Dark and the Rolling Sea - Al Stewart (now I see why my dad used to moan about long hair. It's just not right...)
It's been an early Saturday morning, same as always. I went down to the local lake at Welwyn which has just opened up for swimming. I had some guys from a well known news agency photographing a filming me. They want to chart my progress and put a multi media presentation together of the whole event. Today was to get to meet me and then test out some of their equipment.
It all got off to a poor start. We arrived at 6.30am on a dark, drizzly morning to find that I wasn't allowed to swim without a wetsuit. It's not the worst news I have ever had, but part of the training for the Channel is about acclimatising to cold water. The fact that I may well use a wetsuit for the Arch to Arc means that I wasn't too bothered, but I prefer the freedom and masochism of natural swimming. Nothing breathes more life into the body than a cold water swim. I even have a weird affection for the pneumatic grip of the shivers that can loosen your fillings. Anyway, the guys were able to film and get me to do swimmy things which I wouldn't have been able to do had I been shivering my nether regions off in the cold. Poor old Dave D who had come for one of his stupid fast swims hadn't got his suit and just hung around with the guys, whilst what should have been an hour long swim turned into a two hour Vogue wetsuit shoot (that is obviously not true).
When I used to drink so destructively, I thought I was weak. My friends and family reinforced this by saying stuff like "use your willpower - just stop after a couple", or "your problem is you have no willpower". Both viewpoints, helpful as they were meant to be, were missing the reality of a life threatening situation. Firstly, no amount of willpower will help a person deal with addiction. The less travelled road to recovery is down a completely different path where willpower serves no purpose. No human power can match up to an addiction. Secondly, and here is the paradox of addiction, it was only when I got sober and talked to some very knowledgeable people that I discovered that part of my problem was that I had willpower in spades. It takes a very determined, very committed person to stand at a bar at lunchtime and order a pint of strong lager when he is still reeling, suffering and nauseous from the night before. But I could do that day after day after day. Now that is willpower!
Nowadays I don't do that. But it became part of my life to use that tremendous capacity, that strength of will, to keep going in a more constructive, more satisfying way. So now, when I am in those dark places 60 miles into a 78 mile run, suffering, reeling I tap into that willpower. I can take the suffering because the end game is worth it. And I remind myself every single day of my life that no matter how hard an event is, it is nowhere near as hard as it was when I stood at those endless bars day after day exercising my willpower and sinking from sight.