Day 23: Getting Stronger

“We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong –
The amount of work is the same.”
– Carlos Castaneda

I have a few favorite runs in my neighborhood, and they all start by crossing the street and then running up a slight (and I mean very slight) incline. Every time I start up that small incline, I feel like I’m running through wet cement. You know when you’re dreaming and trying to run, and you feel like you’re running in slow motion because your legs weigh about 1,000 pounds each and they are made of sponge? Seriously, after five years of running, every single run starts out this way. Every. Single. Run.


And how does this relate to Dryuary you might ask? Maybe you get that same dread when you decide to abstain for a day, for a week, or for 31 days! You get up in the morning all set to get through the day alcohol free, and then…blech. There it is, that uphill slog, that I-hate-this feeling, that oh-jeez-it’s-gonna-be-a-long-night feeling, that what-the-heck-was-I-thinking-when-I-signed-up-for-this feeling. It would be soooooo nice and easy to cave. You’ve been so good. You deserve a break. You abstained four whole days this week. If it’s this hard right now, there is no way you can finish this whole 31 days anyway, right?

You might even get that feeling every single afternoon/evening. Hey, you’re not alone!

You know what? I used to absolutely hate that first part of my run. I would dread it. In the beginning it often caused me to stop running, or slow to a walk, or to set myself up to believe I could not finish my goal. It eventually dawned on me after a couple of years (I’m a slow learner), that this was probably never going to change. Never. I was going to face this uphill-through-wet-cement feeling at the beginning of every run.

So, what was I going to do about it? I could let that dread keep me from getting my behind out the door, I could let it slow me down or even stop me in my tracks. I mean, really, all that apprehension, dread, angst. Who needs it?

Or. I could just get over it. Yup. Just stop thinking about it. I mean, it’s gonna be there, I’m gonna hate it, but I don’t have to anguish about it. Kind of like a big ugly piece of furniture in your living room. You don’t have to love it, but you don’t have to stare at it all day either.

I decided that when I started to feel that foreboding, I would just shake my head and think about something else, like how I was getting just the tiniest bit stronger every run. I’d get that strong Rocky thing going on in my head, and then poof! the dread would come back and zap! Think about something else. Over and over.

Slowly, I began to anticipate that slugging-it-out incline a little differently. I kept a watchful eye out, and became careful not to let it trick me into giving up. I knew it was a fraud and an impostor, trying to con me, and I determined not to let it win.

Now, guess what? After five years I have actually started to look forward to that first hard part of my run. Instead of dreading it as something that can hold me back, I relish it as a challenge that makes me stronger. I gain way more strength from that little ascent than I do from the easy peasy descent on the other side.

I have learned to take this same approach to abstaining.

There are times when the thought of getting through the first fifteen minutes at home after work without alcohol seems impossible. Every sound, every light, every small conversation or interaction is like fingernails on a blackboard. Honestly, I cannot conceive of enduring those first fifteen minutes without a drink, much less the rest of the evening, so I might as well give up now and enjoy that drink, right?

And on my drive home, you know all of this is going through my head, dreading the clenched jaw, the tight breathing, that screech in my brain. It’s enough to drive me to drink. I can start to feel that same old angst and run with it, OR I can run through it and say to myself, “Bring it on.” Abstaining through that small incline will set me up for abstaining through the long haul. Heck, if I can make it without drinking for that short amount of excruciating torture, then I sure as heck can make it for the next couple of hours when things are calmer and quieter.

We can let those tough times overpower us, or we can overpower the tough times. It’s up to each one of us to make the call.

You up for finishing this?

Post Submitted By: HorseLover, MM Listserv Member

9 thoughts on “Day 23: Getting Stronger

  1. Stephanie

    I am a runner and my morning runs are wonderful now. Long runs are so much better with good sleep minus the alcohol the night before. We can do this

    1. Horse Lover

      Me too, Raul! I’m lucky that I started to run about the time I started to try to get control over my drinking, and that my running really really informs my work w/alcohol. When I feel like I’m gonna cave on an evening I had planned to abstain, I can picture myself on a hard run, and that changes my thinking about drinking.

  2. Rauzo

    Thank you HorseLover, things are calmer and quieter! I’m ready to start the day and hit the streets for an early morning run!
    We can do this!

    1. Horse Lover

      You go, Rauzo! I missed my run this morning, but will do a nice long one tmro. Glad to have a fellow runner on this journey!

  3. Jerry Porter

    Read yesterday’s comments. Those combined with today’s message help me to say I am starting AGAIN today.

    1. Horse Lover

      Awright, Jerry! Every time we set foot outside that door, we get a little stronger. Good on ya!

      1. Jerry Porter

        Thanks Horse Lover, that is what I am depending on at this time. I believe it at a deep level as well.

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