David Altshuler, M.S.
(305) 978-8917 | [email protected]

Quick Fix

It is well known–and possibly true–that Stephen Hawking’s publisher warned him about using mathematical formulae in his book. “For every equation, you will lose half your readers” so the story goes. If a gentle “e = mc2” can cause people to stop reading, I can only imagine how many of my thoughtful subscribers will fade away with a marathon training analogy. Just the same, I hope you’ll stay with me; I promise I’ll make a point about rehab and parenting.
One of my running buddies is training for her first marathon. She doesn’t have a lot of time though. Connie has three young children and a full time job. Instead of running long, she is committed to running faster. “Four hours for a 20-mile Saturday training run isn’t realistic,” she points out. “So I’ll just run eight miles that much faster.” Instead of 20 miles at ten minutes per mile, Connie will run eight miles at nine minutes each.
This is a bad plan. It won’t work. Connie is setting herself up for unhappiness best described by Dante. As anyone who has ever trained for a marathon can explain, running fast instead of running long is a one-way ticket to Palookaville. Population: You. The only way to cover 26.2 miles on race day is to run long in practice. Three practice runs of 20 miles each seems to be the minimum. According to coaches, anything less is an epic mistake. Connie is going to blow up like an IED at mile 20. If she doesn’t run long in practice, she will not be able to complete the event. She will find new meaning for the word “cramp.” She will become intimately familiar with the concepts of “ill-fated” and “shattered.” Best-case scenario she will walk off the course at mile 18; an ambulance ride is not out of the question. Nor is an IV glucose solution and a hospital stay.
Alex’s issues with pot, alcohol, and benzodiazapines have transformed from substance abuse to addiction and are galloping toward chemical dependency. A few years ago, he was offered a quarter of a million dollars to stop using. Specifically, his parents proposed that they would not finance his college education unless he committed to sobriety. Alex declined, preferring pot to college. Rather than a dorm room and Shakespeare class, Alex bounces from shelter to street. His family is devastated. Now 22, Alex hasn’t seen his parents or his three younger siblings in almost a year. He could no longer quit on his own if he wanted to.
This situation is as tragic as it is common. What is notable is Alex’s recent willingness to go to treatment. He wants a 30-day program. “I don’t need de-tox,” he suggests. “I just want to get back on track and go to college so I can get my MBA and join the family business.”
Unfortunately, a one-month cure won’t work for Alex. A decade of pot use–he started using when he was 14–won’t be undone by a few weeks of individual and group therapy. The Xanax has made inroads into Alex’s physiology. A month of yoga, exercise, and healthy eating are a necessary not a sufficient condition for Alex to heal. Alex needs a year in a program followed by a lifetime of maintenance. Thirty days is a start. Everyone will be disappointed and affect surprise with Alex’s relapse. It’s not a relapse, it’s a continuation. He hasn’t done the work. He hasn’t got the support, insight, or skills necessary for long-term sobriety. A month? Please.
No one can blame Alex’s parents for being optimistic. Who wouldn’t want microwavable results? “Rub magic cream in your thighs, lose weight while you sleep;” “run five miles three times/week, finish the marathon;” “spend a month in treatment, overcome addictions a lifetime in the making.”
Here’s another harmful myth: spend quality time with your children. Meaningful communication will come out of nowhere like Athena born of the brain of Zeus. Swoop in and talk to your kids now and again. They’ll be happy to step away from their peers and turn off their electronics on your schedule. Wrong. Occasional parenting doesn’t provide a healthy relationship with your kids any more than running a few miles prepares Connie for the brutality of 26.2.  The wonderful truth is that the important conversations about, say, reproductive biology, come only after a Brazillion not-so-meaningful conversations about taking out the trash. You’re more likely to be sitting on the couch with your kid when you connect about essentials if you’ve spent a ton of time sitting on the couch with your kid talking about nothing or not talking at all.
Sally Simpson “…picked up the book of her father’s life and through it on the fire” not because he wouldn’t let her go to the rock concert, but because he didn’t understand WHY she would sneak out to see Tommy. He would have done better to have spent less time washing his car, more time taking a walk with his daughter.
Many traditions express gratitude this time of year. If you have the good health to train properly and run long, if you have family who are not in the throes of addiction, if you are close to your kids, take a moment to reflect on how great that is. Then spend another 60 seconds to keep a good thought for some other folks: Connie, who needs to spend her Saturdays running long; Alex, who must plan on a year to get clean; and all of us who need to be there for our kids, connecting, communicating, supporting. What could make any of us feel more thankful than that.


3 thoughts on “Quick Fix

  1. Anita M

    I have raised my child (age 40) who came from a divorced family and I must say she is a well-rounded productive child. And she, adopted a baby and did a fantastic job of raising her (in a divorced family) and that child (now 21) is self-supporting and a delight to be around. I am writing you to say even though I am not raising anymore children, I love your articles, I find they are inspiring and I can always find things in there that apply to everyday living which we all need. It is inspiring to me and I am sure to all other readers. There is a lesson to be learned in all of your articles and every parent should tune in and apply your principles.

  2. Chris

    Not sure if/how this message/comment will find you? i am not very adept at this technology. However I will start by saying that I truly appreciate your weekly posts/writings. While I may have struggled in the family area in my life, I still believe and know that almost all if what you say/write is on the mark!!
    ok, I am a counselor (we specialize in sexual issues) and I am also a college college track, part-time) and I am also an aging competitive runner…thus there is even more of what you write that resonates deeply with me!!!
    So, your recent training partner that hopes to run a marathon without the long run…could possibly do it (Google some training programs from the Hanson’s) she could develop some of the strength and stamina from consecutive runs/paces in place of long runs ;), haha.
    Anyway, I have been meaning to write you for some time, primarily because of our careers as well as the significant similarities with running and our respective tunning groups!!
    In closing, I just want to reiterate that I really respect and appreciate your writings and opinions and I look forward to connecting in the future!
    Chris Goodling

    1. David Post author

      LOVE the Hansons! One of my running buddies swears by their schedule.

      Glad you checked in, Chris. I appreciate your kind words and will continue to endeavor to merit your good opinion.

      I hope the miles treat you well.


Comments are closed.

Copyright © David Altshuler 1980 – 2022    |    Miami, FL • Charlotte, NC     |    (305) 978-8917    |    [email protected]