OGDEN -- Athletes often speak of the workout high -- a time of clarity and concentration, a clean feeling of purity and purpose. And that "high" is just what Dustin Hawkins is using to help former addicts change their lifestyle in the Workout Addiction Recovery (WAR) program that he designed based on his own recovery from addiction.
Hawkins, a Bonneville High School alumni, baseball standout, and former Houston Astro, became addicted to prescription drugs starting with a knee surgery. He was doing the drugs, playing baseball, and sinking further into it when he started seeing a therapist for his problems.
"I would train and go directly into the session with the therapist. And I started noticing that the times I wouldn't work out before, it wasn't even the same thing," he said. "I wasn't getting the most out of therapy. The times I worked out prior to the session, I was talkative and listening. So I started thinking, 'Wow, this relationship with working out and going right into a classroom setting, it puts your brain on track.' Why couldn't I teach people that?"
Hawkins completely replaced his drug habits with a new lifestyle of cross-fit style lifting and high intensity functional movement workouts, and developed his idea for the Workout Addiction Recovery (WAR) program.
The program, based on Hawkins' experience, is a 12-week program that includes planned workouts at the WAR facility in South Ogden and a classroom component that includes information presented by dieticians, therapists, lifestyle coaches, motivational speakers as well as a workbook designed by Hawkins.
In addition, after students graduate they are given the opportunity to continue working out and learning at the WAR facility.
"This lifestyle that I'm teaching people, the WAR lifestyle, is a broad lifestyle. It entails many different things, from spirituality to fitness and nutrition," said Hawkins. "We workout and teach them this way of fitness, and it becomes an elite lifestyle for people who stick with it."
Gene Atkinson, a licensed clinical social worker, who has spent his career at Weber Mental Health Services and now in private practice, has helped people deal with addiction for over 30 years. He teaches a class in the WAR program and is on the board of directors. He said that the exercise-intense program is a good addition to the tools that people can use to overcome addiction.
"I feel like it is a good niche," said Atkinson. "It's a program that not everybody will take to, but this is for a niche of people. And those that can embrace it, it can make a big difference in their life."
Hawkins said that there are about 40 people currently involved in the WAR program that are learning a new lifestyle that revolves around healthy aspects of life instead of drugs.
Don, 42, (not his real name) spent eight years consumed with his next fix. His life didn't center on his four kids or his wife, or his career; it centered on where and how he could get his opiates. It centered on hiding his addiction and in convincing himself that he could take care of it.
"My life was calling, texting, finding, getting. The pursuit of that (prescription drugs) was my life," he said.
Judson hid his addiction from his family and friends, with the exception of a few people. He wasn't able to go to a rehab center and had failed a few addict programs in the past. He heard about the WAR program from his brother and decided to give it a try. "What WAR does is begin to replace a lifestyle," said Judson. "I think it's the missing piece."
He's graduated from the program now and has been drug-free since mid-October.
"(WAR is) all proactive service things, like being productive, changing your nutrition, working with a nutritionist and licensed therapist, learning about brain chemistry and what to expect as you move away from it. It's inclusive of how to live life differently," said Judson. "Now regular exercise is part of what I do every week. How I eat is part of life. Part of the program is constantly encouraging healthy positive activities outside of the WAR program."
Another graduate of the program, twenty-four-year-old Alex Stracener, of Ogden, has stayed involved with WAR and credits the program with helping him achieve 519 days of drug-free living.
He'd been in jail a few times, did a 30-day rehabilitation program, and was still using hard core drugs. Last year one of his buddies was doing the WAR program and dragged him along. The WAR program, as well as his drug court experience has changed his life.
"I've done a complete 180 from who I used to be," said Stracener. "It's a whole lifestyle; now I'm big into nutrition, I hardly eat any sweets anymore, and I'm really conscious about what I put into my body."
Hawkins said that like most addicts, it will always be a fight to keep on top of his addiction. But he's prepared and fit for the battle and he's gearing others up to fight as well.
"I'm really thankful that I struggle with addiction," said Hawkins. "Because without it, I would never have the opportunity to help as many people as I'm helping with this program."
For more information about the WAR program visit http://www.workoutaddictionrecovery.com/ or call 877-912-2051.