Miles 23 & 24

26.2 A SERIES

Everyone has dreams. Since I was about 16 years old, one of mine has been to run a marathon. When I cross the finish line in NYC on November 5th, I’ll likely do so with a recorded time of between 4 and 5 hours. In reality though, it will have taken me much longer to get there. There are things inside and outside of us that bring us closer to our dreams. There are also things that delay us, that push us so far away from our goals they are sometimes out of sight. If we are lucky, little by little, we are often able to transform those stumbling blocks into building blocks–they become the foundation for our strength, resilience, and ultimate determination. This series aims to uncover my long journey. Each week, I’ll share the people, places, and things that have brought me to the place I am at today, and that I hope will carry me from the starting line in Staten Island, to the finish line in Central Park. Mile by mile–this, is my 26.2.

Miles 23 & 24- To My Biggest Journey…Up Until Now

“Excuse me Ma’am! The door is locked, I can’t get out.” I had been shown into the small room because I had to pee, and now that I had finished my business, the heavy metal slider appeared to be jammed. I tapped on the large cloudy plexiglass window, trying to peer through as I got the attention of the officer. She didn’t get up to help me. Instead she stayed in her chair, looked up at me, rolled her eyes, and answered, “Yes Ma’am it is locked, you’re in JAIL.”

Although I blew a .28 on the breathalyzer, more than three times the legal driving limit, this night was not a blackout. I remember all of it. (In truth if I wasn’t arrested when I was, I would have been out drinking for several more hours.) The “door is locked cause you’re in jail” part of the story is one I like to tell and can have a big laugh about now. My Dad picking me up from jail is a more solemn memory; parts of it are painful to remember, but I’m determined to never forget.

After about nine hours in the drunk tank with three other women who were on a first name basis with the officer, and obviously not on their first rodeo in the county jail, I was informed that my father was there to pick me up. While I was anxious to leave the cell we were in (one of the woman had thrown up, and although it had been flushed from the toilet in the room, the sour smell lingered), I was terrified to see my Dad.

“Someone’s Daddy is here,” was the announcement delivered with a good deal of side-eye from the officer several hours earlier. When I was finally released and brought up to meet him, I understood that he had been there throughout most of the night. I walked over to him in the waiting area, he looked at me, and asked if I was ok. I could barely look him in the eye as I responded, “yes.” I was so ashamed.

As he drove me to recover my car from the impound lot, we barely spoke ten words to each other. Having been an emergency medical physician for the past thirty years or so, he asked me what my blood alcohol percentage was. When I told him he nodded his head and said, “Yeah, it smells like it was at least that.” We sat in silence the rest of the drive. At one point I thought about opening my passenger door and rolling out of my seat and into oncoming traffic. But I didn’t.

He dropped me at the lot.  Just a bit earlier I was in a phase where I would move around to different sublets every few months or so. I was basically living out of my car. He was anxious for me to have some stability and discipline, so he offered me a room at his house. As I gathered my purse from his Volvo and signed the paperwork from the attendant, he told me that he expected to see me at home soon. I made up some lie about getting gas and some other errand I had to run to buy myself a bit of time, and told him I would see him shortly.

I got behind the wheel of my gold Mercury Tracer, shut the door, and stared through the glass at the other dusty cars in the dirt lot I was sitting in. Everything looked so ugly. My heart was heavier than it had ever felt, my anxiety was through the roof. I had no idea what lied ahead. As I went to start the car, my hand shook and struggled to find the precision to land the key in the ignition. I slammed the keys on the dashboard in frustration. I felt sick. I knew what I needed. I began fumbling around in the back of the car, underneath clothes and garbage. So many empties. I finally found what I needed underneath the passenger seat–a plastic pint of Smirnoff with at least 2-3 shots left. I grabbed the Minute Maid container next to it and knew I had lucked out, there were still a few sips left. I poured the rest of the vodka in with the orange juice, smuggled the pint bottle back under the passenger seat, and anxiously brought my breakfast to my lips.

