August

by Jason Howell

Supported through a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) Million Hearts grant award, SoberHood will host the First Annual RecoveryPeople Softball Tournament on August 9, 2014 in Austin, Texas. The sobering fact is that people in recovery are at higher risk for a heart attack or stroke than the general population. Thankfully, we can dramatically reduce our risk by living a healthier lifestyle that includes fun, fellowship and physical wellness. The softball tournament is all of that and more. Four teams representing recovery communities, recovery homes and alumni organizations will compete and with the help of their cheering fans will promote recovery, heart health and physical activity. A trophy will be presented to the winning team at the Big Texas Rally for Recovery on September 13th on the State Capitol grounds.

Million Hearts is a nationwide campaign aimed at preventing 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017. As a peer-led nonprofit, SoberHood is excited to promote this wellness initiative within the recovery community. In addition to the softball tournament, SoberHood is producing a special Million Hearts podcast series which is available for download on iTunes and can be streamed on the RecoveryPeople website or followed via RecoveryPeople’s Linkedin group, facebook page, and RecoveryPeeps twitter feed.

As fate would have it, the day that the Austin Parks and Recreation Department could accommodate the RecoveryPeople Softball Tournament was August 9th, the death anniversary of music legend and Grateful Dead lead guitarist, Jerry Garcia. Jerry died of a heart attack at the age of 53 while in drug rehab in 1995. Jerry’s death was a tragic loss of a gifted soul, but as mentioned above, cardiovascular disease is not uncommon in the recovery community. The organ damage done during active addiction and the acute danger of a relapse are obvious cardiac concerns, but there are primary risk factors hidden within the recovery community: cigarette smoking, poor diet and lack of exercise. Too often people in recovery survive their “drug of choice” only to die of heart disease that would have been preventable through a healthier recovery lifestyle.

Within the recovery community, the biggest risk factor for a heart attack or stroke is cigarette smoking. Like Jerry Garcia, 75 percent of the recovery community are smokers compared to only 25 percent of the general population. Smoking is a cultural norm in the recovery community despite the health benefits of smoking cessation and the cognitive dissidence around picking and choosing addictive substances. Simple Fact: nicotine is highly addictive.

From a dependence perspective, research indicates that nicotine is more addictive than heroin. Plus, smokers are statistically more likely to relapse on other substances when compared to those who have quit smoking. Even second hand smoke increases your chances of having a heart attack by 25 to 35 percent. People in recovery who have quit smoking often approach it like they did their recovery from other addictive substances. They worked a 12 Step Program, like Nicotine Anonymous, they go to peer support meetings, and they can also get peer coaching. Some even used nicotine patches much like someone would use medication assisted therapy for other substances. Even local healthcare providers, like Seton Hospital, offer free tobacco education and smoking cessation support services.

The prevalence of overweight and obesity is a cardiovascular disease risk factor across all populations, and this is definitely true for the recovery community. At an event co-promoted by SoberHood, Recovery Alliance of Austin founder Joseph Sanchez said, “We (people in recovery) often put the spoon (cocaine spoon) down only to pick up the fork” referring to the unhealthy eating habits and weight gain commonly seen in the recovery community. Referring back to our beloved icon, Jerry Garcia, we can see the shapes and sizes of others in recovery who struggle with their weight along with their substance abuse. Excess weight gain can be attributed to unhealthy diets, but people in recovery should also reflect on their relationship with sugar. Research reveals that sugar can impact the limbic portion of the brain like a drug. People in recovery have to ask, “When is eating a cookie just eating a cookie and when is it feeding their disease?”

The good news is that living a physically active lifestyle can reduce the risk of cardiac disease and like the RecoveryPeople softball tournament; physical wellness can be a fun way to fellowship and support each other in addiction recovery. To learn more about heart health, wellness and recovery supportive events, go to recoverypeople.org

About the Author

Jason Howell has an MBA from Texas A&M University and is a Recovery Support Specialist and trainer. Howell is president of the National Alliance for Recovery Residences (NARR), the director of the Texas Recovery Oriented Housing Network (TROHN) and is the founder of the nonprofit, SoberHood. In 2008, he opened his first recovery residence and since then has overseen as many as 13 recovery residences at one time.  As a founding Board Member of NARR, Howell helped define the 4 different types of recovery residences along with their corresponding standards and certification program. Howell can often be found advocating for fair housing rights for people, and he is a producer of the podcast, RecoveryPeople.

( 3 Votes )
Comments (3)
3 Monday, 12 October 2015 13:34
John Mann
An increased emphasis in health and wellness is also great for the mind and helping individuals end their destructive ways of thinking and stresses.
2 Friday, 08 May 2015 09:55
Royal Life Centers Addiction Treatment
What a great point! Too many people in the recovery community get off drugs and start making better life choices, but fail to see the harm still being done by continuing to smoke! Thanks for bringing awareness to this pertinent issue!
1 Friday, 01 May 2015 13:56
Power House Recovery Center LLC.
We are looking at putting a team together for the tournament. Hope all are doing well up there and God Bless. Thanks for all your great work. Chris

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