Hi, my name is Jill and I am an Alcoholic.
It’s a really hard sentence to type, speak or even admit in your own head. But it is a statement that I have identified with for over ten years. Over time it gets a little easier to say, yet there is always a lump in my throat when the words leave my lips. I prefer to say “I’m Jill & I’m in Recovery”, I really like the way that sounds. But honestly, they both mean the same. I will always be an alcoholic until the day that I die and by the grace of God I hope that I will still be in recovery when I take my last breath.
Drinking came easy to me as a teen. I grew up in a culture where booze = relaxation/stress relief/fun. So naturally I started to associate alcohol to all of those things myself. High school and college were a series of blackouts and hangovers, but I was certain that I was having a freaking blast. I grew up a little, found an amazing husband and had a beautiful daughter. Then at the age of 25 I found out that I had breast cancer. My daughter was not yet 2. The stress relief beers doubled and would accompany me to and from my chemotherapy treatments. I drank the fear away behind closed doors and stood proud as a strong survivor in public. Two years later, my father and best friend, passed away very suddenly from pancreatic cancer. The devastation and darkness enveloped me. I reached an all time low in my life and drinking career. I finally sought out inpatient treatment for 30 days, leaving my husband and daughter alone and terrified. I left that center ready to continue in my recovery, yet all of the pain & sadness remained.
The following year I found myself in a new job, making new friends and discovering new interests and activities outside of sitting alone at home. My new friend & work-wife introduced me to running and suddenly the gray clouds began to lift. Many miles and races later I found November Project. A community of people that woke up nice & early, worked out really hard and genuinely cared about me. I quickly realized what was missing in my life all this time, community! People that didn’t care how fast I ran, how outspoken I was, or that I DIDN’T drink.
That last part was huge! I developed friendships in running, but if you know runners well, many love a good beer post run. And thousands of runners participate in races that give out copious amounts of free booze. So usually when I was done running with my friends, I went back home, to be alone. But not once I found November Project. This was an activity that took place in the morning before work. It was a safe space for me to develop friendships that did not revolve around catching a buzz or explaining why I just wanted to order a damn Coke Zero. We got together for post workout breakfast and coffees where some of the best conversations between friends were found. I finally wasn’t an outcast anymore, an alcoholic trying to blend in. I felt comfortable in my own skin.
When I became a Co-Leader of November Project Virginia Beach it was my mission to continue to create a safe & inclusive space where people like me could come to find fitness, goals they never dreamed of and a community that accepted them no questions asked. Our PR day get togethers were no longer called “Happy Hour’s” but “PR Day Social’s” so as not to confuse anyone of the purpose of the event. We gather at family friendly establishments where you can get a soda, beer, or milk in addition to a meal for you and your entire family. There are no age requirements at the door, no black X’s on minor’s hands, nor are there intentions of our members to get “wasted”. We share a few hours of fellowship, food and good old safe family fun. Do people drink, absolutely, but is it the purpose of our social, absolutely not. This goes for all our events. The purpose of our race cheer stations is to CHEER. Our Friendsgiving dinner is at a member’s home where over 50 people squeeze around tables to stuff their faces with pot roast and chocolate mouse cake. At the end of our workouts there will be no “Icing” or “Jell-O Shots”.
Good story Jill, why are you telling us this? Well, because right now our society is hyper aware of inclusivity and diversity. We are educating ourselves on what the Black Lives Matter movement means, on gender identification and pronouns, along with other individual experiences with identity & equality. While we are all shining a light on these very important issues, I am asking that you reflect on your experience with alcoholism or drug addiction. Do you know someone that has struggled with the disease of addiction? Have you been in a place in your life where you didn’t like the way your relationship to substances looked? Have you been at an event where you felt uncomfortable for the contents of your glass? You are not alone!
Here are some SOBERING facts: Globally 35 million people suffer from substance addiction disorders. 1 out of every 8 adults in the US struggle with alcohol & drug addiction. Harmful use of alcohol results in 3.3 million deaths each year. **Think about those numbers for a second. The current number of COVID-19 deaths in the United States is 138 thousand. And we have classified this virus as a global pandemic.
Here within November Project we are trying to do our part to make our workouts and communities more diverse and inclusive. We are taking a pause to look at our words, practices, and actions. All over the world leaders & members of November Project are participating in town hall discussions and reading books to educate ourselves. I ask that you add this extremely important topic to your reflections and discussions. Are you creating a space where ALL people feel safe and welcomed? Not just those in recovery, but those that have always been non-drinkers, women that are pregnant, and the demographic closest to my heart, CHILDREN. Our stated mission is “Human development and community building through empowering group workouts” and our Community Agreements begin with an inclusive environment for all.
I promise that within your 52 cities there are more like me. They might not be as forthcoming, or feel comfortable sharing their specific journey, but they are there. Standing next to you in a bounce, holding a sign for you at a race, and bringing their kids to your Summits. I am their voice, and I ask that you listen.
~Love JillShare via socials: