It started slowly.
An pang here, a twitch there. A subtle twist around the bend, a tightening up on the turn, a soft throbbing down the hill. Aches and pains are part and parcel of any physical activity. Running especially, considering the pounding the body gets as forces push and pull and bounce around like a physics lab demonstration…or a frat party. So as I have been dialling up the mileage on my body, there seems to have been a mutiny going on at sock level.
My worst fear – an Achilles tendon injury – was confirmed when I went to the physiotherapy clinic nearby. I have read horror stories about these kinds of injuries – people laid up for months, unable to run. Listen, I get grumpy when I don’t run for a few days, so not running for a while would certainly put my serenity to the test. And probably annoy the people around me as I huffed and puffed because I couldn’t huff and puff up and down streets and trails.
So I am to do the thing that often gets me out of my comfort zone – nothing. What do you mean do nothing!? I need to do something can’t I? Of course, I have a few stretches I need to do, a few physio appointments to attend to, and I can rest and ice and compress and elevate (RICE), but other than that, it’s out of my control. If I were able to, I’d perform surgery on myself or something. Even to my own detriment, because it would at least give myself the impression that I am doing something about it. Because for a guy like me, trying to control things still seems appealing at times, even at the molecular and muscular level.
For an alcoholic running nut (I have to get my official diploma for that to post on my wall), there is nothing that makes me grumpier than when I can’t run. Maybe it’s because I miss the endorphins rush, or the solitude, or the communion with nature and the Maker, or the feeling of accomplishment and soul-body nourishment. Or all of them combined. A sense of purpose and being that floods me when I lace up and head out the door (especially when I have a race coming up – like the full marathon in October). Most runners feel like that – I know I am not alone in this. Ask any semi- or full-enthusiast / hardcore runner and they will tell you about the dick-ish nature that comes with not being able to get out there and get that fix. Or for anyone that enjoys something that gives them a shot of that mojo – whether it be yoga, long walks or tennis.
And sometimes it reminds me of the times of what it felt like before getting my old booze fix. You know that feeling when you know that you’re going to get your “medicine”? Remember when you would just loosen up and cheer up and get all warm and fuzzy because you knew that you were going to get that first sip soon? The anticipation of it just threw a blanket of immaculate temporary serenity on the brain and spirit, awaiting the wash of C2H5OH to hit the back of the throat and hit that sweet spot. And when that didn’t happen, we’d get out of sorts. Annoyed. Bitchy. Unnerved at anything and everything. Frustrated and easily angered. At least that was my experience – grumpy old man ratcheted up a notch this side past “Walter Matthau”. And not getting my shoes on is like keeping the cork in the bottle sometimes. Baby wants his candy, damned the consequences.
Sort of reminds me of how things were in those tenuous early days of sobriety. I couldn’t hold onto any feelings as they slipped between my fingers. Or they clung to me like saran wrap. Unable to capture or shake what was really going on with me, I had no choice to seek the serene. Search for the things that brought me to a place of safety and protection. It was a leap of faith. What’s that Monty, what doors did you say were available? Oh yeah, Life or Death. (And of course, for an alcoholic like me, I would wonder for a while about how painful death might be…I mean, it can’t hurt that much, right?) Except that this time, instead of the blatant drama of perhaps being buried six feet under, I am just mildly annoyed. I can’t afford anything beyond that, emotional wise, lest it disrupt my centeredness.
So while I can’t go as hard and and as long as I want to go (get your mind out of the gutter), I am grateful that I can run through this. My physiotherapist suggested I do short runs and avoid the long ones. Dang. It’s the long ones I look forward to – the ones that keep me pushing forward, that max me out, that get me pumped and broken and beat up and glowing. The ones that my ego just adores, strictly for bragging rights. So I have to play it smaller – keep ego in check. Am I willing to actually listen to my body, ignore the magnanimous and boastful nature of my ego, and heed the advice of someone who knows better? Again, what are the doors, Monty? So when the physiotherapist says I can hurt myself further if I push it too quickly, what does that really mean? Oh dear, same mindset. Damn those consequences.
