By Gini Bowling
What better way to celebrate my two-year sober birthday than to go out of my comfort zone? I am not an athletic person – I smoke, and love to sit on the couch and watch TV. Walk eighteen miles? Sure! Why not?
I get to the Shuv around 5:30 and head out to Shirley’s. The first person I see is Karen who greets me with a huge hug. “This is my old roomie”, she announces to the other residents nearby. Karen and I went through primary together, then sober living and finally Independent.
Karen has been a huge inspiration for me throughout my recovery. I am a VERY competitive person and Karen came into Beit T’Shuvah after I did. Our time sharing a room while in primary was amazing but too short. She moved up to sober living before I did….WHAT? OH noooooooooooooooooooooooooo….I couldn’t have that!!!! My competitive side (also known as my ego) took over, and snapped me into action. The next week I had a job and was moving to sober living. Thanks Karen. 🙂
A very similar chain of events happened when transitioning to Independent living. Karen went first and I followed very shortly after.
There are about 10 of us excitedly piling into the van as Doug drives us to Hermosa Beach. We’ve got our backpacks full of healthy snacks and water. The sun is setting on the ocean and I take it all in with a deep breath. There are people all along the bike path with their dogs and their bikes. A happy energy consumes me – sort of like that feeling I got as a child when everything was perfect in the universe. Some of the people in the group I have not spent too much time with other then maybe a hello in passing, but right at this moment, we have become bonded.
We start our journey.
Half of the group walks ahead at a faster pace, I can see them disappearing into the night. Karen, MJ, Steph and Ronit are my comrades. We can barely see the embryonic lights of the Santa Monica ferris wheel far away in the distance. “Keep looking at the ferris wheel”, Karen says.
At around mile 8, MJ points to the marker on the bike path and says, “Look, mile 8!” I am shocked. “Shut UP!”, I say. “No way — this is EASY!” MJ chuckles and says, “Just wait till 18, when your legs feel like jello”. I am not worried I think to myself. If Karen can do it, so can I! I look over at Karen and she’s truckin’ along.
Just then I look over at the ocean, and I see big beautiful lights. “Oh my God you guys, look at that cruise ship!” Through her laughter, Karen says, “That’s not a cruise ship, that’s an oil rig!” We roar into laughter for miles.
We are somewhere in the Marina at this point (can’t gauge because we’ve lost sight of the ferris wheel) and we are lost. I pull out my GPS on my phone and we are on our way. We walk about a mile and I hear MJ say, “Oh Gin”. I look up and we are at a dead end. At this point, Steph has a stomach ache and a blister and can’t go on. She sits down and says, “You guys go…I can’t do anymore, tell them to come pick me up here.” “Oh no” I say, “Come on, you can do it”. She reluctantly gets up and we back track until we get back on the right course.
We are somewhere between 14 and 18 miles, and I am starting to loose speed. My feet and legs hurt so bad. There is no way that I believe that I can do this anymore. – Thank God for GaGa in my iPod. A bit further, and I fall back to the rear. I can see the rest of the crew pushing on and I wonder how they are doing it. I just don’t understand where they are finding the energy to push forward. I keep shifting back and forth in my mind – “I can’t do this” to “If they can do it, then so can I” and back to “I can’t do this”. We find our way back to the bike path and I can see the ferris wheel. It has definitely gotten bigger, however it’s not big enough. At this point my phone alerts me of a new Facebook message. It’s David, he’s updated his status to say, “successful mission. completed with ease and comfort. thank you all for your love and support, i mean that wholeheartedly. “ – I want to throw my phone for a moment and then I realize that this status couldn’t have come at a better time.
It’s about 1:00 in the morning and we are walking (dragging) through Venice. Steph falls back with me and asks me if I’m ok. I say, “No. I am not ok. I can’t go anymore”. She says, “Oh no, yes you can..you can do it!” I don’t believe that I can do it at that moment, but something inside me is pushing me. That ferris wheel is getting brighter and bigger…
The last mile was the most difficult. MJ stayed with me and put up with me having to stop every few feet to sit. At one point he asked me if I wanted him to carry me the rest of the way. I said, “No..I can do this, I just need to rest for a second”. Thanks MJ.
We finally made it to the ferris wheel. My legs felt like they were going to fall off. My eyes welled up with tears and I felt a lump in my throat. I did it. I can’t believe I did it. I walked eighteen miles. I was floating.
This experience has affected other areas of my life. I am pushing through things everyday, that previously I would have given up on. I have this drive inside now that is taking the place of fear. I realize the importance of community and lifting each other up. The bond that I have with the others is indescribable. Anything is possible if you want it and are not afraid to ask for help! You can do it!