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The Recovery Run

EAT, SLEEP, RUN. REPEAT. That is what my running shirt has printed on the front. I feel like an impostor wearing it. DRINK, PASS OUT, RUN. REPEAT. This is the real truth.

There is a slight pounding behind my eyeballs, a not so gentle reminder that I once again betrayed my self-imposed limits of Chardonnay consumption the night before. I peel open an eyelid to view the clock. My body can already detect what it will say. Runners have an innate sense of time.

I force myself upright, as if this simple act can erase the effects of last nights drinking. Into believing that this perpetual groundhog day is totally normal. I know it’s not. Most people do not need to put rules around their drinking.

I know this run is the only thing that will give me the false sense that my life is intact. That I am not on a downward spiral. And, god forbid, I am not that “A” word.

I proceed through the ritual of putting on my running gear, lacing up my shoes, downing a couple glasses of water in an attempt to rehydrate. I slip out the door into the morning cold before I can change my mind and crawl back under the covers. I know this run is the only thing that will give me the false sense that my life is intact. That I am not on a downward spiral. And, god forbid, I am not that “A” word.

That first mile I struggle to regulate my breathing. I gasp for air, my heart thumping out of its chest and legs throbbing each time they strike the asphalt. Soon the suffering becomes unremarkable and I keep going. One foot in front of the other, mile after mile, day after day, month after month. Exhausted seems too tame to describe what I feel. Not from the miles logged, but from the life I have allowed to slip away. Each night, however, I find my wine glass and box of Chardonnay and do it all again.

Exhausted seems too tame to describe what I feel. Not from the miles logged, but from the life I have allowed to slip away. Each night, however, I find my wine glass and box of Chardonnay and do it all again.

Growing up I can’t imagine the term “athletic” and I were ever used synonymously. In fact, I’m pretty sure clumsy was a more accurate portrayal of my abilities and how I viewed myself. In my head, running was something  reserved for only “real” athletes. I was often the first one out while playing tag. The prescribed mile run in gym class caused multiple attempts at feigning illness. Even after beginning a somewhat regimented exercise routine, I still shied away from running. It was only out of necessity that I stepped onto that treadmill for the first time.

Running, I soon discovered, provided me with a much-needed outlet. I didn’t need any fancy gadgets or membership fees, simply a pair of running shoes (and a running stroller) and I was good to go. For an hour a day I could escape my overactive brain and the monotony that is sometimes known as motherhood. For a while that was all I needed. And then I was introduced to Chardonnay. We became overnight best friends. As my kids grew older, my wine glass became my nightly companion.

For a while running was all I needed. And then I was introduced to Chardonnay. We became overnight best friends. As my kids grew older, my wine glass became my nightly companion.

I still ran. In fact, as my drinking increased so did my running. I was almost trying to outpace its hold on me. My rational was twofold: If I am able to train and compete then I could not possibly have a problem and  training will require me to decrease my alcohol intake (this second one wasn’t always successful).

I spent years running from that “A” label only to discover that attaching labels to ourselves is not a prerequisite to making changes and creating lasting, sustainable results in any area of our lives. After 10 years of finishing each day with a bit too much wine, I finally awoke to the fact that consciousness is a wonderful gift.

I didn’t just wake up one morning, however, and decide I was not going to drink alcohol anymore. It was a process; a journey. A very long journey.

I didn’t just wake up one morning, however, and decide I was not going to drink alcohol anymore. It was a process; a journey. A very long journey. There is no magic wand when it comes to making difficult changes in our lives. You have to do the work. You have to become comfortable at being uncomfortable. There’s no avoiding this fact. There is no shortcut.

Everyone’s journey is going to look different. For me, it was slowly becoming cognizant of what alcohol was actually adding to my life. It was about doing research and experimenting. And then going back and doing more research. Until finally I was ready to say goodbye for good.

This same process is true for running. We don’t just wake up one morning and say, “I think I’ll run a marathon today.” It takes preparation. It takes training. It takes stumbling a few times. It takes support and nutrition and proper sleep. It takes A LOT! But for those who choose to go on that journey, they’re not going to give up. They’re going to keep going until one day you’re out running and you think to yourself, this doesn’t suck. In fact this feels pretty freaking amazing!

As a woman in recovery, I have rediscovered my relationship with running and its place in my life. Running has allowed me to redefine my ideas of self worth. It provides an outlet far better than any wine glass.

As a woman in recovery, I have rediscovered my relationship with running and its place in my life. Running has allowed me to redefine my ideas of self worth. It provides an outlet far better than any wine glass. It is my daily meditation. I will never break any records or win any races but what I get out of running now beats any first-place finish.

This morning I woke to the sound of my husband searching for his car keys. I opened an eyelid to glance at the clock although my body already intuitively knew the time. Some things don’t change. But so many others do.

I reached for my running shoes and met my husband outside for our morning tea and coffee before heading out for my run. I no longer use running to provide validation for my life’s normalcy. Instead, it is an invitation to life. And that life is pretty amazing.

The author is a 50-year-old mother of four living in Connecticut and the owner of Recovery Run Adventures, a company offering alcohol-free adventures to destination races.