It’s All In Your Head

Here are two facts about me:

1.  I am extremely prone to motion sickness.  One of my earliest memories is not being able to stomach a trip to the local mall.  Side note: we had a behemoth 1975-ish Chevy Impala, I threw up, and my two older sisters turned into contortionists… to this day I don’t know how they got so far into the opposite corner of the back seat.

2.  I can be an extremely excitable person, particularly when I believe I am being delivered an injustice of any kind. Smart-alecky friends have been known to take advantage of this fact, and start rumors such as “Josie is the president of the Robin Williams fan club,” just to see me all fired up.

Now, knowing these two facts, imagine how I reacted when my cousin told me I should just go on an amusement park ride, because, “motion sickness is all in your head, and you can talk yourself out of it.”

Perhaps I should take him up on his offer, and allow him to sit beside me as we ride, I’m pretty sure that would teach him!

This glimpse into some banal facts about me is really just a backdrop into the real topic:  how much of what we deal with is “all in our heads?”  Despite my outrage over my cousin’s commentary, I have come to realize that I believe this statement more than I realize.  Except, of course, when it comes to motion sickness.

One example, and I know I am going to raise a few eyebrows with this one, but I personally have a hard time with the disease concept of alcoholism.  I am allowed to say that, since I am an alcoholic, along the same lines as:  I can criticize my family, but you better not try.  I certainly believe that I had an obsession, that, try as I did, I could not expel.  I believe that if I choose to alter my mind again with a substance, that obsession will return, but disease?  That is one that confounds this alcoholic.  I don’t waste a lot of time on it, just like I don’t waste a lot of time wondering when I crossed the line from enjoying a drink to craving one… I just did, that is my reality, and I will, for today, deal with my reality.

But I find the “all in your mind” mentality pervades other areas of my life, and I’m wondering if it’s something I need to explore.  Most recent example, and I have been giving periodic updates, but I have embarked on a fitness program.  Long story short, I have gone from zero exercise to considering participating in a 5k. August was to be dedicated to training for this event, to see how much of a 5k I could run (versus walking), and how low I could get my time down.  In my mind, if I could run at least half, and get my time under 45 minutes, I was set to do it.

And then, out of nowhere, I sustained an injury.  I really mean out of nowhere, because I still don’t know what the hell happened.  One minute, I’m jogging, the next minute, I almost fell over, because my leg couldn’t support me.

I could go into boring detail, but who really cares?  I am not a physical therapist, and I have never, and I mean never, been an athletic person, so I have never dealt with a sports injury of any kind.  So I look to my fellow supporters who have dealt with this, and I take every suggesting they give me (except go to the doctor, that is a last resort, and a topic for another post).

After an entire week of resting it, stretching it, icing it, I attempt to resume my training (treadmill this time).  Within 3 minutes, the pain is back, and I am limping again.

Again, long story short, I try everything I can think of, but the minute my legs go into running mode, this pain comes back.  So my husband, quite logically, says, “Well then just walk.”  Sensible, right?

But, and here is the real point:  I can’t wrap my mind around it.  Seriously.  I know it’s ridiculous, but I can’t make myself grasp the concept that I am restricted from the activity of running.  I just keep thinking that I can figure out a way past this injury.

It’s this kind of thinking that reminds me that I’m an alcoholic, and that I will never be “cured” (of the disease that I still question in theory!).  The normal person would just see that running is not working, and switch to another form of exercise.  My thinking?  I can beat this leg injury, dammit!  Nothing so stupid is going to keep me from this goal!

I am off to meet a friend (from AA) for a walk in the same park I sustained my injury.  I am going to explain this thought process to her, and she is (hopefully) going to help me see the error in my thinking.

The progress:  that I know that there is an error in my thinking.

Today’s Miracle:

That I am choosing exercise over sitting around, that I am meeting a friend from AA with whom to exercise, and that I will choose walking over re-injuring myself until I can figure this whole thing out!

