Regret, Recovery And Endurance Sports

November 13, 2023

So, I recently saw a post by Lionel Sanders, a triathlete known for his rebound from drug addiction and recreating himself Into a world class athlete. He coincidentally won the Oregon 70.3 I was in this year. He was speaking of how he was, for four years or so, a drug addict. Cocaine and ecstasy were his drugs of choice. It got me thinking about my own journey and recovery (or should I say “escape”).

To be fair, I never went through AA or NA (Narcotics Anonymous) and really didn’t have much of a support group. My pride and ego wouldn’t let me rely on other people to help me get back on track. I am still working on trust. If you know me or if you have read any of my other blogs, I am an Avoidant Personality as a product of being raised in the woods with no supervision other than two older brothers. In my teens and pre-teens I was obsessed with sport: baseball, running, speed skating, and riding my bike. I was a tornado of energy and would probably be labeled ADHD in today’s society.

Because of the chaos of our home-life, distance from town, and welfare level of funds I was unable to join structured sports teams in the things I wanted to do. Rumor had it my father didn’t want to buy the football pads for Pop Warner football. My BMX bike was a Columbia bought at Child World, although as an eight year old I didn’t really know the difference between a good and bad bike, but you find out quickly from your friends. Hockey? forget it. No way I’m getting skates and pads and getting driven to practice early AM. Swim? We had a pool. Go jump in. The idea of going to an actual building with a pool and coaches in it was exotic and fancy to me.

Looking back at all the wasted time and wasted brain cells I spent throughout the years destroying my mind and body with drugs and alcohol I constantly beat myself up with regret. I could have done something with my youthful vigor other than dancing until six am in a club high on MDMA and god knows what other drug I could get into my body.

My addictions were numerous. In my teens and most reckless years I remember crawling around in a double wide trailer at seven am looking for pieces of cocaine. I have sat in the back of a car waiting for my turn to smoke coke out of a plastic water bottle on the side of the road in the bad part of town. I have been completely lost and alone tripping on acid in Boston.

Most of those kids I shared these times with are now dead. Literally out of my group there are only a few of us left and it is fucking scary. Regret is a heavy burden and an albatross you cannot take off your neck. Shoulda Coulda Woulda does nothing for your mental well being.

I see the same addictive personalities in the world of endurance sports: The self-inflicted joy and pain, the camaraderie of like minded addicts. It is very similar to that of many drug users. Especially the “upper” type drugs like coke and MDMA. The pathways of satisfaction is very similar. It’s not surprising to me that a former self described “coke head” is successful in the world of triathlon. I wish I had the courage to have walked away from that lifestyle in my 20s. True, I raced mountain bikes when it was still grassroots and did ok, but it was more of a hobby and something I just did and didn’t really take it that seriously. I still smoked weed daily, I still went clubbing and did drugs and drank a lot. I had no support or team other than a bike shop that gave me a jersey and a pro deal because I placed in a few races and paid my dues. I was getting by on my energy and love of riding the bike.

Now I focus daily on rest, nutrition, long runs and bikes and swims and recovery. My brain which used to be obsessed with where the party is and who is holding what is now laser focused on my performance. It’s an inversion of the results you would get from drug and alcohol usage but the same concentration and single-mindedness as a drug addict. There is nothing you can do about bad decisions of the past, and finding a way out of the madness of addiction is damn near impossible, but if you can find a handhold, a foothold, and work your way up that cliff and escape that well of pain it is worth every second of effort. If you are there and struggling don’t hesitate to hit me up. Keep at it!

Written by Corey Smaller Follow me on Instagram