Friday, October 25, 2013

15 mins of Fame and a Good Party

Always at a party with a drink in my hand
In retrospect, I am not clear on how being a recovering piss tank, like myself garners the attention it has over the past year. I always thought that I was well liked and popular as a drunk girl, but never in my wildest dreams would I have believed that the same could be true as a sober girl.

When I initially quit boozing, I thought all the good times had rolled and I was left with a life that I didn't know how to live. I thought that a sober life meant I was doomed to a serious, grown up, no nonsense, lack luster existence. For much of my drinking career, I didn't just drink, I partied, which meant socializing. I love people, all kinds of people and the more the merrier. Without a Keith's in my hand (man I miss that), there was no party (I miss that too), no friends and no identity.

I spent the first five months of my sober life, off work, healing, repairing and getting stronger. Not only were the party people absent from my life, but so was the social network that comes from a workplace. There were a few friends and family that knew what I was going through, but it had been my choice to be private about my unhealthy relationship with alcohol and subsequently conceal our estrangement. This decision was made out of shame, vulnerability and fear of judgement and these feelings and perceptions came from an unhealthy mind. I realize now, that had I given others a chance to support me, many would have. I have no regrets though, it was right for me at the time to be isolated despite my previous penchant for social interaction.
Always at a party with a drink in my hand

Me and my Dad...the drink is close by
I lived the first 20 months of my sober life avoiding parties, weddings, and celebrations because my break up with Captain Morgan was not public information and if I was at such events and not drinking, people were likely to suspect something. At the time, I thought it would have been more plausible for people to surmise that I was pregnant than to assume I had quit drinking, because I was typically very committed to drinking a lot and often. I also found it easier to steer clear of these gathering because I just didn't trust that I wouldn't forget that I gave up drinking and slug back a pint before I could catch myself. That kind of thing happened all the time in my weird dreams and still does sometimes.
Me, my G-ma and my Aunt and the wine

It was during the first 4 months of being dry that I started running again. I have written before about how valuable running was as a tool and an outlet for my shame and grief, but I never imagined that it would become my new invitation to an entirely different party. It gave me a ticket to a way to socialize and be
accepted without a drink in my hand (well, maybe a Vega recovery drink).

I firmly believe in timing and at the right time, iRun magazine ran a contest called Running Blog Idol 2.0.
I felt ready to share my story about running and sobriety, so I submitted some samples to the contest and I was chosen as a finalist. The blog posts went live in September 2012 and my carefully protected secret was in black and white on the world wide web for people to read about and pass judgement upon. I was nervous (nearly threw up several times the day it was posted) and I avoided all social media that day in fear of  what people were saying. Writing about my experience turned out to be almost as cathartic as running and the response began to make me feel less isolated. The response was supportive and I felt safe sharing my thoughts and actually began to feel proud of my strength.
First Half in my hand

The contest closed December 31, 2012 and within in a few days I learned that I was not the winner, I was disappointed and lost. I had been a part of something that felt great and it didn't involve shots of tequila. I had virtual friends that I had things in common with that had nothing to do with trips to the LCBO. More importantly, I connected with people that had story's of their own that sounded similar to mine. I was more than a bit depressed to have to let go of that opportunity. The experience ended up being about so much more than a writing contest.

Again, timing became my savior as I woke one morning in late January or early February to a twitter message from Canada Running Series (CRS) asking me to message them. This turned out to be another open door for me to belong and feel a part of something. I was offered the chance to work with CRS as a Digital Champion for the Yonge Street 10k. This involved a group of us blogging and tweeting about the race, our training, preparation and goals. It was great for CRS, but I don't think Race Director Alan Brookes or Social Media Specialist Jenna Petinatto had any idea that it was even greater for me.
TYS10k Andrew Chak, Me and Chris Doyle

That experience blossomed into the chance to do the same thing for the Scotia Toronto Waterfront Marathon. Since May, I have been a part of the greatest group of people I have ever known. These people have accomplished so much through running and didn't care that I may have spent too much time drinking a little too much, in the past. They didn't care that I had never run a marathon before and they certainly didn't care that they had never actually met me. Within this social network, I found acceptance. The only thing that mattered and was asked often was 'how was your run today?" The Digital Champions became my new social outlet and my new party. Even as I ran most of my training runs alone, I knew these people were behind me. CRS had given me the task of motivating and encouraging other runners through social media, but what I found was that I got way more support than I ever dished out.

LtoR: @mirandamac, @stevewlayton, @mikepgww, me, @ultramyron, @alexflint

On Sunday October 20, we ran that marathon that we tweeted and Facebook-ed about for months. I ran that marathon with the help of CRS, the 2013 STWM Digital Champions and the #STWM running community. It is one of the highlights of my life! I believed I couldn't do it because in the past I always seemed to come up injured during the training and couldn't run the race. But I did do it and some of it felt really bad; worse than a terrible hangover. In those fragile moments of discomfort, there was only once that I considered giving up and that was the moment atop an overpass at about 35k, where I considered jumping to end my misery. The thought was brief and passed quickly and was likely a by product of temporary loss of reason due to fatigue and low blood sugar. I carried on and finished that sucker off much slower than initially planned, but that doesn't really matter. It matters that I did it and 2 days later was thinking, "I can do better.When's the next race?".

Now, this party, too has run its' course. I have gained the unwavering support of a fabulous on-line running community and I have my first of many marathon finishes under my hydration belt. I have friends that have healthy lifestyle habits in common with me and who are eager to plot the next running adventure (which looks like it's going to be Around the Bay for many). I no longer feel isolated and alone with my alcohol issue, in fact it is less of an issue all the time. It will always be a part of me, but I am learning that it will not always be all of me. I am many more things than a recovering drunk. This experience has finally allowed me to let go of some of that image of myself and has let me begin to replace it with the image of a marathon runner that chooses to treat her body and health with respect. This new life is so far from my original fear of sober living. It is anything but boring and lack luster. I just ran 42.2 frigging kilometers. If that's not a shiny and exciting enough existence for me, than I am gonna have to bedazzle the crap out of it, because it is a hell of a lot more glorious than drunk hair, smudged eyeliner and my face in a toilet bowl!

Thank you for being a part of my story and of my 15 minutes of fame. Each of you means much more to me than you will ever know:
and the rest of the #STWM running community!!

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