I am an addict. I think if we are honest, we all are. Our addictions just vary in what they are and how strong their holds on us are. We all have something we go to when life gets tough, and there are always times when life gets tough. Ok, I'm not a big drinker, I've never smoked or done drugs, I don't like to gamble. But I have my own vices. Before I met my husband, I was a bit of a relationship junkie. Instead of dealing with emotions and situations that are hard to deal with on my own, I tended to rely on whatever relationship I was in to try to fill the void and make me feel better. Not surprisingly, relying on another person to make me happy did not usually end well. Sometimes I think having control in relationships and in life is a way that we Type As try to find fulfillment. The fact of the matter is that life is not something that can always be controlled, and as I have learned (and still am learning), trying to feed my addiction to control tends to make me (and often the people in my life) unhappy.
I have several other addictions that I like to escape to when life gets tough. I have a small addiction to prime time soaps - specifically Desparate Housewives and the like. Not intelligent television by any means, but the drama of their lives makes me feel like my own problems are small and insignificant in comparison. I have other addictions, among them cleaning and nagging my husband about cleaning (the control freak rears her ugly head), Ben & Jerry's raspberry cheesecake ice cream, Chinese food, and long hot showers.
Another addiction I have is the one that actually often helps me avoid the other addictions, and not feel too guily when I do indulge in them. I am addicted to running. I have found that running is a healthy outlet for my inner control freak. Setting goals for myself and striving to meet them, whether that be how many miles I run or how fast I go, allows me to channel that focused part of myself into something constructive and healthy.
The other side of the coin is that running is a release of control. When I run, I lose myself in the music in my headphones and the thoughts in my head. When I find myself busy throughout the day, I find the only time I take sometimes to pray is when I run. I talk to God, I write stories in my head, I give into the creative side of my brain that so often doesn't have an outlet in my other daily activities.
When I tell people that I'm a runner, I usually get a response asking what I've won or what level I hope to compete at. I am not a competitive runner. I will never cross a finish line first or set a race record. If anything, I compete against myself to be better than I was.
I run for completely different reasons. I run to stay sane. I run because it provides balance in my life. I run because it gives me perspective. Any problem that seemed large before my run always seemed smaller afterwards. Sometimes I run away from the stresses of my job, or the criticism of others. Sometimes I run to lose myself in muscle aches and sweat. There is something healing about the tight calves and sore heals of the first mile and the painless steady rhythm that comes after it. I run to feel alive and physical. I run to get out of the house and to get vitamin D from the sun and to exercise my dog. I run to participate in races where I will be surrounded by strangers that I have an instead kinship with. I run to fight gravity, and age, and to look good for my husband. Sometimes I run to relax. It's usually between a glass of wine and a run to unwind, and I figure the second option is the healthier one. When I don't run, I'm more crabby, I don't sleep as well, and I am definitely more tightly wound.
Addiction may be a dirty word in our society, but I'm here to say there is one addiction I'm not trying to kick, and I don't plan to for the next thirty or forty years. That's the other great thing about running - it is one of few athletic endeavors with no age limit. Go to any race and you will see runners in their sixties, seventies, even eighties! Many runners actually peak in their competitive performance in their thirties. So, the way I see it, the best is yet to come. I have many, many more miles ahead of me. Bring on the addiction.(-: