Fitness + Health + Wisdom + Wealth

Addiction Recovery Conversation : Dr. Chris Swart


Guest: Dr. Chris Swart

Release Date: 4/22/2024

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Steve Washuta : Today is a very special episode that I believe deserves a special introduction. Dr. Christopher swart, who has been a repeated guest on this podcast with some of my personal favorite episodes, shares his story of addiction recovery. We hit on all sides of this topic, terminology in the addiction space, problems with addiction recovery centers, abstinence, verse moderation, the bio psychosocial, spiritual approach, genetics and so much more.

Steve Washuta : I cannot thank Dr. Swart enough for his honesty and his openness and hopes to help others here. Please follow him and reach out on Instagram. It is SOP er D O CTLR dot Swarts over Dr. Dot Swart. With no further ado, here’s Dr. Swart.

Steve Washuta : Welcome to Trulyfit. Dr. Chris warm welcome back to The Trulyfit Podcast for who knows the third or fourth or fifth time we had some technical snack foods and scheduling snack foods to get this going. But I’m really excited for this episode. For the listeners who haven’t heard you on the first few times wanted to give a quick background as to what you do day to day, your credentials, even sort of your your your business prospects and things of that nature.

Dr. Chris Swart :  Yeah, thank you. As always, Steve, it’s a pleasure to be here, I always enjoy the conversation. So currently, I am an assistant professor at American International College in Springfield, Massachusetts. So I’ve been in the world of higher education as a professor for about a decade now. And not only do I teach both undergraduate and graduate classes, I also am the internship coordinator here.

Dr. Chris Swart :  So I oversee students as they go into their clinical experience and getting into the real world and, you know, just kind of helping them be successful in a competitive environment. Because it’s super obviously, it’s super competitive out there a little bit about my background, you know, I was an athlete my whole life, I always knew I wanted to be somewhere in the the athletic performance or, you know, athletic training field, that’s kind of what I originally thought I would do was athletic training.

Dr. Chris Swart :  But within a short time period, you know, I decided that strength and conditioning and more on the performance side as opposed to the rehabilitation side was much more interesting to me. So I did my undergrad in exercise science in Massachusetts at Bridgewater State, I did my masters there as well in strength and conditioning, and was very fortunate, I got the opportunity to work for several division one football programs.

Dr. Chris Swart :  So that’s kind of like the bulk of my experience practically in the field came from football strength and conditioning. And then got my PhD from Springfield College, started in 2012, finished it in 2015, in exercise physiology, and I’ve been teaching ever since I’ve dabbled in like you know, I’ve had a business that is more centered in like cannabis type medicine and how we can help people with different types of like more clinical aspects of using cannabis.

Dr. Chris Swart : And then I’ve also kind of ran a business as kind of like on the side and more sport nutrition. So I’ve had a lot of sport nutrition clients, and many, many different aspects and sports and things like that. But, you know, really, you know, the bulk of my career has been exercise science, and at this point teaching and in the academic setting, probably more so than the actual hands on strength and conditioning side of it.

Steve Washuta : The lion’s share of our conversation today is going to surround addiction, recovery and sobriety. But I do want to go back to something you said we had touched on this before. And I think it’s an important thing to pass on to listeners. From a personal training standpoint. This is what I face with personal trainers is that when they become personal trainers, they have this oshit moment well, what’s next.

Steve Washuta : And I know as someone who’s going into the line of physical therapy, they have sort of a direct path they follow. But exercise science that’s not the same way. Right? So you you come out with an exercise science degree or master’s degree and then you go Oh, shit, what do I do now? Can you explain sort of the next steps and the different types of jobs that one could hop into given that degree?

Dr. Chris Swart : Yeah, I tell my students all the time, I look at exercise science, as I call it, the spider web degree, because I think you can go and so there’s so many different aspects of the field that you can get into. And I do believe that most students that go get an undergraduate in exercise science, unfortunately, in today’s climate, I think most of the time, you’re probably going to want to start to look into a master’s or other types of schooling and specializations from there.

Dr. Chris Swart :  But there’s so many different fields. I mean, personal training, running your own personal training business, either within a big box gym or branching out and doing your own thing is something that a lot of my students do. We live in a world where it’s pretty easy to start, you know, some social media and do some online coaching. So a lot of my students kind of go that traditional kind of personal training route.

Dr. Chris Swart :  Some of my students get into strength and conditioning and they want to work more in the athletic performance setting, both in a collegiate team type setting, or in a pro private setting and working for more of like a private strength and conditioning facility. So those are like the two biggies. But we have a ton of students that ended up going occupational therapy and kind of moving more in that type of field.

Dr. Chris Swart :  We’ve got physical therapy, I’ve got students that have gone pulmonary rehab, cardiac rehab, some students have branched out into the medical world and gone into like physician’s assistant, or even MDS and going to medical doctor, I think a lot of medical programs now are starting to respect exercise science, much greater than they did maybe 1015 20 years ago.

Dr. Chris Swart :  Because in exercise science, you get a lot of experience, we learn about the human body and anatomy and physiology, but you get experience with human interaction and, you know, coaching and developing relationships and rapport. And I think that those skill sets go really, really handy. You know, as you get into more of like the physician’s assistant and like medical profession type things.

Dr. Chris Swart :  And then I’ve had plenty of students get kind of like into sales, medical device sales, pharmaceutical sales, I’ve had students kind of go that route. You know, I’m sure I’m forgetting some, but those are like off the top of my head, you know, a lot of the different directions, nursing, sometimes students will switch from exercise science and go into nursing.

Dr. Chris Swart :  I mean, there’s just so many different aspects, some will get into more like, biometric and, you know, working for different like apparel companies, Under Armour, Nike, Reebok, you know, no trouble getting into these companies and helping do some research as far as like, you know, the material that these athletes are wearing the shoes that they’re wearing.

Dr. Chris Swart :  Some a lot of students will get into research and kind of get into more of the research setting to help both in the medical and more the sport performance side of it. So there’s just so many different aspects to exercise science. And that’s not even getting into things like nutrition and sport, nutrition, and all those things, which is kind of a subsidiary of exercise science that a lot of my students have interest in.

