The Choice and The Struggle

Healthcare Provider Paradox

When I worked at Tacoma General Hospital I would often go and take breaks in the stock room and sit in the bottom of a squat position as a way to keep my lower body strong and mobile. Coworkers would walk in and see me and make comments and/or give me the strangest look:

“What are you doing?!”

“Okay! I’ve seen it all now!”

“You’re going to hurt your knees doing that.”

I’m going to hurt my knees doing something that toddlers do naturally and instinctively? (This is a whole other blog post)

In a hospital emergency room where we often received patients suffering from the ill affects of poor lifestyle choices, I had very intelligent medical professionals flabbergasted that I am doing something to maintain strength and mobility in my body. Many of these same medical professionals (in particular RN’s) are at a statistically higher risk for back injuries. You’d think that seeing the results of people’s poor choices on a daily basis would throw you into hyper-drive concerning your own habits, but, not so much.

Alcohol and Fitness During the Pandemic

Let’s think about something else that’s weird. In the months following the lock-downs that went into place in March, alcohol sales have seen a significant increase. Alcohol sales outside of bars and restaurants have increased 24 % during the pandemic. Meanwhile, gyms and fitness facilities have taken major hits as an industry:

Heavy alcohol consumption can make you more susceptible to respiratory illness. In the middle of a pandemic marked by a virus that attacks the respiratory system, sales of alcohol have skyrocketed. Meanwhile, for good reasons, access to an environment that can facilitate resilience to sickness, has gone down because of the nature of how COVID-19 spreads.

I want to emphasize the fact that the world is not conspiring against us. I’m simply mapping out the challenges that exist. I am a big believer that what is supplied adapts to what we demand. We don’t seem to demand accountability to lifestyle change in the same way we demand pharmaceuticals and surgeries to fix medical ailments. Hence the reason healthcare is the way it is. But what happens when you have made a choice that you want to change something? Like a choice to quit alcohol and get in shape…

The Choice and Struggle to Change

Several years ago I realized that a person’s choice to get in shape and stay in shape happens regardless of the environment. Once a person has definitively made the choice to be healthier, it doesn’t matter whether they have access to a gym or not. They’ll figure it out. To assume that someone is ready to do the work because they signed up for a gym membership is a recipe for disappointment. To assume that people care about their own health because they are healthcare professionals is another massively poor assumption.

Part of what I’m trying to explore here is an understanding of what people actually value versus what we think we should value. I’m trying to understand what we do versus what we say. As always, this is personal work. I don’t know what increased alcohol sales means for the future. I don’t know what decreased access to gyms means for the future. What I do know is what I have to deal with today in order to keep moving forward. The fact that alcohol is still accessible broadly while gyms are struggling, just lets me know what potential pitfalls and opportunities exist in the environment.

Alcohol has never been of any interest to me and I have worked out on my own all my life, so nether one of these things has a direct impact on my life. However, there’s someone out there who had just begun a journey of sobriety when this pandemic started. Part of there recovery was being able to go to the gym and AA meetings. Both have been drastically altered by the constraints of managing the pandemic.

Over the years, I’ve had several conversations with people who have battled addiction or are currently battling addiction. These interactions usually happen after someone here’s me speak. In reflecting upon these brief conversations I’ve been thinking about what I would say to someone who is trying to stay sober in the middle of this pandemic:

Maybe in the last few months you have relapsed or maybe you’ve been thinking about it heavily. Remember that change is not about perfection. Change is not a straight line. As I’ve seen it, progress as an individual necessarily involves a series of failures and hopefully no one of those failures is fatal. Every time we fall we have a chance to learn and yes, isolation is a tough time to grapple with a vice. Isolation is also a good time to get to know one’s self which will help you grapple with that vice more effectively. We have to know ourselves better in order understand why we use things to distract ourselves. Everyone has weaknesses and the fact that you have already had the courage to confront them show’s you have strength of character. Remember that when you are struggling. And remember that struggling is a part of the process…

This could be anyone of us with any number of addictions/vices. Have grace on yourself but also hold yourself to a high standard because you should… love yourself.


Solve Problems. Build Resilience.

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