I never would have guessed that being injured could be such a gift. Almost like getting to the doors of AA, I literally kicked and screamed against my perceived injustice of it all. I was a mere three weeks out from my seventh Boston marathon and on my last long run before my taper, I sustained what I would later find out was a fibular stress fracture. Like the old me, I raged and seethed and could only focus on one thing: me, myself, and I. Bill Wilson stated and I can’t agree more, “Self-pity is one of the most unhappy and consuming defects that we know. It is a bar to all spiritual progress and can cut off all effective communication with our fellows because of its inordinate demands for attention and sympathy” (Letter, 1966). I would actually leave our house to do a workout on the treadmill or elliptical and I’d yell and scream at the top of my lungs, shouting down God and how I didn’t want Him in my life anymore. And the language I used wasn’t too becoming of an upstanding member of AA I might add…how dare those eminent psychologists call me “childish, emotionally sensitive and grandiose!” (Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, 123)
Once Marathon Monday passed though, I started to begin the process of acceptance. I was still holding onto the idea of compartment syndrome versus a stress fracture and so I stubbornly continued to test my leg when I shouldn’t have, but I was beginning to analyze my part in the injury and the insane madness inside me. At one point while out on a hike, I also came to realize that working the 12 Steps on this injury might help me “get down to right size,” to further my acceptance and to start looking outside myself to see how this experience could benefit others as well. At this point, the “mad dog” alcoholic in me got a hold of some root causes for the injury and sinking my teeth into the solutions, I devoured everything I could about barefoot running and “natural running” that I could find. My sponsor often speaks about the “alcoholic mind” and how though it can be brutally destructive, it has the potential to get a hold of things sometimes and transform its obsessiveness into constructive solutions.
So now I’m about eight weeks out from the original date of injury and I can feel the bone getting stronger and the inflammation receding. I’ve even run a few very tentative miles barefoot and though it’s a terribly long way from where I was and where I want it to be, for now I’m mostly content with “patient progress.” I don’t know where barefoot running will take me, but I’m entering into it with an open mind, willingness, and a “newcomer’s” desperation. Just like in AA, I’m trying to take it “one day at time,” knowing that in running and sobriety, there is a process and a lifetime of learning that is never ending and always vibrant as long as I’m willing to grow and to change.
It sounds pretty ridiculous and shallow in light of true human suffering, but for me, this injury has posed a huge challenge to my sanity and sobriety. If you think I haven’t thought of saying “fuck it” and getting drunk again, you’d be wrong – thankfully though, thought hasn’t led to action. The truth of my actions is that I’ve tried to do what I’ve been taught in AA – talk to my sponsor, work the Steps, go to meetings, reach out to other alcoholics and pray to know God’s will in my life. And the fact is, here I sit, sobriety intact, mostly looking toward the next task at hand and the future wherein I can look back at this and use it to fuel my desire and resolve. I want more than ever to run joyfully and efficiently so that I can achieve great feats and pass on the presence of a loving God in my life. But of course then I get to thinking that it’s not happening fast enough and all the obsessive darkness creeps in again and then it all comes down to those two basic forces in life and within: Fear or Love. Which one is it going to be today or this moment IRA? – Choose Fear and retreat or choose Love and learn to trust and to conquer. All I know for sure is that without AA and what it’s given me so far, I would have chosen Fear every time and that even if Love isn’t the “easy or softer way,” it’s a much more vibrant and life-affirming path to follow – believing in a Higher Power and Purpose lights our footsteps, however fast or faltering.