Making the Process the Goal

“For me, the path to success was never attaining wealth or celebrity. It was about the process of continually seeking to be better, to challenge myself to pursue excellence on every level. The question I ask every day is the same as it’s always been: How much farther can I stretch to reach my full potential? What I know for sure is that it’s only when you make the process your goal that the dream can follow.” –Oprah

“It’s only when you make the process your goal that the dream can follow.” Oprah knows her shit right? Whenever she starts with “What I know for sure…” my ears perk up, I know something good is coming–something I will use for life. I’ve got this first line written on my marathon training plan that’s underneath a souvenir Portuguese tile magnet on our fridge. I glance at it each morning before I scoot out the door for my run and tap it with my pen upon my return as I triumphantly write in my mileage. I even repeat it to myself as I wave goodbye to my husband and take my laptop into another room to write each night. It puts my head exactly where it’s supposed to be. It reminds me that this is it–that I’m actually right in the middle of living my dream.

In a few days, something sort of cool is happening–something that I won’t acknowledge publicly but will have a mini high-five celebration with my friends and family about: I will have nine years clean and sober.

It’s crazy because it literally feels like just yesterday that I was struggling to try and stop drinking. I remember when I met people who had three or four months clean, I was completely in awe of them. I thought they were superhuman; I didn’t understand how they could abstain from their drug of choice for so long. A whole year of sobriety? Forget about it, that was unimaginable.

Then something changed. I began to see people who had stayed sober for years–decades even, and one specific thing shocked me about all of them: They looked happy. I stopped looking at sobriety as this gut wrenching, grit my teeth, day count (although early on, it definitely was!) and started seeing it as a possibility for life. It was no longer about not getting into trouble with the law or getting my Mom off of my back. Suddenly, or finally (depending on the way you look at it), I wanted to be sober. 

Once I had it in my mind that I wasn’t going to drink anymore, I wanted to be “better” at sobriety than anyone had ever been. I laugh now because I’m honestly not sure what that means. Knowing myself as well as I do now I can only surmise that it meant that I wanted to be perfect; I wanted to be recovered quickly and completely. I remember struggling mightily with smoking in the first couple of months. I wanted so badly to quit, smoking did not match who I wanted to be anymore. But I couldn’t. I could put down the booze but I just had to smoke. I cried about it to my sponsor for days. I felt like such a failure. Finally she interrupted my third or fourth sobbing session that week and said, “Stop trying to quit right now, just smoke, it’s okay. What you are doing is hard enough, give yourself a break. When you are ready, you’ll be able to quit, I promise.”

My sobriety date is August 14, 2008. The day I quit smoking was February 14, 2009, exactly six months after my last drink. It’s crazy for me to look back at that–why was I so hard on myself? Six months? I did great! I also see now that my sponsor understood something that I did not–that this whole thing was a process–that there was no finish line and no need to rush through things because this was it–this was my life now.

I really did think something wild and dramatic and life changing was going to happen when I got a year sober. It was similar to the longing I felt on my sixteenth birthday; I was sure I was suddenly going to feel like a woman that day–or at least, different. While neither benchmark offered any instantaneously transformative feelings, I did feel somewhat enlightened after 365 days without a drink. That’s when I settled into the idea that I was going to spend my life trying to be more sober–trying to be a little bit better than I was the day before. There is no destination–not a year, not ten, not forty–I have to keep going. No, strike that, I get to keep going. I’ll spend my life trying to become more loving and more kind. I’ll struggle to be more patient and forgiving. I’ll gain understanding and be understood. Nine years gone by and here’s what I have: Life is a process–it is the journey and the destination–it is everything. Whatever dreams may come are wonders not necessarily to be reached for, but to be realized. To know your dreams is to know yourself. To know yourself is to know the truth. 

 

header: alice achterhof

29 thoughts on “Making the Process the Goal

  1. I require to read that I savour recital your blog because so much of what you play up, it feeling like it echoes my own(a) journeying as well, it just may evident in a unlike room. Thanks so much for all of this Erin and for communion a slight minute of your floor.

