A life full of paradox and swimming with Jellyfish

Kim Chambers is one of the best marathon swimmers in the world.

She is the sixth person to complete the Oceans Seven, the ultimate open water swimming challenge, and the first woman to swim from the Farallon Islands to the Golden Gate Bridge.

In an interview with CNN, she described what its like to be a marathon swimmer. She discussed the many dangers involved and gave a personal example. Here is an excerpt from that interview:

The North Channel almost killed me. I ended up in a respiratory ward and a cardiac ward from jellyfish toxicity.

Most people who were stung in their first hour don`t complete this one. I got stung in the first hour. It was dark, so I couldn`t see. It was like swimming through landmines of jellyfish and I can remember it really, really hurt.

I knew that if I was really honest with my crew with how I was feeling, they would pull me, and I was having real difficulty breathing. All you have to do to make that pain go away is touch the boat, and it`s right there. And you do flirt with that idea, but you can also see land. My body started to deteriorate. I got really, really cold and I actually do not remember touching Scotland. I don`t remember finishing my Oceans Seven.

People wondered if I would ever swim again. But all I wanted to do was go back out there. There is this real treasure that`s found at that edge where you`re most uncomfortable, where you are most fearful. And that`s when I feel most alive.

It`s just about doing something that scares you, whatever that is, because I guarantee when you put yourself, and your mind and your body to that goal and you achieve it, you can always draw back on there and say, you know what? I did that.

And I did it for me, nobody else.”

I love this story for many reasons. Lately I am noticing a lot of paradoxes in my life, Addiction recovery is full of them! What makes the story of Kim Chambers so compelling is that she willingly put her body through pain in order to achieve her goal. What is even more compelling is that she continues to do so even after almost dying from it! The paradox of that is staggering. This person feels the most alive by doing something that could very well kill her.

I didn’t tell the whole truth just now when I said that my life is full of paradox. The truth of the matter is that my life was full of paradox before I found recovery. I thought that in order to feel alive I needed to feed my lust. Acting out was the only way I thought I could find true happiness. The reality was that acting out was killing me.

As we learn in SA: “Lust kills love.”

Also the paradox of control is quite unavoidable when I ponder my past. The more I swore to myself that I would stop – relying on my own will – the worse of an addict I became. Short periods of abstaining would inevitably be followed by periods of bingeing. Trying to control my life led to my life spinning out of control.

Recovery is full of paradox as well. The first step is a giant paradox. Admitting I am powerless and that my addiction has beaten me is the way to gain back my life. Very counter-intuitive. Admitting defeat is the way to win? Yep!

The third step is equally paradoxical. Turning my will over to a Higher Power. We do this to bring back order and control. We give to get. The measure we give is the measure we get back. Every day I begin my day by reciting the Third Step Prayer:

God please keep me sober from my lust today, because I can’t. I offer You my will and life today to do and build with as You will. Relieve me of the bondage of self today that I may better do Your will. Take away my difficulties today, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Your great power, love, and way of life. Give me what I need today. Thy will, not mine, be done today.” –Sexaholics Anonymous (pg. 160)

Yet another paradox of recovery: Willingly dying to myself in order to live.

What is truly inspiring for my when I learned of Kim Chambers is her willingness to suffer pain in order to achieve her goals. I try to keep most of my posts upbeat and positive (possibly to make up for all the doom and gloom from my early posts). But here is the thing: This process has been the most painful of my life. It has been the hardest road I have ever had to travel. To think its only been less than a year doesn’t help sometimes! But even though being a lust addict sucks, and admitting that every day is incredibly difficult – it has been the most freeing and life-giving experience of my life.

Final paradox of this blog (I promise): “We have to suffer to get well.” – SA

Without suffering, Kim Chambers would not be the swimmer she is today. She would not be in a position to do CNN interviews. Without enduring suffering and pain, marathon swimming would be no different than splashing around in a kiddy pool.

Well my days of swimming in the shallow end are over. Its scary in the deep end and painful to keep going but I will not stop. There might be days I don’t remember getting to land but thanks to my God and my program I know I will make it.

Damn the jellyfish, full speed ahead!






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