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"Since I didn't use needles, I wasn't an addict"

I am sure my story is more typical than most middle class suburbanites would like to believe.

I was brought up in a suburb of Cleveland Ohio with two older sisters and both parents. Good home life, yearly family vacations, very stable and comforting.

I used to try to figure out when my partying went from being social to a problem. But knowing what I know now about the disease of alcoholism and substance abuse, it was a problem from my first drink, hit, snort. My brain is wired with that addictive gene so I really believe it was a foregone conclusion, and unfortunately I had no idea.

I had a few drinks at a young age, started smoking as a teenager, tried pot in seventh or eighth grade. In high school I was smoking pot regularly, and was already a pack-a-day smoker. I was an athlete, baseball was my game and I went to Kent State to play, but was never eligible due to grades. By that time though, I had developed a relationship with pot, and with that came with a “just do enough to get by” attitude.

Needless to say I didn't graduate from Kent or get to play ball but I did meet my future wife there so I consider my college experience a success! I always held down a job and didn't use heroin or needles so in my eyes, I wasn't an addict. Interesting how we addicts can rationalize.

I had a brief marriage in the late 80s (less than two years) during that time I started doing cocaine and as with everything else I did, I did not use it in moderation. Ended up single then got laid off from work and pretty broke. Had to move in with my best friend for a couple years but found work and still abused drugs and alcohol almost daily.

Driving into a fire hydrant didn't even stop my abuse. I knew the cop so they didn't charge or test me. Not even ending up upside down in the middle of the road after going through a telephone pole was enough to get me to stop! The Cleveland Police for some reason never tested my blood that time either! This was 1990. Ended up trying and getting hooked on crack cocaine for about six months, a serious habit that I knew I wanted to stop but didn't, couldn’t seek the help I needed. Even when I was doing my drugs I still managed to play softball and hardball in the local sandlot league. My parents knew I had some issues but they didn't know the extent and they didn’t ask a lot of questions. How bad could I be I was working and paying the bills?

I finally got in trouble with the law when I was trying to buy some crack at a known crack house. I ended up in the cop car crying my eyes out and the officers told me to relax it won't be that bad. "You don't understand,” I said, “I have been waiting for this to happen and I am crying tears of relief.”

That was the last time I ever used drugs except for smoking a little pot once in a great while and I haven't done that in a LONG time. I did occasionally have a beer but decided to be done with that after drinking half a beer on my 50th birthday. Used to have a shot of Bailey’s in my coffee around the holidays but I even stopped that this past holiday season. I got remarried in 1996 to my wife Mary and we just celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary.

The hardest thing I had to quit by far was cigarettes, and I gave them up in February of 2007. My stepson moved back home around that time, he got me into running and I haven’t stopped since. I ran my first 5k in 2008, and just like everything else I do, I progressed to marathons and ultramarathons. I do not run in moderation.

As my running progressed, so did my group of friends, my circle of support, and I found out about Runwell in 2012. I immediately knew I wanted to help others and that's what I am doing. I love to run and genuinely care about people and have the experience of abusing drugs and alcohol so it is pretty much a no brainer for me to be a part of Runwell and get more involved in the community. If you have any questions feel free to give me a buzz (figuratively of course!).

About the Author

Michael is a lifelong resident of NE Ohio and lives in Lake County with his wife of 18 years, Dr. Mary Schaffer a clinical psychologist. He ran his first 5k in 2008, and his passion for running never waned. Since 2009 he has completed over 13 marathons and over 20 ultra marathons including completing 3 100-mile races in 2013. He first heard about Runwell in 2012 and in the fall of 2013 decided he wanted to become involved. After 14 years working in the scientific field he decided his calling was to help others with dependency issues and felt Runwell was the perfect avenue to achieve this. Michael came on board as an ambassador and is currently the lead ambassador of the East Coast continuing to raise funds, awareness, and involvement.

Michael is currently raising money to help those struggling with addiction access quality care and treatment for the disease of addiction. Click here to help support him and Runwell's cause

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