The Turn


Crank-Starting-Car
Crank that shaft, Mildred. Crank that shaft like a goodly maiden.

So I’ve taken up that “jogging” fad that people seem to be taking to these days.  If you had told me that five weeks ago I would be eyeing shoes for pounding the pavement, I would have thought you mad.  Jogging, or “running” as they also call it (I looked it upon the interweb), is something that I just didn’t do.  Up there with designing cathedrals and repairing pan flutes.  I was a biker.  Bicycle biker, that is. To and from work every day – more a mode of utilitarian transport than dialling in on my target heart rate and toning my flabby calves.  Jogging was for capricious Capricorns and those with non-existent body fat.  Perhaps it was through osmosis, or perhaps I just had that nudging in my head that kept coming back to chasing an invisible bunny.  Most likely inspired by the wonderful folks here on the blogosphere who seem to have found something in their physical journeys.

I could wax poetic about running and sobriety, and the parallels between them.  I could go on about how they are both a path of trial and error, of trust, of pushing ahead, of thinking outside the box, etc.  Better bloggers and runners have covered that kind of material (hello Christy, Kristen, Josie, et al.)  For me, it’s just about running.  Or at least at first it was.  Getting out of my comfort zone.  Trying something that I had sworn I would never do (not a blood oath on Odin, but sort of spit handshake to myself).  Jogging (I am certainly not a runner) to me is something that for some reason something that spoke to me at this point in my life.  Like when I decided olives were tasty and Welcome Back Kotter was a terrible show.  Getting outside and propelling myself on foot seemed a ludicrous thing in the past, but for me now it works.

Just put these guys on the old disc walkman and I am good to go.
If these guys can’t get your motor running off the disc walkman, I don’t know what will.

What I will say about this jogging thing is that I am self conscious of it.  That is, when I am jogging, I am doing everything in my power to not think to myself “I am jogging”.  But it doesn’t work.  It’s like a running commentary (no pun intended) on my journey.  But I don’t enjoy that living in the moment thing because it makes for a long run.  I am seeking that moment where I am absorbed in just being and not worrying about anything else.  That transcendental moment where I am not aware of my body but I am still going.  The more I direct my thinking to what I am doing second by second, the less I am able to enjoy it. Nothing wrong with some self-appraisal, but a blow-by-blow does me no good.  I am mentally exhausted before I hit the second or third block.

In the past five weeks I went from no running to 5K without stopping (ego loves, body hates) and like the good alcoholic I am, want to push and push and get better quickly.  I know, bad idea.  I am just sending a perfume scented invitation to my first injury. Yesterday, I was doing a little past my usual distance.   But I wasn’t feeling it that moment, as I weaved my way through a new path.  I thought to myself “You can make this a small run today”, “You can turn back – no shame in it”, “I am jogging. I am jogging. I am jogging.”.  Ugh.  Up ahead, a few blocks away, I saw a turn.  I figured that was the moment I would make my decision – go back and chill out at home.  Or forge ahead and keep at it. Move past my comfort zone.  And what would be around that corner, other than just more pavement and pain?

What are you gonna do with your run??
Whadda you wanna do with your run??

In C.S Lewis’ book A Grief Observed,  he makes this statement:  “Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery’s shadow or reflection: the fact that you don’t merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer. I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief.”.  This statement hit home for me as I continued my run.  While not engaged in grief per se, I saw a correlation – I was trying to not think about not thinking about jogging while I was jogging.  At the same time, not only was I jogging, I was thinking about jogging while jogging.  This was sort of the misery’s shadow that Lewis spoke about.  And of course this had me thinking about recovery.  Early recovery.

In my early days, my mind was on a treadmill of “I can’t drink.  I can’t drink.  I can’t drink”.  And not only was I thinking about not drinking, I was thinking about thinking about not drinking.  A double whammy.  The shadow strikes again.  A little sparring match between the shadow and the reality.   But it’s normal to think that.  It can be no other way, especially at the beginning of our sober reality.  Some people get that white light experience of losing the mental obsession quickly, some take a bit longer. Distracting one’s self works only so long.  I needed to be able to sit, and just be and not have misery’s reflection refracting the dark light into me over and over.  It’s easier said than done.  Some of us can’t handle the dark light and succumb.

