“Running as a Vehicle for Self-Discovery” – Rich Roll

11 hours in

11 hours in to my 12 hour celebration run for 1 year of sobriety, 1 hour for each month that I had maintained being sober.


In July of 2013, with my Facebook post to friends and family, I mentioned that running and cycling were my new addictions, taking the place of alcohol and drugs.  Looking back at that time I can respect why I thought that.  At the time I had nothing else to latch on to emotionally, to define what it was that I was trying to recover from.  I grasped at a new addiction because at the time athletics was all I was confident in doing.  Now, after a year of being sober, I know that there has been a change in this thinking.  Athletics are not my addiction, so to speak, they are a way of life, a passion, a way to express myself.  To quote Rich Roll, in his podcast with fellow ultra-runner in recovery David Clark, “running is a vehicle for self-discovery.”  I can really get behind that analogy, it makes sense.

I do not know Rich Roll.  I’d love to meet the guy someday as he was one of the first people who I really started listening to, and more importantly hearing, when I began recovery last year.  While reading his book “Finding Ultra” I could have sworn the story he was telling was that of my own.  I began listening to his Podcasts early last year and quickly latched onto the notions that he and his guests were speaking about.  I fumbled through his conversations with Mishka Shubaly, Charlie Engle,  John Joseph, his wife Julie, Mac Danzig, David Clark, and Timothy Olson, among others.  As I listened to each of these conversations I began to hear a pattern of language that included words like “real,” “authentic,” “honesty,” and “true-self,” among many others.  What was so impactful about listening to these conversations was the fact that I began to ask myself what the hell I was doing. Was I being these things?  Was I being true to myself?  If I really dug down and got honest with myself the answer in large part to these questions was, NO.  The main reason that I listened so intently to these guys was because they weren’t just addicts/alcoholics in recovery, they were also endurance athletes.  They “got it” in my mind, based not only on their past transgressions, but on their ability to sink themselves into endurance sports, and use it as a vehicle for their own self-discovery.  I was actually lucky enough to meet Timothy last September and we shared a quick chat about being ultra-runners in recovery.  It was a pretty cool 2 minutes.  I hope to run into and meet the others that I mentioned, to share the same couple of minutes.

Last Wednesday, on my one year sober date, I ran for 12 hours in the McDonald-Dunn Forest just outside of Corvallis.  I chose 12 hours because I wanted to take one hour to process each month of the year, to think back to where I was emotionally last February, March, April, etc.  It was a powerful experience.  To recall and acknowledge my mental state, and how fragile it was during each of these months, helped shed a little light on how far I’ve come, all because I decided to make one change in my life, to stop drinking.  I was able to use running as a vehicle for reflection and for self-discovery. Tonight, if I decided to drive down to Murphy’s and get a shot of Crown Royal that development would all go away and if I were lucky, I would get another chance to start all over.  It’s just not worth it to find out if I would be so lucky again.  All this said, the journey of development, of self-discovery, is only getting started.  Now that all of the bullshit has been purged I can finally get to work on the real stuff, the shit that matters. That is what keeps me going, that is what keeps me sober today.  Maybe by this time next year I will have done enough work to actually match my age in emotional development with my age in years.  I’m happy to say that I’d like to find out.

As for Rich, and his Podcasts, I have begun to go back and re-listen to the previously mentioned conversations.  I am amazed at all of the substance that I missed during the first go around.  It’s shocking to me that I even picked up enough to keep the inspiration going.  Maybe I was listening, or maybe I was better at the act of listening than I originally thought?  I guess that’s a little bit of that self-discovery notion in action.

Here to one year down and just today to go.

Thanks for listening.







