Can I Use Steroids in Recovery?
The quick answer to whether we can use steroids in recovery is no. As recovering addicts and alcoholics we cannot safely use drugs or alcohol in any form, including steroids. The long answer is, well, it’s a bit longer!
Before I go any further, I’d like to tell you all a story. It’s about a sponsee of mine who relapsed on steroids and then relapsed on heroin. If you think this colors my opinion on steroids and recovery, you’re probably right. I’ve seen firsthand the devastating effect they can have on sober men and women.
So, with that disclaimer aside, read on to learn about the dangers of using steroids in recovery.
The Anatomy of a Steroid Relapse
When I was about three years sober, I began sponsoring a man named Jake (that’s not his real name). A few months later, after taking Jake through most of the twelve-steps, he confided in me that he hadn’t been completely honest. He’d started taking steroids around the time he asked me to sponsor him.
I can’t say his admission shocked me. Jake loved the gym. He loved working out and looking good. Vanity is a killer character defect for many addicts and alcoholics! Anyway, Jake told me he’d been using steroids to boost how he felt and to pack on muscle mass quick.
That first part, that steroid can actually alter your mind (aka get you high) was news to me. I thought they were simply a way to build muscle without working out as hard or as long. It turns out, according to Jake, that they have a psychoactive effect.
After Jake admitted he’d been using steroid, I asked him to stop. In order to be truly sober, we need to be free of all mind and mood altering chemicals. I explained that to him. He told me he’d stop, but he never did.
Not long after that, Jake relapsed on drugs and alcohol. Again, that wasn’t a huge shock. After all, he wasn’t really sober to begin with. Rather he was dry and biding time until his next drink or drug.
After going on a particularly nasty run, he came back into the rooms. When I saw him at a meeting, Jake told me he thought steroids had caused his relapse. Putting aside the fact that steroids themselves may be a relapse, I think he’s completely right.
Before explaining why steroids and recovery aren’t compatible, I’d like to clear up what exactly steroids are.
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What are Steroids?
Steroids are a class of drug that promotes muscle growth. Okay, that much is fairly obvious, but how do steroids work their magic?
Well, let’s look at anabolic steroids. These are a class of synthetic drugs that mimic the male hormone testosterone. They expedite the growth of skeletal muscle tissue and male sexual characteristics (hormone levels, hair growth, etc.).
While bodybuilders of the amateur and professional variety mainly use anabolic steroids to bulk up, they’re actually a prescription medication. They’re prescribed for a limited range of conditions. These include “delayed puberty,” impotence, and muscle atrophy related to immune system diseases (think HIV).
Steroids can, and often do, produce physical and mental withdrawal symptoms when abruptly stopped. These are things like fatigue, insomnia, mood swings, agitation, depression, and drug cravings.
Now that we know what they are, let’s turn our attention to how steroids impact recovery.
Are Steroids a Relapse?
Are steroids a relapse? Absolutely! I say this because of two things – intentions and behavior patterns.
Behavior patterns are probably the easiest one of these to explain. Basically, people using steroids often behave the same way as people using drugs. That is to say, they spend money they don’t have, they’re dishonest about their use, they’re preoccupied with the drug, and they continue to use despite repeated negative consequences.
I don’t know about you, but that sounds like an addiction to me!
Second, a person’s intentions matter. That is to say, individuals generally use steroids for a quick fix. They want to gain muscle without putting in all the work. This type of thinking is common to active and “dry” addicts and alcoholics. Remember, sobriety is about much more than abstinence from substances.
So, when gauging the effects of steroids on someone’s personal recovery, it’s important to consider these two factors. I’d say they’re a relapse. Everybody’s recovery is different though.
What do you think about steroids and recovery? Let us know on social media!