By the shaking, jumping ghost of Jehosaphat, line ’em up, will ya??

Some of us will come upon this turn many times in our sober lives, in our recovery.  The pain of moving through, edging forward, making the commitment.  It can be dozens or hundreds of times in a day, or it might happen once.  For those who have pushed through and powered through their journey, this may not come up very often.  We make that turn and forego our control over the situation.  We turn it over in that turn.  We place our faith in something that will get us past it.  Whether it be something greater than us, plan of action or a recovery based program, we move past the fear and get into a place that give us the sense of moving through a wall.  Of gaining a foothold into our new life, of taking in the scenery while we forge ahead into an unknown.  The unknown.  And as we move past this, we start to lose the shadow.  We start to see the reflection fading and receding into the new light of our being.  We are brightly shining and dissolving the thoughts of thinking about thinking about our position in life.

For me, I know that I am moving into something and need to move through something because I get posted signs along the path.  It could be a little guidance from within, the spark of an idea (jogging!) or God Shot moments that brazenly direct me. When I am in alignment with this guiding force, I am well.  I am at peace.  I am in the Sunlight of the Spirit.  When I first toyed with the idea of jogging, I was walking to the park, where I thought I would start my first run.  I was listening to Woodkid (a wonderful artist) and as I approached the grass, unsure, the second song kicked it.  “Run, Boy, Run“.  Okay, got it there, Creator.  And run I did.  And it’s been a lot of fun, and a lot of sore muscles.  Patience.  Persistence.  Self-care. Consistency.  These are the things that have paved the way for the paved way ahead of me in this new endeavour.   And of course, those things also push me in my recovery (I know I said I wouldn’t do the jogging / recovery parallel, but hey, sue me).

And as I ran yesterday, pushing past my limits (I ended up running 7K), I started to get into that zone.  Without thinking of the reflection, the reflection disappeared.  I found myself doing a running meditation and prayer.  I found myself moving without moving.  I had hit that moment where it was just me and the ground and the wind and the sun and nothing else.  I felt calm and not stressed.  I didn’t think about jogging while jogging for while there.  And when I started to think about it, when I got to a point where I wondered about my speed, began to question my jogging, started over thinking it all – another sign.  I jogged past some college students, and I am not sure if they were commenting on me, or on something else, but one said “Take your time, man” as I ran past.  I smiled, knowing that I was being directed, once again.

shadow-boxing

As I pulled up home, exhausted on all fronts, I felt a bit of a glow.  It wouldn’t last long, but it felt like Grace.  It felt that all was well.  It was like when I first felt that twang in my spirit that told me that things would be fine, that I wouldn’t have to take another drink again, that I need not put the weight of my sobriety all on me.  There was something out there that had shoulders big enough to take it on.   It was in taking that turn and pushing myself to the unknown that defined my role in this recovery – that of the agent, not the principle.  I would be whole again, I would not fear where I may tread, I would not need that shadow to haunt me and take up my psychic and spiritual space.  I was on a journey where it was just me and the Creator.  I didn’t have to try and be everything to myself.  Those days were done.

And you know what, there was one more sign last night.  I was riding my bike to a meeting, and was trying to decide what meeting I would go to.  I was figuring out if I should go north to the hospital meeting, or south to the detox meeting.  As I hemmed and hawed, I decided to go north.  And no sooner than I started to head up, I passed a church.  It was turning dark, and they turned on the light on the sign on the front grass.  It said “See yourself as God sees you.  A winner”.  I may not pass any finish line, but in my path, as I move forward, I get the rewards.  We all win.

33 Comments Add yours

  1. sober365days says:

    Great post! And welcome to running! It’s fascinating how so many people in recovery become running converts. I know running is an absolute centerpiece of my mental well-bing. In fact, I never shoot for speed or distance, but rather for longevity (as in, i don’t want an overuse injury because that would sideline me from running!). Anyway, so happy to hear you’re liking it. Happy trails! 🙂

    1. Thanks…it is kind of strange how many do turn to running. It’s not like we flock to fencing or pole vaulting…lol. I think the solitary nature of it appeals, and that we can do it almost any time…like drinking 🙂

      Happy trails to you as well!

