I have a dirty secret I’d like to share. It’s one of those things I don’t often talk about, if ever, because it fills me with shame, remorse, resentment and fear. But mostly shame.
For about 2 years in early sobriety, I allowed myself to be in an abusive relationship. I say “allowed” because all the red flags were there (literally the first day) and I chose to ignore them. If I choose not to look at it, it goes away, right? Nope. It never works that way, Janice.
I was six months sober when I met this person, which goes against the tenets of my 12 step program. In hindsight, of course, I completely understand why it is very strongly suggested not to begin any new romantic relationships in the first year of sobriety. Six months of teetotalism is not going to undo some twenty-odd-years of drinking, drugging, bad decisions and reckless behavior. Although I totally thought I had my shit together.
It’s unnecessary to go into the gory details but it was your run-of-the-mill abuse. Physical, verbal, mental and otherwise… All the benchmarks, if you will. It happened so fast, I hardly knew what to make of it. My newly sober brain wasn’t clear enough to heed the warnings of the gut instincts I had been ignoring for so long. Also, I never experienced anything quite like this before. Let’s just say my standards fell faster than I could lower them.
I want to be clear; I do not allow this to define me. It was something that happened that still permeates my mind vividly in quiet moments, but for the most part, I am at peace with it. Nor do I want to play the role of the victim. I played that role so well pre-sobriety, I could’ve won an Oscar for it. My intention in sharing this is to release the feelings of remorse and fear; to shed some light in the dark recesses of my brain where this resides.
Again, in an effort for transparency, I forgive this person and don’t place absolute blame on him. We all struggle with demons and traumas in different ways. I want to understand him as being spiritually or emotionally sick rather than a monster. After all, he had ardent romantic qualities that kept luring me back.
“Well, how does this tie into CrossFit, Janice?”
My CrossFit date, much like my sobriety date, is deeply important to me. Saturday, November 26, 2016 was my very first WOD. It was famously grueling! Naturally, like spreading the good word of the lord or my favorite taco joint, I wanted everyone to be a part of it. Or at least listen to me talk about it! His reaction was “You’re not gonna get all muscular like a dude, are you?” (Jokes on him… I don’t need CrossFit to look like a dude!)
Of course, I was hooked from my first CrossFit experience. I finally turned my ‘one day’ into my ‘day one’. Attending the classes at the first box I was at in Chicago (shoutout to Primary CrossFit and Yoga!), I was able to piece together the confidence and self-assurance I was still so desperately lacking. As I’ve stated in other blogs, instagram posts and Facebook rants, my first rope climb was the tipping point. That was probably a month into my CrossFit adventure. After I knew I could do that, I felt so incredibly powerful and fearless that the clock began ticking on the relationship.
Because of my split time between Chicago and my home in Huntley, I looked for a box in late December, 2016, close to where I lived. Gratefully, I found CrossFit Phoenix 815, my new home away from home. The people there were so welcoming and friendly and the coaches so patient and knowledgeable. I knew I had to stay! Friends of mine that were crossfitters at other boxes often spoke of the community within the box. It was unquestionably palpable at CF Phoenix 815. I was still such a shy and anxious noob, I didn’t feel a part of it yet but it was as familiar as my 12 step community. The encouragement, support, friendliness and kindness were unmistakable.
Now, it’s early February, 2017 and I know this relationship is kaput. I guess ‘kaput’ is putting it lightly. Some blood was shed, punches were thrown, insults were hurled, phones were stolen, social media hacked and cops were called. But I remember fighting back and feeling strong. Not quite physically strong because of CrossFit, not yet anyway, but emotionally strong because of CrossFit. It was finally over and I was at peace with it. I walked away and never looked back.
It was difficult, though. I found myself at home in Huntley full time with growing loneliness. I still worked in Chicago but I made CF Phoenix the official box of my mental and emotional healing and physical reconstruction. I had mentioned to some people I had just gone through a bad breakup but didn’t expound much on that. Again, I was a shy noob and I didn’t want to unload all that on potential new friends. I didn’t want to scare anyone away!
Typically I attended the 830a classes and would stay for the open gym after that. I didn’t work until 1 or 2 in the afternoon so I had plenty of time. I was probably hitting the box 5 or 6 days a week. Wayne, the owner, would often tell me “WOW, you’re really workin hard and putting in extra effort! That’s awesome!” I’d respond ‘Well, I don’t have much to do outside of here, so…’ I don’t believe he realizes how much those words meant to me at the time. After feeling so foolish, degraded and berated for so long, I felt like I found a tribe willing to take me under their wings and show me the way.
It’s often said “You’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with.” What’s funny to me is there’s still that berating voice in my head that says I’m unworthy. It’s bullshit. That voice is absolute bullshit. Between CrossFit and my sobriety, I’ve learned not to believe everything I think and that ‘feelings aren’t facts!’
Regardless of how this may translate to you, dear readers, I want you to know how deeply I appreciate the CrossFit community. Today, I am thriving. I am still a long way from where I want to be but I’m making tremendous strides in where I am going. I’m back in college, in a healthy relationship with the most wonderful man and repairing self-inflicted damage caused by a lifetime of poor decisions. I’m also ‘this close’ to deadlifting my body weight and achieving physical goals I never thought possible.
There is a quote that I adore congruent to a Buddhist teaching that reads “Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.” I’ll carry the pain of my experience always, but I’ll be damned if I allow myself to suffer from it any longer.