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From Recovery to the Finish Line, Chris Madden’s Story

Issue 33

Chris Madden comes from a family of record-breakers. His father and grandfather were marathon runners with many successes under their belts. Chris was athletic throughout his life, from team sports to martial arts to CrossFit and yoga.

As a young boy, Chris admired his father and always wanted to do his best. However, he faced challenges with substance use that got in the way of his dreams and can-do attitude. What started as young fun slowly became a problem that stopped him from living the life he wanted.

On June 12, 2017, Chris decided to make a big change. He became sober, leaving behind drugs and alcohol. He remembers a special moment with his father during this time; his father told him he was proud of how Chris was able to pick himself up, “dusting off his pants and getting back after it.”

“When he said that to me, it was the first time in my life I didn’t trust myself to be able to figure this out [on my own],” Chris says. These words were very important to Chris, especially at a time when he was struggling to believe in himself.

It was time for a new start. Chris had to change it all. He went through detox, rehab, and sober living until he found himself on the other side of his recovery goal. What he found most rewarding on his path was the time he spent outdoors and in nature. He didn’t pick up hiking until he pursued recovery, but once he did, he threw himself into it.

On his fourth anniversary of sobriety, Chris completed the New Hampshire 48, a challenge for hikers to climb 48 mountains in the state that meet or exceed 4,000 feet in elevation. His father joined him on the last hike, but Chris didn’t share the significance of the date with him until he asked.

In his youth, Chris would have made the journey about him and his accomplishments, he explained, but instead, he wanted to dedicate this trip to quality time spent with his old man – the man who has been there for “every single thing” in Chris’s life.

Through recovery, Chris found patience and self-belief he could rely on and use to push past his limitations. Through his recovery programs, he was drawn to any organization with an outdoor aspect.

Currently, Chris works for Foundation House as the admissions coordinator and is working toward becoming a clinician there, hoping to offer the kind of community that pulled him back into himself.

He praises Foundation House for its commitment to recovery work and the outdoor programs it offers. These principles guide Chris’s own life on what he calls the “braided interest” of community development, mindfulness, communing with nature, and being physically active.

“I started small and I built over time,” he says, “incremental change, just inching a little bit forward with each effort. I’ve found that challenges always present themselves…What I learned from getting through those challenges [is that] adversity [can be] internally strengthening.”

By building up this strength, Chris has pursued taller climbs, longer runs, and a heart-centered life. He engages in his personal goals with joy and determination, feeling held by his family and in good company within his community. He says, “The things that I value most in my life now are things that you can’t create on your own.”

“If I allow myself to reflect on the previous day through the lens of gratitude, I’m blown away.” Chris says, “I’m astonished at where my life is. Throughout the day, if I review morning, lunch, or late afternoon, I’m just like, ‘How did this become my life?’

“Substances and alcohol do nothing but pull you away from the life that you ultimately want. Pursuing recovery can help set the building blocks to the life you couldn’t have dreamed that you could otherwise create for yourself.”

Gabrielle Gilbert
Gabrielle Gilbert
Gabrielle Gilbert is an endlessly curious freelance writer, poet, and visual artist waking up in Southern Maine.

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