Getting Clean and Sober – Exercise Can Help
Tony Calderone’s last drink came on his oldest daughter’s 16th birthday, and it led to disaster – punching his ex-wife’s husband and terrifying his kids.
It was the end of decades spent drinking too much and using drugs. At 5’ 6” and 220 pounds and fired from his job, Tony knew he was out of control.
It took the look on his daughter’s face to make him seek treatment and, ultimately, sobriety. “I’ll never forget that,” he says today, four years later.
Now, Tony has regained his health through recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. He is in spectacular physical condition at 51 and a lean 160 pounds. And, most importantly, his girls have their father back.
“My workout regimen helps keep me sober,” says Tony, a metal fabricator and carpenter. “Life’s pretty good right now.”
Millions Struggle With Addiction After 50
Tony’s struggle is common for older people in the US, Canada, UK and Australia, experts say. The Baby Boom generation introduced widespread use of illegal drugs decades ago, and that continued as prescription medicine became its own epidemic among middle-aged and older people.
“Substantial evidence suggests that substance use among older adults has been under-identified for decades,” the US National Institutes of Health says. “The aging of the Baby Boom generation creates a new urgency to effectively identify and treat substance use among older adults.”
By 2020, 5.7 million older adults in the US alone will meet the criteria for alcohol abuse, according to a report in the journal “Addiction.”
We don’t metabolize alcohol and drugs as quickly as when we were younger, doctors say. So, what we could “handle” earlier in life can become a problem later.
Exercise can be a helpful part of recovery, along with 12-step programs, counseling, and medical and family support.
“Many patients with various substance use disorders have found that exercise helps to distract them from cravings,” Dr. Claire Twark wrote for the Harvard Medical School. “Workouts add structure to the day. They help with forming positive social connections and help treat depression and anxiety in combination with other therapies.”
“I Wanted to Take My Life Back”
Tony has built a new daily and weekly routine around eating right, exercising and recovery. He eats a strict diet of lean protein and steamed vegetables, lifts weights six days a week, and attends three recovery meetings a week.
“I just do what’s right for me,” he says. “I wanted to be the ripped, old man – old, sober man – at the beach. I wanted to take my life back. I’m getting the results I wanted.”
He’s considering his first physique contest next year. “I love to work out. It’s total comfort for me. It’s my therapy.”
Addiction or not, we all don’t have to devote ourselves so much to get lots of great benefits from exercising – physical, mental and social. But Tony says he’s happy.
“I like my age. I’m in the best shape of my life,” he says. “And my daughters are proud of their dad.”
Get Clean and Sober
If you or someone you know might have a drug or alcohol problem, contact your doctor, counselor or Alcoholics Anonymous, phone (212) 870-3400 or Narcotics Anonymous, phone (818) 773-9999. And I’m here to help you get fit whenever you’re ready.