Steve Washuta : Yeah, that was a great summary, I think that does really encompass not all of them, but many of the jobs that one could enter into with an exercise science degree because it is confusing for people, you know, you have a 1718 year old who says, I think I’m interested in exercise science, but I don’t know what the hell is next, knowing that you have all of these options, as you call it sort of a spiderweb degree is is only beneficial for you.

Steve Washuta : It’s not a negative, that you don’t have to follow one particular path. But before we jump into your personal story, I want to talk about terms associated with addiction, recovery, and sobriety. Are there things that people shouldn’t say shouldn’t use what exactly is, you know, faux PA, recovery, addiction, sobriety? How do we use this terminology, let’s say with our clients on a personal trainer, or somebody in the health and nutrition and medical space, and one of my clients is dealing with fighting to be sober?

Dr. Chris Swart :  I think it’s a it’s a great question. And it’s a very difficult question to answer. Because there are so many different ways of looking at this. So like, for me, the one thing I can do in this conversation is kind of really stress how I look at it, and how I think it should be approached. You know, I look at just taking the word like addiction, right? I look at addiction as the disease of more.

Dr. Chris Swart :  And it’s basically like, you can look at addiction, as you know, using I’m taking, utilizing some habit that I know is harmful, you know, ultimately from for my overall health. And so addiction is like this big umbrella. You know, we’re gonna get into this conversation a little bit deeper. But you know, when I talk, I’m a part of AAA, but I’ve also been a part of na as well. When I say that and I identify as an alcoholic.

Dr. Chris Swart :  What I’m saying is, that’s my drug of choice, right? I recognize that alcohol is a drug, just like anything else, you know, ultimately is a drug. So addiction is just this very big umbrella of, you know, really encompassing anything that you’re using taking or doing that essentially is harmful harmful to your health.

Dr. Chris Swart :  Unfortunately, we’re in a situation where I think a lot of people can get offended by different things. And I think that that’s where approaching each individual case, as you know, how do you want to be approached or like, how do how do you want me to speak about this particular topic like something like sobriety? I personally believe when somebody talks about sobriety and recovery, I think those are two different things.

Dr. Chris Swart :  I look at it as sobriety is simply staying away from whatever your substance is in that would be classified as sobriety When somebody says they’re in recovery, this the way I look at it, and this what I mean, when I talk about it, recovery means to me that I’m doing other things that are supporting my overall health. I’m not just like white knuckling and staying away from my substance.

Dr. Chris Swart :  And that’s where something like the program of AAA comes in. And we do things like going on commitments. You know, we talk about higher power and spirituality, we talk about having a home group, we talk about helping others, I’m part of a community. And so I kind of look at it that way sobriety and recovery are kind of two different ultimately, two different things.

Dr. Chris Swart :  You know, when we look at somebody that is just simply like staying away from a substance, we talk about untreated, at least in my side, a bit from the alcoholism side of it, we talk about it from the standpoint of untreated alcoholism. And that’s like being we call it rid our ID, restless, irritable discontent. And those are kind of the feelings and things that I know me specifically I was dealing with.

Dr. Chris Swart :  And I didn’t have a way even when I wasn’t drinking, I didn’t have a way to kind of treat those symptoms. And we’ll talk about it as this podcast goes in. I don’t I don’t want to talk about all right now. But there are certain things I had to do to essentially put myself into recovery, not necessarily sobriety, right.

Dr. Chris Swart :  And I think the last thing I’ll say before I like to jump in here is like, you know, sometimes people will look at the stigma of why I’m calling this person an addict, or they call themselves an addict versus an alcoholic versus somebody in recovery. There’s a lot of different ways to look at this. I, I’ve heard people say I’m a person in recovery, or I’m a person that struggles with addiction. This is where you just simply have to kind of communicate with the person to see what they’re comfortable with.

Steve Washuta : Yeah, the thing, the last thing you said sort of resonated with me is that the level of importance that if you want to call it a you know, an issue, a characteristic plays in someone’s mind isn’t necessarily what it plays in the other person’s mind is talking to them meaning, like, you know, we’re both bald, but like, I’m not going to introduce you as Dr. Chris swart, who’s bold, right.

Steve Washuta : And, like, I’m not gonna introduce you to Dr. Chris Ford, who’s an addict, these are just things that don’t really matter to me, they’re just in the periphery. But for some people, being an addict is a huge part of their personality, they have to keep it up front and consciousness everyday and remind themselves, because that’s a way to maybe stave off the apple ism or the addiction, right. So it’s just interesting how, you know, somebody might think of that characteristic is very important to them, when, from my side of the table, it’s not as important, if that makes sense. 

Dr. Chris Swart :  Yeah it makes 100% sense. And like, you know, I’ve heard people, like I said, just basically what I was just talking about, like, I’ve heard people speak at a podium at an AAA meeting. And that’s, you know, that’s a day step right up. And that’s the first thing, I’m an alcoholic, this is the most important thing, I’m going to say all night, you know, this is my identity. And that works for that person.

Dr. Chris Swart :  Right. And I think that one of the things that I think a lot of people need to understand about recovery is everybody has a different path. There are it’s kind of like a fingerprint, right? At least that’s what I’ve learned over time, no two people’s recovery, your sobriety journey looks identical. And so there are certain people that have to stand up in, that’s their identity, I’m an alcoholic, and this is, you know, our I’m an addict, however, they want to identify themselves.

Dr. Chris Swart :  And that’s what keeps it at the forefront of everything. Other people are exactly what you just said, you know, I’m a, I’m a father, I’m a son, I’m a, you know, a good, good husband, whatever the case may be, that’s their identity. And they kind of look at, you know, maybe their personal issues as secondary or tertiary, and that works for them.

Dr. Chris Swart :  And that’s perfectly fine, right? And that’s why I say like, you know, you kind of have to feel out each case, as each case is presented in front of you, because everybody is going to view this a little bit different, and they’re going to prioritize it a little bit different. You know, for me, personally, I have learned and this is just what I’ve learned over time, like I do have to keep my identity especially now, you know, kind of wrapped up in the fact that I am in recovery.

