Most people look at me and assume I\u2019ve been running my entire life. And while my childhood was filled with physical activities such as soccer, swimming, and cross-country, I didn\u2019t fully understand the power of exercise until I laced up a pair of sneakers in an attempt to phase out a serious drug habit in my late 20s. I remember being a happy kid, at least until I wasn\u2019t. At 10, I had my first drink, and I was hospitalized with alcohol poisoning by 12. The same year, I started experimenting with drugs. The rest of my teenage and early-adult years were rife with bad decisions. At 24, I overdosed on a combination of crack, meth, and pills in my South Florida apartment. I flatlined. Paramedics were able to restart my heart, and three days later I woke up from a coma with a tube down my throat, completely alone, having missed my older brother\u2019s wedding. It took three more years\u2014during which I vacillated between being a functioning addict (if there is such a thing; I somehow managed to make it through hairstyling school and maintain a pretty regular yoga practice) and being incapacitated\u2014before I grew tired and scared enough of myself to make a change. Around this time, my sister introduced me to a guy she thought I\u2019d hit it off with. Looking back, I imagine she hoped he\u2019d be a good influence on me. We didn\u2019t seem to have anything in common. He told me he\u2019d recently run a half-marathon. I thought, That\u2019s it! I\u2019ll start running; at least it\u2019ll give us something to talk about . Little did I know that pounding the pavement would become a key tool in my recovery. I started by measuring a three-mile loop near my apartment in West Palm Beach with my car\u2019s odometer. Then I set out on the streets, alternating between walking and jogging. It was hard. It was sticky-hot. But there was something intrinsic to running that appealed to me. I liked the focus on my breathing, the sound of each step, and the soothing crash of the ocean waves along the beach. I didn\u2019t think about anything except taking one step after another\u2014run to that tree, walk to that sign, repeat. It took about a month before I could complete the full loop without stopping. Then I was curious to see what it felt like to go farther. I wondered if I could keep my mind quiet for even longer stretches of time. So I used a treadmill in my building\u2019s gym to get through five miles for the first time. (It took about an hour.) After six weeks, I was running regularly, and the cloud of self-hatred and depression that had surrounded me for most of my life started to evaporate. This was a new feeling. During the many years I\u2019d spent in the throes of addiction, I tried all of the traditional rehabilitation methods\u2014nothing really worked. But as I slowly started replacing drugs like heroin with exercise, things looked brighter. Eventually, I decided to move home to New York City, and I left my full-time job as a hairdresser to pursue a bigger involvement in the fitness community by becoming a certified trainer, Pilates instructor, and yoga teacher. I packed up my car and headed north on September 17, 2011. I haven\u2019t shot up since. When I began running, I honestly didn\u2019t think it would take me anywhere. (To be clear, it has by no means been a linear trajectory. I still experience doubt on a daily basis.) But getting out there gave me the ability to power through my problem, and for that I am forever grateful. What\u2019s Exercise Got to Do With It? A whole lot, in fact. Timothy Brennan, MD, director of the Addiction Institute at Mount Sinai West and Mount Sinai St. Luke\u2019s in New York City, spells out why sweat can help with substance abuse disorders. It keeps you occupied. A whole lot, in fact. Timothy Brennan, MD, director of the Addiction Institute at Mount Sinai West and Mount Sinai St. Luke\u2019s in New York City, spells out why sweat can help with substance abuse disorders. It just makes you feel good. \u201cWorking out creates endorphins inthe brain, which are natural pleasure hormones\u2014and the same ones that are released during substance use. There\u2019s a reason the term \u2018runner\u2019s high\u2019 exists.\u201d It supports other positive behaviors. \u201cExercise isn\u2019t a remedy on its own\u2014and it hasn\u2019t been officially added to any treatment regimens\u2014but it can build self-confidence and self-reliance, plus lead to better eating habits and deeper sleep.\u201d This article originally appeared in the November 2019 issue of Women's Health .