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Part 3: Once a ghost now a butterfly: My journey of recovery

Welcome to Part 3 and the final installment of my journey of recovery, if you haven’t yet read Part 1 and  Part 2 please click on the links and read them first.

So after finally admitting that I was in fact an alcoholic, my life turned into an even bigger roller-coaster! If that is even possible! I have been struggling with posting this part of my journey Despite all the hell that led me to the journey of recovery, recovery at times hasn’t always been pretty. At least the initial years weren’t.

I felt like a 13 year old child that didn’t know how to do anything. The fact that I was a newly promoted Sergeant trying to keep my shit together didn’t help. I took up knitting while attending 12 step meetings. I am not sure why but a lot of the young newly sober women were doing it. I even managed to knit my two dogs fancy little dog coats which they hated and on the first outing in them successfully managed to lose them!

Trying to discover who I was without alcohol was a very painful process. For a time I over indulged in casual sexual relationships and that certainly didn’t bring me any closer to discovering who I was. I look at photos from my early years of recovery and I still see a frightened little girl.

I attended 12 step recovery for the first year but didn’t actually do much about creating a life I wanted and healing my past. My second year of recovery was spent in the Middle East on deployment. Try being a year sober in a war zone. I came home a bloody mess. My third year started badly given I was still trying to understand what had happened in my head while I was in the Middle East but I managed to feel better despite trying to decide if I hated recovery or not.

1930653_38101001420_5048_nMy forth year was horrible. I had left the military and my partner broke up with me at the same time. I returned to live with my family and while I didn’t drink I wasn’t sober by any stretch of the imagination. My head was a bloody mess. Eventually, I got what is called a Sponsor and I worked the 12 steps! My life dramatically changed for the better…. Then I went back to a war zone!

I went to Afghanistan as a civilian and without meetings and a support group I did get twisted. Luckily I moved to Dubai and while I fought hard the internal battle of not wanting to go to a recovery meeting I knew it was positive in my life. My recovery was really good in Dubai and I grew a lot. So when my professional and relationship chapters of my life were done I knew it was time to leave Dubai.

When I returned to Australia 9 months later, I struggled to connect with the recovery program. Ironically this is where I had my first major successes but I no-longer belonged there. For a time I struggled with the fact I no longer wanted to attend meetings because in Dubai and before I had gone to Afghanistan and both in Sydney (where I got sober) and Perth, the other people in recovery became my social circle.

I have connected on a different level with other recovery platforms and thankfully due to the internet I am able to tap into a recovery program that fulfills my spiritual and recovery needs. That is not so say that I won’t reconnect with 12 step recovery when I return to Australia. I see my recovery has an organic life that needs to be nourished and developed. I have some misgivings about 12-step rhetoric but I also fully acknowledge it helped me get to the point I am at now.

With or without 12-step recovery here is the thing I need to tell you about recovery! It is amazing! Once you get through the initial OMG I am going to be boring without drinking, who will love me without drinking, the drink was my lover etc etc life gets amazing! Here is a list of a SMALL snippet of the things I have done sober:

  • Climbed Mt Kilimanjaro
  • Done an IRONMAN
  • Travelled to 50 countries sober (I went back to England and France sober in total I have been to 54 countries – and counting!)
  • I’ve walked the Camino de Santiago – even wrote a book which you can pick up here Camino – Amazon US
  • Run marathons in Dubai and China
  • I’ve added to my tattoo collection – I had 2 when I got sober I now can’t count them!
  • I have an amazing relationship with my Mother!
  • I’m currently studying and preparing to launch a company I have been wanting to for sometime now!
  • I’ve even danced on top of podiums in a Florence nightclub!

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Being sober hasn’t stopped me from having a life. There are only two things in life I cannot do! That is drink and drug. That is it. While there are many other things I choose not to do because they mean I don’t sleep very well; there are only two that would completely destroy all that I have worked to achieve in the last 11 odd years.

I don’t know when the ghost turned into a butterfly but at some point on my recovery journey I decided that I not only liked who I was sober but in fact I loved who I was sober. This woman is fully in love with being an eclectic, gorgeous, feminine, strong, confident and proud woman thriving in recovery.

