How Running Made Me Whole

Updated: May 10

By Chaski Athlete Eric Harrison Riddle


Three months sober. I somewhat have a mind again. What about this body I inhabit? Years of neglect and poison- is it broken now? My long term relationship with alcohol and substance abuse gifted me with five seizures, four compression fractures in my back, chipped teeth, a dislocated jaw, wrist fracture, and that is to say nothing of the human wreckage left in my wake.

I am a 31, overweight, out of shape- smoker. Do I even have a shape at this point? COVID is in full bloom and I am locked at home, glued to the computer to pay the loan sharks.

2019, Pre-sobriety

I bought an Apple Watch in hopes of getting a better idea of where my physical health stands, and for motivation. Plus it looks cool. There’s a free app it promotes called the Nike Run Club (NRC).

Running. I don’t need a personal trainer to do that, and I don’t have to go to the closed gyms and be watched by physically superior people either. But smokers can’t run. What’s the worst that could happen, coughing up the tar in my lungs? I decided to test this out, and went on my first run, after 13 years on the couch.

Twenty minutes in the blistering Florida heat, with choking humidity, felt like an eternity. I ran a mile through - a whole mile.

There were also numbers attached to this activity. I didn’t know what they meant, but as an accountant, I knew this was material. Something nearly tangible to show I’d actually done something.

The NRC put together a 4-week “Get Started” plan. It seemed crazy to me to run for .35 miles, but hopefully, that would be less than the 20-minute first run.

There were also some nice guided runs. Some by time, some by distance- but they were always very encouraging.

I liked having a plan, especially since I didn’t know what I was doing. The structure gave me reassurance that there would be progress.

Insert the word that began the mantra I borrowed from some recovery literature: “Progress Not Perfection”.

Life on Life’s Terms

December 2020, after 6 months of sobriety

Being young in recovery, I was learning how to live life. Living sober isn’t like tucking your head underwater, and seeing how long you can hold your breath- because you have to come back up for air. It’s more like learning to breathe, to breathe differently.

Every breath of every day was fresh. Not just because it was hangover-free, but because I actually felt things. No more emotional numbness; it was sensory overload!

But as I counted moments, minutes, and days dry- I counted my runs. A minute running was a big deal, and a mile even bigger.

I stuck with the plan religiously, I ran no more or less than prescribed. If perchance, I had more energy after the run, I walked. A fifteen-minute run, and a fifteen-minute walk, and I felt accomplished. Gradually, the walks became longer.