The 180° Shift

I started drinking at the age of 12. Drinking was easy; I liked everything from the get-go. I hopped on the train right away. It was familiar, it was natural. As soon as a feeling of drunkenness settled in, the shivers ran through my body. I forgot that I was stuttering, I forgot that I was anxious, I forgot my responsibilities, I forgot who I was - I forgot. Until the next morning when reality came knocking on my door with great remorse and bad decisions. The evenings were as intoxicating as their sobering tomorrows. Gradually, alcohol paired with another party drug, which quickly led to an exuberant descent into the abyss of not-too-recreational-use. My job as a bartender strongly encouraged this debaucherous lifestyle. We will tell ourselves: the lines that define a non-problematic consumption in the industry are quickly blurred by the excessive ingestion of tequila. I slept during the day, I worked and got wasted at night and I sobered up in the early morning. "Live fast die young" was the motto.

The ball of anxiety I was constantly living with became unbearable and I wanted to get help. I fled Montreal thinking that the problems would stay at home, but of course a wish in vain. After two months without using drugs, all it took was an unexpected visit from an old friend for me to overdose. I then started several therapies that I dropped as soon as I was asked to ‘sober up’. My resolution for 2018 was to stop using drugs. This was undoubtedly the first step towards a better life. The amount of alcohol I could drink went down, but I was still dealing with a severe problem of alcoholism. So it was after a muddy path filled with very few highs and many lows, that running finally arrived in my life, bringing with it a glimmer of hope. March 2020, global pandemic: the only things to do is to get drunk or go play outside, I decided, one morning, to get dressed and lace up an old pair of basketball shoes to go jogging. I never imagined the impact this decision would have on my life. Running was easy; I loved everything from the start. I immediately got on the train. The right train.

It felt good to learn to live again. I discovered the national parks of Quebec, the mountain peaks of New Hampshire and camping evenings in Vermont. I inhaled the fresh air of calm early mornings. I heard the sound of my footsteps hitting the ground like a soothing melody. I discovered people who were experiencing the same thing as me; who understood my desire to start anew. Running allowed me to manage my anxiety and impulsiveness. Running gave me confidence in myself, confidence in the person I could become. Running allowed me to realize the mental strength within me. If I could run 21 kilometers, I could also not drink for 3 days. One thing led to another, I found new landmarks and I understood why life was worth living. I found my X.

It is important to point out that the last four years have not been a quiet long river. It would be hypocritical for me to pretend that the race alone has wiped out my consumption problems. My old harmful habits have surfaced more times than I could count. These toxic behaviors were all I knew in terms of protection in the most difficult times. It is therefore a combination of therapy, patience, resilience, and above all, the love that allowed me to get where I am today. I had relatives who believed in me, employers who taught me to navigate the tumultuous waves of my industry, partners who had had a lot of patience and were willing to listen to me. I wouldn’t be here without them. As for running, it allowed me to live my pain by channeling it into something positive. I run now for all kinds of reasons: social life, mental and physical health, meditative effect, pleasure, but also to be a good model for my entourage, for my nephews and for the child I will have.  

This 32nd year of life, I will live it soberly and I would never have believed it. 

So drop the bottle, and put your shoes on :)


by Cloe Champagne.