Elite, middle, or back of the pack, running is hard work. The ‘greats’ make it look easy, but they put massive amounts of time and energy into their craft. They struggle through injury and fatigue to line up at the start line and when the gun goes off, they give it all they have, trusting in their training and their passion for the sport. When I look at some of my running heroes like Meb, Ann Trason, Scott Jurek, Terry Fox, and Yiannis Kouros to name just a few, I see people who for the most part, were just shadows in the dark along lonely roads and trails for years on end. They honed their craft and passion by plodding along, ingloriously, but with intense purpose. The long distance runner is truly a lonely figure who carries within them mounds of emotion that would crush most people if they were suddenly laden with its weight and power. The runner carries within them intricate stories and sights untold and only when the timing is right, can they sometimes unleash a performance and work of art that makes spectators cheer and clap with excitement and awe. The act of running is so simple and yet so complex – especially as the miles pile up and the runner must adjust to the aches and pains of their limited bodies so that they can bring forth the beauty of running’s simplicity in races and long distance feats.
And isn’t Alcoholics Anonymous much the same in the nuances we just described in running? To practice the principles of AA in all our affairs and to carry the message to others is hard work, make no doubt about it. It takes huge amounts of sacrifice, humility and time and energy, as in running. I look at the old timers in AA who exude love, tolerance, understanding and patience and I know all that has come slowly to them. Through the early pains of sobriety to the highs and lows of death, disease and success, I know they have plodded along with trust in their Higher Power and the Steps, Traditions, and Concepts to guide them. These old timers practice quiet humility in their day to day lives for years and they do it with an intense passion that similarly remains in the shadows for the most part. They have essentially been brought back from the dead, which is alcoholism, and so there often lives inside them a torrent of emotion and passion for living that many do not receive the gift thereof. To carry the memories of brokenness and hopelessness of alcoholism and then to recover and be able to live usefully and joyfully is a subtle life-force that crush most folks if they were not prepared for its sudden weight. Like running, this AA way of life is mostly a lonely one, though a community of us does exist – it’s an inside job, one that requires many hours alone facing ones fears and trusting in the next step forward. This AA way of life is a simple one and the Steps are quite simple as well, but there exists a complexity in it all that one can never master and must continue to practice. As in running, the further we go in this way of life, “We realize we know only a little. God will constantly disclose more to you and to us” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 164). Though we are limited by our human limitations in this program, as in running, we can bring forth the beauty of AA’s simplicity when a newcomer comes to us and we are able to pass the solution on to them. Through sickness, death and miracles of sobriety, we can bring forth the beauty of AA’s simplicity by staying sober, trusting in our Higher Power, and practicing these principles in all our affairs.
Some people in this sport may be running away from their problems and past but we who have been given the gift of AA and sobriety can run toward that which has saved us, always in gratitude for another day.
AA Grapevine’s “At Wit’s End” Joke of the Week:
Boy: “I love you so much, I could never live without you.”
Girl: “Is that you or the beer talking?”
Boy: “It’s me talking to the beer.”
New to the Site This Week:
XA Speakers: Sister Maurice D. from the Bronx, NY and Mel. D. from Toledo, OH