Addicts at New Muncie Gym Lift More than Weights

Second Chance at Life
April 24, 2019
Life After Rehab
April 24, 2019

By Paige Washington

When owner Mac Hines walks into Big Time Barbell, he’s lifting more than weights. With every rep, the burdens of his own past fade away and he finds himself lifting the spirits of the drug addicts and alcoholics who use Big Time to do the same themselves.

The nonprofit gym and workout center in Muncie, Indiana, uses physical fitness to create a mental and emotionally healthy environment for recovering addicts. The workouts are paired with addiction recovery coaching sessions. Even though the facility has been open for less than a year, Hines said he has seen a positive impact on the community.

“We went from working out in the YMCA to now having this building and a full workout facility,” Hines said.

It hasn’t always been this way.

At age 19, Hines says he already was an alcoholic. One beer at a social setting turned into drinking over a couple of days, then a couple of days turned into the entire week. This was his life for 20 years.

At 42, after a particularly long binge over the 4th of July holiday in 2014, his life took a turn. Hines aspirated and stayed into a coma for 10 days.

While in the coma he had a dream of a man pulling him out of a hole, and the man said to him, “This time is on me but the next time it’s on you.” Hines says he believes the hole was actually his grave and that it was God speaking to him, giving him a second chance.

Hines knew he had to do something different with his life. He started attending addiction recovery group meetings but wanted something more for himself and for his friends who also needed a new kind of recovery outlet.

Hines and and a friend, Nick Albertson, partnered to open Big Time Barbell in June of 2018. The gym, funded by city and county grants and some private memberships, is open 24 hours a day. Neither Hines nor Albertson draw a salary. For Hines, the true mission of the gym is to help people like him get better.

Poor eating habits, depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and lack of self love are common among drug addicts and alcoholics. According to Biology of Addiction, physical fitness is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle and treat the symptoms of addiction.   

“We utilize mirrors to help build that confidence to make a muscle and you notice they stand a little taller,” Hines said. “When you’re in addiction, people do not look in the mirrors.”

Hines has experienced the benefits of a good workout first hand. Exercise is believed to create a measure of euphoria or “high” similar to the feeling some people have after using drugs,  according to Frontier in Psychiatry. The same study says those who exercise are less likely to have substance abuse issues.

Big Time Barbell, located at 2008 N. Walnut St., taps into the adrenaline rush that drives their clients toward a healthier lifestyle.

“If we trade an addiction to shooting heroin and turn it into lifting weights, I’ll take that all day long.”

Mac Hines
Owner of Big Time Barbell

Besides using the gym for a physical workout, Big Time Barbell collaborates with Brian Bell from Road to Redemption, a weekly support group at Tabernacle of Praise Church at 6 p.m. every Monday and Wednesday.   

“The biggest thing right now is to have short-term goals so that we can get through our day-to-day lives,” Bell said.  

Hines and Bell want to help those in the Muncie community because they once walked in their shoes. This is a place where recovery addicts like Jerry Sloan feel comfortable and safe.

“I come here because you gotta have somebody to lean on sometimes, somebody to pick you up and carry you through the hard times,” Sloan said.

Now with close to 100 members, Big Time Barbell is growing fast.  “If I can save one life then it was all worth it,” Hines said.

Hines and Albertson have no plans to expand for now. But they say they’ll push for what they know works — one rep at a time.

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