In January 2018, a few months after I quit drinking alcohol and got sober, my love for running began. I transformed from someone who couldn’t even fathom the point of running a 5k race, to a runner who had officially caught the running bug.
As I trained for my first two races over this last year (a 5 Mile race and a half marathon), I found some striking similarities between the first few weeks of training for my first race and early sobriety.
I’m talking about those first few runs where you are questioning your life decisions, wondering whose idea was this anyway to make running a sport, why did I sign up (and pay!!!) for this, why are my lungs burning, am I going to DIE??!? who is going to find me if I fall out on this path?!….I’m talking about THOSE first few runs when your body is trying to figure out “just what the heck are we trying to accomplish here!!!!”….THOSE RUNS are definitely like the messiness that can be found in early alcohol sobriety, for sure! The ups, the downs, the uncertainty of “can I do this?” and every emotion in between can be found in both.
1. Like Sobriety, Each Minute Running Under Your Belt is a Big Win
When I first started running, I focused on getting through each run minute by minute (see paragraph above about THOSE FIRST RUNS). I wasn’t looking at the overall result of the run, or even thinking about my end goal of completing a 5 Mile race a few months later, as the thought of it felt super overwhelming. With each running interval I was simply focusing on getting through that minute, and then the next minute, and then the one after that. I was literally focused on getting through the present moment.
Early sobriety is kind of like that…sitting with my thoughts those first few hours and days, and telling myself I am not going to have a drink right now, getting through that minute, that moment. And being present and sitting with those sometimes uncomfortable and overwhelming thoughts that try to tell you that you could use a drink right now. Getting through each minute is a win.
2. You Will Hit a Rough Patch
I touched on this a bit in my ten tips from a newbie runner post. I hit a point during my runs where keeping up the same pace for my longer runs as I did from my earlier shorter runs was overwhelming me. I felt like I couldn’t do it and began to dread my runs. I started to really question if I could really complete my race, and whether it was worth it to push through. I took a step back and realized that to build endurance doesn’t mean that I need to go fast the whole time! So I slowed down my runs and it made a world of a difference both physically and mentally.
Thankfully a rough patch during sobriety for me did not lead to a relapse. A few months ago I hit a patch where random consuming thoughts about drinking would pop into my head daily, and I would question my lifelong commitment to my sobriety. I went so far to even question if it was really a big deal to have one drink (in my case, of course it would’ve been.)
But I realized quickly, thankfully, that life these last few months have indeed has been better without alcohol. I came out of that rough patch with a renewed strength that I am a better person, mom, wife, daughter, and friend when I am not drinking. I almost feel like I am cooler because I am sober! (haha, maybe not….I am still 110% dork!)
3. Those Closest To You Will Notice a Huge Difference In You, Even if you Don’t At First
In a random conversation with my hubby the other day, he commented on the huge positive difference he sees in my personality since I stopped drinking. While I overall do feel like like a calmer person, I didn’t think overall there was a huge difference in me, but he couldn’t stop commenting on how different I am (Which makes me think I must have been a complete basket case!)
To put this in perspective, my husband and I met and began dating in 2007 and have been married since 2010. So for him to comment that there has been a huge positive change in my personality over the last 10 plus months, compared to the 11 years that we have been together is a big deal.
Similar to my early running, I noticed subtle changes in my body, such as my running form getting better, my aerobic capacity increasing, and my body beginning to lean out a bit. But about a month into training, several family members commented on just how much I had leaned out. To me, the change seemed to be slight, but to others around me the change was drastic.
4. Rewarding Yourself Is So Necessary
About 2 months into my training is when I got up the courage to join my husband on his weekly long run, which at the time was a 6 mile run. I was terrified but I promised myself a bubble bath with epsom salt and lavender when it was all said and done. The reward worked like a charm and got me to push through my negative self talk and doubt and finish the run! I did something I did not think I could do, which was awesome, and I rewarded myself for it.
During early sobriety, I let my diet slide a little and allowed myself to enjoy rewards for achieving another day of sobriety, mainly in the form of delicious desserts. While some may argue that I was simply trading one poison (alcohol) for another (sugar), none of that mattered in those first few days and weeks of sobriety. What mattered is that I took the plunge and removed a toxic substance from my life that wasn’t doing me or my family any favors, and was causing strain in my relationships with those closest and most important to me (and also impacting my health in ways that I doubt a slice of brownie ever could.) Having a couple hundred extra calories of chocolate and sugar to reward myself for another day of sobriety early on was well worth it.
***if you would like help on figuring out this whole sobriety thing, Annie Grace’s book This Naked Mind is a great start. It helped me work through my conflicting beliefs I held for years towards my unhealthy relationship with alcohol, and and has helped me tremendously along my sobriety journey.***
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