I can only imagine the craziness and amazing things life has in store for me but one thing is for sure if I continue to follow a spiritual practice and honour that I am thriving in recovery then I won’t miss a second of it. No sitting on the couch wondering why I can’t travel, no waking up next to a guy who’s name I don’t know, no lying to my family and friends. It is going to be a roller-coaster and some things I won’t like but I will be present!

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If you are struggling with addiction of any sort I ask you to not sell yourself short. Seek help be it in the rooms of 12 step programs or elsewhere. Because you are worth living an amazing life!

Blessed Be,
Robyn

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New Year New You…Bullshit!

Version 2I know I am a little late but it still is that time of year again… New Year New You … I’m calling Bullshit!

Don’t get upset about my swearing and the fact that I’m calling bullshit on resolutions does really sound funny when it is coming from me. I am all about creating a new and wonderful life for myself but truth is that on the whole New Years Resolutions suck! Gonna do this, gonna do that crap just doesn’t work. Least not for this little chica! Ok so I am not really a chica anymore but just go with me for now.

As much as I hate the concept of New Year New You, I am actually been pretty good at making resolutions over the years. Many years I have sat down and written out a list of goals that I wanted to achieve. I have not necessarily done this at New Year.

This year as I sat at the top of Mount Kinabalu I wondered what the coming year ahead would bring. 2016 is going to be an interesting year. I am traveling semi-solo (I keep meeting people and planning to meet with them so hence the semi-solo) for the majority of the year and then returning to Australia for my younger brothers wedding to his wonderful bride whom I already call my sister-in-law.

I already have many goals mapped out for 2016.

Fitness: 1 x 50km ultra marathon and 1 x 100km ultra marathon and finally riding from Brisbane to Bondi with my coach and a group of other crazy nutters from the 26-30 Dec – that is going to be an epic 40th Birthday present to myself!
I am also doing a 200 hour yoga teachers course in India as well as completing some fitness coaching courses. Reminds me I need to finalise that payment of the course!

Health/Diet: I have been heading towards Plant-Based eating for some time now and this year I will be working even harder towards that. It is difficult traveling because I am not so sure if the food I am eating is completely meat free but to date I am still eating seafood and the occasionally dairy (chocolate is my weakness on long hikes!).  Awareness of what I am eating and how I am fueling my body for my general health as well as my fitness is all I can really ask when I am not in a position to cook my own food.

Travel: Perhaps the biggest part of this years goals in travel. I am currently sitting in Brunei, my 51st country but over the next few months I am going to: Singapore, Thailand, Philippines, Myanmar, Laos, Malaysia (mainland) and India for the second time. I am also debating if I can fit in other countries while I am at it but slow travel is more economic and with my studies and work it is also more practical!

Studies/Work: I am working my way through a course (or 2) as I travel and they will be the basis of a new and exciting adventure to come. For now I will continue to keep that a little close hold as it won’t feature till mid year.

Love: So this is not about romantic love but love for myself, life and others. While I was walking down Mount Kinabalu I realised I still have a lot of hang ups and issues pertaining to love. My romantic love history is pretty damn depressing and part of that comes from not thinking I am worth my soul mate or that I missed the boat and they doesn’t exist. One of the last guys I dated told me because I was ex-Army, training for an Ironman and independent that I was more boy than him! I guess the old saying – strong women intimate boys and excite men… Would the real men stand up and be noticed. So I guess what I am saying here is that with all the travel, adventure, study and fitness I actually don’t have room in my life for a partner but I am open and willing to work on myself so that when life presents me with an opening for love of a romantic nature I will be ready.

Minimalism: This will be my hardest area.. I am currently traveling with WAY TOO MUCH SHIT!!! Seriously, I travel all the time and yet I am still the queen of over-packing and generally just carting way too much crap with me! I think I need to just be ruthless and ditch what I haven’t worn since I left Australia a month ago!! Yes there are clothes I haven’t worn in a month that I am still carrying!!

So why do I call Bullshit on New Year New Me? I find a lot of people don’t put any thought or real consideration into their goals. I have all the details of my goals mapped out.  Timelines for completion dates and milestones. After I hit those goals and dates I will be sharing them but for now it is time to explore Brunei before I hit the road again!

Tell me, do you have a plan for 2016?

Blessed Be

Robyn xox

Great Wall Marathon Wrap Up…

Great Wall Marathon Complete!

