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Day 5: Celebration

“The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.” –Oprah Winfrey

I was 61 years old and had been over drinking for about ten years at that point. (Truth be told there were definitely warning signs much earlier in my life, but the true overdrinking started at about the age of 50.)

I had also been relatively fit all my life (dance, hiking, backpacking), but with kids and jobs and just plain old life stuff, the last ten years had also left the door open for, ahem, shall we say, a bit of lethargy.

I started running about the same time I finally decided to do something about my drinking. It had not escaped my notice that both overdrinking and under exercising crept in concurrently.

Right off the bat I noticed similarities between my newfound running routine and my newfound attempt to gain some control over my drinking.

I had made several attempts in the recent past to start running and stop drinking, but was not terribly successful at either. My first runs were slow, I couldn’t run very far before I had to walk, I got bored, and, ultimately I quit because, surprise, I couldn’t run five miles. In this same vein, I also would cut back pretty well on my drinking for a few days, then overdrink one night and say, “Forget it. See? I can’t do this.” Yeah, I know.

For whatever reason I came to the “Aha Moment,” that I was going to change my thinking about running. Maybe it was my age, and that this was kind of a turning point in my life. I honestly don’t know to this day how my brain made the logical switch. Somehow, someway, I finally cottoned on to the fundamental action I had to take to make this my new norm, and that is I had to fully and honestly celebrate my attempt and intent. I had to focus on the fact of me donning my running clothes and shoes and stepping out the door. Everything after that was gravy. If I only walked to the end of the block and back, then I would celebrate the fact that I got my butt out the door that day. If I ran one minute and walked five, I would celebrate that.

In fact, the true difference was noticing, observing and honoring my intent. And you know what? The change in my thinking was truly liberating! My thoughts were not the heavy, dreary, dark ones of why I wouldn’t be able to run a marathon. Instead, they were light, confident, cheerful thoughts of how cool it was for me to be outside taking steps. And when my thoughts were lighter, I could run farther. Pretty cool, huh?

Needless to say, this change in thinking about running has formed my change in thinking about drinking.

It’s a lot easier to focus on and honor a single day of abstinence than to mentally haul around guilt, shame, fear and loathing of all the times I didn’t abstain. When my thoughts are lighter, I am less apt to turn to alcohol to help me carry the burdens of guilt and dread.

Honestly, the switch in mindset has been the key to success in both areas of my life: running and gaining control over alcohol.

Okay, so all’s well and good. I’ve got the old brain change thing going on, I’m tying on those cute little running shoes, getting my behind out the door, some runs are better than others, and then… and then… Something Happens.

I wreck my knee and need to take a couple of days off; I have to work 12 hour days all week and no time to run; my evening run is derailed to help my son with his homework Which he has known about for three weeks and is due tomorrow and he’s just starting it; I need one single full day in front of the laptop to get these projects done and a run just isn’t in the cards that day. Then after a few of these events get strung together, I start to slide ever so gently towards Ugh I’m Not Really a Runner and It’s Been Five Days So What’s One More. That way of thinking leads inevitably to, you guessed it, The Land of Guilt and Dread.

Same goes for abstaining. I have every intention to abstain and then…Something Happens. My friend brings me a glass of champagne from the bar at the wedding reception; my work day is so, so, so hectic and frustrating that my willpower to resist a cold gin tonic is reduced to nil; I come home to a delicious homemade lasagna that just begs for a glass of good red wine. Even if I cave to just one of these events, I can slide oh-so-quickly towards Well, I Blew It Today So Might As Well Keep Drinking. And again, you know where that path leads: The Land of Guilt and Dread.

So, how to affect a course correction before ending up the TLOGAD? Just in case it’s not obvious, refer again to Step One. Put on your running shoes, open the door, step outside and celebrate the heck out of that one step. Put down the glass, take a breath, step away from it, and give yourself a big high five. Just take that one step and then celebrate. Yahoo! This is your celebration!

Post Submitted By: HorseLover, MM Member

14 thoughts on “Day 5: Celebration

  1. jedknight

    I was wondering where everyone was posting? Yes, its Day 5 and so far, Dryuary is a nice string of Abs days 🙂 As I put away the holiday decorations, it feels like I am mentally doing the same thing and cleaning house. I counted on the wine over the holidays to power through the evenings when I was exhausted and wanted to go to bed. Now I am going to get extra sleep, think deep thoughts, get back to my exercise routine and all my regular routines. Its been a long time since I haven’t had a drink in a month though I don’t drink daily anyway. This will be interesting!

  2. Rabbit

    “Noticing, observing and honoring my intent” is just a beautiful and brilliant statement. Celebrating the little accomplishments really help to build momentum and keep myself in a better headspace. Lovely post Horselover!

  3. Kristi

    This post! It totally hit home. Thanks for linking the exercise and drinking guilt. These interplay for me a lot–I’ll have a goal to go out and hike/bike/”run” (I’m not much of a runner) and then drink the night before and be a sloth the next day and it spirals from there. Thanks for sharing this!

  4. Stephanie

    I am a runner and this post hit home. Never saw the comparison until now. We always encourage new runners to start one step at a time. Now dry..uary is my one step at a time. The post brought me to tears. Thank you

    1. Horse Lover

      Aw, thanks for your kind words, Stephanie. I am lucky that I found the connection to the two things when I did. I use my running to gain strength in my control over alcohol, and vice versa. When you start looking, the connections and comparisons between the two are everywhere. Think of those hard uphill runs, those runs that aren’t pretty, but you did it, the ones where you had to walk for awhile, but then picked up the pace. Those are the runs that make us so much stronger.

      I remember several years ago when I joined MM I posted that I did get out on the road and “run” (though I use the word lightly) but that I didn’t consider myself a Runner, because I didn’t love it every day, I didn’t always run very far or very fast, blah blah blah. Another member who has run marathons wrote back and said, “You run. Therefore you are a Runner. Don’t let anyone, including yourself, tell you any different.” That meant the world to me.

      I’ve got my running shoes by the door and am ready to skedaddle in a minute. Have a good one!

  5. Kary May Hickey Post author

    I know, Jerry! Ain’t it a wonderful feeling.

    For the rest of you, did that glass of wine, or pint of beer win the tug-o-war match last night? Are you ready to throw in the towel and say, “See? I knew I couldn’t do this?”
    I hope not.
    A lot of us don’t succeed at our first, or second, or third attempt at going a long period without drinking but that doesn’t mean we need to throw in the towel or throw those running shoes back in the closet. (Just wait for Day 8’s post about the author’s attempts to get that elusive month long abs in. But that means you’re going to have to stick around.), We need to ask ourselves, “How am I going to feel if I give up now because I slipped once?” Then ask yourself, “How would it feel to know I didn’t let one slip stop me in my tracks?” Lace those running shoes back up. Feeling a little hungover this morning? Then, practice some self-care today and don’t beat yourself up, those running shoes will be waiting at the front door tomorrow.

    For those who won the tug-o-war last night, how does this morning feel? 7 years down the road after giving up drinking and, for me, non-hungover mornings are still a gift. I still love to get up before the sun comes up, light a candle, or light the woodstove, and just sit.

    1. Rudy

      It feels great! This going to be easy. Can’t wait do see and feel the changes in 30 days! We can all do this!

  6. Jerry Porter

    Thank you for your experience, strength and hope(can you tell I have some AA under my belt?)
    I am aware of the rainbow period soon after stopping drinking heavily and experienced my first urge to drink last night that required applying newly minted skills. “Not an option” was one thought and the other was that I would feel GOOD in the AM with out a hangover. Here I am in the AM, no hangover feeling GOOD and soooooo grateful. Yesssss!

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