Awhile ago I read a piece in the New York Times about two amazing runners. They're 10 and 12 and have been placing ahead of many grown-ups in trail races. Often, they are the only under-eighteen competitors. Although there is some debate about whether they should be allowed to run these races (harkening back to old theories about whether women can run), that isn't what stuck with me about this article.
Right before the race their dad says, "don't let your mind ruin things for your body." As a runner, this really spoke to me. On any given day I find myself coming up with all sorts of reasons to stop running. These reasons aren't real. Oh, maybe there's a slight twinge in my foot or my hip, or maybe I'm pushing it a bit hard that day. But the real truth of the matter is that I don't always like to run unless it feels effortless. My mind triggers thoughts of all that I should be doing instead, minor aches and pains become harbingers of severe injury, and when I allow these thoughts purchase, my running actually suffers.
I think sobriety is like this too. Our minds really do ruin things for us. Instead of feeling grateful for all of the gifts we've received, we pick apart situations until they're untenable. We don't feel worthy of ourselves and we think of how nice it used to be to check out for a few hours. We forget the bad parts of our drinking and reminisce about the good parts. We remember the cool blast of a nice glass of white wine.
On Friday at the grocery store one of the employees came over to the cheese aisle and asked if I wanted to taste some wines. It was a shock and jolted me out of my careful search for sheep's milk cheese. I couldn't have been more surprised if he'd offered me cocaine. It was only after my initial reaction that I noticed the table set up with tasting wines. Suddenly it seemed benign, but at the same time I could physically taste that first sip. And I could easily remember a time when a quick shop for an evening's dinner might have turned into an early buzz. It was such an urgent feeling that I had to grab a Dr. Pepper and swig it right in the store - so urgent was the need to get the imaginary taste of the wine out of my mouth.
Our minds our powerful. They give us permission to soar and they take it away summarily, often without apparent provocation. At the moment, I'm working to remember this when I'm running and I'm hopeful that lessons learned on the road will transfer themselves to other situations in my life.
Who knew the grocery store wine pushers could be so dangerous? Take care out there and remember to reach for a Dr. Pepper.