Wednesday, June 09, 2010


Over the past decade, some folks have said that I am addicted to exercise.  I smile at the joke, but it is probably more true than I realize.  The realization hit home recently as I was reading an article in Outside Magazine written by Matt Samet, in which the former world-class climber detailed his decent into prescription drug abuse.  The final three paragraphs resonated with me:
You've read this far and can now stand in disapprobation: Here's a guy with a certain talent who pissed it away.  Pathetic, no self control, a real American wastrel.  And you wouldn't be wrong.  But here's another secret.  If you're an outdoor athlete and good at it, you're probably like I once was: a selfish, self-involved son of a bitch.  It's always more, more, more and me, me, me, and I was no different.  I wanted to be the best.  I wanted to do the hardest... routes, to be the boldest....

Why? Why not?  I was addicted to climbing... and when that wasn't enough, I became addicted to drugs.

Maybe you see some of my method in your own madness.  And perhaps your obsessions are "healthy": wheatgrass, long runs, body sculpting, rock climbing.  That's great.  But I tell you know, absent your passions you will feel the sharp scrape of withdrawal -- just like any fixless junkie bug-eyed in a January alley.  Reality can be reduced to chemical reactions, our body craving the release of GABA, oxytocins, endorphins, serotonin, dopamine.  It doesn't care about their provenance.  It just doesn't.  Cut off the source -- any source -- and you will pay.

1 comment:

Joe J. said...

Sure, we all have some degree of addictive personality. But, I don't really buy that we're all one step from a junkie. Life is not black & white. It's shades of gray. What better way to pacify the pleasure center of your brain than with fun, healthy activity?

If I quit running tomorrow, I wouldn't turn to drugs. I would find other interests: skiing, hiking, traveling. They all feed the need for excitement.


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