      Paul

  2. Hi Paul,

    I wish I had had the foresight to take a “selfie” (as the kids call it) as I read this post. You know how when you read something that you relate to, and you smile a little? I started smiling at the line “running was something I didn’t do,” and by the end of the post, I kid you not, I was laughing out loud… not because it was funny, but because it was as if you reached into my head and wrote my thoughts down. So unbelievable how we can connect within this community, I feel as though I am part of the cool crowd right here in the blogosphere (or at least how I would imagine it would feel to be part of the cool crowd, not sure if I’ve ever actually been a part of such a group)!

    In case I was not clear (and I’m sure I wasn’t), I related to every single thought you just wrote, and it makes me so validated, so happy, to know I am not alone, and that we are all doing this recovery thing together.

    We need to set a date in the spring time, and all of us “non-runners” need to find a geographical mid-point and run in a 5K together!

    Thanks for this amazing lift to my otherwise dreary day (it is miserable here on the East Coast)!

    Josie

    1. Thanks Josie – your reply made me smile too. I am always amazed at how much we alkies think alike. Damn this trying to be different and unique! But yeah, it’s pretty funny how we tend to read each others’ minds around these parts in the sobersphere. a 5k would be a grand idea. I wonder where that mid-point would be???

      Anyway, hope the weather has changed (and it always does, doesn’t it?)

      Have a great day!

      Paul

  3. Kary May says:

    Not you too? Am I the last holdout of this running madness? To tell you the truth I’ve been thinking about it too, (note the “thinking about it”). I’m at the age where physical abilities are bidding adieu at an alarming rate, never to be seen again and I’d like to hold onto a few of them a little while longer. So time to quit thinking and get about getting it on. BTW there was a comment on my blog this morning asking about the very issue you just described, those incessant, pain in the ass, voices in our heads. So I referred her over here. We all handle them differently.

    1. I know…this surprised me as much as anyone else, Kary May. Join us at your leisure, or don’t. I am certainly not one to press someone onto something that I was resistant to for a long, long time!

      As for the voices…well, hell ya. I don’t think they ever go away, we just learn to ignore them, deal with them and just accept them. Nothing else I can do about them.

      Thanks for the comments 🙂

      Paul

  4. Debbie says:

    Gotta love those signs 🙂

    1. I know…how groovy are they??

      Thanks!
      Paul

  5. warmginger says:

    My smile was as big as Josie’s and for the same reasons!
    The thinking about thinking about drinking…I’m pretty lucky there I think, as that voice went away as soon as I decided booze was no longer for me.

    But the incessant ego that monitors my every footstep? I’ve been running for quite a few years now, and she is always, always, always with me for the first half hour. I’ve just accepted that she/I will complain and fight and resist until mile five. The peace after that and the feeling of relief that ‘hey, I can actually run!’ makes it all worthwhile and after that I can
    trot along contentedly for the second half.

    Oh, the other thing that works for me is hills. Big long nasty ones get me in the zone quicker as I’m so busy trying to push up the damn things, I can’t hear my own resistance. If you’re in a fairly flat area (don’t know if you are) go cross country. The challenges of jumping over fallen trees and running away from cows is another great way to shut yourself up (I’ve had to adapt this for the desert of course!).

    Or run with someone and chat. I’m not a great one for sitting around and drinking coffee, but I love meeting friends for a run and a catch up. The fact we’re catching up takes the focus off the actual running part.

    LOL about the student’s comment. I can’t help but speed up and stick my chest out if I’m running past people, so I’m wondering if you did the same?

    1. Thanks for the tips and sharing your experience. I am a novice again in something – yay! That means I get to shut up and just listen. Good for everyone 🙂

      Funny you mention hills, because almost every run I have done included one big, long hill. The kind that just slowly ascends, then gets steep just at the end. Ugh. I mentally prepare myself for that one, indeed. I will try the cross country if I can. I just need to look up where they are (I am in a major city, so there shouldn’t be problems finding them). It would be a challenge, compared to the pavement sidewalks that I use.

