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Ambassador Spotlight: Michael Martinez

Michael Martinez joined Runwell in March and has been an integral member of the ambassador team that leads and inspires the Runwell Program at Gateway Community Services, Inc. He's been sober over 20 years and took up running when he quit smoking in 2001 and has just completed his 4th marathon. Here's a little about his journey to recovery from the disease of addiction. 

Life before addiction. Were you always a runner or athlete?

I have always been into athletics by playing baseball and football and also wrestling from an early age (age 5 for baseball) and even played baseball in college at Penn State Hazelton. I would say that my addiction was active while participating in sports. However, I didn’t start long distance running until after getting sober.

How/when did your addiction present itself? 

I started drinking and taking speed in the pill form at the age of 13, which escalated to cocaine, crank, LSD and crack abuse by my early 20s.

How addiction affected (and affects) your life. Your family. Your work. Your friends.

My addiction had varying degrees of effects on my life and my family. I was discharged from the military (general discharge under honorable conditions) secondary to my drinking, I was a blackout drinker and would not wake up to go to work on time, and I had lost the respect and trust of family members by being irresponsible and by lying to them and stealing from them to buy drugs.

When you knew it was time to seek help.

I knew it was time when my addict brother (who introduced me to the drug culture ) told me how bad I was with my drug usage and how I needed to clean up. Also, I just felt that if I did not do something to help myself I would either end of dead or in jail.


RELAPSE IS NOT AN OPTION! I got sober in AA on 4/28/92 and have not taken a drink or a drug since.

What type of treatment worked for you and what did it teach you about yourself?

I got sober in AA and learned that I can’t do it alone and that "the truth will set me free."

Thoughts about addiction now that you’re sober?

How I feel about addiction now that I am sober is that it is something that has many facets to it and can be devastating to not only the addict/alcoholic, but also the family as well. If treatment is sought after and received I am a prime example of the power of recovery over addiction!

When did running become part of your treatment or recovery?

I started running just after I stopped smoking in 2001, at first I could not even walk for 10 minutes on a treadmill but I stuck with it until I could run for 10 minutes, and now I have just completed my 4th full marathon.

Life after treatment.

My life is far different since first going to AA and receiving treatment. People actually respect me and look for my guidance and inspiration, something I did not have during my active addiction.

Life as a recovering addict. Everyday struggles?

I really have not had any adverse reactions from others regarding my recovery. I don’t have any real struggles at this point in my life, and that is a direct result of working the 12 steps of AA. I think that the stigma of addiction is very real, however, I think through education and also personal testimonies from people like myself we can change others beliefs/opinions of both addicts and recovering addicts.

How do you stay sober?

One day at a time

Advice to someone struggling with addiction?

If someone is struggling with an addiction and seeks my guidance I would first talk to them about it and would suggest they get the proper treatment for their particular addiction. If it is alcohol I would suggest Alcoholics Anonymous as a viable treatment option.

You regularly lead a group in active recovery, did you ever think you would be a mentor for others? How does helping others help you?

Never in my wildest dreams would I have told you the I would be mentoring others, let alone about running! I get so much gratitude and personal satisfaction seeing the Runwell participants at Gateway get better with their own recovery and also enjoying being active and running. I feel blessed and honored to be apart of something special like this program.

A little about your life and work currently.

I live in Jacksonville, FL and I have been a Physical Therapist Assistant for over 24 years now. As of right now I am in the home care business and love my work. I am married for almost nine years and have two daughters (Diann and Kyrie) and 3 grandchildren (Lenja, Ben, and Eliah) and also a loveable dachshund named bailey.

I have a zeal for life that is beyond comprehension to me sometimes. I feel lucky/blessed to even be alive to tell my story, I am just happy that I did not give up before the miracle happened.


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