What if running was taken away from us? Could we still live purposefully, find peace within ourselves, and give of ourselves unselfishly? These questions have been dogging me increasingly in sobriety. I look at many long distance runners that come from a background of addiction and see them staying sober and chasing miles and wonder what would happen if running was taken away from them through accident or disease? What if it was taken from me? What would keep me sober and would there still be peace and serenity in my sobriety?
The truth for anyone that has overcome addiction is this: we are all only an arms-length away from the next drink or hit, 12-Step program or not. So please be clear that I am not speaking from any kind of moral or recovery high ground – I’m an alcoholic just like the next one and this is one of the truest facts of my life. I am however, an active member of AA and I would like to share with you why I think it may be helpful should disaster ever strike and running is taken away from me. These musings are really just a friendly reaching out of the hand, to say “welcome” to those runners who are sober on their own – you are amazing, you are strong-willed and determined – and we are here for you should you ever need us. The doors of AA are always open to you and to all who suffer from this disease: “To us, the Realm of Spirit is broad, roomy, all inclusive; never exclusive or forbidding to those who earnestly seek. It is open, we believe, to all men” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 46).
I recently to talked to an ex-police chief who had been sober on his own for 10 years or so. He asked lots of questions about AA and we identified with each other immediately. He was curious as to what recovery looks like and feels like for me in AA and how it plays out in my day to day life. We had a great conversation that was mutually respectful, gravely serious at times, and hilarious at others. I guess it was bordering on a Twelfth Step call when it comes right down to it. Here’s the thing: he suffers from PTSD and struggles mightily with it. He basically said that he would like nothing more than to drink to take away the pain and confusion, but knows that it would not be a good solution because it would produce the same alcoholic results as always. I ask you, how valuable would his testimony be to others in AA if he tried it now? I suggest that it would be extremely valuable to many and maybe, just maybe, with The Steps, The Fellowship, and good sponsorship, he could live the next ten years without the thought of a drink, God willing. He could be a great sponsor in the program and maybe find some relief from the prison of his disorder – I don’t know, but I wonder….I often wonder if someday I might get a call from him and as AA teaches, I would do my utmost to help him in any way I could and if that involved going to some meetings, then so be it. I could leave it in God’s hands from there. What I’m getting at is this: staying sober always was and is a very scary thing for me – I just couldn’t do it on my own. In AA though, I have some amazing things to live for that I would like to share, should it be of any interest to alcoholics out there who are sober and may be suffering on their own.
One: As a member of an AA home group, I have fellow alcoholics who can relate to my past but also my present. They understand the obsession to drink that I had and they also understand and can empathize with the character traits that drove me to drink long before I ever picked up a drink. We collectively get to look at those character traits and we get to discuss them – we get to see our fellow alcoholics recover from the obsession for alcohol and we also get to see them recover from the devastating personality defects that have plagued us for so long. Though we may never fully triumph over our character defects, we at least get to expose them, accept them and try to work on them with help of our Higher Power. We get to witness each other rise above our defects to be valuable members in our families and society.
Two: I have the unique ability and responsibility to help other alcoholics recover. Our Big Book says that we “can help when no one else can” and that “because of your own drinking experience you can be uniquely useful to other alcoholics” (89). We get to witness people brought back from the dead and we can play a small part in their recovery by sharing how we recovered, using The Steps. On the topic of working with others and finding joy in it, our Big Book goes on to say that “life will take on new meaning. To watch people recover, to see them help others, to watch loneliness vanish, to see a fellowship grow up about you, to have a host of friends – this is an experience you must not miss. We know you will not want to miss it. Frequent contact with newcomers and with each other is the bright spot of our lives” (89).
Three: I have a Higher Power in my life now that I reach out to daily for help and I make no apologies to those who may not have that…yet. It wasn’t so long ago that I was in the same boat. I’m certainly no better than anyone because of the fact, but I believe I am better off because of it. I am no longer in charge and I try to do right because I want to be true to my Higher Power, to honor it, for saving me when I didn’t deserve it. Living this way is so much easier because I no longer have to fight for my place in the world – all I really have to do is be a servant in the world and this seems to bring the joy that I always searched for in alcohol and drugs.
So should you be out there running miles upon miles in fear of the taking the next drink or drug, let us in AA say “welcome.” I remember well what it was like to depend on running to keep me sober. I had the foreboding feeling that if it was to come to an end because of injury or sickness, I would have no choice but to drink to fill the gaping hole. It is different now though – running is something I do that compliments my sobriety. I enjoy it and am not afraid to push its limits anymore because at the end of the day now, I have a Fellowship, a sponsor, a “design for living” and a loving God that helps me get out the door for runs, yes, but also out the door to serve others and find lasting joy in it.
AA Grapevine “At Wit’s End” Joke of the Week
Newcomer to his sponsor: I think I’ve been rocketed into the fourth dimension
Sponsor: No, you’ve just drank too much coffee
New to the Site This Week:
1. Look under “Running in the 4th Dimension – Running Videos” for a very special inspirational video this week
2. XA Speakers: Mark H. from Texas, Mark K. from California, Marty J. from Manitoba, Marty M. from San Fransisco