Christmas!!! A merry day full of cheer for many around the world as they celebrate their beliefs, their lives, their families and friends and enjoy the magic of the season. Christmas for others is not so bright and sparkly. In fact it is a grim, dark time of loneliness, well, if you don’t count that bottle or that needle or any other safety crutch people with addictions use to survive the holidays. Christmas-time is actually a time for addicts to turn to their perceived comfort zone and abuse themselves more in the pursuit to dampen their misery.
Mark Bowles is a 26 year old construction worker from Virginia. His past eight Christmases were spent in the darkness and horrible shadows of an addiction. As a teenager Mark began with pain killers and pro
gressed to more intense forms of drugs. For those that suffer from this addiction, or any addiction, life is not beautiful and not magical at Christmas when so dependent upon fulfilling that craving with dangerous choices. For almost a third of Mark’s life, Christmases were spent giving to his addiction, not to his family or friends or to enjoying the spirit of the season.
In March 2015, just nine months ago, Mark hit rock bottom. His life was a mess. Mark didn’t even have five people he could call friends. However, there was one person in his life that hadn’t given up on Mark, this friend was a Spartan. This Spartan friend made all the difference in Mark’s life. This friend basically told Mark to “Spartan Up” and “do something with your life and actually be someone for once.” He told Mark about Spartan Race. Somehow these words triggered something in Mark’s head. He was interested in this challenge of a Spartan Race. So the friend started Mark with burpees. Mark did five, that’s it, FIVE. That’s all his 110 pound body could push through. The addiction had taken his strength and stamina along with his zest for life.
Mark so badly wanted to complete this race, he wanted to be a Spartan, he also wanted his life and body back. How humiliating to only be able to do five burpees. The Charlotte Sprint was a month away and Mark suddenly realized that his drug addiction would stand in the way of getting to the finish line.
With the support of his Spartan friend, and less than a handful of others, Mark cleaned up his act and took control of what was controlling him. Mark kicked his addiction to drugs. The next days and months were definitely not easy; the cravings were strong and real. Each time his body screamed for a fix, Mark would hit the ground and pound out burpees or he would get into a workout to quench the calling. By working on his fitness and spending spare time learning about this upcoming event, Mark found new friends and a new routine. He formed new habits leaving the morbid ones long behind. His support group grew through his growing social media circle. Mark was inspired by what others were doing; some had suffered from the same dynamics as him. If his friend could run a Spartan Race, so could he. But if his friend could do 30 burpees, Mark wanted to also say he could. So Mark practiced, and trained, and continued to learn about this new promising lifestyle.
Mark knew at the finish line of that April Spartan Sprint, that this new passion was far more fulfilling than those drugs could ever be. Mark did not join a gym, he did not acquire a coach, if he learned anything from his previous addiction, he learned that if you want something bad enough you will go after it and find a way to get it. Mark loved his life for once, and was enjoying being a super-dad to his six-year-old daughter and wanted nothing more but to continue on that path. So burpees and workouts have become routine for Mark.
Just the other day Mark was simply asked, “Why do you do train and race?” It was with that simple question Mark realized his passion was contagious. If only he could pay it forward and inspire another individual to make a choice for happiness and freedom over the darkness of addiction. Mark ended up spilling his story to this new friend. Not only did it feel great to be drug-free, but it felt incredible to be inspiring someone else to want a different life. And in the struggle with addiction, the addict has to WANT to make a change.
So that is how the challenge of #5foraddiction began. Mark challenged five of his friends to do five burpees each to bring awareness and to support those still in hostage of their own miserable addiction. Because Mark has been doing burpees for nine months now, he decided he would do those five burpees with every single person that accepted the challenge. I’m not sure how many burpees Mark has pounded out in just the few days this challenge has been going, but #5foraddiction has spread through 40 states and 4 countries. Every single one of us is affected by an addiction of one sort or another, either directly or by someone close to us. So Mark and I challenge YOU to Spartan Up and help somebody out there, someone suffering that just may need that tiny bit of inspiration you have to offer. Five burpees and a quick video post could save a life, perhaps the life of someone very near and dear to you. What better Christmas gift? Make sure to hashtag #5foraddiction. The more people reached the better the chance to help others, so if you cannot post a burpee video yourself, please share other’s posts.
Merry Christmas and Joyful Burpees, you won’t be doing them alone!!