Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Dealing with the Runner's High...

Yesterday’s entry was initially meant to be a stand-alone entry, however, during the course of some reflection after having written it, I think there is another element as a runner, I want to discuss: Addiction.

Some people are wired to have addictive personalities. In other words, for those programmed that way we become addicts in one way or another. Addictions can take many forms and for those suffering from seriously destructive ones, it is a constant struggle. (As a pop cultural aside, I highly recommend Elementary on CBS as Sherlock Holmes struggle with addiction is a present theme throughout the show. This past season dealt with it in some intense ways.)

You would think as a straight-edge vegetarian, I would be lacking in addictions. That is not the case, as I too have addictions. Mine might not necessarily be as destructive. (Lets face it all addictions are destructive on some level based on the nature of negative consequences.) For me, one of the addictions, I struggle with is an addiction to soda. Growing up in a household that was only slightly above living paycheck to paycheck, we had a lot of the ‘nutrition’ available you would expect in that type of home. This included lots of soda. In and of itself, soda is not necessarily a bad thing. Other factors can influence the outcome….

My particular home was far from what one would call ideal.  Yes, we had cable. But I had a 6 x 7 room where my mattress was just directly on the floor (it made my space roomier). I did not get a computer until the fall of 1996 and it was a used 286. It did serve its purpose of being a word processor. (Before then, I had to use an old typewriter that became increasingly difficult to get ribbon for.) I mention all of this because we hear how poor households are likely places to have poor dietary habits and medical issues as a result. Despite where I am in life, you could say I am proof.

All of the content in the previous paragraph were components in a very stressful household. We made the best of things and I got a lot from my formative years. Yet, it was an environment that was not good for me. Once in 6th grade, I had a meltdown in the hallway regarding a group math assignment. My perception of it included feeling like I had to do extra work. Well you could imagine, in stressful environments, we search for comfort. Since soda felt like a real treat, it created a perfect avenue for addiction by way of a coping mechanism. That is just exactly what it became. Greater stress = more soda. When Code Red Mountain Dew came out…..at one point, I was downing 2 liters a day. I’ve struggled a lot with keeping this addiction in check. 6 years back, I decided to cut out coffee and soda at the same time. Doing both was helpful for a good while. I still haven’t had coffee since the day I stopped. However, soda came back after a few years. I do not drink nearly as much as I used to but recently I realized a huge correlation of stress with soda (and energy drink) consumption. Since then, I have begun to really push the urge to have a soda down. One of the ways I have done this is by having a tea in the morning instead of a large cold sugary drink. And I am not a fan of tea unless it is iced. My day began to have an association of starting with an energy drink. So in order to battle one addiction, I am replacing it with another routine.

What does this have to do at all with running? Well, running was another outlet to combat stress through high school. Having success and joy through running created another avenue to be addicted as a result of acting as a coping mechanism. Since running is known to help reduce stress this is great for most people. For me, this was also my real means of social interaction at the time. And if it was not for my stepdad, I would have never had this avenue. (Running has been very good to me.) So for addictive personalities, the sensation of happiness gets tied to a specific set of parameters.
So while running has given me goals to strive for those goals themselves have become a sensation to aim for. This is both constructive and destructive in addicts. To play out the statement “You are only as good as your last race”, if that race is not good, I want to immediately go find that good sensation. And even if it is good, I want to feel it again. I don’t think this is far off for many people for who running is an escape whether it is competitively or recreationally.

To tie this all into yesterday’s entry, while knowing I should not be running anything major that may act as a stressor, I want to get out and race. And that is because the addict in me says feeling that high will erase that stress. 

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