by Timothy Alexander
The sun has yet to peek over the horizon. The air is still. My world is silent by choice; by focus. The streets are bare bones on the bed of the earth. I look past the atmosphere searching for it…Ahh! There’s one. A single star shimmers on its black velvet drop.
I smile slightly because I’m grateful that my eyes can still see the beauty of the universe. It’s funny, the things that I’ve taken for granted, and how they play an integral part of my life now. It hasn’t always been this way.
I have seen the destruction of self. I’ve seen death up close and personal. At times the internal suffering was more than I think I could handle. The self-hate. The loneliness, no matter how many people I was surrounded by.
You see I’m an individual in long-term recovery from substance use disorder.
I’m not a junkie
I’m not a cokehead, nor am I worthless, hopeless, or a waste of life.
I have played those roles but that is not who I am. I have committed crimes, yet I am not a criminal. These are the things that my disease will tell you I am, but it’s not me.
I look down at my watch, 5:45 am, it’s time.
I start every run at a slow pace to warm-up, to get my blood flowing. It’s imperative to start my runs like I did my recovery. I start slow because I realize the long road ahead. The challenges I’ll face of the mind, body, and spirit. These things will require much energy and it’s best that I don’t exhaust myself to early.
Discipline. I have to remain disciplined because it’s rational. I have to tame that familiar impulse that stirs in the depth of my soul waiting for it’s chance to scream RUN!
My disease wants me to run. Run as fast and as hard as I can. It wants me to exhaust myself prematurely so that I become weak and vulnerable to it. Just for today though, I choose not to sprint. Tomorrow I might, but not today. I know now that a comfortable pace is right where I need to be. A friend suggested it.
A minute and half in and the blood is rushing to my muscles. This is the stage where a slight burning can be felt, but I ignore it. The first mile is always the hardest. The body and mind weave tales into my thought process injecting lies like, “It’s ok if you turn around, there’s always tomorrow.” I grin. I grin because I know this thought all to well. “Just one more, you can quit tomorrow.” Maybe you can relate?
I know the process of quitting when things get tough
When life stings I know those fears of uncomfortable pains, they’re the one’s that tell me to run fear of rejection, fear of failure, the fear of being me. And now, the fear of finding out who I am.
Maybe you can identify.
If you’re anything like me maybe you were awkward in school, shy, unable to communicate and build meaningful relationships. Maybe you had a dysfunctional family like mine and hid in the isolated shadows of the mind.
Like me, maybe you picked up a beer for the first time and remember the welcoming warmth of acceptance. Maybe that first toke of a joint allowed you to laugh and smile for the first time in weeks, or months. Maybe you remember that, for the first time in a long time, you had found purpose, a reason to live.
I believed in my heart that I had found the key to life, the key to all my fears, the key to acceptance, and worthiness. At that point in my life, substances made sense, so I allowed the disease to take me, and we never looked back.
25 years, 13 felonies, 2 prison bids, and 3 suicide attempts later
If you met me, you may never have guessed that this is my story.
I’m 18 months clean now, and not because I’m running from my fears, today I run to them.
Like recovery, the first few miles are a warm-up. This is the make or break stage. Am I really serious about this thing? When I start to feel discomfort will I do what I’ve always done and quit, or will I realize that this pain is only temporary. And if I just keep putting one foot in front of the other I just may successfully complete another challenge in my life?
When I first started running in early recovery I wasn’t running 15 miles, I was running 1, but It’s only through dedication, hard-work, and perseverance that I’ve made it this far. I apply what I’ve learned in my recovery to every aspect of my life. I use my running as a way to be of service to my community, because service is the cornerstone of my recovery. It feels amazing to be a part of something bigger than myself you know?
Today I have no idea where the future is headed, but I know that if I continue to do the things that have kept me clean until this very second, the odds of it being a successful future flourishes.
If you are reading this I want you to know that there is hope. Whether it’s you that is suffering from mental illness, or substance use disorder, or both, or maybe it’s a loved one, there is hope. We can recover.
These things don’t lay solely on the shoulders of the individual, or their families, but instead our communities. We all play a vital role in the value of human life all we have to do is believe we can make a difference.