That is what was going through my head during the last hundred yards or so of the recent 1/2 Ironman I completed. I mean I had just done a 1.2 mile swim, 56 miles on the bike and run nearly a half marathon, a few yards in the sand wasn’t going to kill me.
Or was it?
I don’t know if you have ever run in the sand, but it’s not easy. And let me be clear, this wasn’t the nice packed sand down close to the water which after 6+ hours of racing could be mistaken for road. No, this was the soft sand which felt like it was grabbing your feet and pulling you backwards every step. Yes - I have to say, those last few yards were brutal. That being said, I made it through; not very gracefully, and certainly not very prettily, but I made it through. I just kept telling myself, “A few more steps, just make it through these few yards.” In the big picture it was a very small part of the race, but at the time it felt huge.
Now that my body has recovered from that day, I find myself looking back and trying to glean wisdom from what I put my body through that day. Completing a race which less than .5% of the population has even started is an accomplishment of which I am proud. But for me it’s much more than the physical.
For me it’s the sense of completion, of setting my mind to something which a few years ago would have been impossible for me to even contemplate, let alone complete, and finishing it. I am by no means fast at the races, but I complete them, slowly and methodically; one step at a time. In looking at it, in many ways the races I do are analogous to my sobriety.
At Loeta we work with a great number of people who are struggling with substance use. People contemplating how to live a life free of alcohol or drugs, and what that would look like. I know many clients have said the same thing to themselves that I have said when first presented with doing a race of a seemingly insane length. No way; that’s impossible.
But just like I do with the race, when we break it down into small chunks, it becomes a bit more manageable.
Don’t think about the 1.2 mile swim, just swim to the next buoy.
Let’s not think about how to make it through the holidays, let’s talk about what to do today.
Use this transition time to get yourself ready for your ride, you made it through the swim.
Before I rush off to work, I’m going to take time to set my intentions for the day.
And so on…
Before we know it, we are slowly making it through; we realize every step is getting us closer to the end of the race, and every minute sober is a victory in its own.
We also realize we can’t do it alone. We need the support and love of family and friends to make it through. Additionally, some of us need a coach, a professional to guide us through the process. Sure we can do it alone, but it is a lot easier to be able to talk with someone to bounce ideas off of. Someone to have as a guide and a support who has been there and knows what’s coming up for us so we can lean in and finish what we started.
And of course, there are the inevitable obstacles; the hills, the cocktail parties, the broken chains and the family reunions.
And then there’s the sand.
The damn sand...
But we make it through that as well.
And, just like that it’s over. We made it through the race and through the day. But of course tomorrow presents a whole new set of challenges and opportunities which we will tackle when it’s time to do so.
Like maybe the full Ironman…
Bar Clarke has been working with families for 30 years. He uses his knowledge of family dynamics coupled with his own personal struggles to help families find a new path