      Now, the chatting while running thing still amazes me. I can barely get a grunt in let alone discussing philosophy. But one day…

      As for the student…there was no way I was speeding up. Didn’t have enough juice for that 😉

      Thanks again for the wonderful comments!

      Paul

  6. Wonderful post! For a lifelong runner, I can relate to some of this. I mean, running has always been a constant in my life, but since after high school (20 years now), I’ve used it mainly as a way to relieve stress or stay fit. Means to an end, you know? So, I never let myself truly ENJOY the activity, it was always to serve a purpose and as a form of self-competition (of course, it was, that’s what this alcoholic does is compete!).

    These days, I can’t run right much (sciatica), but this has allowed me to simply enjoy the walk/running and light exercise (being outdoors, in general) that I do get to do. I am seeing that I don’t have to be in pain–heck, I shouldn’t be in pain every time I run–that running and exercise in general is about so much more than just improving or getting fit.

    Thanks for sharing this–excellent work. Thanks for letting me share my story, too. HUGS

    1. I am with you on the activity being more than just an activity. I can’t just pleasure skate – I need to be playing hockey, and competitive hockey at that. I can’t just go on a bike ride – I need to be going to and from work. I am sure I will get better at that stuff. But running is the first thing that I can say that breaks that pattern, so I am grateful for that.

      I am sorry to hear about the sciatica…hopefully you can slowly get out there more. But it sounds like you get some exercise in…

      Thank you for sharing your story…love it 🙂

      Blessings,
      Paul

  7. bornsirius says:

    Haha, I’m with all the other non-runners (or more correctly in my case, sometimes runners) that are grinning at this post. I took up running in early recovery for a time, but I did the “push too hard, too fast” thing and had an injury only a week after getting brand-spanking-new running shoes. I was between insurance at the time and so I didn’t get it checked, and now, I have a lovely ganglion cyst on my foot. I haven’t run in a few months.
    Besides all that nonsense… I have such a hard time with my ego when I run, too. I SO RELATED on the voice in your head thing. That thing is my worst enemy when I’m running. It always leaves me at about mile 2.5. Up until that point it’s just grueling and I hate the whole world because I am running and in torture. =P
    That being said… I’ve been wanting to run again lately. Perhaps this is a sign. 😉

    1. Ouch – sorry to hear about that cyst!

      Yeah, it sounds like we’re on the same page when it comes to the voice. I guess it’s new to this new jogger dude, so it’s nice to know I am not the only one out there…lol. I am going to watch out for the injury thing – would rather take it easy than push too hard to make my ego happy (hmmmm…where have I done *that* before???)

      Hope you get up and running again…if it’s not too painful 🙂

      Thanks for the comments

      Paul

  8. Kate says:

    This is a great post on so many levels. I love the metaphor – and I love the literal analysis. I’ve tried running a few times,but I think about it too much to enjoy it. Counting down every second, too aware of every moment. Very rarely do I get lost in it to the point where I enjoy it. I can do that with walking, but not running.

    But I love the peace you are exuding – and I love how God is speaking and leading. That’s the best part!

    1. Thanks Kate! I am glad I am not alone in hearing those voices. Seems you and everyone else here have the same issues. Phew! Not alone.

      It’s great you can dissolve while walking. At least you have that…and that is great exercise too, as also a way of leaving the day behind and having your time.

      And yup, I am not the leader…He is 🙂

      Blessings
      Paul

  9. furtheron says:

    Sigue Sigue Sputnik!!! no comment! 😉

    1. I have to confess being a fan in the day, vinyl albums and all. Lately I started to listen to their first two albums again and just love them again – unironically. They were insane. Terrible live, from what I have seen online. They saved the best for the records, which is pretty much all samples and the same bass lines…lol.

      1. furtheron says:

        I remember them live on some show on tv with all the hype and just sat there amazed – they were awful!! Sorry they should have mimed.

