One Dirty Magazine

The Recovery Run

Alcohol addiction and grey-area drinking are two things that are not often talked about within the running community.

Margaret Ward August 27th, 2020

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.

               
   
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Bennie Waddell
Bennie Waddell
22 days ago

57 year-old male runner in recovery. The return to the box of chardonnay each night went directly to my heart. That was my drink of choice as well. I rediscovered my love of running after getting sober. It is indeed the medicine for my soul that I did. Thank you so much for this!

Bill
Bill
22 days ago

I recently decided to break up with alcohol after a similar journey. Waking up in the morning without feeling dull from the effects….is a gift that I fought long and hard to reject. So glad I made the decision and glad you did as well.

Tony
Tony
22 days ago
Reply to  Bill

Glad to see this article. Thank you for sharing. 1 year alcohol free. As a result mentally and physically in a significantly better place. My trail running has now become one of life’s pleasure , not an effort of survival and self rationalizations.

Charles Droge
Charles Droge
22 days ago

I started running in recovery. At 60 and after 3 Marathons, am going to do a 50 mile ultra run in less than a month. This article goes to the core of why I run. It gives me time alone with thoughts and God. To see the glory of Gods creation in the natural places, I will never be tired of seeing the bunnies, birds, chipmunks, flowers and foliage.

Shelly
Shelly
22 days ago
Reply to  Charles Droge

I love this article! I am not a drinker but am married to a “grey area drinker” as you put it and hope he might find his way through exercise as well. Thank you for this!!

Eric
Eric
21 days ago
Reply to  Charles Droge

50 miles at 60 , you go get it.

Kevin Twidwell
Kevin Twidwell
22 days ago

Thank you for sharing. It hits home

Erin
Erin
22 days ago

Love this vulnerability. Margaret you spoke to my heart. Thank you for sharing. The only difference is my choice is Pinot Noir. I needed to hear this

Christian
22 days ago

You should check out irunanonymous Podcast…you will find yourself in good and familiar company to be sure. Thanks for sharing

Christian
22 days ago

You should check out irunanonymous Podcast…you will find yourself in good and familiar company to be sure.

Jennifer P
Jennifer P
22 days ago

This is why I run. My “wildlife count” each run. Even on a physical recovery day after a really hard workout the day before the kids and I found 5 beavers swimming lazily in the evening light. That glory more than replaces the “relaxation” and “escape” I though alcohol could provide. Thanks for the article and vulnerability in Margaret and in the comments.

Laurie
Laurie
22 days ago

Excellent article, thank you for sharing. I guess I’m probably in the grey area, I hate the morning fuzz, tell myself too often in the morning I’m not drinking tonight, that evening it’s ok 1 glass of wine. Sometimes I stick with that, sometimes I wake up with the fuzz all over again.

Last edited 22 days ago by Laurie
Charles B.
Charles B.
21 days ago

One must always be drunk. That is the heart of the matter. So as not to feel the horrible burden of Time crushing your shoulders and bending you toward the earth, you must get drunk without rest.
But on what? On wine, on poetry, or on virtue; you choose. But get drunk.

And if, from time to time—on the steps of a palace, in the green grass of a ditch, in the doleful silence of your bedroom—you awaken to find your drunkenness has dissipated or disappeared, ask the wind, the waves, the stars, the birds, the clocks; ask all that flees, or wails, or rolls; ask all that sings or speaks; ask what time it is, and the wind, the waves, the stars, the birds, the clocks will answer you: “It is time to get drunk! So as not to be Time’s martyred slaves, get drunk, get drunk, and never rest! On wine, on poetry, or on virtue; you choose.”

Michelle Peacock
Michelle Peacock
17 days ago
Reply to  Charles B.

Charles you are right on (to use an old phrase). EVERYTHING in moderation. If one runs too much injury is the result – and if you have not given yourself an over use running injury you are either young or not running all that much (check out Courtney Deuwalter’s recent attempt at FKT from Durango to Denver). Drinking too much results in injury. EVERYTHING in moderation. Not everyone who has a glass of alcohol in the evening (grey drinking) has a “problem” nor needs to “recover”. Do your own thing. Thanks for sharing in your “journey” and good on ya mate.
Keep Running – good for the soul,
Michelle Peacock

Andrew
Andrew
21 days ago

Thank you for sharing! I can relate to using running as the rationale for ‘everything’s OK, there’s no problem here’ and keep on boozin’. Being alcohol free has allowed me to enjoy running, and most other things in life, in a way that I didn’t know before. The pace of life is more manageable and time on the trail is treasured time to think or let the mind wander. For anyone who is struggling with the decision to quit drinking, I can attest that it really is better without the drink. (…a thought that I would have considered crazy at one point in my life). Peace.

