How Alcohol and Drug Abuse Damages Muscle

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The sad truth is that most alcoholics and addicts spend more time at the bar than at the gym. We prefer twelve-ounce curls to twelve-pound curls, and it shows in our physical appearance by the time most of us get sober. Yes, there is the rare exception of an addict who runs marathons or is a champion athlete or goes to the gym every day. But those people are the exception, certainly not the rule.

Most of us, when we finally manage to get sober, are in poor physical shape. We wheeze walking up a flight of stairs. We tire easily. We can barely lift anything heavier than a cigarette. Our bodies, in most cases, are used and abused, and it shows in our posture, our weight and our poor muscle development.

Let’s face it, most of us start our sobriety like newborn babies; weak, pudgy, helpless and crying.

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Muscle atrophy is one of the most common physical attributes shared by addicts who are newly sober. While there isn’t necessarily a direct link between alcohol (or drug) abuse and muscle atrophy, there is certainly a direct link associated with the sedentary lives most of us lead as addicts. We spend the majority of our waking hours in non-physical pursuits – drinking at the bar, drinking at home, drinking in front of the television, calling the dealer, etc.

By the time we finally get sober, we’ve spent so many years sitting on our asses drinking and using that we’re about as physically strong and healthy as a worm (or more accurately, a tequila worm).

Muscle atrophy is simply when muscle wastes away from lack of use. Once our muscles begin to disintegrate, we become less and less interested in physical activity (exercise in particular) due to the extra amount of effort and exertion it now takes to accomplish. Eventually, we just stop trying as we continue to numb our brains in our quest for oblivion.

I clearly remember how difficult it was for me to perform the most basic physical tasks when I first got sober. Cleaning my apartment left me exhausted. Walking a few blocks seemed like a monumental task. Lifting a few weights at the gym seemed like an impossible (and miserable) task which I wanted to avoid at all costs.

But it’s imperative that we begin to rebuild our muscle structure. And the sooner we get started, the better we’ll feel and the more opportunities we’ll have to enjoy a wider variety of activities – things like hiking, walking, biking, fishing and yoga to name just a few.

Muscle strength is one of the most important aspects of a healthy, strong body. Therefore, we need to do whatever we can to rebuild and repair the muscle atrophy that has reduced us to weak baby worms.


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