  10. Great news and a real good turn, brother. You know, Pauly, if you had told me in rehab that in less than one year, my flabby, bloated and blown-out ass would be working as a personal trainer, I would have thought you were still D.T.ing. But even so, you would have been right. And the whole journey started with a few small, next-indicated steps.
    There are few hounds lazier then me. I make porch-swinging hillbillies look downright Type A. So given that honest inventory, I knew early on that I needed to turn over exercise, then later, diet, to a power greater than yours truly. So far It’s done okay by me.
    It will by you too. Nothing cranks your shaft…like The Divine.
    Speaking of divine, I’ve really been enjoying your comment section. The meeting after the meeting. Got yourself a nice little community of fellowshiphood. It pleases me to see. And we all now how important pleasure is to me.
    Anways, sounds like you’re hanging tough and staying very proactive. One thing will lead naturally to the next, and you will become a sculpted god who’s beauty no chiseled marble could do justice. Until then you’re still totally awesome.
    Sorry for the brevity, but my battery light is blinking tonight.
    Love,
    Marius

    1. Well kind sir, even when the juice is running low on the hamster-powered typerwriter there, you still have the juice in the mind and soul going. So thank you for the typeset words. Even Gutenberg would have been mightily impressed (pun intended). I love the next-indicated steps that you often bring up – I sometimes lose those signs in the mish mash of my banana brain and the shininess of ego and new toys. But lo and behold, it’s these baby steps that bring us to the top of that hill that Jack and Jill so famously stumbled down right into celebrity rehab.

      I think this is an example of turning it over to the Coach – a for real life example that I can now put in a cup of tea and sip away. No sugar in that tea too. I think I have been able to hand that one over. No struggle this time. No battle. No looking over my shoulder to see an angry and lustful cruller trying to beckon me like a siren. and I know it’s going that way because I have used a squeeze of honey in tea for a soar throat and used the fancy stevia and not had the allergy kick in. Hazzah! I am not on Moderation Lane by any stretch. It’s still a cul-de-sac of sucrose free spoon full of lovin’, but I know that the lowliest molecule of fructose won’t send me to the pastry aisle on my knees. Again. Frosting is a bitch to clean off Dockers.

      Anyway, Mr. G – you spin fine words and plots in your comments. And you are an integral part of the meeting after. We create the fellowship we crave, I have read it somewhere. You and those who are kind enough to scrawl here are family to me. And for that, I am grateful.

      Hug with a slap on the back, rustle of the hair,

      Paul

  11. How inspiring, Paul, and thank you for sharing your new ventures and personal trials with running. I’ve always been an avid runner. Even in my darker days, running freed my burdens for however many miles I chose to glide ever so gracefully. However, it was never grace, but more of a momentum of personal strength or perseverance which kept me running. And the mere fact that I like a tight upright bum and calves which don’t dangle down to my feet.

    With that being said, I’m still a runner but my connections are building up an incredible amount of stamina to satisfy my never ending need to be the best and lead by example. There is an art in running and it conditions our bodies and minds into an ability to surpass limits we never thought we could before. It’s quite inspiring to know you help to motivate others through your own actions.

    Running has also become a therapy for my aching mind and soul. Sobriety has claimed my heart, enabling me to become a part of something new and great. And running has been an agent for a deeper understanding of what my health and my relationship with myself has blossomed into. I simply put on a deep trance set like Markus Schulz or Armin Van Buuren and let the music take my mind and feet away for sometimes 8, 9, 10, and even 12 miles at a time. The beginning is always hard, just like sobriety. But when it’s time to face mile 6 or 7, I’m in a zone and I don’t see or hear anyone; just me.

    I love the metaphors you used in this piece. Astounding. Sobriety and the activities and choices we make now reflect so much about our continuous journeys. You are doing fantastic so keep up the great work!

    1. Beautiful comments, Gina. Wow. ” And running has been an agent for a deeper understanding of what my health and my relationship with myself has blossomed into.” this is pure gold here. Love this. I am hoping that this will be it for me too, but for now, I am just (trying to) enjoy it for itself, and see where the spiritual side will emerge (if it does).

      Very inspiring words…love this. Will have to come back and re-read later in my journey so I can tell you that you were right 🙂

      Blessings,
      Paul

  12. WordsFallFromMyEyes says:

    I’ve been thinking about taking up jogging!!! My son does it & he’s so fit & well.

