Nearly every Sunday morning I wake up and put on one of my favorite Mosaic church t-shirts and head to church with a happy heart. On a recent Sunday morning, however, I humbly pulled my “I Fight for Sobriety” t-shirt over my sleepy head and began preparing for a race. But this was not just any race. On this particular rainy Sunday, I was on my way to run the Heroes in Recovery 6k road race.
Heroes in Recovery is an organization that works to eliminate the social stigma that discourages people with addiction and mental health issues from pursuing help. Even though I was about to participate in something that is a large part of my daily mission, the voice of shame still tried to convince me I wasn’t good enough to race. When that technique didn’t deter me, the voice reminded me that it was raining and humid. I just laughed. The weather never stopped me from drinking so it certainly wasn’t going to keep me from racing. Off I went to join the other runners.
Nearly a hundred alcoholics, addicts, codependents, and supporters of recovery were in the parking lot when I arrived. Many of the race participants and volunteers had spent years taking out their emotional pain on their bodies. I knew this practice all too well. But on this day, we weren’t sick, self-centered addicts. We were together in our recovery, living an active life, despite the addiction in our past.
The power of our collective years of recovery was palatable. As I stood at the starting line, I thought of all of those runners behind me and how many of them most likely spent years destroying themselves and hurting all those in their paths. Now these people are standing tall and running to support the recovery community. The announcer screamed “GO!” and people who, before recovery may have only cared about the next drink, took off and shouted words of encouragement to each other.
Well, it turns out, we definitely needed the encouragement. The race course was obviously designed by a low-bottom junkie because it was riddled with hills. About one mile into this brutal race, I saw a sign that read “Runners Keep Right.” I knew the sign was meant to provide physical direction to the runners but for me, it also was spot on emotionally and spiritually.
Sober running has kept me right. The sign reminded me of my expulsion from the track team in 8th grade after I brought drugs onto school property. The sign reminded when I had to leave the track team to check into inpatient alcoholism treatment when I was a junior in high school. It reminded me of achieving 10 years of sobriety sober but still being tangled up in my eating disorder. Running transformed my body from my enemy to a vessel. Running has kept me right.
Every run I complete redeems that 8th grade druggie; 11th grade alcoholic; and the young woman who refused to feed her body and would purge when starvation became too prominent. Running keeps me connected to the heroes in my life, past and present. Running rejects
self-abuse, silences shame, and has brought an addicted, bulimic, scarred, depressed body to recovery. Running shows me who I am not, who I am, and most importantly, Whose I am. Running keeps me right.
Running is not the sole reason I can celebrate 20 years sobriety today. Many heroes came into my life and changed it. The heroes from AA and from church have loved me enough so that now, my craving for self-harm is much less than my desire to be used by Him. These heroes showed me that when we take care of ourselves, it is not being selfish. When we take care of ourselves, a hero is born.
There are many heroes in recovery, and I had the privilege of running almost four miles of a very hilly race with many of them. And, it turns out the shame voice was once again wrong about me not being good enough to compete. I earned second place in my age group. To all the heroes in recovery working hard to stay right, keep running. Thanks to many of you I continue to “trudge the road of happy destiny,”and some times I even run on it. Runners Keep Right.
“Abandon yourself to God as you understand God. Admit your faults to Him and to your fellows. Clear away the wreckage of your past. Give freely of what you find and join us. We shall be with you in the Fellowship of the Spirit, and you will surely meet some of us as you trudge the Road of Happy Destiny.” Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book p.164