For a second, I felt the relief and bit of calm that that first sip always made me feel. My hands stopped shaking almost immediately, and I was able to get my keys in the ignition and roll out of the dirt lot. But the relief faded almost as quickly as it came. As I turned onto the main road and took another swig from my drink, I felt more ashamed and more desperate than I had ever felt. I couldn’t believe that I was a person who drank and drove. I couldn’t believe that I was a person who got arrested for drinking and driving. I couldn’t believe I was doing it again hours after being locked up. I hated myself more in that moment than any other in my life. I wanted to die. There had been many other moments where I wished I would die, but this one seemed the most wanting. I finished that bottle of orange juice at a red light and looked down and through the empty plastic. It was there that I could finally see my truth…I couldn’t not drink.

Alcoholism and drug addiction rob us of so many things, but I think the most felonious is their pilfering of hope. You live in a state where all you can bear is to constantly try to rub out the consciousness of your own self-destruction. You feel relief when friends leave you, knowing it will keep you from the more repetitive pain each time you disappoint and hurt them. You are sure in your heart that you are worthless–that your life actually has no value, and that the world would surely be better off without you in it. At the same time as believing all these thoughts–you also somehow know how selfish they are. You understand that you are not the only victim of your disease, that you are not the only one who is hurting. Still, owning up to the pain you’ve caused others is unimaginable.

As I walked into the liquor store to grab a bottle that would help me manage through the rest of that impossible day, I thought about how long I would have to go on. I didn’t really know that people lived sober–I had no idea what that word even meant. I figured if you were a real alcoholic and you didn’t drink, then life must be pretty fucking miserable. I knew that alcohol was making my life unlivable–but at that point, I couldn’t get through even a few hours of the day without it. I thought getting arrested meant I was close to the end. The consequences of my drinking were getting worse, but I still wasn’t stopping. At that point I was sure of only a few things: I was a fuck-up. My life was fucked. I was anxious for it to end as soon as possible.

I hope I never forget that I felt this way. Although it’s been over ten years since that night I got arrested and over nine since I’ve been sober, the pain and agony of those thoughts can still feel fresh. I always make sure I listen to enough alcoholics and drug addicts that are newly sober or struggling to get clean, so that pain stays close to me. I never want to feel that way again. I never want to be hopeless.

I think a life without hope is like a life without water…it cannot be sustained. We have to be able to imagine that things can be good, that life can turn out well, that we can be truly happy. We have to be able to believe that we can achieve things, that our existence can be a positive one in the world, and in the lives of others. If we lose this gift of our humanity, our desire and will to live are undoubtedly threatened.

I feel so fortunate to have been placed (by the courts!) among other alcoholics who had felt the same way that I did. The first friend I ever had in recovery was a heroin addict. When she first tried to befriend me I thought, Umm, I’m nothing like you, I would never put a needle in my arm. Then I heard her speak at a meeting. I had to keep myself from choking up. It was my story. The details were different, but the feelings were exactly the same. I knew at that moment I had found my tribe.

If you ever hang around people in recovery you’ll hear something repeated that you might not understand, and will probably surprise you: A lot of us are super grateful to be alcoholics and drug addicts. It sounds strange, why would anyone want to be an alcoholic? It’s not that any of us are glad we’ve put our families through pain, and lost friendships, and squandered money and opportunities. Some of us have done things we will spend our whole lives trying to forgive ourselves for. Still, I am personally grateful to be an alcoholic for two main reasons. First, I know there is a solution to my problem. This is not a disease that cannot be beat. A characteristic that many addicts share is the affliction of terminal uniqueness–we are all sure we are so different from everyone else. While at first it felt like a blow to my ego to enter recovery and hear that I was not unique, that my story had surely already been told in the rooms–eventually it was a relief. I started to understand that if all of the people around me could stop drinking, and maintain long term sobriety, and I was just like them–then I probably could too. I didn’t need to wait to discover some revolutionary cure for my alcoholism–there was a tried and true remedy that was already working for thousands of people just like me.

