“Come to boxing and you’re going to learn about yourself…”
Boxing is often thought of as a fast-paced workout, but it can be more than just a way to work up a sweat. Mike, the owner of Cappy’s Boxing Gym in Seattle says that the sport creates a healthy environment for cultivating self-awareness. He states, “I started boxing and very early on learned that it’s a safe space for self-awareness and self-development… I love the physicality of boxing and linking that physicality to life.” Mike began boxing 18 years ago at Cappy’s and immediately fell in love with the sport. He then became a coach and eventually bought the gym.
Boxing involves working in sometimes intense and elevated situations such as being close to others during punching drills like mitwork. When in close contact, emotions may become heightened and behavioral patterns can be revealed. This environment can illuminate fight, flight, or freeze responses. Learning how to handle situations where you are scared or uncomfortable is one of the most empowering things a person can do. It helps us recognize our patterns and reactions so that we can change them if needed in the future. This type of self-awareness also helps build confidence, making us feel better about ourselves and more confident when facing other difficulties in life.
We all have challenges that we face, whether that be in the boxing ring against an opponent or within ourselves. In these scenarios, it can be helpful to identify automatic reactions. Mike explains, “When you’re typically in that heightened situation, you’re timid, you don’t like being there. A skilled opponent in boxing can pick that off easily because they can sense that. Do you stand with confidence and deal with the situation even when inside you’re going ‘oh my gosh get me out of here, this is not good’?” Whether you’re dealing with a physical situation or emotional one, being able to respond in the moment is a skill. Learning your patterns has power. If you can recognize your default response, you then have the ability to learn and change your reaction. You can explore ways to improve your responses and make choices in the next situation that serve you better. Mike elaborates, “In that heightened situation when shit hits the fan, then you learn, is that [automatic response] efficient? Does this work for you? What adjustments do you want to make to those defaults?”
All levels are welcome at Cappy’s boxing. Mike says, “Most boxers, when they start, are super nervous. It’s a heightened situation just walking downstairs into the gym. That’s super common. I appreciate that authenticity.” Classes are group fitness based and follow a circuit training format. Boxers work on the fundamentals of boxing such as stance, cover, and punches. Boxers are paired up and moved through different stations that last 2-3 minutes – the typical length of a boxing round. Each station has a different focus and drill. Mike sets the scene, “You’ve got a coach telling you what you’re doing and what the drill is, then they’re letting you go and practice it. You might feel like you suck at it or like you’re a badass or somewhere in between.”
The overall feel of the class is energetic and lively. Everyone is working to the best of their ability, some are exhausted and taking a break while others are pushing through the entire workout. Mike elaborates, “Everyone is doing it [boxing] at their own pace and we’re just guiding them along the way. The beginner level is basic body awareness and being able to understand, ‘Hey you’re gassing out. Let’s make some modifications. Let’s pace ourselves.’” Mike believes in boxing, not only as a form of fitness, but as a form of self-discovery, confidence building, and connection. Mike says, “We’re here to work out. We’re here to do what we can, at whatever level that is. We’re here to have a good time and interact with other people.”
Recovery Beyond staff member, Jenn Boudreau, competed at the recent 40th Anniversary Emerald Cup Bodybuilding & Fitness Expo. Jenn, a seasoned bodybuilding competitor, was no stranger to the Emerald Cup. After three thwarted attempts at joining the competition due to injury, pregnancy, and coaching, the 2017 Emerald Cup was previously her final appearance in the bodybuilding arena. “I’ve never put so much effort into anything in my life,” says Jenn, “Before, if I didn’t win my world was shattered. Now, my self worth is no longer tied to my placing.” Bodybuilding helped Jenn maintain her substance use recovery. The gym was a space where she was surrounded by others who weren’t focused on drinking. “My first attempt at prep was my first attempt at sobriety as well,” she explains.
