Finding light and new life through running
Last September 25, close to 18,000 runners – young and old, rich and poor, students and professionals, hardcore and leisure racers, health buffs and wellness starters – joined the Cebu leg of the 40th National Milo Marathon.
Each of them has a story begging to be told.
This one is about Rodrigo Joehl Boiser, a confessed former drug addict who for decades was bound by the chains of illegal drugs. He abused different substances including alcohol and for more than 30 years lived the reprehensible and wicked life of a junkie. During those turbulent and tumultuous times, he was in a virtual abyss, his mind numbed by drugs, his self worth at an all-time low.
How he kicked the habit that once defined his very existence is a story worth telling and retelling. How he transformed from a drug-sniffing, street-dwelling junkie to a wellness buff at 47 determined to run his first full marathon next year is nothing short of a miracle.
Boiser said he was 14 when the tentacles of illegal drugs usurped his innocence. And for the next 30 years, he was rehabilitated thrice and incarcerated once. He married and has four kids. But drugs remained his sole refuge.
Life was on a downhill when he realized he needed to reform or lose the most important things he has then: his friends and his family.
“ My mind was poisoned by drugs, I hear voices in my head making me do bad things. But suddenly there was some kind of a spiritual awakening. Thankfully I was awakened and realized that I have to stop this,” Boiser said.
His determination to change was boosted by the warm acceptance he received from his family and by his decision to embrace running to turn a life once lived in shambles to a more meaningful and healthier existence.
Running proved easier for Boiser since it was one of the daily activities enforced inside a rehab center he was once committed to in Argao town. The harder part, he said was to deny your body’s incessant craving for illegal substance.
When he met triathlete and running coach John Philip Dueñas, Boiser decided to take running seriously.
“Running gives me self confidence. It gives me the opportunity to challenge myself. Whenever I cross a finish line, there’s an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment and happiness,” said Boiser. “Running helped me divert my mind from drugs and confusing emotions.”
Last year, Boiser finished a 10k race in the 39th National Milo Marathon-Cebu Leg, and completed several longer runs thereafter including last Sunday’s 21-kilometer race in the 40th National Milo Marathon-Cebu Leg where he clocked 2 hours and 46 minutes.
He also met new friends who inspired him to get fit and healthy.
“Becoming sober means giving up on the people who were part of your dark past. It is dangerous for a recovering addict like me to continue having relations with people who are still into drugss,” he said.
Source of hope
Now things are looking up for Boiser. He manages his family’s tailoring business and helps other drug addicts who want to reform. He is now part of the Department of Social Welfare Development’s (DSWD) treatment program for poor drug dependents undergoing recovery.
The program is called START which stands for Strategies Towards Acceptance, Re-integration and Transformation where he serves as coach to around 50 former drug addicts. “There is still hope. There is still light at the end of the tunnel but recovery is hard especially if you are alone. So get help from support groups, they make your journey towards positive change much easier,” was Boiser’s advice.
Boiser also believes that drug addicts should be given ample opportunity to change, not terminated. “Those victims could still change for the better just like me. Just give them a chance,” he added
Boiser may just be another finisher in last Sunday’s race. But his journey of rising – like the proverbial phoenix– from the abyss of drug dependence to helping others get free from the same strife, could inspire more drug addicts to start kicking the habit and finding light and new life through running. Because what is more essential is not for one not to stumble, but to pick himself up from every fall and start again.
As what American writer Joseph Campbell said – “It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.”
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