Dr. Chris Swart :  I recognize today that if I lose that then I lose everything else, right? I will lose my family, I will lose my job, I will lose my personal relationships, my girlfriend, all of those things will start to crumble if I don’t keep the fact Center at my heart of I have struggled with alcoholism, and I have to almost identify as that you know, more often than not So I’m one of those people where I’m very open about it. At least now, I wasn’t so much years ago. But at least now, because of the fact that I’ve recognized if I don’t, then it the house of cards will fall.

Steve Washuta : For those who haven’t heard the first few podcasts you were on, you have an extremely in depth knowledge of the body and the mind scientifically. Do you think it sort of reminds me of like a child psychologist who has kids, right? Do you think it? Does the child psychologist actually function the right way when the kid throws the bowl of spaghetti across the room? Because he knows better about what’s going on? If that makes sense? Like, do you feel like your in depth knowledge of the body and the mind aids in any way in your recovery process? Or no?

Dr. Chris Swart :  I think it hinders it. I think it hinders it a lot, right? There’s a big, you know, there’s a big phrase or saying or topic and in recovery, the smarter you are, the harder this is right, the more you can’t educate yourself out of addiction. And that’s one thing that I’ve learned tremendously. It’s very important. Like, I’m, I’m grateful for the fact that I can understand the brain neuroscience, I’ve done my homework on it, you know, based off of my background, and now going through this and what I’ve learned, I think it’s a great asset.

Dr. Chris Swart :  But knowledge itself does not stop me from picking up a drink, right? What ultimately is helping me is the action of doing the program that’s laid out in front of me. So I’m a part of AAA, I believe firmly in AAA, but I will never tell people that that’s the only way to do it. Because it absolutely isn’t, right. We’ve got things like AAA, we’ve got things like Na, there’s something known as smart recovery, which is more like cognitive behavioral therapy type based.

Dr. Chris Swart :  There’s something known as Darmowe recovery, people go to just general therapy. There’s all types of different spiritual ways of doing this. There’s so many ways of doing this. But my knowledge itself was not keeping me away from it. Even though I knew it. I knew what was happening from a brain and a physiological standpoint, every single time.

Dr. Chris Swart :  But what happened was, I, we talked about this a lot in meetings, the smarter you are, the more you try to outsmart yourself, right. And that becomes the probably the ultimate problem. I mean, I know, years ago, I saw a therapist for this, like when I was in like my mid 20s. And I, you know, family started to recognize it was a problem. And one of the first things he told me, and he was a family friend, so he kind of knew me growing up.

Dr. Chris Swart :  He said, Chris, you’re going to really struggle with this. And I said, What do you mean? And he said, you know, the smarter and more like intellectual you are, the more challenging it can be for a lot of people to stop because you you’re going to outsmart yourself, you’re going to like, you know, fool people and trick Pete, you know, trick and manipulate and all these different types of things. And that’s definitely been a part of my story.

Dr. Chris Swart :  I’ve experienced that so much, you know, throughout the last two decades, as this has progressed, you know, outsmarting myself, so it’s great, it’s good knowledge to know, and it’s good knowledge for me to share. I enjoy sharing, you know, the neuroscience and how, you know, alcohol and drugs and any addictive substance impacts physiology, but that in and of itself has not been able to keep me sober. There’s other things which I’ll get into, that are like the bedrock of me and my success. 

Steve Washuta : Now moving forward.Before we get into science and studies and rehab, I want to focus a little bit more on the experiential. I’ve heard from other people who are in AAA alcoholics, that when they’ve had their first drink, it was like They filled a void, that they’ve been looking for their whole life, that it was a different experience, although we can’t tell what anyone else experiences, but they would assume it’s a different experience than let’s say that when I had my first beer or a glass of wine, do you find that to be true? 

Dr. Chris Swart :  Yeah so I’m going to talk about a few things right now that are hard to talk about. Right. And this whole conversation is obviously a challenging conversation, but it’s something that, you know, I recognize I have to do, I think it’s important for me in my journey to go out and share this, especially because I enjoy, you know, speaking and doing things like this. I talked about that RID restless, irritable discontent, and we look at that in the addiction world is untreated alcoholism, or you could just call it untreated addiction.

Dr. Chris Swart : And there are certain personality traits that young people 10 On average tend to portray, before they pick up a substance of choice, whatever it may be for them. And some of those things are like lying, cheating, and stealing. Right. And I hate admitting it. But like if I go back and I look at my childhood, I had those characteristics right. I go caught lying as a kid, my parents were always catching me and like these little lies as a kid, I would steal things. I was cheating at video games or board games or whatever.

Dr. Chris Swart :  Like, these are characteristic traits of mine that I saw at a young age but didn’t recognize them as a problem. And as the years went on, like, I certainly did feel restless, irritable, discontent, not necessarily happy with my life, I always kind of knew something was a little bit off with, you know, what was going on deep down emotionally.

Dr. Chris Swart :  And, you know, a lot of alcoholics and addicts talk about like, not really being connected to a group of people, I was an athlete my whole life, I had a lot of different circles of friends and sports teams I was involved with, but I was never really like, super connected with a lot of people. And one of the things that’s talked about a lot in the recovery world is connection being the opposite of addiction.

Dr. Chris Swart :  And I definitely felt as a younger child, and even like, into my teens, you know, I had friendships, but I really didn’t have a lot of like, really, really close networks, and connections with a lot of people. And so yes, when I picked up my substance, which was, which is alcohol when I picked that up, and I was a late bloomer, I didn’t start drinking alcohol till basically end of high school, early college.

Dr. Chris Swart :  But when I did pick it up, I remember the first time I put alcohol into my system, I can remember like it was yesterday, I know exactly where I was how I felt. I remember walking down the hallway feeling that euphoria, and 100%, I felt like wow, I found the answer to this like mental uneasiness that I felt all these years as a child, I certainly had that experience. And unfortunately, I’ve chased that experience, like I’ve heard in AAA or na a lot.

Dr. Chris Swart :  I’ve chased that experience over several decades, and never had that same experience. And that has perpetuated this cycle of, you know, forget about getting into the brain neuroscience just yet. It’s just perpetuated the cycle of man, I just want to get back to how I felt in my early days of use, and it’s never going to be the case, one of the things I’ve learned is, I’ll never be able to feel that way again.

Dr. Chris Swart :  And that’s addiction in and of itself against all consequences. I continuously put myself back in this cycle to go back to that first use, where it was almost like this out of body experience, I certainly can identify with that.