Posted on August 22, 2013, in Self-Care and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. I’ve been thinking about why I call myself an alcoholic instead of just saying I don’t drink. After all, I don’t do crack but I don’t call myself a crack addict. Certainly, if I did crack, it would be as bad for me as if I drank so why am I an alcoholic if I choose not to drink? I haven’t really come to any conclusions but I can say that alcohol is seemingly different for me than it is for most people. I don’t know if that’s caused by a disease or not. I embrace the label of alcoholic because it reduces the stigma but saying I have a disease doesn’t completely feel right to me. Of course, some people will say, “That’s the disease talking!” Who knows. 🙂


    • HI Karen, I LOVE this comment! You have given me something to think about. It kind of reminds me of the scene in Bridesmaids where Kristen Wiig’s character is admonishing her mom for going to AA when she is not an alcoholic? And her Mom says, “The only reason I’m not an alcoholic is because I never picked up the drink!” Hilarious, but it’s also thought provoking (for me, anyway). There is no doubt in my mind that I would be a crack addict if I ever introduced it into my system, so I would never introduce it… so am I a crack addict?

      Well, you’ve given me something to ponder this Sunday morning, Karen, and I really appreciate it!


  2. I am going to nerd out on here and say that the BB doesn’t describe this as a disease (only once in the BB does it mention the word “disease” and that is in the spiritual sense), but it does mention the word “illness” 14 times.) And I do realize that there are those who see it as a disease model. And there are those who see it as a behavioural issue. Or a mental barrier. Or whatever. Even amongst AAs, there is often debates about this, even though the BB will say we have a three part illness with a three part solution.

    Anyway, that said, I don’t really argue anyone’s conception of it. We will all tend to bend it a bit to our overall needs. This is sometimes up there with the whole “recovering” vs “recovered” debate (oh lordy…that is always a fun one. For the record, I am “recovered” as it says in the BB 16 times to “recovering” which is once…LOL. Sorry for that) We certainly can agree that mental obsession is paramount in this. There is no doubt about this – we pick up our first drink sober, right?

    Regardless, this navel gazing is fine, but the real proof is in the pudding – action. And we do what we do to get the results that we get, and that’s the real deal. 🙂

    Sorry to hear about your injury – keep walking! Even injured you’re more active than me :p

    Be well, my friend!!



    • Good morning Paul, around my part of the world you would be called a “Big Book Thumper,” not a “Big Book Nerd,” but, since I gravitate towards that type of person, it explains a lot about how much I enjoy your blog! I am also glad to know where you stand on the recovered vs. recovering debate, that one tends to throw me when it comes up at meetings, I can see both sides of that particular argument.

      But I digress…

      I can definitely wrap my mind around illness more than disease, so I appreciate the information and stats from the Big Book. And, as always, I truly appreciate your insight and wisdom.

      Thanks, Paul!


      • Ha ha…yes, a thumper. I don’t thump a lot, but deep down I am one. I see myself as a Liberal Thumper. I am not all iron fisted and all. I am a softie at heart, but I do cringe when I hear the message watered down. Anyway, I don’t talk about it much on the blog, or in the comments much. I get to nerd out on my recovery boards and get it all out there…lol.

        But anyway, like everyone else has been saying (after I was able to read after getting off my high moral horse) is that it really doesn’t matter what you call it. It is what it is, and regardless of how we look at it, then that’s the right way of looking at it. In the end, it almost doesn’t matter – as long as we’re doing what we need to do stay away from the booze and living a life of inspection, kindness, love and tolerance and all the other spiritual goodies, then that’s the point.

        Keep groovin, Josie. And keep walking.



  3. Let’s walk that 5K, k? Seriously. This will give your leg time to heal and take the pressure off. Plus I can’t talk and run at the same time, not just because I’m uncoordinated but because I’d be out of breath. And I want to talk to you! Oh, I also have a local recovery friend who might join us. This is all assuming you can walk without pain.

