CrossFit and Sobriety: “A Seamless Marriage”

July 23, 2020 by
Courtesy of Scott Hansen
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It’s almost a cliche at this point, but the CrossFit community and the CrossFit training methodology have become a lifeline for thousands and thousands of people around the world. And the Morning Chalk Up is committed to featuring the inspiring stories of those who have transformed their lives. Scott Hansen’s story and the story of Surfside Structured Sober Living shines a bright light on the healing power of fitness.

Scott Hansen’s Story: Growing up in a good home in northern New Jersey with “all the opportunities in the world,” a young Scott Hansen attended a private school and excelled at sports. His successes allowed him to play baseball at Lehigh University, a Division I school in Bethlehem, PA.

On paper at least, Hansen doesn’t sound like the ideal candidate to become heavily addicted to alcohol and cocaine by the time he was in his early 20s. But this is exactly the path he went down, a path that ultimately caused him to quit both baseball and school.

  • “Once drinking and drug use took hold of my life, I was ready to get rid of my first love just to party. I walked away from baseball and I walked away from school,” he said.

Now, at the age of 29 and three years sober, Hansen has gained perspective as to why he went down this road.

  • “There’s this cliche you hear in recovery rooms about never feeling comfortable in your own skin, never feeling like you fit in, and I remember even from the earliest of ages, any time I walked in front of someone who was new, I would get immensely anxious. Then I found drinking and drugs and being in the middle of a party was the best way for me to fit in,” he said.
  • “The moment I had a drink, all my fears and anxiety went away, and I started chasing that feeling to the point that it landed me in prison,” he added.

In fact, the only reason Hansen decided to get sober was because he had been arrested so many times that he was “looking at significant jail time if I didn’t go to rehab,” he explained.

Leave an alcoholic to their own devices, and they’re probably going to go down a shitty path. That’s why CrossFit is so great. It provides structure and a community, which is crucial to recovery.

Ian Koch’s Surfside Structured Sober Living: Today, Hansen gives a lot of credit to Ian Koch for his sobriety. Koch is the owner of Saltwater Athletics in Somers Point, NJ, a CrossFit affiliate committed to helping recovering addicts through fitness. Koch is also the founder of Surfside Structured Sober Living, a non-profit organization that offers a comprehensive recovery program for men that, among other things, relies heavily on fitness and sports to help foster sobriety.

  • “Surfside changed my entire life,” said Hansen, who spent nine months living with 12 guys in one house.
  • He explained: “The program taught me how to live, and how to be a man and a better member of society.”

Surfside follows a “bottom-up process” that focuses on getting the body moving again, Hansen explained.

  • “(The importance of) taking care of your body to allow your body and brain to heal,” he said.

When Hansen made his way to Surfside in 2016, he had let his body “get wildly out of control,” he said. At his heaviest, he weighed close to 250 pounds at five-foot-nine. Today, he is 175 pounds.

Courtesy of Scott Hansen (At the start of his weight loss journey)
  • “I had built this huge resentment against working out and the gym because for years I had been forced to do it,” he said, adding that Surfside helped him change this attitude and embrace fitness and what it could do for him.

Since his time in Koch’s program, Hansen has remained sober and even returned to school and completed a bachelor’s degree in psychology. He’s now working his way through a master’s degree in clinical mental health.

Credit: Ian Koch

Giving back to the community: Hansen has remained connected to both Koch and to Surfside, which now has three houses that house 12 men each. Hansen spent one year working as a recovery specialist in one of the houses. He’s now about to take his CrossFit Level 1 certificate course so he can start coaching at Koch’s affiliate, because he believes in the power of fitness.

  • “I really think the marriage between CrossFit and recovery is so seamless. You show up and there’s no thought of, ‘What am I going to do today?’ The workout is laid out, there’s a structure in place, and that’s a huge thing for an addict,” he said.
  • “Leave an alcoholic to their own devices, and they’re probably going to go down a shitty path. That’s why CrossFit is so great. It provides structure and a community, which is crucial to recovery.”

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