I was lost. I had no sense of who I was anymore.
In 2013, my world as I knew it came to a screeching halt. My son, Jake, died due to a heroin overdose. I was devastated. I was lost. I had no sense of who I was anymore. I spent the following year and a half on my couch. I moved only for bathroom breaks and to go to bed, only to wake up again and repeat the cycle.
At a certain point, I realized that this was not the life I wanted to lead. I was not healthy mentally or physically. So I called on some help from my friends. My walking friends greeted me with open arms and I began walking. Miles and miles and miles I walked those first six months. Walking helped me open my mind and my spirit.
At the end of those first six months I decided to try running. I wanted to run a 5K. I had no grandiose plan of running fast or setting a record, I just wanted to finish the race. I wanted to be able to say that for the first time in my life I was able to run 3.1 miles. That was my only goal: to be able to run 3.1 miles.
The first time I ran, it was .78 miles. I knew I had a long way to go to reach my goal. So, I did what I do. I googled a training plan and stuck doggedly to it. I ran my 5k. I ran very slowly, I tripped over my cold, numb feet and fell on my face (and got up) but I did it. I accomplished my goal. My saving graces and inspiration to continue my journey were, and in fact still are, my daughter Carson and my husband John. These two loyal people in my life encouraged me, as did the rest of my family. But these two live with me. These two people have been my canes and my cake throughout my journey, good and bad.
After that, a friend encouraged me to train for a half marathon. I thought, okay, why not? What do I have to lose? After Jake died I felt like there was nothing more to lose, so why not? I was starting to enjoy running, and the relief it brought me from the stress, anxiety and pain of grief was more than I could have ever expected. So I signed up. But it was hard.
What I didn’t expect to happen was that I had a lot of running miles to think about Jake. When I was running, I could cry or not cry. (I did more crying than not) I could scream out loud, I could use every bit of my anger about Jake’s death and pour it into running. I would come home spent day after day. But I always went back out. The whole endeavor scared me but I went back out. Day after day I went back out and ran.
Jake fought his addiction for a long time. One time he told me that he was used to feeling uncomfortable. I used this when I ran. If my son had been uncomfortable than who was I to quit? My legs hurt, my heart hurt, I had blisters and my spirit sagged but still I ran. I got shin splints and cramps and tennis elbow from carrying the water bottle, but still I ran. I disrupted every weekend in my household with my long runs, but still I ran.
The first six months of my running I built up my tolerance to pain. I got used to running longer distances. I got used to life without my son. I was off the couch and I had a new normal. I became a runner. I was not a great runner, but I ran. Five days a week I laced up my shoes and I ran.
When my support lifeline and friend, Justin, told me her not for profit group Overdose Lifeline had become a cause for the CNO Financial Indianapolis Monumental Run for a Cause, I didn’t hesitate. Justin’s work with Overdose Life-line is remarkable. She does amazing work to help families with support, education and training. She has helped change legislation and most importantly she has helped change the stigma of addiction.
I chose to run the half marathon and raise money to support ODLL. The support I received from my friends, family, community and total strangers was above and beyond anything I could have ever expected. I was humbled and surprised. I was taken aback by the amount of people who contacted me with stories of their own sons, daughters, wives, husbands, fathers, uncles, aunts, cousins, and friends who have been affected by this horrible opioid epidemic in our country. One after one I heard their stories.
Every day when I run I have time to think. I think about how my normal has changed since Jake died. I think about how I could only run less than a mile a year ago and how now I can easily run 13. And some days I think about about how hard it is to run two miles. Running is so much like grief, it changes. What worked for me yesterday may not work for me today. What worked for others is not quite right for me. Sometimes in these journeys we backtrack. And maybe that’s the thing with running, it ultimately strengthens the body, even with the backtracking and the setbacks. And in the strengthening of the body there is the strengthening of the mind. And that’s where I want to be. My grief is a journey as surely as my running is but they are entwined. They will evolve and change and grow as I do, up and down and forward and backward. But I will be a stronger person, because of my grief and because of my running. And I know I need to embrace my journeys, both of them, whatever may come my way. #bemonumental #strongbodystrongmind #operationgetoffthecouch
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