Having had 10 years in recovery, sometimes I get cocky.
Maybe cocky is the wrong word. It’s more that the longer I’m in recovery, the harder it is to remember what it was like in those early days. I do remember that early on the idea of going without drinking forever seemed overwhelming and impossible, and that I was a more than a little curious how all those people who didn’t drink were able to be so damned content and happy all the time. It just seemed wrong!
I had this epiphany earlier this month when I competed in my first ever Ironman triathlon in Mont Tremblant, QC. Being a first timer, I was pretty overwhelmed when I saw the sheer number of competitors. I was completely convinced that everyone else there knew exactly what they were doing, and I was the only one who was wandering around lost. During those few days before the race, I was increasingly nervous about my ability to complete the entire 140.6 mile distance and was starting to doubt myself. Luckily for me there was the athlete’s dinner/meeting Friday night.
It was at that meeting where I learned that there were over 2700 racers from 20+ countries, ranging from elite professionals to first timers, with goals ranging from Kona qualification, to simply making the 17 hour cut-off. It was listening to Mike Reilly speak about the spirit of the Ironman which really drove home the points that; I wasn’t in this alone, there were thousands of people cheering me on, I had put in the training, I can only race my race, and most importantly this was the fun part. To me this was a lot like the very first AA meeting I went to, when I assumed that I was going to be completely different than everyone in the room, but although our stories were very different, we were all the same. It was at that very first meeting where I heard that everyone’s journey is unique to them, and the only recovery you can affect is your own – eerily similar.
It was at that moment that I knew I could do it. I just needed to race my race and have fun. I had my team of friends and family (spearheaded by my amazing wife Lauren, whose unwavering support of this adventure I could gush about for hours; perhaps that will be another blog!) I had a great attitude, and everything was lined up for an amazing day.
Honestly, until I was standing at the beach two days later with 2700 other people, unable to see the turn buoy for the 2.4 mile swim, I really felt that way. But seriously, I couldn’t see the buoy, it was just so far away…
But I snapped out of it. I stepped up the starting gate and dived in. I’m not going to delve into a full race report here but suffice it to say that during the race I modified the famous AA mantra from one day to one stroke/pedal/step at a time. I knew in my mind that every stroke, pedal or step took me closer to my goal. I also doubled down on the decision that I was going to really enjoy myself; I was going to soak in the atmosphere, I was going to laugh and sing along with the volunteers, I was going to give high 5’s, smile and have a blast - I was going to embrace the concept of power of positive thinking.
As I crossed the finish line arms up and heard Mike Reilly say my name, I knew I had an awesome race. When Iz, Finn and Lauren gave me some of the biggest hugs I had ever received, I knew I had an awesome race. Crying in Lauren's arms at the end, I knew I had an awesome race, When I saw the string of congratulatory texts and Facebook posts from friends and family, including both Alex and Nicole both posting on the social media what a bad ass their Dad is, I knew I had an awesome race.
And yes, seriously, I had fun.
So, what’s the takeaway, and how does this tie into Loeta?
The biggest take away is that It was good for me to be a first timer; for me to be forced to listen to my own advice I dole out in my consulting practice, and for me to be refreshed as to what it feels like to be a beginner. It gave me a new-found respect not only for the clients I’m working with who are struggling to adapt to life without drugs or alcohol, but also those who are simply adapting to a new way of life, whose sense of what is normal is completely new.
While I’ve always known this, what was reinforced for me a few weeks ago is that it takes a strong person to embrace the unknown and have had faith in themselves to truly take life one day at a time.