For runners, there are six major marathons: Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York. But in 2019, I chose to run my first marathon in an even more important city to me, the same city where I began my recovery journey: Baltimore, MD. On April 9, 2017, my brother opened his Charm City home to me, six days after I took my last drink.  

My introduction to drinking was like many others’. I started late in high school and had a “normal” college drinking experience. After school, I began working, but my job made me miserable. My life began to center around alcohol. Eventually, I quit my job and moved to Los Angeles to pursue a dream of working in casting. I bartended to pay the bills and my drinking turned into a full-fledged addiction. To support it, I depleted my 401k. Struggling and broke, my family encouraged me to get help.

After attending an inpatient treatment program, I lived in a sober house for nine months. I graduated from this program not thinking I had a problem. I was only depressed and finding solace in a bottle. You can be addicted to a substance without being an “addict,” right? I was normal.

My restaurant job relocated me to Seattle where I began drinking shortly thereafter. I excelled at work — continuing to drink. The restaurant even sent me to California to open a new location. Then, I began to flounder. I drank before work and drank to function. I got a DUI and drank as soon as I got out of jail. My body began to fail me. My family was stressed, my friends were worried and my life was dark. I couldn’t be reached.

I moved again for work but things continued to decline. What was supposed to be a promotion and a power move quickly deteriorated into write-ups and falling asleep on the job. I quit and began a bender. I don’t remember much; however, I can’t forget the delirium tremors. They still haunt me. On April 3, 2017, I woke up and I was done. I called my brother who encouraged me to go to the ER. I did, and I haven’t had a drink since.

“Only I can change my life, no one can do it for me.” - Carol Burnett

My first year of recovery would be what I describe as “grey.” I had to relearn everything. Repair relationships. Rebuild trust. It was a constant state of putting one foot in front of the other. I got back to work in the restaurant industry and took a job as a server to make money.

Year two began, and I got my drive back. I was promoted and threw myself into work and life. I went from 0 to 10 without resting and I suffered for it. I was manic. A close friend saw my intensity and worried. She encouraged me to slow down. To focus on self-reflection and self-care. To love myself. To breathe. To pause. And out of that pause, I started to run.

“Find out who you are and do it on purpose.” - Dolly Parton

Today, running is my time to process. It’s my time to think and get my aggression out on the pavement. It confirms that I am free from addiction and able to put good out into the world. Addiction was my disease. I am recovered. I am living.

I chose to run the Baltimore marathon because this is where I found myself again. I wanted to give back to this city and community. My next race will be the TSC New York City marathon, and I’m running as part of Partnership to End Addiction’s #PartnersforHope team.

As I struggled with alcohol, my family and friends felt helpless and hopeless, angry and scared. Yet they never stopped loving me. They held out their arms and waited. The decision to stop drinking had to come from me; however, knowing they were there made the leap seem a little less scary. Raising funds for this organization will help more families like mine.

My goal for this race and for my life is to show those who are currently living in addiction that there is another option. I know all too well how scary change can be, and how easy it is to stay in that sweet numbness where you feel safe — but you aren’t living. As daunting as a life without substances seems to you, it is every bit as incredible on the other side.

My grandmother, Mimi, always spoke inspiration to me as a child and is the reason I find peace and strength in quotes. Days into my recovery, she spoke truth to me, and I believe it holds relevance to all those who struggle:

“In life, just as in music, the rests are equally as important as the notes. Play them.” - Dr. Joan Henry