Prior to taking the stage, the 2022 Emerald Cup proved different from previous years competitions. As Jenn prepared to go before the judges, she noticed a shift in her mentality, “I think when I was younger, I was always fighting with my body and felt like I was trying to ‘punish’ it to get it to do what I wanted. This prep was more like coaxing it, and trusting that it was going to get there, even in the first few weeks of prep when I was still adding muscle so I didn’t see the scale move.” This mindset translated to the competition stage. In previous years, Jenn struggled with the ever-changing standards of perfection. Bodybuilding judging is subjective. Competitors train to look a certain way, then might find the judges prefer a different body-type all together. Striving for contrasting versions of the perfect physique took a toll on Jenn, “After so much internal turmoil of never being enough or never being good enough, and an injury, I put up my heels. Going on stage this time [in the 2022 Emerald Cup] I was in love with my body, I didn’t care how I measured up against the other girls, and I didn’t see one person who made me feel like I wasn’t good enough. I felt this not because everybody else wasn’t competitive or in shape, I just really liked my body and it had come through for me exactly on time, performed exactly how I needed it to and I was grateful for it.”
Recovery Beyond is proud of the determination, commitment, and intention Jenn puts into all areas of her life. There are parallels between recovery from substance use disorders (SUDs) and training for a fitness event; it takes time, it can be painful, and it can be hard to trust the process. Jenn explains, “Recovery from SUD requires that you do things that are uncomfortable, you have to force yourself to do things when you don’t feel like doing them and when it might even hurt to do them. Fitness, training for something in particular, is very good practice for the things you need to do to recover. You have to follow a workout plan/treatment plan. It hurts sometimes in the beginning (early sobriety is often painful) and you are sore and tired afterwards (completing the 12 steps or talking with a peer support counselor can have a similar effect emotionally you feel raw and exhausted). The biggest difference is that fitness has tangible, measurable and visible results. You can see the transformation occurring and you get stronger and daily activities become easier. When you realize that you can push through the pain, and the results are beyond what you ever thought you could obtain, a confidence and sense of pride or accomplishment develops. This often translates into other walks of life. It’s easier for someone who has trained 16 weeks for something and knows that the results at the end of it are phenomenal, to push through the pain of recovery steps, where often there are no visible results, and trust that at the end of 16 weeks they will have accomplished something worth the pain.”
Recovery Beyond, a local non-profit that facilitates healthy lifestyle and social support activities for people in recovery, is proud to sponsor Jenn Boudreau at the 40th Anniversary Emerald Cup Bodybuilding & Fitness Expo from April 29th-30th. Jenn, a seasoned bodybuilding competitor, is no stranger to the Emerald Cup. After three thwarted attempts at joining the competition due to injury, pregnancy, and coaching, the 2017 Emerald Cup was her final appearance in the bodybuilding arena. Now, she’s coming back to the same stage to revisit a goal she set for herself many years ago. “I’ve never put so much effort into anything in my life,” says Jenn, Recovery Beyond staff member and bodybuilding competitor. “Before, if I didn’t win my world was shattered. Now, my self worth is no longer tied to my placing.”
Bodybuilding helped Jenn maintain her substance use recovery. The gym was a space where she was surrounded by others who weren’t focused on drinking. “My first attempt at prep was my first attempt at sobriety as well,” she explains. “If I had had this group [Recovery Beyond] at the last Emerald Cup I probably would have won. I took second place in two divisions [at the 2017 Emerald Cup] and not because I didn’t have the physique but because I couldn’t stop drinking during that prep. I’m positive if I had not been drinking at all in that prep, I probably would’ve won…I’m coming back knowing that [drinking] won’t be the thing that stops me.”
Jenn recalls conversations she had with fellow competitors while working a Recovery Beyond booth at a bodybuilding event earlier this year. “[They] secretly wanted to make sure no one was listening to us and whispered, ‘I’m in recovery too.’ I told them literally every single person who has come to the booth has said that to us. They were baffled. They were falling over like, ‘What really? There are other people who like bodybuilding who are in recovery as well?’ They couldn’t believe it. It was great to be able to bring it to the competitors’ attention that most of them were in recovery.”
Recovery Beyond hopes that sponsoring Jenn will create awareness of substance use disorder and spread the word that there is a recovery community that enjoys fitness and healthy lifestyle activities as a pathway for recovery. Megan Fisher, the new Executive Director for Recovery Beyond, a person in long-term recovery, and an advocate for stigma reduction, shares what fitness did for her recovery. “I was close to two years abstinent from alcohol, but couldn’t put down the cigarettes. I got involved in a running group through my church and ended up slowly training for the Chicago Marathon. Every day, as I worked through my run/walk cycle, I reminded myself that a cigarette would destroy my goal. The community of supportive friends who had a common purpose drove me to keep showing up. I ran that marathon, I’m 14 years sober, and I’ve been smoke-free ever since!”
