Thursday, January 16, 2014

Proud to be a Runwell Advocate. Here's the Reason Why

I am excited and privileged to announce I am now an advocate for the Runwell organization.  I stumbled on them by what seems like an accident, but there may have been some divine intervention or spiritual mojo involved, because they are a perfect fit for me.

 The phrase Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous comes to mind.

Runwell is a non-profit foundation that raises funds to link up individuals with treatment for addiction, and encourages those touched by chemical dependency to get involved in sports such as running.  There are some incredibly dedicated, gifted and speedy runners with world-class resumes supporting Runwell.  In some ways, you could see this as a way to spread their endorphin highs around the world. I hope to push their efforts just a little more.

The Runwell Team at the 2013 NYCM
If you visited this blog once or twice, you’ve probably heard me share a sobriety anniversary date, the joy of a holiday run, or all the reasons why I think running has special meaning for those in recovery. I summarized all these posts in Chasing the Dragon: Running to Get High.

The quality of my 21 years of sobriety has been incredibly enhanced by what running has done for me. It would be an overstatement to say running got me sober, but it certainly is one of the greatest rewards of sobriety.  I believe in the message that ‘Getting High’ isn’t bad, it is part of what we live for, but using drugs to get there causes devastation. Running is the best way to feel high that I know, and is a great tool for those who want to get off the destructive path.

So Runwell is the perfect pack to run alongside of.  It’s a silly cliché, but if just one person feels more inspired to run as part of their recovery from addiction, then the efforts will send ripples that are farther reaching. 

The implications of addiction go beyond the individual struggling with the affliction. The repercussions send tsunami-like waves that wipe out their families. When you are in your addiction, you don’t see this, because you are in the middle of imploding, and you have skewed your perspective so drastically. But your loved one, who isn’t under the influence, feels the pain without the numbness of sedatives.  

Losing a family to addiction is slow, hurtful, and torturous. You feel completely powerless (because you are) and revolve your life, sanity, and well-being on their decisions. You are always worried if they will go on a binge, always wondering if they are using and if they are telling the truth.  It’s like a hostile parasite has taken over their body and you’re not sure who is in control. It’s like that because it is that. Addiction is a disease that has a mind of its own, and it is the only disease that will convince those who its stricken that it doesn’t exist.

Having a child get their father back, or a spouse get their partner back, is the most rewarding part of helping others in recovery.  Because people do make changes.  Treatment works. But it takes time and sustained effort. The ones who eventually get sober are often the most hopeless, since the dire, abject circumstances are the needed fuel for desperate measures to take place. I was in a handful of detox centers, hospitals, and outpatient clinics and was literally bleeding out of my ass before I started my current run of sobriety.

 Like cancer that we treat with chemotherapy and radiation and diet change and pray and hope for ‘No Evidence of Disease’ and then continue to track to make sure it stays in remission, addiction treatment needs a steady and multifaceted approach that never gives up. It is a body, mind, and spiritual affliction, so a successful treatment program will meet all of these areas of the disease.

And that is part of why running works so well. Running provides all three of these. It strengthens the body, the legs, the heart, the lungs, it rearranges your mind, provides clarity, detoxes emotions and effuses anger, and provides a spiritual feeling of well-being, gratitude and connects you with your place in the universe. 

Well, at least it does these things for me, but it is pretty much the reason others run as well. There is no more spiritual place on Sunday than the finish line of a marathon.

For an incredible series of articles on running and addiction, check out this link of essays “Getting Your Endorphin Fix”  from the New York Times. My personal favorites are from Caleb Daniloff, author of “Running Ransom Road”  and the article by Jamie Quatro on the ‘third layer’ of the spiritual running experience. This article describes things I already knew just hadn’t put into words just yet. Check it out, and the phrase “The Third Layer” will forever be a  part of your running lexicon.  

So, over the coming months, I will be rockin the Runwell gear at either a running event or grocery store near you. Or I will perchance be knocking at your digital door asking for two dollars and change to support the cause. Please spread the word or look for the Runwell gear, or  if you’re inspired, get involved.

 Message me here if you want to know more and I can connect you with the Runwell folks, as long as they wait for me at the finish line. When I do get there, they will certainly have that glow which comes from the high of running and knowing they’re doing a little bit to spread the endorphin joy around. 

The Founder, Linda Quirk, Finishing the 2013 Badwater UltraMarathon


SupermomE13 said...

What a wonderful organization and what a perfect fit for you. Very very cool. Congrats!

Anita said...

Mark this is incredible. I am so happy to read your post. Great write up. Great description of how family members live with someone in active addiction.

I think I will have to steal the "Parasite" line.
I am speaking next month to a group of mother on addiction.

What an honorable cause to run for.

Leah F said...

What a fantastic organization. Congratulations!!

John Bird said...

I read Chasing the Dragon this week. It was great. I posted a short review on my blog this morning. Keep writing!

Jen Feeny said...

That's awesome Mark, congrats!

Stokercon 2024 in San Diego

 Spent last weekend in San Diego at Stokercon. What a fantastic time. Multiple panels, many conversations. Laughs, tears, books, conversatio...