I remember my first run like it was yesterday. I was 12 years old and I ran a half mile with a woman I babysat for. My father had just passed away of alcoholism and she suggested I try running to help with the sadness. My love affair with running had begun.
Growing up, I faced my fair share of trauma and abuse. I used running to quiet the pain/noise in my head. In college, my friends and I ran all the trails we could find in Boone, North Carolina. Looking back at those years, running created a safe community of amazing women for me. I was dedicated to playing hard and partying didn’t fit into my early morning adventures. After college I moved to Bend, Oregon. The trails there are endless. My running friends supported one another, and I felt safe.
As life happened, I got married, had a child, and finished my Master’s degree in Nursing. I had everything going for me professionally, but my marriage was not healthy. I got divorced and the running community supported me as I found my way again. Running the trails was my medicine. Running got me through another painful point in my life. Eventually, I got remarried to a wonderful man that, to this day, I get to call my husband. My husband and I had a child and it was a happy time. I was running well and winning a fair amount of races. Looking back, I noticed that my social drinking increased. I also had a bad bike wreck that left me with a concussion and torn bicep tendon. I could not run for approximately six weeks. During this time, my drinking really picked up. I was depressed and had aphasia. Every time I tried to run the headaches were debilitating. Running was not an option.
I turned 40 and quit my job because “I needed a break.” I wasn’t running much at all. I became very selfish and all I wanted was to drink. I ended up lying, cheating and stealing from those I loved most. I was drinking all day, using opiates, and taking any other drugs I could get my hands on. I found myself on a locked unit in the hospital after trying to stop drinking/using in rehab. I had lost almost everything, including my family.
I took my last drink on March 31, 2016. April 1st began my journey in recovery (yes, April Fool’s Day- LOL ). My running friends never left my side and were ready to pick me up. I remember the first time I ran 18 minutes, I was thrilled. My running group cried with me, laughed with me and everything in between. They nursed me back to health. Slowly, my family learned to love the sober me. I found a God that I surrender to every day. I am no longer in charge and I think everyone is relieved (including me 😊). Some days are tough, but my life has become better than I could have ever imagined. I have learned to live in the present and that allows me to be a much better mom and wife. I am super grateful each time I step foot onto a trail that I get to run. I am forever grateful to my female running group, because they never gave up on me.
When I run now, I am running towards life and all it has to offer. Running has never been more fulfilling. I have been able to accomplish running goals I never dreamed I would be able to accomplish. The trails bring me such peace and serenity. I often look back to the first half mile I ever ran and see my neighbor encouraging me. She believed in me like my women’s running group believed in me.
My hope is that I can pay some of that love forward. If I can help someone run their first half mile, I want to be there! If a woman is struggling with an addiction, I want to share my story so she knows she’s not alone. We never know where someone is in their personal journey. If we can use running to help other women find strength within, let’s do it. Running saves lives and I am so glad it helped save mine.