“Taking care of your mental health gives you the ability to cope and live with stress. Positive mental health helps you live to your full potential.” – Dr. Rach Rohaidy
Recovery Beyond Peer Lead, Olga, sat down with us to discuss the importance of mental health and share parts of her journey. Born and raised in Ukraine, Olga moved to the United States in 2016 to join the University of Maryland’s tennis team. This monumental change took a toll on her well-being and affected her confidence in herself. Olga remembers, “It felt like being released into the wild without making my own decisions before that [attending college in the USA].” This move across the globe made her feel unprepared and unsure of her emotions. “There was a lot going on”, Olga explains, “I wasn’t processing it, I felt more and more overwhelmed, and I couldn’t do anything about it.”
Olga began isolating herself from the tennis team. Her teammates noticed a change in behavior and suggested she address the issue. She says, “I had to deal with it, it’s the toughest thing to figure out. What’s the best approach? How do you deal with your own anxiety? How do you not be so tough on yourself? It’s interesting because you realize a lot of it is from you beating yourself up. But how do you not do it? How do you stay kind to yourself?” Knowing she had to work on her mental health, Olga began seeing a psychiatrist, got a formal diagnosis, and began taking medication. That wasn’t the end of her struggles, “I was holding onto my diagnosis too much, I wasn’t working through it in a healthy manner. It was almost a crutch. […] I realized later, I also struggled with substance use disorder and went through tough relationships in college and with my teammates.”
Olga knew she was still relying on substances to cope with feelings. She explains, “I decided to blame everything on substances. I thought, ‘Once I quit, things are gonna get better.’ And it’s true, after I got sober things got better. But over the first year I realized there’s much more to it. My substance use was just my way of avoiding dealing with those things.” When asked about the importance of mental health, Olga responded, “To me, taking care of my mental health is everything. Everything I have can just fall apart easily if I don’t take care of my mental health. People say that a lot about sobriety. But for me, first, you also have to take care of your mental health. Otherwise, you have so many things around you. It’s so easy to slip if you’re not in a good mental state. It’s the most important thing.”
Olga has a toolbox of mental health strategies that she refers to when faced with challenges. This mental health toolbox includes meditation, exercise, and connection. Olga emphasizes the value of consistency, which means that you can start small and make changes over time to create habits. She stresses the importance of seeking out help and support when needed, as well as exercising and participating in relationship-building activities. She elaborates, “It’s essential to build connections and to feel like you are a part of the community, and that there are people that understand and will be there for you even when things get tough.” For example, Olga has included events such as Recovery Beyond sporting events as part of her weekly routine. These activities have encouraged her to try new sports (such as climbing) and lean on relationships with others in the Recovery Beyond community. She describes Recovery Beyond as an essential part of taking care of her mental health and recovery. Mental health is just as important as physical health and wellness. Olga explains, “You have a disease [depression], you have to try to take care of it and keep it under control. It’s possible, there are ways to do it, same as diabetes – there’s medication, diet, and lifestyle changes. It’s the same for depression, little by little you have to figure out how to keep it under control.”
Dr. Rach Rohaidy, a psychiatrist with Baptist Health, mirrored this in a recent webinar with Advanced Recovery Systems. Dr. Rohaidy advocated for meditation, exercising, volunteering, and relationship building to improve mental health. She recommends small amounts at first and building up to these habits. If you know someone struggling with their mental health, Dr. Rohaidy emphasizes that open lines of communication are crucial; sit with someone, be an ear for someone. If you or a loved one need someone to talk to, here’s a list of community mental health resources.
Mark Adams joins Recovery Beyond as the Director of Programs.
Recovery Beyond is excited to welcome Mark Adams as the Director of Programs. Mark brings over 20 years of experience creating and leading programs, experiences, and communities that teach and guide people toward more natural and joyful health as a way of living. Mark has a doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University, a master’s degree in Exercise & Sport Science from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, and an undergraduate degree from Harvard University. In 2005, he co-founded ONVO, a boutique whole body health community in the Bellevue-Seattle area that attracted more than 5,000 clients during its decade-plus existence.
