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Running and recovery

By Dick Beardsley, Dan Anderson Renewal Center presenter

Hi I'm Dick and I'm a drug addict. Of all the things I thought I might be when I grew up, that was never in my thought process. I grew up with two younger sisters and a mom and dad I loved, but my parents were alcoholics. I saw what drinking did to them and our family and I remember thinking: That's not going to be me when I grow up.

I was what some would consider an All-American kid. I grew up hunting, fishing, and milking cows. I didn't drink, smoke, or ever do drugs. I got involved in running while in high school that eventually took me to a very high level where I was trying out for Olympic Teams and running marathons all over the world, including London, Japan, and the famed Boston Marathon, where I ran 2:08:53 while finishing second by 1.6 seconds.

Life was good and after I retired from that high level of training and racing, I moved back to my Minnesota dairy farm and I thought life would be even better. My plan was to milk a bunch of cows, have a bunch of kids, and life was going to be grand!

Everything was going according to plan until November 13 of 1989. That morning changed my life forever. I got careless that morning and got tangled up in a piece of farm machinery that busted me all up. I almost lost my left leg in the accident. I had numerous surgeries and was in the hospital for many weeks.

It also brought me my first taste of narcotic painkillers. I can still recall being in our local hospital emergency room not knowing if I was going to live or die and in so much pain. I remember the nurse giving me a shot of Demerol to help with the pain; I'd never felt such a warm fuzzy feeling hit my brain as I did that day a few minutes after she gave me that shot.

Eventually, I weaned off the painkillers and life was pretty much back to normal. Back milking cows, running for fun, life was good, until July of 1992. Coming home from a little R&R from my farm, a woman ran a stop sign and T-boned my car, totaling it and sending me back in the hospital to undergo some major surgeries on my back.

The pain became chronic, I was involved in another accident or two, needed more surgeries, and the pain meds continued and I needed more and more. Eventually even when I was over the pain from the injuries and surgeries, I continued using them for all the wrong reasons. I started "doctor shopping" to get more pills; I stole pills from my dad, who was dying of cancer; I even started forging my own prescriptions.

My life at that point was totally out of control. My only goal in life at that time was to get the pills, take the pills, and make sure I didn't get caught. Thankfully I got caught forging. I knew I was in a lot of trouble but I also was so blessed and thankful that I was still alive. I knew the only chance I had to get better if there was any chance at all was to be 100 percent honest and take responsibilities of my actions.

I got into a Twelve Step treatment program and was in inpatient, outpatient or aftercare for almost a year. I'm happy to say that this past February I celebrated my 17th year of sobriety. Although it hasn't always been easy, it has been worth all the effort every step of the way. There are no boundaries when it comes to chemical dependency. It doesn't matter if you are rich or poor, what color of skin you have, or are a sports star, it can affect anyone!

Dick Beardsley won both the London Marathon and Grandma's Marathon in 1981, and his book, Staying the Course: A Runner's Toughest Race, recounts his phenomenal 1982 Boston Marathon performance and discusses his struggles with addiction and subsequent recovery. Join Dick for his retreat at the Dan Anderson Renewal Center, Running and Recovery.

Recovery Matters, March 2014

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