Monday, January 19, 2015

Outrunning Guilt; 4 Sober Years

Our action or inaction can set in motion a cascade of negative internal feelings; one of which is guilt.
In my experience, guilt is a currency used to pay for our transgressions and time determines when the debt is paid in full.

We feel guilty for as long as we are meant to in order to pay off the debt of our choices. The length of time we feel guilty is a measure of how significant the breech is. A slight misstep produces short lived guilt and the debt is paid but a trip and fall event will see guilty thoughts and feelings linger longer before the books are balanced.

There are different perspectives on guilt and its inherent value to a person . There is the position of denial where people will say no purpose is served in their lives' by feeling guilty and that they never experience it. Others say guilt is a negative emotion that is poisonous to our souls and that their actions are influenced by avoiding its onset. Guilt is described by others as a positive entity allowing them to learn from their mistakes. Like anything else in life, history, experience and perspective create the foundation of our beliefs and thus we all see things uniquely, including guilt and its affect on our conscience.

Four years ago I asked the hands of time to put me on a payment plan that would lift my
2011-first half marathon
conscience out of the red and into the black. I was tired of feeling guilty about the residue of my alcohol dependence. I was tired of only feeling good when I was drunk. I was tired of apologizing to my husband and friends for things I said and did while I was wasted. I no longer wanted to live an overweight and uninspired life. I was done smothering my emotions with wine and beer or whatever else was available when I needed it. I wanted to get sober, pay off my debt and live happily ever after.

If you have been following along you will remember that I was a (sort of) functioning wife and mother with a full time job. If you are new to my story, start here. I was holding it together and most people would never have seen a problem. That didn't mean there wasn't one. When I finally admitted that there was a problem that needed attention, the guilt got really big and gave rise to shame. The first year and a half that I was sober, only a handful of people knew about my addiction to alcohol and commitment to sobriety. The shame was so great that I didn't want anyone outside my innermost circle to know. People have a way of throwing stones and judging that which they have no idea about and I didn't want to be the source of their gossip.

I needed to keep things quiet until I felt resilient enough to not give a damn about what anyone thought about me. The healthier I got the stronger I became and with strength comes the ability to hold your chin up and say this is me, take it or leave it. As my weak spots became less vulnerable, I was able to be transparent about my addiction and sobriety. This transparency let light shine in and that light outshone the shame and dissolved it. The guilt remained.

2011-suffering the pain of 10k and the debt of guilt
Running has helped to keep me focused on sobriety by giving me something else to obsess about and somewhere to channel my emotions and guilt. When I feel bad I take it out on a hard run. When I feel good I get high from the road and the kilometers under my feet. Adrenaline and dopamine are my 'drugs' of choice and they come without a bill of guilt. By now, I have worked out much of my guilt related to drinking and have forgiven myself for being so in love with Alexander Keith. I know that I am physically and psychologically wired for addiction. I know it as sure as I know my name. I know that despite finally feeling atoned for the debt of my transgressions, I have an illness like any other and that is not my fault or my debt to pay. I didn't choose it, but I can manage it; which is a perspective that has been earned through tears and sweat.

Finishing 2014 with a 5k PB at home in Orillia
This transformation in mind, body and spirit has been brought about by thousands of kilometers and dozens of running shoes. I have learned about myself and what I am capable of. I have accepted myself. I have forgiven myself. I am acutely aware that like any other disease in remission, there is the risk of re occurrence. One drink is all it would take to re-open an account at the guilt bank. So no matter how strong and resilient I become, I am forever fragile, in a sense. For now, my time is my own and is not indebted to guilt. The ledger is balanced and so am I.

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