The second reason I’m grateful to be an alcoholic is because it’s meant that I’ve known despair. To know that depth of pain and darkness, and to come out of it and live on the other side of it, makes it hard to not believe in miracles. To only know one way of life that is clouded with lies, sadness, and illness, and over time, see it replaced by an existence of truth, joy, and health–I can’t help but believe there is some type of power in the universe greater than myself. Getting sober has given me hope. Hope, has given me a life full of dreams that are ready to be realized if I am willing to work for them.

I didn’t think I’d ever have any other journey in my life that could compare to getting sober. Then, four months ago, I started marathon training. “Life-changing” does not really give this process it’s fair due. It is life-building, it is earth-shattering, it is transformative beyond belief. There are a lot things I see wrong with the world. There are several social justice crises that I feel determined to help turn around. At times everything can feel very heavy, and it’s not rare for my mind to visit a dark place. When this happens, I’m often reminded by friends and family that I need not carry the whole weight of the world on my shoulders. I know they are right–but here’s the thing: I think sometimes I feel in my heart like I should take on the whole weight of the world–because after getting sober and training for a marathon, it feels like I just might be able to hold it. Alright, settle down, I’m not claiming I’m Jesus. I just mean to emphasize how strong I feel. I once believed I would never be able to stop drinking for more than a day or two. I’ve now been sober for over 9 years. I once thought I’d never be able to run more than 6 or 7 miles. I ran 20 last weekend. Belief in ourselves and in each other is key. Transformation is real–and so is the power of hope.

So miles 23 and 24 go to my first big journey. I once thought that getting sober would be my most significant life experience. How exciting to know now that there are even greater ones to come. And how humbling to understand, that the only reason I have and will get to embark on these other journeys, is that I continue to stay on the path to recovery.

 

 

If you enjoyed this piece, I hope you might like to continue with the series… please consider following me through WordPress or through email by using the links on this page. You can also follow me on facebook  ~all support is appreciated. thank you. x

 

header image: nadine shaabana

174 thoughts on “Miles 23 & 24

    1. You are so welcome. I’m so glad this helped you in some way. Not matter how dark things get, if we can hang on to a bit of hope, it might just be strong enough to pull us up and out of it. I think one of my favorite parts of my own journey now that I look back on it is realizing that in the beginning, I really had to feed off of other people’s hope, cause I really didn’t have any of my own. Now, 9 years later, I am full of hope and have more than enough to share and offer others if they need it. Life is quite something, yes? Hey, thank you so much for reading. Hope to have you back! x

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  1. You SO deserve to be on Discover! This is a great piece of personal writing, weaving together history, humour, and the courage to be vulnerable. Thank you SO much for sharing your story, and I am certain you will make the marathon. I’m looking forward to Following along now, and am glad I cam across such a gritty and inspiring blog. Congratulations on your sobriety, that’s a big feat xO gabrielle

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It was such an honor to be picked for Discover, can’t tell you what a thrill it was for me. Thank you for saying that. So excited to have you following along and really appreciate your kind words. If I die and the first word people use to describe me or my work is gritty, I will die a happy woman.–really, thanks!! x

      Liked by 1 person

  2. That was the most touching and inspiring post I have read in years.
    Thank you for sharing your life story.
    Even if people have gone or are going through life struggles which are different than yours, all you said is relatable in many ways.
    Thank you! And good luck with the marathon. Looking forward to following you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hey LDG! You know for a while, I hesitated to write about recovery because I worried I was limiting who might be able to relate to it. Then recently I just said F it and started doing it. Thank you for giving me a little confidence that a wider audience might be able to relate to my story. I so appreciate you reading and for sharing your thoughts–hope you do again! Thanks again!

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      1. Hi Cath, you’re most welcome.
        Keep writing and don’t ever think about what people will think of it. Sharing your personal experiences is the most powerful way to connect and you’re doing that fantastically.
        Thanks for replying. I appreciated it very much.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Daaang Cat. This is some powerful, raw and inspiring honesty and insight. I am gobsmacked how much your story resonates with me. Thank you SOOOO much and I am a brand new blogger super excited to follow you in your journey. You are AWESOME

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Aww thank you so much Sandy, and welcome to the blogosphere!! I am so grateful to have you following along and so touched that my story hit home with you. Thank you so much for taking the time to read it–I hope you will be back!!

