Building healthy habits helps in long-term addiction recovery

Central City Foundation believes in investing in community-led programs like Pacifica Treatment Centre’s new daily exercise program. Through exercise clients at Pacifica are creating healthy habits that can help them long-term in their addiction recovery journey.

Pacifica is the longest running residential drug treatment centre in the Lower Mainland and is one of the few publicly funded centres that cater to low-income individuals. Many of the people who come to Pacifica have precarious living situations and are dealing with concurrent mental health issues such as depression or PTSD on top of addiction. 

Substance use makes it difficult to maintain routines and many have not engaged in regular exercise for a long time, or ever, but engaging in even light activity can make an impact on a person physically and emotionally. Matthew Fagan is a Ph.D. candidate with the Population Physical Activity Lab at UBC and is researching the impact exercise on recovery at Pacifica.

“Exercise helps emotionally and physically,” said Fagan. Emotionally it helps with mood regulation, and physically it releases chemicals in your body such as dopamine which gives you kind of a rewarding feeling which will help in recovery.”

When Kelly Koebel came to Pacifica he had been drinking heavily for 13 years and had tried unsuccessfully to quit. At the time his health was not in good shape and he recalls being unable to easily tie his shoes. When he came to Pacifica he was encouraged to join the newly formed running program and took up the challenge.

“It was something that was different,” said Kelly. “I started to realize that while I might not look forward to doing the run, I always felt pretty good after and a little bit up.”

Exercise releases natural feel-good chemicals like dopamine and endorphins which improves mood and boosts energy. The more you exercise, the better you feel, the more you want to keep it up. Furthermore, all of Pacifica’s exercise activities are done in a group, so people get the added benefit of social bonding.

Jim Thompson has been a counsellor at Pacifica for 27 years and has seen first hand how exercise has helped clients get through difficult times.

“I’ve noticed recently that clients are using a walk to calm down when they are upset,” said Thompson. “That shows they have learned that this is one of the resources they can use to work through life’s challenges rather than turning to substances.”

Central City Foundation funded the purchase of in-house exercise equipment for Pacifica because we believe that in the capacity of people to bring about positive change in their life. Through our funding, Pacifica clients who are unable to join in the group activities or may need a little extra exercise to work through a bad day now have access to safe and reliable equipment.  

For Kelly, exercise has become an important part of his recovery and has gone from being able to run for one minute to 10 km. He’s remained sober for over two years and now voluntarily runs with Pacifica clients.

When you support Central City Foundation, you support innovative community-led programs like Pacifica.