Spiritual Cardio

Everyone is talking about better health right now. Grocery stores are stocking their organic, low-fat, 100 calorie, and light items on prominent displays. Gym memberships are all FREE this month! You can purchase the latest styles in yoga pants, sports bras and training shoes for a fraction of the usual cost. Need some free weights? Want an elliptical? Prices are so low, they're practically obligation buys! I didn't grow up playing sports. Not one. My kids remind of of it regularly. They cannot fathom how I never attended a practice or served on a team. I just didn't have the desire. Too intimidating! I was usually picked last in gym class and was always so self-conscious I would do something wrong to hurt the team or mess up the game. No doubt those inner conflicts and insecurities influenced my drinking habits later...but that's another post.

I realized just earlier this week that ironically, the same year my drinking escalated was the same year I converted permanently to a more healthy lifestyle. HA!

It was the January before my 30th birthday. I was working part time and my youngest daughter was just a year old. I remember that December Carl had taken off the entire week after Christmas. We started having our own little "happy hour" in the evenings after the kids went to bed. It felt so festive, so grownup! It seemed innocent. We were home, our kids were asleep, we weren't driving. All was good until that Monday came. That same Monday seven years ago today. I remember that it was so anti-climactic. He went back to work and I was left at home with three babies and a house decorated for an expired holiday. I felt guilty wanting a cocktail. I can't drink alone! I can't drink on a MONDAY! That's what drunks do! So, I didn't. That day.

Slowly but surely over the next few months, I began to justify evening glasses of wine or nightcaps. It was something to look forward to. Something to break up the monotony of life...in January!

At that same time, the boredom triggered another emotion. I was about to turn 30! I hadn't lost the baby weight and was home alone...with three babies...in January...post-partem.  Carl had always eaten healthy and worked out regularly. He never pressured me to do so and cared less what I ate or how much I weighed. But all of a sudden, I DID! I started asking him questions and joined in during his morning workouts. It was so stimulating! My mood improved, I had goals, and I felt like I was accomplishing something. (Since working part-time and raising three babies isn't enough).

I began to feel more self-confident, more attractive. Add a drink to my hand and I was also glamorous and grownup! I have worked out several times a week ever since then and completely changed my eating habits. Thank GOD! My addiction specialist said that lifestyle choice may have easily prolonged, or even prevented a deeper plummet into my alcoholism. By working out every day, I was helping to rid my body of the toxins I was drinking every night while also releasing the serotonin to keep my mood and spirits higher. My obsession with fitness was bracing me from plunging into the pit of a deep depression! I was so obsessed with working out and drinking that I would work out harder to justify drinking earlier. I had "earned" it.

Those first six months were brutal! The changes to my lifestyle, my eating, and my physical ability were trying. I remember working so hard every day. Now, making healthier choices at restaurants and the grocery store is second nature. Working out is part of my regular routine. It's natural. I hadn't experienced such a transformation of both the mind and body like  I did that 30th year...until my 37th.

These last six months have forced me to engage a new level of both physical and emotional fitness. The cravings from alcohol have become less consistent, are more irregular. My spiritual fitness and emotional health have only improved. I've been spending time with God each day and reflecting on my choices as I depend on Him for strength and direction. Things have been going great! I attend meetings regularly have  mostly adjusted to sober living. And then the holidays came.

I've referenced my flee from Thanksgiving and the trial of hosting a family dinner in early December. In both of those situations, I had to dig deep to tap into all that I had been taught and to resist what felt normal, what felt right. I pushed through the pain and stretched those screaming instincts. It was hard, but I made it!

This last week, I was unable to post because we were on our annual family ski trip in the mountains. I had no computer access. Have you ever skied before? The mountains close at 4:00. It's too early for dinner. People are already "out" in the vacation spirit. What do you do? Go to Happy Hour! I remember telling Carl many years ago that I was anxious to learn to ski because I loved the "atmosphere." I didn't care about fresh powder! I cared about a fresh drink! Bloody Mary's and Mimosas. Beer. During après ski, no one cares what you drink or how much. It's incredible!! You can drink until your heart's content because you WALK back to where you're staying. Then, you're expected to go to bed early to get up to ski again. Workout. Drink Up. Pass Out. Repeat.

I'd forgotten about this paradise until I had to relive it again last week. It was so hard. I thought I was prepared, but I wasn't. I began to feel sorry for myself. The first slip into that PIT. Self-PITy.

But, by the Grace of God, go I.

I started calling my sponsor and she reminded me, "what we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition." I prayed for strength, and I was able to avoid the bar that night. I talked to Carl and my friend. I was reminded how blessed I am that my husband no longer drinks and my closest friend chooses not to when with me. I prayed for direction, and I was encouraged to take some alone time.  I read my book and I prayed for other drunks. I prayed for relief and found the joy in guiltless splurging on good coffee and chocolate. I wrote in a "joy" journal, listing all of the little things for which I am so thankful:

Kids who can put on their own ski boots.

An alcoholic relative who also inspired family members to get educated.

Our Amazon Prime account seamlessly streaming onto the TV.

My daughters and niece getting along.

A ski rental store within walking distance of our place.

A nice shower head.

Stores that open early for forgotten accessories.

Naturally waking up early, before the kids.


I skied with my family and focused on the beauty of the mountain and the clarity of the memories.  I reached out to new friends I've met in the program, and they shared support and praise through their own experiences.  I worked hard. SO hard. Just like I did seven years ago. I worked hard to resist the cravings, to replace them with other better choices. (Flavored sparkling water should only be served in The Holy Grail.) I endured emotional conflict and I fought my temptations. I worked every spiritual muscle I have, and used every piece of recovery equipment I've been given. And I succeeded. Joyfully. Without resentment or bitterness. Not alone, but with Him spotting me. I'm almost through my fifth month. On January 17, I plan to celebrate six months sober.

His grace is made sufficient in my weakness.

I'd heard this verse before. But I didn't know what it meant, let alone believed it. Until I found, and started acknowledging my thorn. I finally  understand one of the simplest, most profound verses in the bible.

And that feels really grownup.