Stephen
Stephen
21 days ago

Just want to say congratulations on what you achieved. I really related to so many things in this article. Thank you for writing it.

Eric
Eric
21 days ago

That is great writing and I’m going through the same thing. Honest evaluation and sharing your story is pretty brave. Fantastic writing , keep up the good work.

Nyla Carroll
Nyla Carroll
21 days ago

Great article. Am sure it will resonate with many in the running community. Kia Kaha from Down Under.

Aubrey (@paleotrails)
Aubrey (@paleotrails)
21 days ago

I absolutely LOVE this article as it totally resonates with me. I started experiencing severe autoimmune symptoms nearly 5 years ago and cutting out alcohol was a GAMECHANGER! I am not saying this is the answer for everyone and it took me years of trial/error to find what works best for my individual body.

Yes, I will enjoy a glass of hard kombucha, organic wine or even hard cider once every few months but it has taken me years to get to a point where my body won’t severely react.

Thanks for sharing such a great article!

Sean
Sean
21 days ago

Thank you for being strong and vulnerable enough to write this article. I was maintaining high mileage as a false sense of health while I was falling apart mentally and physically. I was drinking a half bottle of whiskey or more before dinner every night, sitting alone in the dark, feeling suicidal, and running worse every month. Until I quit drinking, started talking to those close to me, and changed my habits. It’s been over two years now. I feel more clear, focused, and can now tackle the occasional rough day without needing to numb everything in order to get through the day. My injuries have healed and I feel physically better than I have in many years.

Kaye
Kaye
20 days ago

Unfortunately I am guilty of way too many chardonnays each night after a long trail run. I can’t imagine myself living without this crutch. Why? Because I’m very alone in my life, have problems in relationships, a trauma history, mental health problems and at 58 really don’t know how I would cope with all this without a numbing dose of wine. This is me being honest and open, and I wonder how many others like me find running their only salvation, the only thing that keeps them sane, and the one thing that resembles achievement at the end of each day. Just wanted to say that for some of us our reasons for drinking run very deep, and I’m struggling to let go of this crutch. Fear stops me because what will I have to confront if I stop the Chardonnay?

Charles D
Charles D
19 days ago
Reply to  Kaye

Thanks for the straight honesty. If you do stop the drinking, the work it takes to get that way and stay that way honestly can be very painful, for a time. Having said that, I am now married to a wonderful lady, have friends, and a network of support I never thought possible. People cared for and more about me than I did when I got to the stepping off point. I too have had a past that was scary and horrible, but am happy and satisfied with life today (most of the time). Good luck Kaye, I hope you are able to break thru the fear, before your running is taken from you, leaving you…

Last edited 19 days ago by Charles D
Michelle Peacock
Michelle Peacock
17 days ago
Reply to  Kaye

Kaye,
Why do you relate to having a class of Chardonnay as a “crutch”? Most/all the races I’ve participated in have beer or wine at the finish line (included are marathons,ultras and Ironman Triathalons – the TRT 55k, 50miler, 100 miler had Jameson’s at an aid station!!) and many world class runners enjoy a beer or glass of wine post race? I’m sorry but I’m not getting this whole thing. EVERYTHING in moderation! Not everyone who has a glass of wine, beer, spirit at the end of the day has a problem.
Michelle

Margaret
17 days ago

Hi Michelle,
You are right, not everyone who has a glass of wine or beer at the end of the day has a problem, but many do. Moderation is not possible for many, this is how addiction works.
Margaret

Margaret
17 days ago
Reply to  Kaye

Kaye,
Thank you for your honesty. Uncovering and dealing with the underlying issues of why we drink takes work but you will be rewarded for that work with freedom. One of my favorite quotes is “change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.” Please feel free to reach out to me anytime.
Margaret

Kyle Laferriere
Kyle Laferriere
10 days ago

29 year old in Recovery. I’ve been sober for just over a year.

I found running during the corona virus, my business was slow, gyms were closed and I felt helpless. I bought running shoes and haven’t looked back.

After only running for a few months I ran a marathon on the trails yesterday.

Thank you for your vulnerability this is an incredible article.

 
 

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