Steve Washuta : We’re all very bio diverse. What do we know about the physiological differences in someone who is an alcoholic and someone who is not? And do you personally do anything to sort of help that if that is possible?

Dr. Chris Swart : Yeah, I think one thing I’ve learned about addiction is it’s more psychological than it is physiological. So it’s more of a thinking, you know, people talk about addiction as a thinking disease. And when I look at this, I look at addiction, there’s something known as the disease model of addiction. And the disease model of addiction looks at its body, mind and spirit.

Dr. Chris Swart :  So the body side of it is, when I put alcohol, I’m speaking about me specifically, when I put alcohol into my system, I have this allergy, or this craving or compulsion, you can use all three of those terms. The point is, when I put alcohol into my system, I have a different reaction than a non alcoholic or somebody that’s a non-problem drinker.

Dr. Chris Swart :  And the reaction is my body processes that differently, where it requires more. And that’s when we get into something known as obsession. And so we’ve gone from the physical side of it to the mental side of it, of something known as obsession. An obsession can be classified as this reoccurring or possessing that persistent thought or idea that is stronger than and does not respond to reason.

Dr. Chris Swart :  So basically, once I put one drink of alcohol into my system, not to say that every single time I put it into my system, I’m going to get drunk and problems are going to arise, but the obsession starts to kick in. And that obsession causes myself and other alcoholics or addicts to want more of that substance.

Dr. Chris Swart : And so there’s like this physical side of it that gets into and tied into the psychological aspect of it as well. And there is a spiritual piece of it, and I don’t want to spend too much time on the spiritual piece of it because I think sometimes that can be a turn off for a lot of people. But for me, I have found it to be the biggest kind of corrector of everything I do look at addiction in many ways for a lot of people as a soul sickness, once you go to rehab, and you get rid of the physical side of it, or even the obsession over a certain time period, there’s still something deep within me.

Dr. Chris Swart :  And I couldn’t put my finger on it. But there always was something deep within me that was just a little bit off. And what I have found over time is I didn’t have any spirituality, and I’m not talking about religion, and you know, the Bible, and all these different types of things. I just didn’t have an ability to get outside of myself, I was very ego driven. I was a manipulator, self centered, like, I can admit these things today. I wasn’t admitting them years ago. But I can admit these things today.

Dr. Chris Swart :  And there was some sort of a soul sickness and I heard a guy in a meeting one time, he said, you know, alcoholism or addiction is the disease, the more I used anything to fill this void, I couldn’t explain it. I didn’t know why I had it. But I had this void in my in my body. And if it wasn’t drugs, and alcohol, it was food. It was sex, it was, you know, gambling, it was whatever, you pick your poison, they’re out there, right.

Dr. Chris Swart :  And so he said, finally, I realized that it was a spiritual hole that I needed to fill. And that like, got this like trigger in my mind. And I said, You know what, I want to work on that, you know, and I started doing some like prayer and meditation, and, you know, getting myself out of myself and helping other people and doing service work, I think is really important. So there’s like this, you know, kind of like this disease model, where it’s kind of a three prong thing, body, mind and spirit.

Steve Washuta : Yeah, not to be not to be crude. But I do think also filling your time is part of this, right? If you fill your time, with good things, you don’t have enough time to do bad things. So doing things like service work, and helping others and exercising and all these things, you know, there’s only so much time in the day will will probably lead you towards a better path because of the fact that you’re filling your time with good things. 

Dr. Chris Swart :  That’s a huge point to make, right? Like a lot of people basically what you’re getting out there, like what are what are your certain triggers, right. And for me, it was like high stress periods in free time. So I knew I had to keep myself busy. So I wasn’t obsessing about, you know, taking a drink, or whatever the case may be, you know, whatever the case may be.

Dr. Chris Swart :  But as far as like physiological, right, kind of kind of like more of my background, you know, we know that there are certain there are certain kind of physiological traits, or we can start to get into like the hormonal aspect of it. People with high cortisol. So if you want to start to get into like kind of the body function aspect of it, cortisol is a stress response, obviously, and things like epinephrine and norepinephrine, both is hormonal aspects and neurotransmitter aspects.

Dr. Chris Swart : People who tend to see these things in their blood work, tend to have a little bit higher propensity to lean more towards a substance. Same thing with estrogen we see people with like higher estrogen tend to have a higher risk factor for ultimately getting into, you know, different types of of addiction and addictive substances. And then we start to look at like neurotransmitters, you know, things like serotonin, norepinephrine as a neurotransmitter. And these are things that are linked to depression and anxiety. That’s why we have things like SSRIs and SNRIs.

Dr. Chris Swart :  Not to say that if you’re depressed and anxious, you’re going to develop a substance abuse issue, or vice versa. But they are connected, right. And so some of this is, in some way, a genetic component to it. But I think one of the things in me doing my homework and research over the years, it won’t point people believe this was much more genetic than it really is. I always use the phrase genetics loads the gun, but it’s environment that pulls the trigger. I think this is way more environmental than it is genetic, for sure.

Steve Washuta : I have a good friend Chris Scott, who wrote the book drinking sucks, he runs a company called Fit recovery. And he gets a lot of blowback in the community because of his stronger approach to the bio and now he uses the bio psychosocial model, but he sells a supplement. So he gets a lot of pushback from saying, hey, you know, supplements are not are not going to sort of heal these issues.

Steve Washuta : And I want to sort of present his side of the case and see what you think and I’m going to not do it. A total service, but what he says is, you know, like, I have a child, and if I’m on three hours Sleep and I’m not eating correctly, and I’m low on all these vitamins and my child throws a bowl of spaghetti over the counter, I’m probably going to snap at her, unfortunately.

Steve Washuta : But if, if all of those things if I have if I’m balanced, right and and I’m optimized a little bit more if I’ve ever had my sleep, if I’m eating properly, if I’m exercising, if I’m doing these things, I’ll probably take a deep breath. And remember that what I how I should really handle the situation is not yell at her, ask her to come down and help daddy clean it up and tell her why it’s wrong.

Steve Washuta : Do you think that there is space to say, Hey, listen, if you’ve been drinking a liter of vodka a day, or every other day for 10 years, we need to optimize the body so that you can make better decisions so that you so that you are calmer so that anxiety levels are low, or do you think this is misguided?

