He's yelling at us, like he always does.
“Deep breaths. Oxygenate the blood. Oxygenate the brain.”
I like my brain oxygenated, because as Neil says, rust never sleeps.
“Be confident. Be aggressive.”
The same mantra every few days. I never get tired of it. Sweat is pouring into my eyes. I lose my grip on the bike – the bars are slick with my yuck. I recover with a stalwart pace. A pounding techno soundtrack hurls us on. Not many places where a woman over 50 can go to get her freak on and not feel conspicuous. It's a 10a.m. rave, complete with water bottles and ecstasy, but we're high on our own bodies. Happy brain chemicals are doing their thing.
“Crank it to a seven. Crank it to an eight. A little bit more. A little bit more. Get cranky! Use your anger! That's what it's for. ATTACK!.”
My heart is pounding at the same rate as the music. God, this feels good. No, this feels euphoric. The chronic pain in my knees is gone, although I can still hear them crunch, and if I don't keep the pace, they can lock. Not cool. So I keep the pace, keep the faith, keep breathing and pushing until I feel like I'm on the verge of vomiting.
I did a lot of vomiting in my active addiction. Drank until I puked because it was my normal. Used to vomit every time I drank. Got hangovers that made me want to put a gun to my head and pull the trigger. But if I did that, I couldn't drink. So I kept up the vicious cycle of toxic drinking and punishing withdrawal until the day came when, yeah, pulling the trigger was one of two options. Fifteen years later, sobriety is sweetened substantially by spin classes, yoga, pilates, weights and walking.
“This is the best therapy you can do.”
The man knows of what he speaks. Peter Gault [petergault.ca] my fitness guru, 59 years old, a hockey ref when he's not kicking our ass in the gym or at this home studio. He refs three, sometimes four shifts a week. Played hockey as a kid with Gretzky. Peter has a shaved head and is tattooed, before it became de rigueur. He's bounced dives in the Lower East Side and lived in his car in Manhattan and on the Florida coast. In his twenties, he wrote a bestseller, a raunchy novel called Goldenrod that made him some dough. He ate nothing but raw food for over a decade and performed at six Burning Man's for a Reno theatre company. At 39, he was certified in spin at Mad Dogg Athletics in NYC. He looks like a viking. The man has lived experience. He comes by his toughness honestly. I love being yelled at by him.
It is the best therapy that I can do. The 12 step groups are foundational, but sometimes, you know, I don't want to talk. Talking, talking, and then there's the listening. Listening to the talking. Listening to your own talking is the worst. That's the time that I need high intensity exercise. It takes a person out of their mind and into their body.
“Meditate on that!”
He knows of what he speaks.
Recovering addicts are always in danger of relapse. The thought crosses my mind more than I care to say. Sometimes being alive is painful not only physically, but spiritually. Springtime sends my soul into spasms. The burgeoning life all around, the sunshine and blue skies, the foliage and return of songbirds can send me into the stratosphere. It hurts being on earth when I want to fly. Some days the sensation is so intense and uncomfortable that the only thing I can do is spin off the sensory overload. It's either that or attempt poetry. This past spring when I was uncomfortable, I walked and walked and walked. I walked until I was calm. Our own bodies can be good friends when we decide to befriend them.
“Be happy. Don't forget to be happy.”
This is Peter's final mantra as the class slows the pace to a stop. I sop up the sweat on my face with a damp towel. Peter finishes the class by having us do some yoga. I twist my spine, wringing out the regret and shame and pain. I twist the other way, feeling elasticity in the movement. This human vessel that I despised for so long, that I wanted to escape, is today my beloved messenger.
Thank you, body. Thank you, Peter.
I am happy.