Monthly Archives: March 2014

Pain is Weakness Leaving the Body


By Eliot Godwin

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The modern marathon as a sporting event was inspired by the fabled story of Philipedes, who ran from the battlefield at Marathon to Athens to announce the Greek victory over the Persians. After uttering his last words, “joy to you,” he promptly collapsed and died. When I ran the L.A. Marathon earlier this month, I wasn’t bringing any news to anyone in particular, but I certainly felt like collapsing and death was probably in play at some point.

You see, I took the marathon lightly. I went to the weekly training sessions because my counselor suggested I get involved in any and all physical activities offered at Beit T’Shuvah. Running a few miles on Sunday mornings seemed like a logical extension of that. I’d train for the half-marathon and just run the full on race day like no big deal. I rarely considered the marathon as an actual task; in my mind it felt more like just the end of my Sunday running appointments.

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Even on race day I complained about having to get up so early (4:30 A.M.) and tried to sleep as everyone else stretched and got excited for the race. When the race finally started, I felt great and decided I’d have no problem keeping pace with my friend who had been training seriously for months. This went against everything our coaches had repeated week after week, but I was a lifelong athlete, I’d played a Division I sport in college (12 years ago, mind you) and how long is 26.2 miles, really?

It’s long. By mile eight, I’d given up on keeping pace with my friend but I still thought I’d be able to finish no problem. At mile ten the five-hour pace runner had come and gone and I started feeling…a little less confident. At the halfway point I was supposed to stop and take a van to the block party at mile 19 but something about that just felt wrong. Get in a van while my fellow runners continued to suffer? Quit halfway and go party? It seemed like a metaphor for how I had lived my life thus far. I’d take a passion project lightly so when I inevitably quit halfway through, my lack of follow through wouldn’t carry much sting.

I was drawn to gambling because there was little effort and/or preparation required but lucrative, tangible results were attainable. No effort, cash reward? Sign me up! But I soon found out the principles of life don’t change just because you’re in a casino. Add compulsive addiction to the mix and I was licked. Preparation and discipline are key to any type of success, they just manifest in different, sometimes more subtle ways. I thought I could get by on my wits and guile, like a college student who shows up to a sociology midterm half-drunk expecting to ace it. But college and casinos aren’t real life until you leave.

At Beit T’Shuvah I’ve learned that pain and hardship are inevitable. Our impulses can often be damaging and will always be there, but preparing accordingly to deal with them will afford us a healthy, balanced life. Sitting with discomfort is possibly the most important part of overcoming addiction. My sojourns to the casino were attempts to not only completely escape the difficulty of life but to live life on my own terms, without the pain. And what did I eventually find in the casino? Pain, destruction and misery on a whole new level.

At mile 15 the pain was so great that I convinced myself I wouldn’t be able to finish. After all, I had only trained for the half-marathon, was it so bad if I stopped at mile 19? 19 miles was a lot, a terrific accomplishment. But when I scoffed my way through the halfway point I had committed to finishing. They say running a marathon is more mental than anything. At that point my body was telling me to stop and my mind was agreeing wholeheartedly. I was convinced I would need a wheelchair for months and that my knees would be irreparably injured. But something inside of me kept whispering, “finish.” At the 19th mile block party, stopping was never a real option as my friends cheered me on with hugs and high fives. The surge of confidence and adrenaline I got from this brief interlude carried me until my mind again intervened with the realization that “you’re almost there!” really meant, “you have more than seven more miles left.”

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Through miles 20-23 I saw multiple people carried away on stretchers, heard people talking about a 28-year old male who had a heart attack (I’m 34), and was passed by the older brother of Rip Van Winkle on one crutch. Still I persisted. The pain was unbearable but I bore it proudly like the medal of supreme achievement that would soon hang on my neck. After a few more miles, I could see the finish line! When I finally finished and obtained one of the few remaining medals, a race volunteer promptly removed it from my neck and replaced it with the half-marathon medal that matched my special yellow bib. The look of confusion and exasperation on my face must have been enough to persuade one of the blithe, less-experienced volunteers to give it back.

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I’ve always thought my shortcomings were the result of my refusal to finish what I’d started, not a lack of confidence. I thought I had confidence in spades and I just didn’t care enough to follow though on anything meaningful. But really I didn’t believe in myself enough to allow myself to fail. I was scared of what would happen if I finished something I cared about and it wasn’t all that good. I finished the marathon in six hours and 45 minutes. Over that span, the winner of the race could have run three marathons and still have time left over for a shower, a shave, and a leisurely cab ride to the airport. Instead of being upset with myself for taking so long, I am filled with confidence because I finally committed to something and I followed through to the end. It may not have been the Greeks defeating the Persians, but it was definitely a joyous occasion for me.

