Part Four: Breadline to finish line?
As if my thousand splendid, sober suns hadn’t given me enough to work with (they say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger after all), I was also fighting a continued losing battle to keep my bank account out of the red.
I had not only left my marbles, but all financial security in the hands of my ex-partner and walked out of the property we jointly owned. The lack of a marriage certificate to show for my devotion to the ‘cause’ left me in the civil court system trying to get it sold. Not much has been on my side during this particular struggle and it’s one that rages on. In the meantime, I had debts which were a hangover of that previous life and eventually had no choice but to put them in the hands of a debt management charity.
Taking an active role in supporting Mum’s day to day routine meant that initially a limited income came in the form of various benefits. I would not swap the time spent supporting Mum’s care and often ponder how life contrived for me to be exactly where I needed to be when her health further deteriorated. The period served to put to rest an on/off history of difficulties that had existed between us; ours had not always been an easy mother/daughter bond, but towards the end, when she wasn’t always ‘with us’, I know that she was proud of the changes I had made. I will forever remain grateful that she was around to share my London Marathon journey and that I ran for her beloved charity, Guide Dogs for the Blind. She passed away within a few weeks of my second recovery anniversary and her smile beamed out of her sadly emaciated face as my daughter shared the news. I miss you Mum.
Everything changed financially when she was admitted to hospital for the last time as she was moved from there into a nursing home. At the grand old age of 50 and for the first time in my life, I found myself at the mercy of the Job Centre. Finally ready to return to the profession I loved, but had naively left ten years earlier, I had taken advantage of opportunities offered via my aftercare support and undertaken a three month course in peer mentoring. I was already volunteering weekly and with hindsight recognise that I was extremely lucky to have been in the right place at the right time when the right job came up. I secured myself full time employment relatively quickly, needing to claim only a few weeks Job Seeker’s Allowance before starting a salaried post. I could not love my job more and nor could I wish to work with a more amazing bunch of people. You know who you are and you all rock my world ☺
It would, of course, have been hard for me to plead complete breadline poverty if you knew I had developed a healthy obsession with running and triathlon. There’s no doubt the money I drank quickly found a way into race entry fees, gear and coaching. No matter how far the chips were down during those thousand suns, it was a very rare occasion for me not to train or not to race and I even made it work so that I could spend a week in Majorca on a triathlon training camp. For sure, there were sacrifices and my social life continues to be mostly non-existent.
In my experience being around people who find themselves on this recovery journey, I have observed that those who meet it with the greatest of success are those who find their ‘thing’. Your ‘thing’ won’t be the same as my ‘thing’. I know some who’s ‘thing’ is art and crafts or jewellery making, painting or drawing, writing or cooking, flower arranging and gardening. Your ‘thing’ can be any ‘thing’, but I’d really encourage anyone struggling to get out there and find their ‘thing’.
My ‘thing’ wasn’t really new to me. I had ‘flirted’ around the edges of the health and fitness industry for decades; I’m a level 2 qualified instructor for various activities and have taught fitness classes on and off over that time. What was new to me was sticking at it and being consistent with training. Previously the amount I was drinking had naturally impaired any real progress I might make and so it was achieving consistency that motivated me forwards in those early days.
I’d never considered myself a runner and never particularly aspired to be one, but the couch to 5km app was free and I could use the local sports centre gym on certain days for free when I wanted to hide behind the treadmill rather than be seen outside! Running offered me uncomplicated freedom, head space to think, to process the truly shitty days, time to digest inspiring the audio books and podcasts needed to strengthen my recovery resolve.
I completed that first 5km on the treadmill in April 2016, two months after getting sober and soon started to venture outside to do ‘real’ running! Once I discovered the local canal route and bird reserve area there was no going back. Running these routes became my therapy and I can’t really put into words the healing that took place pounding those trails, save to say that one of my highlight events was to complete a half marathon around my very own happy place a few weeks ago.
I excitedly signed up to complete my first 10km race in the summer of 2016, but by then was already eyeing up the ultimate big running prize! In a moment of what can only be described as temporary insanity, I had applied and successfully secured a place to run the London Marathon. On 23rd April 2017 I completed the 26.2 miles in 4hrs 37 minutes, just 12 months after completing that C25K and raised over £2,500 for Guide Dogs for the Blind.
I’m really not entirely sure when I became this person, but within three years and I appear to have managed to cross the finish line of a few more 10kms, half marathons, two marathons, a few triathlons and on July 29th 2018 fulfilled my somewhat insane desire to become an iron distance triathlete. What’s scarier is that I think I’ve only just begun!
I’m often asked why I do what I do and it’s not something I find it easy to answer. Is it simply because I am here and I can? There was a time when I just wanted to drink myself to death and then there was a time when I believed blood tests would reveal irreversible liver damage that would seriously compromise my health. Being that neither of these things came to pass, I just owe it to myself and to my children to stay as strong as I can, to be as healthy as I can and most of all just live my fucking best life.
‘You are allowed five emotional minutes in the day, then you gotta be gangsta’
Sorry. Not Sorry.
Special thanks to;
My kids for not completely giving up on me, for continuing to conquer their own little worlds and for being the forces that drive me forward every day.
My Aunty Joan and my cousin Emma for being all the family I really ever needed.
My partner Andy, for being there always, for sometimes knowing me better than I know myself, for showing me that it’s safe to love again and for being the very best partner in crime.
The few friends closest to me; old faces and some very new, but who know who they are, who always have my back and make me laugh until my sides split.
Simon de Burgh at Tri Force Endurance for having way more belief in my ‘aspiring athlete’ fantasies than I ever had and for becoming a more important person in my life than I think he realises!
All at #teamtriforce for being in the background inspiring me to keep going on the really bad days when I would question what on earth I was thinking and wanted to throw the towel in.
For the local, UK and world wide #recoverypossse, of whom there are just too many to name, but who know who they are and who keep me grounded every day.
My Mum, for demonstrating a level of inner strength that defied her disabilities. If I’ve been lucky enough to inherit only a fraction of that strength then I can move forward in life safe in the knowledge that I know I will be ok.
About our author:
In her own words, Kathryn is:
An over qualified @drunk, sobering up with effect 11th February 2016. #Fitmummy to Elinor, Alys and Isaac; aspiring athlete with race goals to smash and shit heavy weights to lift; running freak and triathlete in training; passionate bore for all things health, wellbeing and nutrition related.
Eating clean in my narcissist-free zone; surviving domestic abuse and happily giving romance a whole fresh chance.
Nothing changes if nothing changes.
These are the days of my life.