In 2015, when Keith Johnston heard the news of a friend’s son overdosing, he decided to act. His response: Running2BWell, fitness-based running groups for people in recovery.
“I still wasn’t thinking of myself, I was just thinking of helping other people,” he says. After a year, Johnston confronted his own demons, using the resources he’d discovered and cultivated to overcome a porn addiction. “It really started to come into focus to me as ‘I’ve got an addiction. I’ve got to deal with this like it’s an addiction,’ because it is,” he says.
Now, when Johnston isn’t challenging R2BW members to races, he works with Community Assessment and Treatment Services for more in-depth time with those in need.
Fitness and Recovery
According to Johnston, fitness and recovery make a wonderful pair. “It scratches the same itch,” Johnston says. “People just kind of understand that on this basic physical level. It's not like this knowledge thing — we're just working out or we're running. Now, it doesn’t mean that that will be sufficient to keep you motivated, and that’s where a group like ours can really help to keep that motivation coming from different angles.” People facing court-mandated recovery meetings may choose R2BW in conjunction with traditional 12-step programs. The organization also makes it a point to put members in positions of mentorship if they’re interested and comfortable with it.
As the stricter days of the pandemic waned, Johnston noticed a decrease in participation with R2BW and other recovery programs across the board. He credits this to the broken habits and heightened workloads typical of the shutdown. “People that are working are getting overworked like crazy,” he says. “The way the labor shortage is made it even harder for those people to actually show up.” That’s why Johnston believes in the inpatient treatment he’s recently turned to. A similar program to the communal R2BW groups, work in a facility focuses his and the patients' efforts on sobriety. “That’s a hard sell,” he says, “because their motivation is so low. But it’s a little bit easier in that environment than it is out in the community.”
Visibility for Older Addicts
Johnston reckons you’ll jump quicker to the word 'overdose' when someone young dies as opposed to an older community member. “I think it does everybody a disservice,” he says. “Addiction crosses all barriers.” Despite Johnston's comfortable suburban environment and successful retirement at 55, addiction didn’t care. He chuckles at an interaction with a non-addict member of R2BW, Holly, who mentioned that people assumed she was in recovery from her tattoos and skinny physique. “That’s pretty funny,” Johnston told her. “Because they look at you and assume you’re an addict, and they look at me and assume I’m not — they’re both wrong.”