Dr. Chris Swart :  No, I think it is 100%. Spot on, right? And everything you just said Steve is exactly where I want to sit in like the addiction and recovery world and helping people is more on the sleep recovery, nutrition exercise. Like I want to be able to help people in that area, we have a saying in AAA, it’s called halt h a l t never get too hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired.

Dr. Chris Swart :  And basically, that’s exactly what you’re saying right there. It’s like, if I’m not taking care of myself physiologically and health wise, like I will start to get the read that I talked about restless, irritable, and those are the things that tend to push people towards. Now I need my substance of choice because I need to feel better. Right? So I think the the addiction world has really struggled.

Dr. Chris Swart :  The medicine addiction world has struggled, yes, we have these things that are called ma T’s medically assisted treatments, there are medications that are out there. But where I think people are missing the boat is exactly what you just mentioned. Yes, those certain treatments can help people.

Dr. Chris Swart : But we need to focus more on the rest, the recovery, the exercise, the nutrition, the hydration, and the social aspect of like, hey, let’s get people if they’re if exercise is important, which we know, it’s very important. I know we’ll talk about that in a second. But let’s get people in the social aspect of exercise and like doing in group settings and things like that, to develop these connections.

Dr. Chris Swart :  Remember how I said earlier like, I strongly believe that connection is the opposite of addiction. And a lot of people who struggle with addiction start to isolate, because they are struggling, they do feel you know, all of these things that you just mentioned, and life gets away from them, and they just throw their hands up in the air. I know I did that multiple times during that stress response.

Dr. Chris Swart :  So yes, I agree 1,000% We need to educate people in that are struggling with addiction. You know how much sleep we need to educate them on sleep hygiene. You know, what’s a good sleep routine, we need to educate them on getting enough calories and fueling their body appropriately. A lot of people that struggle with addiction, they are underweight because they prioritize their substance over everything.

Dr. Chris Swart :  So getting people to get more weight on their body, putting more lean mass on, we know that the more lean mass somebody has, the better the opportunity to decrease mental health conditions. So all of these things are just vital factors that I think a lot of people are missing the boat on in the recovery world. I agree. 100%. Steve, Yeah.

Steve Washuta : And it seems like it’s a big puzzle, and you need a loop. You need all these different pieces. Ultimately, I’m sure there’s pieces we haven’t even figured out yet. But and I think maybe sometimes people think that one piece means more than another.

Steve Washuta : And then when you present the other piece, they find it sort of a slap in the face, maybe a contradiction, maybe, you know, things can’t be mutually exclusive, where and you say, hey, just I’m talking about benign treatments, right, taking multivitamins, exercising doing these things. So we’re like, well, where’s the spiritual component come in? It’s like, well, you can do both, like you.

Steve Washuta : You don’t have to do one over the other. Now I know there’s other levels of treatment, let’s say like Ibogaine, and psychedelics, and those sorts of things that might have a little bit more of a claim, or they try to have a claim like, Hey, this is actually going to heal you. And then that is conflicting and contradictory. But the vitamins are not there, just in addition to helping you and your journey.

Dr. Chris Swart :  But you know what happens, Steve? Because I’ve had, because of my background, I love having these conversations, like in meetings or after meetings. And you know what people say to me, they’re like, Yeah, I know, I’m supposed to sleep. I’m supposed to eat healthy. I’m supposed to exercise I’m supposed to stay hydrated and minimize stress.

Dr. Chris Swart :  I know all that what else you got? Right? And it’s like, well, you’re not doing it right. And I’m not trying to like throw shade on the person. You know, you’re not doing it. So why don’t we start there? And let’s get these things in place. So you feel overall, how healthier, both physically and mentally, before you like really make your way into the recovery process. And you know, it’s the same thing, even somebody that doesn’t struggle with addiction.

Dr. Chris Swart : When I talk to them about basics of nutrition and exercise, they’re like, yeah, yeah, I got that. But then the actual application isn’t there. Right. I’ve been to a treatment center three times inpatient treatment center for a month each time. And I was blown away every single time on how little education, they talked to us about nutrition, exercise, sleep, all of these things.

Dr. Chris Swart :  There wasn’t much education on all that it was basically like, Hey, let me keep you under this like, you know, safe umbrella for 30 days and then put you right out into the real world. And I think that’s where a lot of early recovery treatment centers are missing the boat. They’re not helping people, at least in my experience, they’re not helping people like really get better physically, before we can really start to work on like, the mental and spiritual side of it.

Steve Washuta : Is it naivety? Or do you do attribute this to like a conspiratorial factor?

Dr. Chris Swart :  Say that again?

SSteve Washuta : Is it more naivety? Or do you contribute this to like a conspiratorial factor, the fact that they don’t, they’re not feeding you healthy foods, they’re not pushing bio optimization and things of that nature.

Dr. Chris Swart :  I think it’s a little bit of both, to be honest with you, I think that the patients themselves don’t really want to partake in these things. Like, I know that the treatment center I went to, we had a gym there. And I had to like I used it every single day, right? Because that’s what I do. And I’ve come from this world, but like, I had to start to, like motivate other patients to go and do some of the like exercise.

Dr. Chris Swart :  And I would write programming for them. I talked to them about nutrition, like I was like doing this, while I was a patient myself. And people like loved it, they were getting so much experience out of it. And you know, they really appreciated you know, those types of things, and they were seeing benefit from it. But then at the same time, I think that a lot of treatment centers say well, people aren’t going to follow through with it or do it. So let’s just keep them safe and healthy.

Dr. Chris Swart :  And, you know, there was like a lot of fried food, the treatment center, I went to a lot of carb, heavy carbohydrates, fried food. And I get it, some of it is they’re trying to put weight on these patients, because a lot of patients come in underweight because they’re not prioritizing their, their physical health. So there’s a lot of things to kind of discuss there. But my hot take Steve, and I’m glad you brought it up, is I think some of it is on purpose.

Dr. Chris Swart :  I hate to say that, but I’m also a realist in this world. It is a business treatment centers are a business. And unfortunately, there are a lot of repeat customers. I think that they know they could do things better. And some of it is budget related. And some of it is, you know, more of a business decision. But I hate saying that, but it is the truth. And it’s how I truly feel.