Great Wall Marathon Complete!

Of all the epic things I have done, the Great Wall Marathon is up there with climbing Kilimanjaro and completing an Ironman.  It was possibly the hardest run I have ever completed.  This includes the marathon at the end of my Ironman, so that is telling you something of the sheer difficulty of this race. It is billed as the hardest marathon on earth.

My preparation was again unconventional and unfortunately impacted by 7 days of sickness.  After the Ironman I took 2 weeks off and this only gave me 6 weeks to prepare for the grueling 42.2 km marathon so being sick for a week of it and struggling to get my strength back proved emotional at times.   So what makes this marathon any different to a normal marathon you might ask?  Simply put you run 5km uphill then 3.5km across the Great Wall of China which includes a goat track downhill, you then run across the fort and out for 25.2km through villages and just for shits and giggles they put a 2km concrete surface hill at 20km.  Then at approximately 34km you hit the wall again, literally! You run back up the goat track onto the Great Wall and then back down the 5km hill you did at the start.  Yep this was going to be different!

My coach Dan, from IronmanDan Online, God bless him was up for the challenge again of coaching this fly in fly out rebel! Though seriously he kicked it up a notch! Steps ups on two different height steps for 20 minutes was initially torture.  Sweat dripped off me more during that first 20 minute session than in some of my bigger rides preparing for the Ironman.

This follow session was nothing short of punishing!

Gym First:

3 x 10 back squat 65% 1RM

Bulgarian split squats (rear foot on bench) one D/B in each hand (start 5kg per hand) aim to do 150 reps per leg. Break it down as 6 sets of 25 lunges per leg. after each set do 1min of skipping

Have drink and a snack then do 20min easy run on treadmill then head out to football pitch and do

***This could hurt, just manage it take lots of water and some food***

In 10min blocks do the following for 50mins

first 5mins easy running then

5mins of

1min bear crawl 30secs one direction then turn around

1min plank

1min push up hold (hold yourself in ‘up’ position of a push up)

1min push ups

1min star jumps

THIS COULD HURT!!! Yes my coach wrote this could hurt… this was a gruelling session…but who doesn’t love to have a snack half way through a workout!

Two days before the race they pack all the runners onto a bus and take you out to do a race course inspection! Holy snapping duck poop! The bus ride up to the start of the wall had my wondering what the hell the actually wall will be like.  I shouldn’t have worried.  The wall, despite being difficult in its own right didn’t seem so scary now that I had walked it.  I took Mutt for this part of the adventure!

The next day I stupidly got a massage…. OMG a Chinese deep tissue massage is not nice.  Now don’t get me wrong because I love the pain of a deep tissue remedial massage.  My physio back home, Craig, is brutal but in a good way. He can get right into the bits of my body that need the work. Despite me telling him somedays that I hate him because the pain is so intense I always feel better for it.  This however was something out of this world in a VERY BAD WAY.  It was like someone squishing their fingers through your flesh to reach their palms and then pinching your skin! This was not good!!!!

But I am getting side tracked… how did I actually go on Race Day!

After an early morning bus ride and a breakfast box (I really should have brought my own food for this bit!) and we all assembled on Yin Yang Square! My tiny bladder rewarded me in a female squat urinal pre-race nervous pee.  Nothing wrong with sharing a concrete room with five other women on squat toilets taking a nervous pee!  Yep I had to pee in front of 4 other women on a drop toilet squat! Sharing is not caring in this case!

Being in the third wave I had time to really centre my thoughts and know that after my less than perfect preparation that I could just go out and have fun.  There was an 8 hour cut off and my goal was 7.30 because I really didn’t know just how difficult this race would be coming off the back of the Ironman.

The initial hill should not have been as much torture as it was but my calves had been blowing up on me for a few weeks already so I had compression calve sleeves on and within 2kms I was alternating between power walking and running.  As I approached the wall one of the other runners from our tour group caught up to me.  I think if it wasn’t for him I would not have had such a fun first 14km when he peeled off to do the half marathon.  We ran together, walked together, gave each other grief and powered on.  The wall was this fun playground that first lap but I was acutely aware that I actually had to run it again!