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    1. LadyJ!! So glad to have you here and so glad you enjoyed the piece!! Wow, 10 years, amazing. I felt pretty vulnerable when I shared this piece so I definitely understand you putting yourself out there on your blog slowly. I just try to remember that hopefully I am helping someone else by doing it, and that gives me a bit of courage!! Thanks again for reading, so happy to have you! x

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      1. This is awesome. Sometimes in life you need an- if they can do it I can do it- push and of course you were like the second blog I read. Love your formatting. The journey continues 🌹

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Powerful message and a great read. I have a good friend in recovery, he’s a cyclist and a good one at that. I am in recovery from a breakdown. I cycle too, but not as good as him. Keep writing. Keep safe.
    I wrote a piece about a refuge that I did some work at recently; it was a very moving experience. Harry Potter and the White Ducks.

    Liked by 5 people

  5. Thanks for sharing your story. It’s awesome that you have been honest with sharing someone of your past experiences dealing with your issues. I noticed that many people in this blogsphere (and other social media) always paint a picture-perfect description of their life. Good luck on the 5th. Maybe you will see me gasping for air and/or looking for the nearest bodega to buy “illegal” out of state cigarettes. 😉

    Liked by 5 people

  6. After reading your blog for several months the thing that strikes me as your greatest strength is your honesty. You are prepared to put yourself out there not because you want people to feel sorry for you or look after you in some way but because you want to be truthful to yourself and your journey, and to demonstrate that anything is possible. As a writer you have, in my very humble opinion, an innate gift to be able to break a situation down for a reader and to elicit emotion from them – and I can’t wait to see how it translates into stories beyond your current marathon thread. I’ll be rooting for you on the day of the marathon as I suspect will anyone who has read any of your posts. You’ve already inspired me before you’ve taken the start line.

    Hope the tapering isn’t driving you too crazy 🙂

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Everything you have said here means so much to me. Thank you for encouraging me in my writing– I need it, I can’t tell you how much it helps me, it keeps me going. It makes me want to write and write and write. To share something like this that makes me feel pretty vulnerable when I press that publish button, and have someone like you respond positively to it, really makes me feel like even if I don’t know where I am going, I am headed in the right direction. Thank you Nik. Always. Thank you.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. It’s a pleasure – am very pleased to have a chance to read your words and if my little bit of support and encouragement has helped then you’ve made my day 🙂 I’m getting so excited for your big day now!!

        Liked by 3 people

  7. Pat Takacs

    Once again Cat, am amazed at the powerful woman you are. I wish you all the mile-by-mile success you deserve! Your transparency is like a poem…..thank You! Am starting to pray daily for you now, and every half hour during the Marathon. Blessings on your legs and feet!!! Pat T.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Deanna

    “Belief in ourselves and in each other is key. Transformation is real–and so is the power of hope.” <—– THIS!! I am writing that down in my journal and quoting you Cat. Thank you for giving me hope when I struggle to see it.

    Liked by 4 people

  9. qplourde

    Thank you for sharing this personal story. It really shows how far you’ve come in your life and how you handle life struggles. Just like with marathon training, you don’t give up. You face your demons and punch them in the face. I can’t wait to hear about your marathon experience. I will keep checking back.

    Liked by 5 people

  10. I used to think sober people were total nerds. And alcoholics who were sober were people who sat around trying to not drink all the time. I was sent to AA by the courts as well, and my skepticism was quickly replaced by “Wow, these people are so NORMAL!” But more importantly, they were able to listen to my drinking stories without shaking their heads at me or recoiling in disgust. And I knew I wanted what they had, because I had not felt normal for years and years, maybe not ever.
    I don’t know how normal I am now, but I understand now that sobriety is just a foundation. It is the most important thing but it is by no means the end of the story. Life keeps on growing on top of it, and for better or worse, it keeps getting more complex, heavier, deeper; I know that feeling of wanting to take on the world, because I get that too. Every step forward makes you think that you could go just a little further next time….
    Thank you for sharing your hope and inspiration here, it’s catching!

