Workout Addiction Recovery | 5 Spot | Salt Lake City Weekly

Workout Addiction Recovery 

Beating addiction with exercise

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Dustin Hawkins - RACHEL PIPER
  • Rachel Piper
  • Dustin Hawkins

Dustin Hawkins grew up in Ogden and was drafted to the Houston Astros after college. After overcoming drug addiction, Hawkins founded Workout Addiction Recovery to help people who are looking to leave behind unhealthy addictions and achieve natural highs.

Why did you start Workout Addiction Recovery?
Throughout [my baseball career], I lived that party scene. And I got injured quite a bit—I had two shoulder surgeries, so pills just kind of came into my life. I struggled with addiction for a long time. I have a family, and finally I just had to figure stuff out, so I created this lifestyle. I never went to rehab, never did 12-step, never did AA. It was just a lifestyle I created for myself, through fitness, through this way of working out. Then I started seeing a therapist once every two weeks, and I started noticing that if I went and worked out before I met with this therapist, it was a completely different therapy session. I was like, “There’s something to this.”

I just started with three of my friends, and it helped them—they were kind of functioning alcoholics, addicts. And three turned into five, seven, 10; I built this pretty good following, and just started seeing it change people’s lives. I was working at the Huntsman Cancer Institute and just felt in my heart that I needed to take a risk. That’s what I did. I just walked in one day, back in early March—my wife, my parents thought I was nuts—I walked in and just quit. I raised some money, created this gym and came over here.

How is it different from other recovery programs?
The curriculum isn’t influenced by rehab or 12-step or AA, because I never went to any of those. So the curriculum is progressive concepts, not anything to do with just addiction, but, “How can I become a better person? How can I make progress in life?” I learned to become a very spiritual person. Addiction’s so powerful; you have to have that relationship. Reading’s a huge part of this program. I became an avid reader, studied different concepts of how I could improve myself. I started thinking really outside the box of different ways I could get high, but a real high. For instance, Sunday, going on a hike and turning that into a workout and finding that solitude. People who struggle with addiction, they have to find a different way to get there. You can still get high, but get high in a real way, in a natural way.

It’s a unique program. It’s action-based learning. It’s a program of doing. We don’t just come and talk; we do. They’re going to be sore; they’re going to learn how to eat. The way we promote eating is there’s a relationship there with addiction. If you can be disciplined with food—food is a tough thing—you will be disciplined with everything. You will be disciplined with what you put in your body. For so long, a lot of people have only known putting bad things in their body. And now they’re starting to see, “I feel great, just because I’m eating good. I’m high from food,” as opposed to the temporary stuff from pills or whatever they were putting in before. That’s what we promote here, lasting happiness as opposed to the quick fix.
We just talk about progressive things, so we’re not so much focusing on the negative past, we’re moving forward. We promote a lifestyle, and we call it the WAR lifestyle. Are we living the WAR lifestyle to the fullest? It’s a realm of things, everything from spirituality, to family, to being an active person, to nutrition. It’s not tailored just to drugs—it’s addictive behavior. Everybody struggles with something.

Why is working out such an important aspect of the system?
We usually work out for at least 45 minutes to an hour. Everyone starts out at a low level, at a novice level, and we continually help them make progress at the gym. It goes to body-weight movements, like squats, to eventually using the bar, going into Olympic weightlifting, pull-ups, muscle-ups. People get addicted to that aspect of the gym, because they see, “Wow, I can do this,” and their mind and body starts to change. We go to the gym, and then we go right into the classroom, where our endorphins are going, and we have amazing classroom experiences. [Having] the gym experience before—it breaks down a wall. I’ll start guiding the topic, then the conversation just kind of rolls. People start talking about how they’ve implemented this in their life and how they’re gonna work on it. It’s a crazy thing to see. It wouldn’t even be the same if we didn’t exercise prior to the classroom.

Is there a chance that people could become addicted to working out?
I have a hard time taking a day off. I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. If you’re really going extreme, it can be. We are promoting, “Let’s replace a bad addiction with a healthy addiction.” After four days of these workouts, people like taking the weekends off. It’s not just about working out. This winter, we’re doing snowshoeing. It’s thinking outside the box. We programmed a hike for a Saturday. We promoted going up there, with a family member, and having a good experience. It’s just another way to get there.

How long does the program last?
The program is usually an hour and a half. That’s four times a week. It’s a 12-week program. Then they graduate into WAR strength and conditioning. And then they have the opportunity to be mentors for other people who are coming into the 12-week program. More or less, I just see what they’re working on in this program and what progress they’ve made. You can really tell what progress people have made in their life based on this program. We’re asking a lot, we’re teaching them a lot, and so if someone’s coming four nights a week to this program, chances are they’re doing well in their life.

How can someone enroll in the program?
This program isn’t just for anybody. We have them fill out an application and submit it online. We’ll review it, contact them, set up a consultation and find out if they’re a fit. It shows us if they’re really serious. It makes them think a little bit about themselves.

Rachel Piper Twitter: @RachelTachel

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