Mark has a deep commitment to nurturing healthy lifestyles for others. He shares his vision for the role, “I hope to help bring an optimistic and holistic recovery lifestyle to our programs and, most importantly, to the lives of our participants. The reality is I constantly think about health and wholeness. The passionate ‘why’ of my career has precisely been about helping people live better, healthier lives in a more holistic, natural, and joyful way. My driving question for folks is, ‘Can you live it?’”
Mark found his way to Recovery Beyond through good friends who introduced him to the organization’s founder, Mark Ursino. After hearing the history of Recovery Beyond, Mark Adams was driven to support the mission. He hopes to facilitate healthy lifestyle activities in meaningful and lasting ways. He explains, “I would like to see Recovery Beyond grow as an active community that is known for its sense of family and a true spirit of living that animates and emboldens our programs and people!”
Originally from Indiana, Mark now resides in Issaquah with his three sons and 125-pound dog. He loves hiking, camping, and swimming in the PNW rivers and lakes. He and his sons collect their own local spring water for drinking and cooking.
Megan’s career in the substance use disorder (SUD) sphere began 11 years ago in a residential treatment program on the West side of Chicago. She describes, “It was a very rewarding first job in the field, but I did experience the first loss of a client. I still have a stuffed tiger that he picked out for me on a treatment outing to the local zoo as a reminder of how deadly this disease can be.” She then worked as a counselor in a prison treatment program and found great compassion and fondness for the men as they grew in their recovery. In this position, she began to develop managerial skills and became the Director of Addiction Services. Most recently, she worked for Community Mental Health Centers in program development and operations, grant management, community engagement, and strategic collaboration at the state and national levels.
Lived experience with SUD led Megan to this line of work. She explains, “It was my personal journey in recovery that brought me to this field. Having come back from near-death and almost losing my child in the grips of substance use, it became a passion of mine to bring recovery resources and intimate connection to people caught in the miserable cycle of substance use. In my own recovery path, I discovered how beneficial physical activity is to my mental and emotional well-being. I also realized how much a healthy lifestyle community can be a bedrock for recovery stability. I live the mission of Recovery Beyond in my own recovery world and I am ecstatic to be a part of an organization that introduces and sustains these opportunities for others.”
It’s with this passion for getting together, for physical activity, and for sharing resources that Megan approaches the Executive Director role and emulates the vision of Recovery Beyond. She says, “We have all heard that substance use disorder is really a hole in our heart, something missing that we are trying to fill. That hole is connection – relationship. We get together to develop that community which will be our support and for whom we can be of service.” In addition to relationships and service, Megan is enthusiastic about anything active – from caving to hiking to boxing. She describes fitness as her number one meditation tool, “I feel most present and in the moment when I am physically involved, whatever the specific activity. I also stay engaged in support meetings and connect with others in recovery. Prayer and journaling are consistent practices of mine as well.”
Looking towards the future of Recovery Beyond, her vision is not only to create a diversity of activities for members to choose from but to expand the expedition element as well. This means more long-term goal-setting opportunities such as the Seattle to Portland ride and multi-day mountaineering trips. You’ll see an expansion of activities that, with consistent participation and commitment, will lead directly to large-challenge opportunities.
The power of Recovery Beyond is not just the mountain summit; it’s the human connections that are forged in hard work, discomfort, and commitment. Community building and relationships are cornerstones of the Recovery Beyond model. Megan sums it up, “We get together so that someone knows me well enough to see in my eyes when I am hurting and need a kind word. We get together to create memories of joy and zest so that we always remember that recovery is about allowing us to live life to its fullest. We get together because we are human and, at our core, we need companionship, understanding, love.”
We are thrilled to have Megan on the team. She brings great experience, perspective, and enthusiasm to the role. As someone who loves to make the most out of every opportunity, her thirst for life and adventure is infectious. This zealousness for the new and exciting will be a powerful addition to Recovery Beyond. We will be having a meet-and-greet with Megan on Sunday, January 23th, join us by signing up on our website calendar.
Archive for 2022
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