My Fears

I woke up this morning with an overwhelming sense of fear.  Fear of what?  Who the hell really knows.  Time to get honest and take a little inventory:

Today here are the things that I fear:
– I fear being alone
– I fear that I’ve lost friends because of how open I have been during the last year about my struggles with sobriety
– I fear that because of the societal stigma of alcoholism/addiction that I will never find a partner in life
– I fear that I am unlikable as a person
– I fear that life-balance is not within my reach
– I fear that my past transgressions in life will haunt me forever
– I fear that I will never amount to anything
– I fear that I will miss out on the last ever Motley Crue tour
– I fear that I will never get to travel to parts of the world that I have never seen like Italy, Australia, the Caribbean, hell, Alabama for that matter
– I fear that my introversion will prevent me from sustaining any meaningful future relationships

As I take a look at this list I know deep down that many of these fears are simply not true, and largely out of my control.  Many of these fears, for instance my past transgressions, are things that I need to let go of.  What’s done is done, I cannot change the past.  I am sorry to those people who I have hurt and I wish there was something that I could do about it.

One fear that I often ponder and obsess over is that I have lost friends and acquaintances because I no longer drink.  In fact, I can list 20 or so people in my life that I have lost contact with for whatever reason, maybe the common thread was partying, maybe those people do not feel comfortable being around me because I am sober, maybe those relationships had no substance to begin with.  It’s scary to think about sometimes, especially this morning as the topic of fear races through my head.

The other fear that I often think about, sometimes daily, is that because of my openness with my struggles with alcohol and addiction, I will not find a partner in life to be together with.  Next week there will be posters all over the Corvallis community, and Oregon State University, promoting a talk that Betsy and I are giving on the subject of life change and our past struggles.  It’s our “coming-out” party, so to speak.  On that poster will be the words alcoholic and addict, linked directly to me.  I am not asking for pity here, I am just saying that it is scary as hell.  I signed up for this and it is what I want, to share my struggles so that I can stay accountable to myself, as well as help someone else out there who might find inspiration in my story.  That being said, the fear is in the back of my mind that I am continuing to limit my “attractiveness” by being so open.  Again, the fear is just that, a fear, not necessarily reality.

As I write this entry I am reminding myself that this has to be a part of the process, taking inventory and acknowledging the things that hold you back in life.  Just by writing this shit down (I had not yet actually verbalized my fears yet) I can get a clear sense as to what my priorities are today.  Being so open about the process of recovery still remains to be an insightful and powerful experience, despite the fears that are attached to it.  Having a list of things to work on, such as fears, helps me to refocus on this process.  It also helps me to regain clarity and a sense of purpose.  And if I really wanted to travel to Alabama I could just pony up and buy a plane ticket, right?  Right. Shut up, Spence.  Keep pushing, keep recovering, and do what you need to do to continue to be kind to yourself.  Some sense of fear will always be there, just don’t let it slow you down.


Novo Veritas: Who Are We?

Please check out our youtube page featuring a video clip about who we are:

Novo Veritas:  What is it?  In Latin Novo Veritas translates to honest change.  Betsy Hartley and I have each gone through our own separate struggles, she with obesity and diabetes, me with alcoholism and addiction.  Paired together we offer a message of hope to anyone who struggles with their own personal demons and is looking to make a change.  There are several ways to change, and Betsy and I are by no means experts on the subject.  However, in our own separate ways, we have been able to confront our own demons in an honest and forthright way to work the process of recovery.  It just so happens that we are friends, and the combination of our stories creates a cohesive message that with a little work, and a little honesty and self-reflection, change is possible.

At one point Betsy weighed 392 pounds.  She became fed up with being heavy and decided to make a change in her lifestyle.  Through hard work, perseverance, and a change in the way she saw herself, Betsy has set a standard for herself to be a different person, an ultra-runner, a role model, and a living example of a true success story of change.  She has chronicled her story in her blog: allbetsareoff392.wordpress.com.  If you don’t know her, check it out.  She is an inspiration not only to me, but to everyone she comes into contact with, and shares her story.

Novo Veritas and our message of hope will be speaking across Oregon over the next several months.  Please check out our Facebook page to keep updated:


Thanks to all for your continued support. We appreciate, more than you can possibly know, the encouragement to keep the message of hope and change moving forward.