    Onto the meat of your post. My husband always told me he had to ride in the front seat and couldn’t read (even a map!) in the car I admit to thinking “whatever”…like he was exaggerating or could if he really tried. Now I have two kids that barf unpredictably on road trips. Sometimes we can go on 10 hour trips with nothing but upset stomachs. Other times my youngest throws up on the way to the mall! So yeah, I get that motion sickness isn’t mind over matter. I simply never had it so couldn’t wrap my head around it.

    Just like alcoholism as a disease. I don’t think disease is the right word, though what is? If we stop drinking, it goes into remission. Same could be said for certain other lifestyle diseases like some high blood pressure or type II diabetes — if they’re caught in time, maybe. It is progressive – definitely believe that one – and I’ve heard often enough it can be fatal.

    And yet I’m pretty sure many people think I could drink normally if I really wanted to. Fortunately I know this is not only a lie (and yes, it makes me stabby to think I need to defend myself) but I know there is a much easier solution. My poor kids on the other hand are stuck riding in a car almost everywhere.

    Boy what a rambly comment. Happy Friday!


    • I LOVE rambly comments, and let’s face it, I was in for this 5k the minute I emailed you and Christy about it. It truly disappoints me that I have to walk, but reading this comment really turned my thinking around, because you’re right, I sure as hell would not be able to talk and run at the same time, so I really appreciate the new perspective. That said, and running disappointment notwithstanding, I am actually really excited to do this, and I am mainly excited because you are doing it with me!

      We are, of course, going to talk about the amends you will be making with your husband for dissing his motion sickness 🙂


  4. runningonsober

    What’s in a name, Josie? A rose is a rose is a rose, and by any other name would smell as sweet.

    I can label myself with whatever word of the day I choose, but it doesn’t change what I *am.* It doesn’t change the fact that if I bare-knuckle and ration and write down every drop and out of sheer stubborn will only drink two glasses of white, that I am going to want to chug the whole damn bottle and then drive to get more.

    I have ALWAYS wanted more. And I know I always will.

    Is depression a disease? Most would say yes, because of brain chemical changes. I can be depressed and make myself smile. I can force myself to go out and act as if I’m having a good time. Inside, I’m still going to be miserable and sad. Just no one can see it.

    Alcoholism changes our brain chemistry. Drug use changes our brain chemistry. Addictive shopping, gambling, sex, etc, changes our brain chemistry. Our pleasure sensors light up like Christmas trees when exposed to our drug of choice.

    We have a hard time labeling something we cannot see. Something we cannot measure.

    But you know, at the end of the day, it don’t mean nuthin’. If I have a disease, if I am an alcoholic, then I shouldn’t drink. If I don’t have a disease or alcoholism or addiction, then I don’t *need* to drink. In either scenario, alcohol is not part of my story or future.

    I really enjoyed this post. Thank you!

    Oh! Walk. Just walk, Josie. An injury doesn’t mean you’ll never run again. Most runners get injured at one point or another. Stay active in the mean time.


    • Christy, your tell it like it is wisdom is just what I needed to hear, so thank you. And, my rambling post aside, I reach the same conclusion as you: labels don’t mean squat. As long as you know you’ve got it, it doesn’t matter what you call it!

      I will be resuming my email updates to you now that I have my head on straight about what I’m doing in the present, which is WALKING!


      • You’re welcome my friend. I hoped later it didn’t sound preachy, because I certainly didn’t mean it that way.

        You reminded me of an old piece I did called BAMF… I may have to pull that out of archives, and revisit it with mention of your post and this comment.

        Enjoy your walks! We do what we do while we have to do it, right? 🙂


  5. re # 2 from your post…. I think this is a coincidence (ha,ha). And I’m proud of all that you are doing. All of it. Reflection, putting yourself out there, questioning things but not quickly justifying something because you don’t agree with something else, and lastly becoming a fan of Robin Williams.


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