In July of 2013, with my Facebook post to friends and family, I mentioned that running and cycling were my new addictions, taking the place of alcohol and drugs. Looking back at that time I can respect why I thought that. At the time I had nothing else to latch on to emotionally, to define what it was that I was trying to recover from. I grasped at a new addiction because at the time athletics was all I was confident in doing. Now, after a year of being sober, I know that there has been a change in this thinking. Athletics are not my addiction, so to speak, they are a way of life, a passion, a way to express myself. To quote Rich Roll, in his podcast with fellow ultra-runner in recovery David Clark, “running is a vehicle for self-discovery.” I can really get behind that analogy, it makes sense.
I do not know Rich Roll. I’d love to meet the guy someday as he was one of the first people who I really started listening to, and more importantly hearing, when I began recovery last year. While reading his book “Finding Ultra” I could have sworn the story he was telling was that of my own. I began listening to his Podcasts early last year and quickly latched onto the notions that he and his guests were speaking about. I fumbled through his conversations with Mishka Shubaly, Charlie Engle, John Joseph, his wife Julie, Mac Danzig, David Clark, and Timothy Olson, among others. As I listened to each of these conversations I began to hear a pattern of language that included words like “real,” “authentic,” “honesty,” and “true-self,” among many others. What was so impactful about listening to these conversations was the fact that I began to ask myself what the hell I was doing. Was I being these things? Was I being true to myself? If I really dug down and got honest with myself the answer in large part to these questions was, NO. The main reason that I listened so intently to these guys was because they weren’t just addicts/alcoholics in recovery, they were also endurance athletes. They “got it” in my mind, based not only on their past transgressions, but on their ability to sink themselves into endurance sports, and use it as a vehicle for their own self-discovery. I was actually lucky enough to meet Timothy last September and we shared a quick chat about being ultra-runners in recovery. It was a pretty cool 2 minutes. I hope to run into and meet the others that I mentioned, to share the same couple of minutes.
Last Wednesday, on my one year sober date, I ran for 12 hours in the McDonald-Dunn Forest just outside of Corvallis. I chose 12 hours because I wanted to take one hour to process each month of the year, to think back to where I was emotionally last February, March, April, etc. It was a powerful experience. To recall and acknowledge my mental state, and how fragile it was during each of these months, helped shed a little light on how far I’ve come, all because I decided to make one change in my life, to stop drinking. I was able to use running as a vehicle for reflection and for self-discovery. Tonight, if I decided to drive down to Murphy’s and get a shot of Crown Royal that development would all go away and if I were lucky, I would get another chance to start all over. It’s just not worth it to find out if I would be so lucky again. All this said, the journey of development, of self-discovery, is only getting started. Now that all of the bullshit has been purged I can finally get to work on the real stuff, the shit that matters. That is what keeps me going, that is what keeps me sober today. Maybe by this time next year I will have done enough work to actually match my age in emotional development with my age in years. I’m happy to say that I’d like to find out.
As for Rich, and his Podcasts, I have begun to go back and re-listen to the previously mentioned conversations. I am amazed at all of the substance that I missed during the first go around. It’s shocking to me that I even picked up enough to keep the inspiration going. Maybe I was listening, or maybe I was better at the act of listening than I originally thought? I guess that’s a little bit of that self-discovery notion in action.
Here to one year down and just today to go.
Thanks for listening.