Steve Washuta : Are there any this just came to mind? Are there any treatment centers who have less of a, you know, kind of treat them with kids gloves approach and and make you exercise and say, hey, you know, we’re going to do this, we have to have a regimen, we have to have a routine, you have to wake up early, almost like a bootcamp type thing, or is that frowned upon.

Dr. Chris Swart :  So it’s definitely not frowned upon. I don’t know, I don’t have a ton of experience, I went to the same treatment center all three times. So I don’t really have a ton of experience in other places. But I do have experience as part of a company called revive. I’ve been on the board of directors for that company for a while. And that’s what we do.

Dr. Chris Swart :  So we go into rehabs treatment centers, sober homes, detoxes, and they hire us to come in and put them through a workout and talk about nutrition several times a week. So some treatment centers are valuing it and seeing the value in it for sure. But one of the things that we have struggled with as a company when we do go into these places, is patient participation.

Dr. Chris Swart :  So even if the treatment center believes in it and thinks that this is something that is important, which it absolutely is getting the patients to show up and then actually care about it and want to participate is a whole separate endeavor that is very, very challenging, especially in early sobriety when, you know people in treatment centers are like anywhere from a couple hours to maybe 30 days into this so they’re their own motivation to workout is obviously extremely low.

Dr. Chris Swart :  But I think that’s a really good time period. Maybe if they’re not physically doing it, to actually hold classes on fitness and nutrition and that aspect of it, I think is a really, really good time to try to let some of that information sink in. And just not enough treatment centers are doing it on.

Steve Washuta : Yeah. And I don’t think that’s like those are good excuses for treatment centers that people you know, maybe they just arrived, okay, well then say, like, have a date like, okay, 10 days in, I have more options than just a weight room. Okay, make it make it a resort, have a tennis court, have whatever waterskiing have any sort of outdoor activity that involves a little bit of a physiological push, right, you can have all of that there and give people options.

Steve Washuta : Because yeah, I mean, sometimes lifting sucks, if you’re actually if you’re an athlete, I talked to a lot of athletes, who were forced to wake up at 5am, because they were called fullbacks, and they hate lifting. But they love doubles, tennis, and they love going on walks, and they love hiking mountains, like there should still be all all of these other options, not just a weight room. And it’s very easy for these people to present that. Yeah.

Dr. Chris Swart :  And you know what, like, when I was in the treatment center that I was in, you know, I was, I’m very vocal. It’s just the type of person I’ve always been. And I like got all the way up to like the, like, director of the whole program. And I was like, Hey, listen, like, it’s so easy. Maybe there’s nobody here that’s qualified to teach yoga, fine. But you can go on YouTube, and do like a guided yoga and just have the patient sit in the middle, like we had common areas. And they’re like, Hey, that’s a really good idea.

Dr. Chris Swart :  And I’m like, why am I coming up with, you know, that solution? And same thing with like a walk? You know, I was there during the summer one time, and I’m like, why don’t we just like, take the patients and why can’t we all go for a walk, you know, outside, it’s sunny out, let’s get some sunlight. Let’s get the heart rate up a little bit. And I’m like, Hey, another great idea. And I’m like, man, you know, this is not a good thing that a lot of these treatment centers are missing the boat.

Dr. Chris Swart :  And I don’t know, I don’t know if some of this is medical too. So like, I do know that when I was in the place that I was at, if you were to go to the gym, you had to get medically cleared. So I had to I had to go through like a basically like a little mini physical while I was in there that says, okay, this person is able to exercise.

Steve Washuta : So I have to imagine there’s, I have to imagine. And Chris, there’s doctors all over those places. That can’t be difficult for you to physical. Yeah, right. Right. So, again, to have, you know, to put these places near a small mountain or hills where people can go on a hike to put these places near water, where people can do water activities, beach activities, things of this nature, it doesn’t seem like this is a genius idea.

Steve Washuta : I just thought of it. Talking to you, you know, impromptu here, it seems like there is you’d like to not attribute malevolence, where you could attribute like naivety but that does seem a little level of malevolence here and and also, what is the incentives?

Steve Washuta : Like, why shouldn’t there be a large incentive? Even if it’s from the government or someone else to say like, what’s your recidivism rate? We, you know, if you get it under ad, we’re going to give you X amount of dollars, and if you don’t, we’re not gonna, we’re not going to write like, what is actually their incentive to make sure that people don’t come back there. I don’t know.

Dr. Chris Swart :  Yeah, it’s, that’s the type of that’s the type of question that I want to know more about. Right? I want to know, why are the regulations the way that they are, at least, let’s just start with the one that I went to, like, I want to ask you, like, I want to know more about why they had the protocols that they had, because, you know, I look at it as somebody, you know, that’s in the field of overall health and wellness of like, yeah, like you just said, there’s so many things that can be done.

CDr. Chris Swart :  You know, instead of just like, a lot of these patients, when I was in there, they were just like laying in their bed, most of the day watching TV. And granted, every case is different, right. And some people come in there, and they truly need some, like rest time, and I get that. But there were a ton of patients that I was there with that were like 100% Ready to like move and exercise and maybe like do some music therapy, art therapy, like there’s so many other things that can be done.

Dr. Chris Swart :  And I looked at it as like a holding tank. You know, like, that’s the way my treatment experience was in. And I know that there are great ones out there. But I think a lot of them are missing the boat and just not helping people with the overall wellness, you know, of what can be done and how you can progress this thing to have success because the recidivism rate is ridiculous. You know, it’s like it’s close to 90% in many, many of the materials that I’ve been reading, you know, it’s close to 90% coming back so it’s it’s, it’s a real struggle.

Steve Washuta : Not to mention some of those activities build instant connection, which you described before as one of the most important part’s having that community and connection, if you’re playing a three on three basketball tournament or something with everyone there, it’s like you’re building this camaraderie with people instantaneously. So you’re, you’re really getting a two for one, in some respects.

Dr. Chris Swart :  Yeah. And like, I don’t want to go too deep down this rabbit hole. But I do want to bring this up. I think this is an important point. Because I saw this every single time all three times I was in treatment. I don’t know why. All of the times I was in treatment, everybody was pushing. And I say like everybody, all the medical staff, the nursing staff, anything related to medical, we’re pushing drugs, like when I say drugs, I mean, like the medically assisted treatments.

