The group of women at a local IOP had just finished a 2 mile jog. Like their sober sisters and brothers on other Strides in Recovery teams, they were training for their first 5K. It was cool down time. We were stretching our muscles at the best time, when they were already loose and warm. We had done the lower back, quadriceps (front of the thigh), hamstrings (back of the thigh), hip flexors, and glutes. It was time for our calf stretches. I asked the women to line up facing the wall, put their hands on the wall at shoulder height, keep their heels flat on the ground with their body in a straight line, and lean forward.
This is a great calf stretch. Try it sometime, especially if you often wear heels. But that’s not where I’m going with this story.
From a distance, this line-up often looks amusing to me, as if they are all trying to push down the wall. As I was watching and asking everyone if they could feel the stretch in their calves, I was considering injecting some humor like “Keep pushing, the wall is starting to move.” Before I could do so, one of the women commented, “I feel like I’m about to be frisked and handcuffed.”
“Yikes”. I hadn’t thought about that. Standing in that position was triggering a lot of unpleasant memories. Cooling down and stretching after training was not going to be a positive experience for her. We needed to help her change that association. Standing against a wall with her hands up meant her life was continuing on its downward spiral. It meant her life had just taken a significant turn for the worse. It was a physical reminder of how far down her addiction had brought her.
It was time to create a new association. What did standing with her teammates against the wall now represent?
-She was part of a community sharing the same goal of staying sober.
-She had been doing something positive for her physical, emotional, and mental health.
-She was going the extra mile for her own recovery.
-She was practicing self-care.
-She was turning her life around.
Standing in that position no longer meant that her life was on a downward spiral. It was now a reminder that she was rebuilding her new life in sobriety.