I signed up to run a half marathon 2 days ago. Yesterday, I put my practice schedule on the calendar. I have exactly 12 weeks until the race which means training starts today. It’s a pretty aggressive training calendar and I will be running 5 times a week. Starting with 17 miles this week, and moving to 41 miles a week before the race. Right now that feels impossible because I am out of practice. Running 3 miles right now is quite an accomplishment. I have a long way to go.
Yesterday, I visited a behavioral health facility near my house. I will be a referral source for clients after discharge. Touring the clinic brought me back to my social work days. The staff was really interested in helping the patients. They had a real heart for families and children especially, struggling with mental illness. They offer programs to support many disorders including, OCD, anxiety, and addiction. One of the treatments they use is Exposure Therapy, which is just as it sounds. Safely exposing a patient to the source of anxiety to help overcome their stress and fear about it. I am not a trained clinician, I also do not have a mental health diagnosis, but as I was learning about this treatment program, all I could think was, “me too”.
I could relate. It is human to seek ways around our fears and discomforts.
Being uncomfortable is part of the human experience.
I want to give my clients tools to help them get comfortable being uncomfortable. This has been my greatest lesson in sobriety and for me, yoga and running, has been the best teacher.
Getting sober is its own kind of exposure therapy. Dealing with triggers and cravings is incredibly hard. The first time I did anything without a glass of wine, it seemed so impossible, I wasn’t sure I would make it. This is so for real. I did not know I would be here 434 days later to tell. I didn’t know if I could make it to Day 5.
One month into sobriety we went on a Spring Break vacation. The first day all I could see was people with their cocktails on the beach. I didn’t know how I would make it through, but I did. By the end of vacay, I was barely even thinking about drinks. I got up early and did yoga on the beach every morning. My daughters and I ordered all the alcohol free frozen drinks and took turns taking sips of each others.
The first time I went to a concert (P!NK) I didn’t know what to do with myself until the music started. I was so close to ordering just one shot of whiskey. “how do I feel this good sober?” Then the music started and I was entranced and free and THANK GOD I didn’t have just one. I had just none.
The first dinner out. The first holiday. The first party.
All of it was a challenge for me.
Sobriety is a practice.
Running is a practice.
Meditation is a practice.
Life is a practice.
It is something you choose everyday. You do not start off good at it, but it does get easier with time. You do not have to be good at it, but you do have to do it.
You know how I get motivated to run? I don’t. I do it anyway and I always feel 100% better when I am done. I will never regret going for a run.
Would I like a glass of champagne? Most of the time, no. Every once in a while, yea, I guess, just a little, would be nice. But I don’t do it. I would always regret the taste of alcohol in my mouth. I would regret all the thinking, I would then have to do, about drinking.
So, I politely decline and order a club soda instead.
Do I feel mindful everyday? Not as much as I would like. Do I sometimes think about my grocery list when I am meditating? Yes. All the time. I still practice meditation, stillness, and turning my thinking mind off, so my spirit mind can turn on. I practice listening to me and my breath. It is not perfect, but I do not expect perfection. I expect myself to show up and do my best every day.
If I knew then, in my early days of sobriety, what I know now, I would have told myself it seems impossible at first.
Once you get started, it is not impossible, but it is very very hard.
Soon it becomes strange and unfamiliar. How do you go out to dinner and not order wine? You don’t fit in your own skin. Everything itches.
After even more time, it becomes normal. “I’ll have a club soda with lime please”, and just like that you have found someone to play darts with and skipped out of drunken small talk. You say no to after parties, because you like to get up and go to the Farmer’s Market early on Sundays.
Finally, after enough time, you wouldn’t have it any other way.
You go from impossible, hard, itchy, normal, to gratitude.
You have to have the faith in the beginning that you will not give up on yourself, even when it seems impossible. You have to trust that it will get easier. Someday, it won’t be hard anymore, and you will just be so grateful you stayed with yourself in the beginning, so you could get to the other side.
It is so beautiful over here.
I am still experiencing firsts. I still feel exposed when I walk into a room full of strangers, without the clutch of alcohol. I get very nervous if I think I am selling myself. I know now though, that it is ok to be uncomfortable. I will get through it. I don’t have to drink it away. It is getting easier.
It is a practice. Everything is a practice. Exposure therapy is a practice. Medicine is a practice. Life is practice. You have to show and practice.
I am off to run my 3 miles now.