    Liked by 5 people

  11. Beautiful words.I know that personally, knowing I’d managed to come off a particularly difficult antidepressant to come off and had got through two types of medical treatment was something I could draw strength from during my marathons. The marathon does find your week spots, esp in training, but the experience of it allows you to draw on strength from other parts of your life.

    I heartily recommend you take some time, if you haven’t already, to go through your GOOD memories, in life and running, and make a sort of visualisation loop you can run through your head during the race. You might not need it (the crowds will be amazing) but if it’s there in your kit in your head, it might well help you when you most need it.

    Keep hydrated, keep moving, don’t try any new classes or stretches, and enjoy your taper!

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Thank you Liz. Drawing on strength from other parts of my life is definitely what I need to continue to do. Lots of good memories to loop through for sure–and in retrospect and through learning, the bad aren’t as bad as I once thought. Thank you for this!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Ooh, yes, the shame. That’s what got me in the end. Even after a good few years sober my stomach drops at one particular memory but that’s ok, I need that. Getting so excited for you now for the marathon , sending love, love love S x

    Liked by 4 people

    1. YES! The shame. I feel glad that that is what you picked out of this–it’s really what I was trying to convey but I wasn’t sure that I did. Walking around with that shame–is there anything more heavy?
      So appreciate having someone like you on the other side of the world that can relate. love to you S. x

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Thanks so much for sharing your story. You’re a very brave, strong woman. I truly believe that belief is such a powerful tool. I never thought I’d ever run an Ultra. I’ve done two and it’s a crazy, beautiful, soul searching journey. Once you do your marathon you’ll be hooked. Keep up the honest good work. You’re going to smash it, believe in yourself and all the training you’ve done. Trust your body!!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you so much for being so receptive to my story Ayesha–and for all of your encouragement. I feel lucky to have several amazing athletes such as yourself to look up to–gaining knowledge from people who have already conquered the distance I am hoping to take on has been so valuable to me. I guess that works in life too, not just running. Sort of what this post is about I guess. 🙂 Thanks again for reading!! x

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    1. Thank you so much Lisa. I don’t think there is any way this journey would be what it is if I didn’t share it. The amount of people that are helping to get me to that starting line is growing every day. My world is so much bigger than it used to be, and I’m so grateful for it. Thanks for being a part of it–so glad we have found each other’s blogs!!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Petey. I think I am brave and resilient-but only because I am fortunate to live among so many others that are the same. Human beings are incredible–I am inspired by the strength of the human spirit each and every day. Inspired by you!! Thanks again Petey!!

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    1. Thank you so much. It’s funny, writing it was easy enough–I even had to hold back cause obviously there is much more to the story. But when I went to post, it wasn’t so easy to hit the publish button. I didn’t even realize how vulnerable sharing it might make me feel. I think though for me, if that vulnerability isn’t there, whatever I’m doing may not be worth it. Thanks so much for your positive response–eases the nerves a bit :). Hope you are tapering well, can’t wait to toe that line with you!!

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  14. Recovery or marathon, all of it. To me, a major sign of healing is the willingness to find and make useful all the experiences of our lives. How we respond to our circumstances is at least as important as what the circumstances are. That said, of course we have preferences, and if we are fortunate and doing our work, we get more skill at not repeating certain circumstances.
    A touching, inspiring and funny article, Cat. Darn those locked doors anyway!

    I notice this is miles 23 & 24. Race day must be coming soon. Cheering for you in advance, wish I could be there.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. I am so glad the humour came through in that part Steph–I feel grateful that I have been able to laugh so much throughout life–even in the hard times.
      You’re right–I am almost there–can hardly believe it, but also, I’m ready. Wish you could be there too–but you know in some way, you will be. x

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Humor is so important to me. I challenge myself to look for the odd, the quirky, etc in anything. Not denying all the other stuff as well, but if I can find some humor, or see that in a little or long while, it will be funny, I manage so much better. Helps me do more when I take myself lightly.

        Liked by 4 people

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