So as I am bandaged up and doing my drills and all that stuff, I think of that old adage – that it’s the doctor who puts on the cast, but God does the healing. And so very much in my both kinds of my recovery. You will remember that last time I posted, I wasn’t in too good a spot. Not a full on depressive state, but like my body, there was something that wasn’t right. And like my injury, it started slowly. A missed meeting here, a skipped prayer there, a tightness in my heart. But I persevered, ignoring the signs that my spirit were giving me. Like my injury, I didn’t know it was there until it was there.
So I look at both of these things in the same light – in one case, I am giving myself to someone who knows better – my physiotherapist. I take counsel with others who have been there (other runners). I do my reading up and take the necessary steps (no pun intended all around) to encourage and hasten my recovery, and yet listen to my body. I run, and take measure of where I am at. I stop and take in the scene around me, rather than try to break some pace my ego has created to determine whether I am “good” at this or not.
And in my bouncing back from a wounded spirit, I too have give myself (back) to someone / something that knows better – the very One who made me, the Maker. I have taken counsel with other who have been there before me (my sponsor, other members of the fellowship, my fellow bloggers / readers). I do my reading up (meditation books, Big Book) and take the necessary steps (har har) to encourage and hasten my recovery, and yet listen to my spirit. I take actions, and take measure of where I am at. I stop and take in the scene around me, rather than try to live up to some image of myself my ego has created to determine whether I am “good” at life or not.
In both regards, I am slowly coming around. I take advantage of the tools given to me – whether they be exercises, or spiritual guides, or just plain rest. Because rest is part of recovery. On both counts. What I have to remember (and re-learn over and over and over again) is that self-care includes rest of some kind. Even when I am not doing something, I am doing something. In the case of my injury, I am allowing the healing to occur to all the micro tears and scar tissue. In the case of my alcoholism recovery, doing nothing sometimes is just the A535 that my soul needs. Sitting and taking in a good novel can be just as nourishing as a day of spring cleaning or taking a newcomer to a meeting. All in balance, all towards the goal of continued serenity and inner peace and healing.
Sure, I’d love to jump outside tomorrow morning and run to my heart’s desire but I have to stick to what will work for me, not what I think will work for me in the short term. My daily reprieve is contingent on the maintenance of my spiritual condition. So I do the daily things. As with healing my leg, I have to do what is needed to maintain my physical condition so that in the long run, I can have that long run. And continue to grow and stretch and be where I am expected to be.
Because the fact for this alcoholic is that I didn’t fix myself one iota. I tried to fix my alcoholism by either drinking more alcohol (a good-at-first, but increasingly ruinous cure) or trying to self-will my sobriety. Both failed spectacularly. In the end, I just surrendered and got bandaged up and let the Maker heal me. And I have to remember that, because when I stop and tell Him “Hey – I’ve got this one”, then that’s when things go pear shaped. That is what I was doing the last few weeks. I was trying to play nurse to myself and trying to will myself to heal, when all I needed to do was what I always did – surrender and let Him run the show.
And you know what? Crazy and wonderful things happen when I do that. Just last week, as I decided to open myself up to others and reach out (I like what Mike said in his comments to the last post about the internet being “bullshit” – ouch, but right in some ways.) I spoke to my sponsor, then I spoke to a guy I know who has been struggling for some time, and I also went to a meeting where I spoke to a newcomer and gave him my number. These actions really helped me get out of me. And even better was that I was able to write a letter of character for a fellow blogger for when she goes to court…how awesome is that? A nice way of giving back to the Universe, especially for all the groovy folks who wrote me letters not too long ago for my court saga. I never would have been open to that even last week.
So I’m in a holding patter on all accounts and feeling better daily. One foot in front of the other and just taking it as it needs to be. Neither rushing nor judging. Just being and taking it in and taking in the view along the way.
Thanks to everyone who put in a good word or more in the comment box last week. I am grateful.