Recently, we announced our new initiative with Gateway Community Services, a nonprofit treatment facility in Jacksonville, Florida, to encourage individuals undergoing treatment for drug and alcohol addiction to adopt a healthy lifestyle early in their recovery.
On April 25, Runwell held its inaugural meeting at the University of North Florida, with over 50 Gateway patients, including about 15 teen patients, adult patients, staff and alumni among the participants. Keith Brantly, a member of the 1996 US Olympic Team, a Runwell coach and member of the board of directors, spoke to the group about goal setting and the importance of positive mentorship to reach those goals. Brantly placed 28th in the Olympic marathon, but attempted to qualify three times before making the team. He used examples from his experience to encourage perseverance, and how a positive mentor can be a motivating factor to keep trying.
Brantly also led the group, many of which had not been active in years, on a run/walk around the track and several stretching exercises. Healthy snacks were prepared by Runwell Founder and ultrarunner Linda Quirk, as nutrition will also be a focus in this program.
Weight gain can become an issue for those in recovery for a couple of reasons. For one, eating foods high in sugar and fat activates the brain’s reward center and stimulates the natural opioids in our bodies. This triggers the release of dopamine, just like a drug. Also, a former addict often has damage to the dopamine receptors in the brain, which can cause issues with impulse control. With drugs no longer in the picture, food can become the next best thing.
One participant, Scotty, played basketball at a small college in Alabama and struggles with alcoholism. He explained how he always thought that by meeting family and athletic obligations, he was fine, a functional alcoholic, and never felt he needed or was ready for treatment until recently. After 35 days sober and 20 years since being active, he feels this program will give him the encouragement he needs to stay sober.
Stories like Scotty’s are what motivates the Runwell team to engage more people to raise funds to support treatment scholarships and encourage and teach a well-rounded and healthy lifestyle in recovery.
The program, still early in development, will consist of weekly runs, group get togethers and discussions, and monthly Skype calls with Brantly to answer questions and discuss progress. Brantly proposed a challenge to the group to set a physical goal of running in the Gate River Run, the largest 15K in the US, in March of 2016.
Quirk’s vision for the program is to eventually incorporate it into treatment facilities around the country.
Check out photos from this great day!
Interested in bringing this program to your treatment facility? Leave a comment below and we will be in touch!