Opinion

Twenty-nine years clean and sober

Photo courtesy of Curt Swarm

Curt finished the race in West Burlington over the weekend.
Photo courtesy of Curt Swarm Curt finished the race in West Burlington over the weekend.

Nov. 3, 1989, 2 a.m. All alone, and blind drunk, I fell through the glass top of my coffee table, cut myself to smithereens and almost bled to death. Like an Iowa tornado ripping through a slum, laying the ground work for reconstruction, my whole life changed for the better. They say you have to hit bottom. I hit it real hard.

Nov. 3, 2018, 10 a.m. Happily married, age 70, I ran the Miles and Memories 5k hosted by the Great River Health System in West Burlington, like a healthy old man with 20 good years left in him, thanks to sobriety and the grace of God.

I hadn’t run a race in four, maybe five years. The last race I ran, I had gotten a flu and pneumonia shot the day before. Following the race I felt sick to my stomach, and my arm swelled up like a melon, turned red, and I thought I was going to die. At 6 a.m. on Sunday morning the following day, I called the “Nurse Hotline” on my health insurance card to see if I should go to the emergency room. I got some cranky woman out of bed and was candidly told that the hard exercise might have interacted with the inoculation and maybe I should consider not running. I took her advice. The following day the swelling went down. No more running or pneumonia shots for me! I then proceeded to gain weight.

Last November, Ginnie and I started a self-concocted diet-and-exercise program called E-and-E — Eggs and Exercise. We have our own hens so have plenty of farm fresh eggs. We cut out the carbohydrates (bread, potatoes and sweets), concentrated on protein and 30 minutes of aerobic exercise daily and, as of race day, my sobriety birthday, I have officially lost, count’m, 45 lbs.! Ginnie has lost 30. We both feel great and are enjoying being able to wear clothes we haven’t been able to get into in years. It’s also fun buying new, smaller-sizeoutfits. (If my feet would only get smaller.)

“Be nice to yourself.” That was something a friend told me years ago to celebrate my sobriety birthday. I did then, and I did this time, too. Wanting to look my best on race day, I went out and bought a new warm-up suit. With temps in the 40s at the start of the race, the warm-up suit felt great. For running the race, I had selected a long-sleeved Iowa State shirt, which is taking a risk in Hawkeye country, Burlington. However, with both Iowa and Iowa State ranked nationally, no one gave me grief.

At the Miles and Memories 5k (3.1 miles), I failed to place in my age group since runners 60 and over are all lumped together. But, hey, I ran my first race in years, on my sobriety birthday. I’ll take that to the bank any day. My plans are to run a few more 5k’s, get my time down to a respectable pace, then try some 10k’s, then half-marathons, then ... oh forget it.

Ginnie and I went out for dinner and a movie with some friends after the race. I won’t mention any names, but there’s a restaurant in Yarmouth that has some mouthwatering food and classic atmosphere. The movie we selected was “Bohemian Rhapsody,” about rock group, Queen. It’s an outstanding movie, and one of Queen’s signature songs I thought quite appropriate for my sobriety celebration. “We are the champions, my friends. And we’ll keep on fighting ‘til the end.” The tune still is in my head. Here’s to 20 more years of sobriety and happiness.

Have a good story? Call or text Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at 319-217-0526, email him at curtswarm@yahoo.com or find him on Facebook.