Dr. Chris Swart :  And they almost wanted everybody to go on these medications. And I was looked at as weird because I wasn’t on these medications, and I refuse to take them. And I think that is a somewhat of an issue in and of itself. And I know that that can be a touchy subject, I think that there are certainly people that do need to be on certain medically assisted treatments. But I do believe that there were people that were walking out of treatment almost with another addiction, because some of these medically assisted treatments are addictive in and of themselves.

Dr. Chris Swart :  So you know, they were coming out with medications that now they’re going to have a challenge getting off of forget about their substance of choice, now they’re gonna have a hard time getting off the medications that this treatment center put them on.

Dr. Chris Swart : I think that’s what creates a lot of this recidivism as well, is because when they do decide to come off those medically assisted treatments, they’re right back to their substance and if not greater, and then they’re back to, you know, padding the bottom line of that treatment center. And I think that’s a big problem.

Steve Washuta : What do we know about abstinence verse moderation, from an efficacy standpoint? Does any of these programs have seen success in moderation? Or is that never the case? Or almost?

Dr. Chris Swart :  It’s not never the case? And I almost can’t even say that it’s almost never the case. Right? It depends on how far down the kind of rabbit hole you’ve taken your addiction. And I’ve had conversations with my general practitioner, you know, a lot throughout the years.

Dr. Chris Swart :  And I’ve asked him like, have you had patients that admitted that they had some sort of a problem with a substance, and then, you know, kind of took some time off, learned how to moderate it, and then was was successful over not just like a year time point a decade plus of being able to safely use whatever substance so let’s take alcohol, for example.

Dr. Chris Swart :  And he said, Yes, you know, he has had people that recognize that it was getting to be a problem, pulled back and then was able to safely moderate it, you know, for whatever time period, one of the phrases or sayings that we use in AAA and I really like this is, once you become a pickle, you can’t ever go back to being a cucumber, right? So I do believe that there is a theoretical line. And what that line is, is very difficult for you know, somebody to know, I have no idea when I crossed that line.

Dr. Chris Swart :  But I know for myself, I crossed this line of I will never be a normal drinker again, I know that if I put alcohol into my system, I may not get drunk that day. It may not cause a problem that day, but eventually it will, right. And this is where I really liked the phrase of like, not every time I got drunk, I got in trouble. But every time I had a trouble or problem in my life, it was really because of alcohol at some level, right?

Dr. Chris Swart :  So I know that me personally, I have crossed this theoretical line of I’m now a pickle nada cucumber, and I need to be 100% abstinent. But that is certainly not the case for everybody. And I will never say that right? I recognize everybody’s path is different. And some people can moderate and have success, but it is a much lower percentage of people in recovery that are moderating then that need the complete absence.

Steve Washuta : What about instead of moderating, shifting to something that is later the spectrum. So for example, I know there’s non alcoholic wines that sell in California that have THC, we talked about CBD and sort of other cannabis, things we’ve talked about.

Steve Washuta : I think there’s now even like, vitamin cans that have like micro dose mushrooms in them that you can get now like, what about these things as maybe some level of intervention even if it’s not right away down the road for people recovering? Yeah,

Dr. Chris Swart :  I mean, you’re you’re 100% right. People have had success with it. And this is where like, is the juice worth the squeeze to you? Right, and I think that’s an individual this decision. If if you have had, if a person has had tremendous consequences in their life, you know, legal problems, financial problems, personal relationship problems, if it’s gotten really, really bad in their life, it may not be worth leaning into some other substances unless it’s like really medically supervised.

Dr. Chris Swart : We do have that path. So that is available for people. If maybe you can say to yourself, Well, I didn’t go all the way down the elevator to complete absolute rock bottom. And let me try some of these other things. Go for it, right, like do it safely. Make sure that you’re open about it with people around you. That’s the way I feel about it, right? So people can kind of make sure that you’re alright, go for it. Like I don’t have a problem.

Dr. Chris Swart : You know, with trying some of these things. We do know that there are alcoholics that utilize THC and CBD, and they’ve never gone back. They’ve had decades of success without ever going back to alcohol. Now, that’s perfectly fine.

Dr. Chris Swart : We’ve got micro dosing of, you know, different mushroom components and things like that, like you talked about, like, absolutely, that those things are available, and they they absolutely are an option. But I think you really want to do your homework, before you start to attempt, you know, those different types of things.

Steve Washuta : I want to compare, sorry, I don’t want to compare like food addiction, let’s say to alcohol addiction. But I’ve had clients who like needed to have their bowl of ice cream every night. And we just replaced that with something else that had a little bit less sugar in it, but was more healthy, right?

Steve Washuta : So now we’re putting blueberries and strawberries into a shake that might have a you know, a little bit of sugar. And then before we know it, now they’re just eating a protein, or at night that maybe only has stevia in it right. So we’re not we’re giving them something to look forward to. It’s just, you know, we’re not going straight to water, let’s say, right, and

Dr. Chris Swart : I think the only thing there because you’re that’s an important point, right? Sometimes those can lead into and I say sometimes it can lead into cross addiction, right? And it can essentially be a catalyst towards something else. So just being aware of that before you go into it.

Dr. Chris Swart : But no, I agree 1,000%, the example that popped into my mind was people who drink a lot of soda and can’t stop drinking soda. And then they switch to something that’s like, you know, got some artificial sugars, artificial sweeteners in it, right. And over time, then they go away from the artificial sweeteners down to water. It’s like this progression.

Dr. Chris Swart : That’s absolutely perfectly fine. Like that was an example that that I kind of thought about there that you just need to be aware of, is this now switching to something else, just be aware of what what would constitute this even starting to get out of control, right, in some in some capacity.

Steve Washuta : As humans, we mentioned this term before, we’re all very bio diverse, there’s a spectrum. And we’re all we’re all slightly different. But what I have seen a lot is that people that I know who have been struggling with addiction, if they can channel it, if they can get through, they become almost superhumans.

Steve Washuta : They’re able to put all of that energy and focus into their business or running ultra marathons or whatever that is, do you also see that? And what is your analysis of that?

