Feeling Alive Again
Many times when substance abusers enter treatment, they forget what it’s like to feel alive naturally. Their drug of choice made them feel so amazing that they don’t think they will ever feel alive again unless they are high. The patients at Lakeview go through many emotional and life-changing experiences throughout their stay, but I’ve been blessed with the chance to watch them feel alive again. If you’ve ever done any type of cardiovascular activity, you know the feeling that I’m talking about. It’s the one when you’re breathing so hard that it actually feels like your heart is beating outside of your chest. You might even find yourself putting two fingers over your wrist or throat just so you can feel how fast your heart is beating. This is a natural feeling that many of us take for granted. I’ve never given it a second thought until I saw a patient experience it for the first time. It’s a moment that will take your breath away, bring tears to your eyes, and make you smile all at the same time.
So what exactly happens in these moments? Let me tell you.
During one of the first weeks we began the fitness program at Lakeview, a patient was midway through his reps doing squat jumps (an exercise that certainly spikes the heart rate), when he suddenly stopped and placed his right hand over his heart. With a look of amazement, he grabbed one of the guys standing next to him and had him feel his pounding heart. His response, “I know…I haven’t felt this way in years!” They then did a typical guys chest bump and carried on with their workouts. A few weeks later, a group of guys were going through a chest and bicep workout, focused mainly on strength. These guys had been training together every day throughout their rehab and had gained quite a bit of muscle mass in their upper body. On the second bicep exercise, a patient stopped, flexed his bicep and looked down to admire the newly formed peak and all the vascularity accompanying it. He made a point to have the other guys check it out, at which point they all started comparing their current “pump” in their bicep muscles by trying to flex and touch their shoulders at the same type. So typical of guys, but very much a first for them. These moments are so small that you certainly could have overlooked or not given them a second thought. But these are the moments that change lives; these are the moments that give them hope for a new and better future. These are the moments that I will never forget.