Conquering the BMO half marathon in Vancouver May 7 included a poignant reminder for one Terrace resident of how running helped turn her life around.
The vivid reminder came at kilometre 18, when Jocelyn DeWalle hit what runners call ‘the wall’ — feeling exhausted and ready to give up.
But as she struggled to push through, DeWalle glanced up at a restaurant looming on the side of the road and there, emblazoned on a huge sign, was the word ‘CHANGE.’
For her, it ignited memories of her journey the last five years, battling through drug addictions and rebuilding her life after a difficult six months of treatment.
“It was so cool!” DeWalle said of the sign for change.
“I was like ‘yeah! That’s what I’ve done! This is why I do what I do,’” she said, adding that it gave her the extra push to “just get her done” and complete the 21-kilometre half marathon.
“In that moment I was [feeling] like ‘I can’t do this, I can’t do this’ … kind of like when I thought ‘I can’t get clean, I can’t get clean,” she said.
Now five and a half years clean, DeWalle says she ‘hit rock bottom’ and started treatment in 2011, following eight years of addiction.
It started subtly, with a number of years dabbling in drugs in high school here in Terrace, then in Edmonton when her family moved there. It slowly progressed to eventually consume her life.
“I lost everything,” she said, explaining how in 2011 she lost her job, crashed her car, and had no more contact with her family because she’d alienated them.
But finally, as she sat alone in her Vancouver apartment, she came to point of desperation for change.
That’s when her mom called saying there was a bed for her in the Westminster House, a treatment centre for women in New Westminster, and though she struggled to believe change was possible, DeWalle chose to take that step.
Part of the six-month treatment program was finding healthy activities to fill the void, such as exercise, and it was through that DeWalle started running.
Asked about a training regime, DeWalle says she tends to ‘fly by the seat of her pants,’ and its more a regular decision to make that healthy choice.
“It’s my de-stressor,” she said, adding that it also makes her feel good about herself and it gives her that physical boost of energy and happiness.
“A drug high and a runners high have a lot in common,” she said, noting how exercise releases what is known as the happy-drug (dopamine) which substances will mimic.
“The difference is that running won’t give me a hangover, empty my wallet, give me a criminal record or burn my life to the ground,” she said.
But while in some ways running can be ‘a new high,’ it is also evident that DeWalle has kept running from become an addiction itself. Instead, she uses it as a tool to be a productive member of society and a good mom to her two young daughters, ages one and four.
“It helps me be a better mom,” she said. “I don’t have to, say, at the end of a long day, sit down and pour myself a glass of wine… I can go out there for an hour, and come home and feel revitalized and make dinner and be a better mom for my kids,” she said.
DeWalle’s husband, Steve Bodenbender, says he can appreciate the way his wife uses running to de-stress.
“It’s a meditation for her, where she can just sort of clear her mind and sort of calm herself if she’s had a rough day or whatever,” he said. “She’ll just go for a run, and come back feeling a little bit better.”
And he relates to her need for that de-stressing activity, he said, adding that for him it simply takes a different form.
“When I’m hiking a mountain or something like that, I find myself in the moment and not thinking about some of the (stresses of life). I just feel like it’s me and God’s earth and nothing else really matters at that point in time,” he said. “So I can relate to how she runs and I could feel the same way.”
Ultimately Bodenbender is proud of his wife.
“There’s no shame in where you’ve come from,” he said.
“It’s about being proud of what you’ve accomplished and where you are at today.”