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  2. Giving up addictions is so hard to do. I’ve never had a substance abuse habit, but I have suffered from eating disorders twice, starting when I was in college and my parents divorced. And then again when I was unhappy with my life and being thin at least was a superficial bandage to make me feel good. Talking through this with my therapists, and none of them were surprised for my relapse because I’m a complete type A and who was seeking to control something when I felt my world was out of control. It’s been five years for me, I honestly can’t remember the date, but I’m trying to learn that I can only control so much, and that not everything is going to fit the “perfect” mold that I want it to.

    I want to say that I enjoy reading your blog because so much of what you bring up, it feel like it echoes my own journey as well, it just may manifest in a different way. Keep up the amazing work and keep rocking your training!

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    1. Thanks so much for all of this Erin and for sharing a little bit of your story. I know it’s not easy. The whole day after I posted this I felt a bit agitated and uneasy–and this is like very little detail of my story, not any nitty gritty at all. Still it can be hard to find a way to talk about these things. I dealt with eating disorders as well. Mostly from the ages of 13-25, until I got sober–but the thing about eating disorders is they have very lingering voices. I’m guessing you’ve experienced that. You’re right, perfectionism is a real bitch–letting go is sort of a lifelong challenge.

      I feel so lucky and happy to have you as a reader Erin and so thrilled to have found your blog as well. So amazing to find strong women I can share my journey with and relate to at so many turns. x

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  3. That’s such a huge milestone and an amazing thing to celebrate. Do you think that running (or maybe yoga?) enhances your process? I remember the first few months after I got out of my toxic relationship, running let me feel so free (literally and emotionally) from what felt so heavy and hard. I would stop mid-run and be kind of overtaken by this feeling of gratefulness and find myself just drink everything in – the sun, the skyline, the sweat. I’ll be thinking of you this week and sending you strength and love from Chicago. Hopefully you’re celebrating with some pampering!

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    1. Not going to lie, you made me tear up a bit here Hillary. Thank you for this. First, for saying it’s a huge milestone. It’s funny, I was waiting for 10. I don’t usually talk all that much about my sobriety–not that I don’t talk about it on the blog but it’s just not the easiest, and I know it’s not necessarily something that everyone connects to so I am hesitant to bring it up too often. But then the other day I thought–why am I waiting for 10? 9 is a milestone as well and deserves being mentioned. Especially since I have found so many amazing souls on here battling with addiction and depression and eating disorders and mental illness and they all need to hear that recovery is possible–that it’s happening all around them, and they can have it to.
      I relate SO much to how running felt for you after you got out of that toxic relationship. Running STILL feels that way for me–I a overtaken on runs ALL the time. I am overcome with emotion, and with gratitude for my life. It’s unbelievable. 9 years is fucking unbelievable. And I’m running a fucking marathon. I honestly don’t know what I did to deserve this life.
      It’s funny–pretty much everything makes me cry. And I do cry a good amount because things upset me or make me sad. But I would say 70% of the time I cry it’s from overwhelming joy. I can’t help it, it OVERTAKES me :).
      Thank you for that strength and love from the Chi. I will be sending it right back to you from NYC. x

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      1. Oh, man. Well from one admitted emotional girl to another, fair warning that your marathon may involve some on-course crying 🙂 I got choked up at several points in my first real, breakthrough marathon and it’s really hard to run/cry at the same time! Hah!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Happy 9 year sober anniversary, Cat. Congratulations! A Kombucha toast to you!
    Love the Oprah quote. Like you, that is the approach I am taking to my training/living/growth process. Remembering that it (and everything else) is a process, even as I have my internalized back-seat driver intermittently chanting away “are we there yet?” I imagine that “there” only arrives with one’s last breath, and that simultaneously it is also this breath. Hmmmm.

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  5. Beautifully written and so true! I love Oprah❤️
    We can all be so consumed by the ‘destination’ we forget the ‘journey’ is what really matters the most!
    Congrats on 9 years that is incredible!!

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