Less than one percent of the population has run a full 26.2-mile marathon. I used to think that those who do so were crazy. Recently, I signed up to run a half-marathon. I guess that makes me half crazy. :)
Curiously, though, I had a blast running 13.1 miles! As I was rounding the bend on the fifth mile under the shade of sun-dappled sycamore trees, a neighbor and her kids cheered us runners on.
The body experiences the rush of endorphins and the pleasure of dopamine, known as the runners’ high. In this state of bliss, believe it or not, I reflected on similarities between running and addiction recovery. Here are three of my musings:
1. Find mentors - Both running and recovery offer chances to learn from experienced mentors. I am lucky enough to have an uncle who has run multiple half-marathons and a full marathon. He taught me ways to stretch at the end of work-outs, to loosen a stubborn left calf muscle that occasionally tightened up.
Also at the starting line on race day, I met a runner with with over twenty-years’ marathon-running experience. His calf muscles were huge. He offered advice to calm my nerves, “Just have fun.” Pushing down my pre-race anxiety, I sighed back, “Thanks. I hope I don't die.”
In the 12-steps groups such as Sex Addicts Anonymous, finding a sponsor / mentor is key. Sponsors have the best moves to set you up for success, especially in the early stages of recovery.
They offer perspective. When I freaked out early on in recovery, my sponsor calmed me down and shaped my mindset, “Easy does it. Breathe. Slow down. Take it one step at a time. You'll get there.” That takes me to my second point.
2. Take it One Step at a Time – When I hit mile 12 on race day, my stubborn left calf muscle locked up. I limped to the finish line. Yet, gingerly walking didn't take away my joy. The mantra running through my head was a familiar “One step at a time, you'll get there.” Soon enough, I saw the inflated plastic arch that marked the finish line.
A friend from graduate school once showed me the chip celebrating his 30 years of sobriety in Alcoholics Anonymous. His smile stretched from ear to ear.
Ask anyone with long-term sobriety in a recovery group for the secret to their success, and chances are, they will answer in a form of “Take it one step at a time.” That could mean one day at a time, one hour at a time, or even one minute at a time.
3. Commit to the Process – Staying dedicated for months to preparing for a half marathon is hard. Not consistently training is asking for injury. Training means carving time into my schedule in advance with activities that will help accomplish my goal.
Inevitably, there were days in which I did not want to run, but I trusted that facing the discomfort in the present will result in future rewards. Goals are not accomplished by accident.
Dedicating to recovery means working the steps and attending 12-step meetings to connect with others. It's about prioritizing recovery first, especially during times when I would rather be doing something else -- anything else. After a slip in particular, it's hard showing my face. But the effort is worth it in the end.