I find it fascinating that a lot of recovering addicts, as well as people who live with mental health disorders, find a passion for running or working out. I’m aware there is scientific evidence that exercise activates the brain’s pleasure circuit (runner’s high), but I think I enjoy it so much because it’s the perfect mixture of meditation and (healthy) self-inflicted pain. In short, I have replaced a bad addiction with a good one.
There are A LOT of parallels between my life and running.
1. The Voice: While intoxicated, I had this “voice” in my head that would scream, “one more…just ONE more drink!!” I rarely paused to debate with it. Now that I’m clean, sometimes I have to dig deep to hear the voice, but it urges me, “one more…just ONE more mile!!” During a particularly long, grueling run, I heard this voice and had the revelation that the personality trait that got me in trouble, now motivates me. The situation may be different, but I’m thankful that the voice is still just as persuasive as ever.
2. “I’m a Runner” (literally & figuratively): I typically laugh when I describe myself as a runner because it really is applicable in multiple areas of my life. Not only have I participated in sports and running from a young age, I also spent a good chunk of time running from my problems. *mentioned here*
3. Power of Accomplishments: When training for a race, there are some days I have a terrible run. Like, I can barely make it two miles and I’m scheduled to run six. My first reaction is to beat myself up. I have learned to pause and remind myself of the accomplishments I HAVE made – like 26.2 miles! I use my past accomplishments to encourage my future actions. Much like when I relapsed, I had the faith that I could pull myself back up, because I had done it before. While training for a marathon, you literally surprise yourself with each new milestone. The same goes for my sobriety – I am amazed at how far I have come and the strength I have to continue.
4. Crazy/Cool People: Whether it’s someone as “crazy” as you to train and complete 26.2 miles, or someone “crazy” to compare past stories with, there are some very cool people in both running and recovery circles. I love relating to people, especially the “crazy” ones!
5. Comfort in Connecting: When I run, I connect. Each time my feet hit the pavement, each squirrel I have to hurdle over, I’m reminded what a blessing it is to be alive. Running helps me reflect on the things going RIGHT in my life, as well as process the wrong. I thank God for giving me legs, the ability to move, lungs to breath, fresh air and a space to stretch, move, and grow. I feel this same gratitude, daily, since becoming alcohol-free. I’m happy every morning I don’t wake up hungover because I know I will be much more connected with my coworkers, friends, family, and in all areas of life.
6. Finding Your Pace: You’ve heard “life is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.” I used to think running meant going out and hitting your PR (personal record) every workout (run a fast mile and be done.) Since I’ve had years of experience training for half and full marathons, I know that is not the mindset to have when tackling these distances. You must be patient and find a pace that helps you endure the test of time. The same goes for sobriety. If you are working toward a goal or removing something from your life, finding your balance is key. There will be times the road gets hilly, you will be faced with challenges, but you have to remind yourself that if you push through the temporary pain, the end accomplishment is forever!
Running is one of my healthy addictions. Now that I am more in touch with my “all or nothing” personality, running makes perfect sense. I started with 5k’s and gradually kept tacking on “ONE MORE MILE,” until I realized I was capable of completing a full marathon. Again, nothing worth having comes easy, but I found an intense joy in pushing my body to new limits and celebrating the milestones along the way. I am constantly surprising myself at how strong I am in both running and living each day without alcohol.
Maybe running isn’t your thing, but if you are working to eliminate the toxic in your life, I encourage you to find a hobby, sport, or mantra. The positive shift in energy will keep you moving forward and increase your gratitude for your body, mind and soul.