    I feel heavy, fat, & don’t think I could do it in the day time when people might see me. You’ve encouraged me though. Now, to DO…

    1. HI Noelle – Believe me, if I can do it, anyone can.

      I think that if I were running, I would *want* people (at least, drivers) to see me…lol. I hope you join the ranks. Get your boy to go with ya 🙂

      Blessings,
      Paul

  13. I tried. I loaded the couch to 5k on my phone at about 40 days sober and worked at it for about 3 weeks. Alas, my 62 year old knees didn’t like it so I’m back to walking. Great post, accurate analogy. We’re all trudging, walking or running down the path of recovery and it feels fine.

    1. Walking is better than the couch. I have bad knees too (had surgery on one) so I was always fearful of causing damage to them by pounding the pavement. So far so good. So I understand bad knees. No worries – lots more that can be done with sore knees – cycling is good, swimming too. Walking is great, actually…it may not be as dramatic, but a good walk does get the blood going and keeps you in shape. Great to hear you’re still trudging 😉

      Love and light,
      Paul

  14. I’m having a big case of cognitive dissonance or something like it here. This Paul is not matching the same Paul that commented on getting winded just thinking about running over at my place a few months ago. You’ve been undergoing great transformations, Paul, and I am so happy for you. Eventually you’ll get into the zen of a quiet mind while running–it’s hard while you’re still base-building–but you’ll get there. Find a training plan to follow; it will give your competitive side something to follow and weekly goals to achieve, without overtraining or floundering without a plan. No more that 10% mileage increase each week, mister. Your mind is ready, but your muscles and tendons need time to strengthen and get used to the endless sidewalk pounding. Time takes time, and miles take miles.

    I am awestruck.

    Run on, runner!
    Christy

    1. Ha ha…I was wondering if you not commenting meant you were still in shock. I still do get winded going up a flight of stairs…but not as badly. “Base-building” – I dig that. Technical, but enough for me to understand it. I think. As for training plans – I didn’t know I needed one! My alcoholic mind says “I don’t need no stinkin’ plan!”. But of course, I now actually *listen* to those who have been there before me, so I will now seek a plan out. Interweb? I think I saw a 5K-10K plan out there. Seemed more intense than the couch-5K. I will look it up. I do find that I am competitive, even though I do it for fun and all. I don’t dream of winning races or anything like that, but I do like to compare myself to where I was at last.

      10% only? lol. Again, alcoholic mind wants 30%. All or nothing. Oh dear, rein it in, you lug. Ok, I will abide by that too. I actually will have to get back into it slowly, as I am still recouping from a case of hand, foot and mouth disease. I could barely walk for a few days and it’s slowly getting better, but I can’t see myself running for a few more days at least. So I will start slowly again.

      Miles take miles…groovy 🙂

      Thanks for the info and your shocking approval…lol

      Paul

  15. jrj1701 says:

    Good to see that you are doing something to keep the body in shape and in tune. My chosen form of exercise is more sedate, running means that there is something to panic about and I firmly believe in the the advice “Don’t panic!!!” also walking means that I can still get there, just not be the first there, which at times is a great thing. Love the posted video, the imagery is great for those who are “fighting the good fight”. Thanks and God Bless+++

    1. Thank you so much for the warm and encouraging words.

      I find that keeping the body in shape and in tune is something drastically different from when I was active in my drinking days…talk about abuse. I feel a debt to my body that I pay back daily by doing my best to eat properly and exercise. It feeds the soul too. I love what you said about walking, and the “Don’t Panic!”…very true. Sometimes sitting back and strolling in when we need to is comforting and brings new perspective.

      Blessings,
      Paul

  16. good2begone says:

    Signs, signs, everywhere there’s signs. The jogging bug seems to be infecting us all. I’m entered in a 5k at the end of the month. First one in over 7 years. The parallel’s you write about are truly uncanny. I find running puts me in a meditative state. Just me and the road. It’s quite calming. Thanks for the constant support and insight into sobriety and life, Paul.

    1. Hey congrats on the 5K! I too find that the meditative state comes at some point. It might be a few minutes, or less than that. I look forward to the point where it’s much of the run. But I know that in talking to other runners, it’s not always the case.

      Thank you for the comments and support – it’s always great having you here.

      Paul

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