So I have a problem with alcohol, it’s actually refreshing that I can say that now. I used it to not deal, not feel and turn the volume down on the world. I had things I didn’t want to examine or acknowledge, and alcohol made it all go away. It sure did it’s job and I lost myself many years ago because I couldn’t face the issues that were the cause of my drinking.
Drinking in the beginning seemed like such an easy thing that I transitioned into it without even knowing what I was actually doing. I would just want to escape and I did not even realize what I was doing, perhaps if it did then I might have a thought of stopping or taking action. That’s where the real damage happens, it’s the secret, middle of the night, no ones looking drinking sessions that lead you down a path and before you know it you are lost. This went on for years and I got further and further away from who I was at my core. As long as I didn’t have to deal with shit then I was cool.
Then something happened….
I found myself at a point where it didn’t matter what I did, what I drank, how often, how much......life just sucked and I couldn’t deal again. I manifested massive anxiety, panic attacks, sleeplessness and all kinds of crazy disorders. I looked at everything that could be a problem, job, diet, etc. I was vegan a long time ago and it was very important to me, but I had let it go. I look back now and that was the first step. I changed my diet and physically I started feeling a bit better but that wasn’t the fix for all. By this time I was on other medications and in therapy, things were just crazy. I honestly didn’t think I could live life anymore. I drank even more, because like most with a drinking problem, I honestly didn’t think alcohol was the issue, it was everything else.......right? Well NO, obviously not.
The funny thing is that I didn’t even actually plan on quitting drinking or being a triathlete so to speak. It kinds just happened.
By this time I was way back into living a plant based vegan lifestyle and began to follow a lot of people on social media with similar values. So oddly enough, a lot of these same people were also triathletes, runners or into some kind of endurance training. One of who is a guy named John Joseph that I really resonated with. The more I paid attention the more I felt like I needed something back in my life. I was always an athlete and had been a professional skateboarder years ago. Living in Boston at the time I became inspired and decided I’d run the Boston Marathon. Again, I didn’t think I at all had a “problem” with alcohol even then. When I began to train I just decided I’d better not drink because it’s going to be really hard to train through this AND drink. I had no idea what I was in for. In the beginning it was cool, just a couple miles here and there and then it kicked in, I had to dig damn deep to struggle through training like this. It was December in Boston, cold as hell and getting colder.
Training out doors was miserable, but I was down for it. But I had a less than stellar coach at the time and needed another one. Through reaching out to John Joseph I connected with coach Sam, and it was amazing. I was so happy and was excited about getting going. I had no idea what I was in for. The more I ran, the more I pushed, the more I felt! Wait I was feeling shit? Yeah that’s right, deep down dark hidden shit. I still kept myself from drinking so nothing was numbing me, and the opposite happened. I started to realized that in endurance sports you are asking a lot of yourself physically and even more so mentally, so all of the nasty junk needs to be dealt with. I would cry like crazy early on when I ran. I had to really finally come to terms with all the emotions and issues I had suppressed for so long and I worked it out through my training. Everyday, bit by bit and mile by mile. Before I knew it I wanted to do an Ironman and I hadn’t even done the marathon.
People would tell me “you just traded one addiction for another.” Well, I don’t see it that way. What I was doing was becoming mentally healthy. Quitting drinking gave me the ability to actually work on me and my demons. Addictions usually cover up your problems or effect you in a negative way. Endurance training doesn’t do that.....at all. What it does is opens your soul up, it lets you feel and experience what you need to and then you can clearly see life and all of its challenges for what they are.
I was good, I was cool and on a great path.
The next thing hit, I fractured my femur training for the marathon. All the snow, freezing cold and mileage took its toll. So now no race, on crutches and left with my mind. Was it back to the bottle, no it was time to dig deep again. This training had been teaching me more and more not just about the physical task but also the bigger one, the mental task. I even had a massive panic attack the day before an 18 mile run and I went and did it anyways. Oddly, it was the next day I found out I had a fractured femur. Only training like this could give me the physical and mental strength to to that. So I sat on the couch and came to terms with what happened. It was hard to hear from some who said things like ” all that training for nothing”. I thought about that, I realized the Boston Marathon or just that one day meant really very little. What mattered more was what I put in everyday and how that shaped my life. I didn’t need that race to make me feel like I did something because I already had. All this time I’d been conquering my use of alcohol and healing my mind. This was a total surprise. And better than any medal from any race.
I set my sights on what was next. I needed to get healthy and get my ass back to training. Luckily I’m blessed to have such a great coach and wife that was with me every step of the way. My coach developed my plan and I just kept on it. I’m not going to lie, I wanted to quit a lot of times and just go back to how things were. My coach and my wife were definitely NOT down with that. The support was amazing.
I started healing and got back in the pool first. I kept working on my problems and what I was running from in my mind. I kept searching, reading and keeping my mind open for help. I didn’t quit and kept training. The more I trained the stronger I got. The further from the alcohol crutch I got, the closer I became with me. I could breath again, I could live with shit that had happened again and it was really OK. I moved back home to California and got to even more work. I wanted more, I needed more. I wasn’t drinking, had my diet in check, worked and continue to work on my anxiety. I was no longer running away from the mental challenge. I was now running towards it.
This is again what endurance training does. I am such a better person as a result and by no means healed or done. I have a lot of work to do and that will always be the case. I need to always check myself when I get down or negative. I work on having positive influences and people in my life to help me with that. Some days now I’m in total amazement of what I’ve been able to do and really been blessed to do. I never, and I mean never experienced that before I starting to be a triathlete, it’s absolutely amazing. It’s hard work physically and mentally everyday and you’ve got to absorb it and allow it to flow. It’s total peace when I’m out there on the run, on the bike or now even in the water. I’ve felt the pain I never wanted to feel and accepted it, through this, through endurance and through evolving into what I was meant to be.