Thankfully there was no shortage of people to chat to along the way.  The surfaces changed from the stones of the wall to bitumen to concrete to compacted dirt with many rocks and tree roots.  This part should have been my favourite bit considering I love trails yet it was painful due to being in direct sunlight without any toilet stops! I can confess that I pee’d behind a wall in someones orchard! Sorry about that!

I walked far more of the race than I thought I would but when I reached the half marathon mark at 3 hours I knew that I would be well and truly under 8 hours. The biggest pain was actually my cheapo camelbak! I had mixed my nutrition into it and after the first few mouthfuls the mouthpiece had split so it was leaking down onto my boobs and legs. I was literally the definition of ‘sugar tits’ with my sickly sweet nutrition covering my boobs!!! Lovely just lovely but unfortunately I let this effect me more than it should. I was having to hold the end of the feed tube up and this was effecting my running posture. I wanted to ditch the whole thing a number of times but given I had the rest of my nutrition and my phone I figured it wasn’t the best idea! It took me a long time to realise that if I blow back into the tube after I had a drink it would stop it from running out all over my boobs! Mentally I used up far too much energy thinking about my ‘sugar tits’. Funny thinking back now but not so funny on race day.

I have still not found a nutrition plan that works for me. The taste of my sour grape nutrition burnt my mouth and I ate the bananas and took the energy drinks from the aid stations along with water. I also ate some nuts and jelly lollies. Chinese jelly lollies are the best thing for pick me ups!!!

As I came back through Yin Yang Square to go over the wall for the second time I was really hoping to see my mother so I could actually get rid of the pack but she wasn’t there at the time. As I climbed the first few steps I wondered how long it would take me to conquer this section!
What came next was a little bit of “Goat track love”!  As I started up the goat track I was beaming and having a ball. It would appear that goat tracks and walls are my thing!

I was powering along and the only delays were being caught behind other runners who were struggling. I even had time to stop and tease the photographer not take a picture until he got my best side. He asked what that was and I stopped, flashed a massive smile and raised my fingers in my customary peace symbol. He giggled and snapped a few pictures. (I haven’t brought my race photo pack yet or I could show you that photo! Being a cheapskate here as it costs nearly $150 for it and most of the photos aren’t that good).

I was over the wall in 55 minutes and would have been 10 minutes quicker if it wasn’t for the two-stepping around and waiting for other runners. However the worst was yet to come. I thought if I just kept running, one foot in front of the other and grimacing through the pain I could do the last 5km in 30 minutes. As my feet hit the bitumen it become very clear that my left knee had taken a beating over the previous kilometres and the mind was having difficulty pushing through what could be more than just simple pain. I didn’t run as quickly as I wanted too. I had crisscrossed paths with two of the girls from the tour group and as they ran forward without me I felt sad that I wouldn’t be crossing with them. It was in this self-pity that realised I had done some epic training sessions leading up to the race and with the Ironman training I could push through this last few kilometres and my body would recover perfectly.

As we crossed the line together I did a little jump! Just like the jump I did finishing the Ironman. I think this is going to happen after any long endurance events I enter!! I was very emotional at the end and I will admit I did shed a tear or two. Well maybe a lot more than two. I was very happy with my time of 6:37. Given I thought I would be finishing in 7.30 I felt very proud of my effort. Unlike the Ironman, I was starving when I finished so ate before going for a shower and the free massage. Somewhere in the course of 24 hours I forgot just how painful my last Chinese massage was! I was again assaulted with fingers trying to pull through my flesh. How can people actually enjoy this? I couldn’t let her finish as I was debating in my head whether I should slap her or face a complete mental breakdown so I just stood up and said, “Sorry I can’t do that, it hurts too much” and walked off.

Would I do the Great Wall Marathon again? I am not sure. I loved the race itself but I think there are other challenges that I would like to do rather than repeat this one. Funny I keep thinking that an Ultramarathon sounds REALLY good! Would I recommend it other people? Bloody oath!! It was a great challenge and you meet some amazing people.

For now it’s time to get back to an unconventional training strategy for my next race. The Sunshine Coast Half Ironman! Stay turned to hear how this one goes cause seriously after a full Ironman, a half should be nothing ….. Right? LOL we shall see!

Blessed Be
Robyn xox

Note: I had trouble uploading pictures.  Will update post when I am back in Australia!