Run Like Hell.
Saturday I went to New York City and met up with several people from Twitter that I’ve known for a long time, and several people I was meeting for the first time. It’s hard for me to emphasize just how positive a factor in my life Twitter has become. I’ve met dozens of people, in real life, who have become true friends. I’ve met people who’ve reached out to me for help with alcohol. Or with their marriages to alcoholics. I’ve met scientists who study fascinating things. And I’ve come to see the true face of science in America, and in other places, today. The passion, the pain, the heartbreak, and all the challenges. I see how the system churns in the background, and I wonder what can be done to save it. The rotors of this machine are about to bite into the soil, and this massive apparatus could all come spinning apart.
There are huge, terrifying challenges in life. This should be news to no one. I’ve faced some, and surpassed them. I’ve faced some, and been beaten. And I’ve only survived some because I’ve been beaten. If I hadn’t abandoned my battle with alcohol, if I were still trying to fight and hadn’t surrendered, I can’t imagine the straits I’d be in. If I were even alive. Alcoholism cannot be beaten. We can only surrender. If I hadn’t given up fighting for my marriage, I’d be trapped in bitter loneliness. Sometimes, surrender is the only route to relief.
Yesterday, I got up at 7:30 on a Sunday morning and made coffee. Had cereal. And then I ran 10.67 miles. Well, I ran 6.21 miles, and then I did walk/run intervals for 4.46 more miles. I ran that first 10K in 61:53. I ran, at a 10 minute per mile pace, for more than an hour without breaking stride. I know I’ve written before about my amazement at my running accomplishments. I won’t rehash it all now. But I have to comment that, this is what I love about being an alcoholic. I love that I can go out, and run myself like hell into the ground, and it feels like a privilege. I drank and I smoked and I nearly killed myself. Now, I am healthy and free and happy.
A lot of alcoholics in recovery end up running marathons. We’re people driven to excesses of all sorts. When we leave drugs and alcohol behind, sometimes we replace it with other obsessions. But being driven to run, be healthy, surpass goals and achieve big things, these are not destructive obsessions for the most part (Though, of course, anything can be destructive when it is used to the exclusion of important aspects of life.). These are healthy dedications. Dedications to life, and freedom, and to the exuberance of experience.
I used to use alcohol to run from things. I hid, and slithered into bottles of shame and degradation. I used to travel in order to feel like I was out of myself. Far from the life I didn’t want to be living. I spent most of my third decade running from myself.
Now, I run toward things. There’s nothing I need to run from anymore. I know how to face difficulty. I know how to give up my illusion of control about outcomes. All I can do is show up, do the best I can and give the most I have. And I will be all right, most of the time. The times I’m not, I’ll cope with. With help. Because if there’s anything that my forays into both Alcoholics Anonymous and Twitter have taught me, it is that I am never alone. I am buoyed by a throng of supporters. And I am a voice in the chorus of support for others.
There’s nothing for me to run from anymore. But here I am. Running like hell. Toward a bigger life.