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Filed under 12-Steps, addiction, Alcoholics Anonymous, Beit T'Shuvah, BTS Communications, Community, Current Events, Gratitude, Judaism, LA Marathon, Run To Save A Soul, Sobriety, Spirituality, T'Shuvah

Does Facebook Reflect Your True Self?


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Special Thanks to Susan B Krevoy Eating Disorder Program Blog for providing us with this material.

By Eliot Godwin

The Internet is not real. In real life, much less choice is involved in how we present ourselves. We are who we are, and even if we try to hide our secrets, they have a way of surfacing in subtle ways. Online, we can pick and choose exactly what we present to our ‘friends’ and how we present it. Our online selves are mostly trim and tidy, we allow sloppiness if it’s tasteful and mildly self-deprecating. Even the most blithe Facebook user has removed an unflattering tag or two.

But for young people who’ve never known a world without Facebook, the Internet is very real. A recent study conducted by Florida State University found a correlation between time spent on Facebook and eating disorders. Facebook combines peer influence with popular media, both of which are tied to self-worth. Instead of seeing only models in magazines and on television, now women can see their skinnier peers in swimsuits on their Facebook pages.

“Your friends are posting carefully curated photos of themselves on their Facebook page that you’re being exposed to constantly. It represents a very unique merging of two things that we already knew could increase risk for eating disorders,” Dr. Pamela K. Keel explains. Dr. Keel and other psychologists at Florida State studied 960 college women in their study and outlined their findings in a paper, “Do You ‘Like’ My Photo? Facebook Use Maintains Eating Disorder Risk”.

Just as Facebook and other forms of social media have contributed to increased and more tortuous bullying of adolescents, this study shows that it clearly contributes to what the National Eating Disorder Association calls “unprecedented growth of eating disorders in the past two decades.”

The problem is that we see our Facebook pages as parts of ourselves instead of what they are: pictures. Facebook is a brilliant concept, executed with precision and clean simplicity. But it’s not an accurate representation of who we are. For young people whose identities are often inextricably tied to Facebook, it’s hard to take a step back and see the chasm that exists between who they really are and their Facebook page. Dr. Keel reminds us to “consider what you are pursuing when you post on Facebook. You are a whole person and not an object, so don’t display yourself as a commodity that then can be approved or not approved.”

How we’re perceived, especially as it pertains to images of ourselves posted on the Internet, is not who we are. Feeling secure has to do with actions, deeds and life. Not pictures. It’s shallow and destructive to tie our self-worth to photographs. My Facebook page shows some pictures of me and that I ‘like’ broccoli, The Wire and Daft Punk. Is that who I am? Broccoli and Daft Punk? More revealing than my ‘likes’ is that I chose to post them on Facebook. I am the choices I make, not what I choose to reveal on a website. Are the choices you’ve made lately posted on your Facebook page? Is it a detailed representation of who you are, or an e-scrapbook with comments?

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Filed under addiction, Beit T'Shuvah, BTS Communications, Current Events, Eating Disorder, Internet, Sobriety, Spirituality

The Mind of a Marathon Runner


By Eliot Godwin

Beep beep beep beep…

shutterstock_152330102I can’t say for sure why I hate my alarm clock. It’s an inanimate object. I’m definitely smarter than my alarm clock and it does exactly what I tell it. Perhaps I really just hate myself for committing to getting up early and running miles upon miles every Sunday morning. More likely it’s that I love myself enough to commit to something that makes me physically healthier and mentally stronger, and follow through on that commitment each week. Clearly, it’s tough love.

The perspective from under my comforter is bleak. A snoring, farting roommate. Accruing laundry. Clouds and rain. Once I get up, however, the world doesn’t look so intimidating. How quickly the body responds to the act of going from horizontal to vertical in the morning. The brain needs blood to operate, and getting vertical denies my brain the blood it needs to make bad decisions like ‘stay in bed’ or ‘do drugs’ or ‘gamble.’ I leave my room! I interact with people! I eat bagels!

When I start running, the endorphins start to flow and life is good. Invariably, I wonder how I ever considered not getting out of bed. With the unwavering support and infectious enthusiasm of Stephanie Cullen and Craig Miller, along with everyone else on the team, I feel a part of something. We train on our own during the week, and every Sunday the team meets at the Santa Monica Pier for our weekly runs, some as long as 20 miles.

In so many ways, my weekly marathon training is a microcosm of rehabilitation. Arresting my addiction is difficult because it is uncomfortable, like getting out of bed. Training for a marathon is hard and daunting, but the road is paved with success and encouragement, along with the inevitable difficulties. My team is supportive and present; we look out for each other and hold each other accountable.

Once training ends, the real thing awaits. Hopefully we’ve been present in our preparation and have amassed a toolbox of the strategies and skills necessary to succeed. Like life, the marathon is fraught with peril and unexpected complications will certainly arise. But failure is much less an option than a choice we simply cannot make.

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Filed under Beit T'Shuvah, Community, Current Events, LA Marathon, Run To Save A Soul