02/13/2015 03:30 pm ET Updated Apr 15, 2015

Health Is Progress, Not Perfection

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Since getting clean and actively participating in my recovery, I have found that it is not enough for me to just stop using drugs and alcohol as a way to cope with the world around me. In order to effectively live life, I need to be willing to change the way that I relate with myself, with others, and the world. The person that I was before will no longer suffice in the world that I want to live in today.

My journey to recovery is chronicled here.

For me, part of the way that I can amend my past behavior is to take care of my health. I neglected it for so many years and did so much damage to my mind and body that today I strive to live a different way of life. I can't change the way I behaved in the past or the decisions that I made, but I can do something better today, something different. I no longer have to disregard my health and can choose to make it a priority today.

I smoked cigarettes on and off starting when I went to college. Today, I choose not to smoke. I used to sit on the couch and eat gallon containers of Cold Stone ice cream and barely go outside. Today, I pay attention to the foods that I eat and actively try to make exercise a part of my life. I used to pollute my body with too much alcohol and too many drugs. Today, I don't.

Even though eating well and exercising may seem like a positive thing, for someone with an addictive nature such as myself they can just as easily become a negative. It has happened more than once that these things became my new drug and doing them was actually detrimental to my well being.

While I was living by myself and attending pharmacy school, I became fixated on the outside being an accurate representation of how I was doing on the inside. I have found that the worse I am feeling on the inside, the harder I concentrate on fixing the outside. If I look ok to you, then you will think I am okay.

I exercised obsessively and monitored everything I ate. I counted calories and denied myself anything I deemed "indulgent." I would find myself doing squats and lunges in the middle of the night because I couldn't sleep and would tell myself I didn't "do enough" earlier that day.

Looking back, I realized that the time I looked the best on the outside was also the time when I felt the worst about myself on the inside.

A few years ago I had similar behavior creep back into my life. I had picked up running again and had joined the gym. As time went on, I started pushing myself to run farther each time and would feel tremendous guilt if I missed a gym class. I kept a separate calendar just for running and made sure that each week the number of miles was increasing.

This is how I suffered my first injury that took me out of commission for two weeks. I was hurt and I pushed myself to keep going and doing more until my body did what my mind and my willpower couldn't do. It broke down.

It is imperative that I remain vigilant as to the motivation behind my exercise and eating. If I am not paying attention to the way that I am feeling, I can start to think that fixing up the outside will somehow fix the inside. It has taken me a long time to realize that the two do not correlate.

For me, health means much more than its physical definition. It is emotional and spiritual as well. As I have hit these bumps along the way it has become evident to me that my health is ever evolving and will only improve it I put the effort in. Health is progress, not perfection. It is doing a little more than I did yesterday and not beating myself up for taking steps back.

This post first appeared here at Erin's Inside Job.