Dr. Chris Swart : Yeah, I think that’s really important. The people that I’ve seen have the most success in recovery, are channeling this, like negative energy or negative experiences, whatever you want to however you want to word it and describe it. They’re channeling it for the greater good. And, you know, sometimes our darkest past becomes our greatest asset.

Dr. Chris Swart : And I think that’s what a lot of people, myself included in recovery. I think that’s how it’s, it should be viewed. You know, I know that for myself, you know, I have a great gift to share. I went through a lot of issues, a lot of it was behind the scenes and people didn’t know how much I was struggling.

Dr. Chris Swart : But those emotions, that dark past, the lack of sleep, the lack of like throwing me throwing my morals and ethics out the window sometimes, like really becoming a person I don’t want to become, I can now use that to benefit other people’s lives. And that’s like the service work, you know, in in the AAA program that I participate in, and one of the slogans or sayings that I also love in AAA is we walk in the AAA big shots and work our way up to servants.

Dr. Chris Swart : And, you know, I kind of have felt that a little bit. You know what I mean? I’m intelligent. I can do this without a bubble blah, blah. And now I found myself like Where can I help the next person and how can I channel this, you know, to become like superhuman and, you know, give this like spiritual gift to somebody else to help them along the journey.

Dr. Chris Swart : And some people do root look turn to like marathon running, they channel their negative past into growing a business, all the examples that you brought up, because I do believe that a lot of people that struggle with addiction, because I’ve seen it are such good, good hearted, hearted, hardworking people.

Dr. Chris Swart : So many people that I’ve met in the rooms of recovery, you know, we’re not bad people, we’re just sick people that are trying to get well. And once we can get well, at least speaking for myself, that opens up a whole nother aspect and gratitude for life. And I think that’s another important piece of it is, at least for me, and when the success of other people is like, being grateful for where I’m at, in that, that’s what allows me to help other people is I’m just so grateful to be alive today.

Dr. Chris Swart : Because I know that if the ball bounced one different way, many times I could be dead. I mean, that’s how serious, you know, my addiction got throughout the years, there were times when I could have lost my life. And so I do feel like I feel that Steve, I feel superhuman in certain ways in the world of recovery.

Dr. Chris Swart : I want to help, and I want to channel this, and I want my life to have as much meaning moving forward. And now that I’m really practicing recovery, I do feel like it’s a second life. And I know that that sounded cliche to me years ago. But I do feel like I’m living two lives, I lived my life in addiction. And now I’m living my life in recovery. And I want to help and do as many things as I possibly can to make myself even more grateful, you know, for where I’m at, and what gifts I have to give to other people. 

Steve Washuta : Someone told me who has been sober for over 10 years, and they were an AE, that at the time that they went, I don’t know if they can still continue to go. But not lying was a big emphasis. And you could tell me why that is if that is the case, but my assumption is that it’s just like you said before, if you’re smart enough, you’re gonna convince yourself into anything. So having to be, you know, really transparent and upfront allows you to deal with the problem as is instead of push it away and say I’ll deal with this later.

Dr. Chris Swart : Yeah, I hear an AE all the time, especially from the old timers that have been around for a long time. They always say you’re only as sick as your secrets, right? And so honesty and transparency is it’s like taking that weighted vest and just throwing it off.

Dr. Chris Swart : And one of the things that I’ve learned in AAA, is no matter what I come out and say, and it’s hard, it can be hard for a lot of people to in public, you know, not necessarily it’s public, but like, you know, you’re with strangers, and you’re telling some of your deepest, darkest secrets, right. But like your so much weight gets lifted off.

Dr. Chris Swart : And now, I’m not, it does go back to the spirituality side of it. I’m not as spiritually sick, when I’m honest and transparent and open in my deepest, darkest secrets have helped other people because they’re like, Oh, my God, I would have never said that. I’ve done that. But now that you said it, I did that too. Or I felt that way too, right.

Dr. Chris Swart : So being honest and transparent not only helps me, but then it helps other people, which then in turn helps me again, because I recognize that I’m having an impact on someone else’s life. So in the world of AAA and na as well, in a lot of recovery.

Dr. Chris Swart : There’s an acronym how h o w. And it talks about the three biggest things that oftentimes people will say you need in recovery. You need Honesty, which is the age open mindedness, the Oh, and willingness, the W if you can be honest with yourself and others, you can be open minded to the suggestions and what other people are doing and how other people stay sober, stay open minded to everything, you never know what’s going to work for you, and then be willing to try it. If you if, at least for me, I want to keep this on me.

Dr. Chris Swart : When I started really letting that house sink in honesty, open mindedness and willingness. That’s when my whole mental aspect of what I was doing in recovery really, I had this awesome mind shift. And I really started to see the fruits of my labor. I had to do those three things first.

Steve Washuta : Dr. Chris, thank you so much for opening up here and being honest and telling your story for those who want to find more of out not only addiction recovery, your journey your story and maybe just follow you and and your path, let them know where it’s best to either reach out to you or just to follow you on the socials. 

Dr. Chris Swart : Yeah, so the social media that I use predominantly is Instagram. And I’ve switched my handle is now at sober Doctor spelled out D O CTLR dot swart, SW AR t so at sober, Dr. Dot swart, and that’s probably a good way, you know, I kind of do a lot of like the fitness side of it, it’s a good way to kind of keep in touch with me.

Dr. Chris Swart : You can direct message me there, or I’m going to give people my personal email, if anybody has any questions or you know, anything at all my personal email is Christopher CHR is to PA gr. Allen, a l l e, n swart, SW, W, AR t. So Christopher Allen And feel free anybody that’s listening to this, feel free to reach out to me with any questions or anything I can do to help, you know, in anyone’s process. I’m so happy to do that. You know, I recognize that service is what’s going to keep me on the right path. So anytime I can be of help anybody. I absolutely want to do that.

Steve Washuta : I will put those both in the show notes. Dr. Chris Ward, thank you again for joining the trilogy, the podcast.

Dr. Chris Swart : Thank you, Steve. Always a pleasure.

Steve Washuta: Thanks for joining us on the Trulyfit podcast. Please subscribe, rate, and review on your listening platform. Feel free to email us as we’d love to hear from you.

Thanks again!





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