Walter Barrera chose long distance running over an addiction to crack cocaine. A few years ago, he was severely addicted to drugs. He used to use meth and then he eventually discovered crack cocaine. He was homeless for a period of time and then he became a thief. He lived in doubt and fear for his life and even experienced paranoia until one morning in 2010 when he went for a run. Barrera believes that it was that one experience when he discovered he needed a break after one block that provided him with the opportunity to replace drugs with running. Three years later, his focus on running is as strong as any connection he might have had with drugs in the past.
Instead of waking up every morning to look for a way to get drugs, he started going farther with his run than he had with the previous day. After a few weeks, he was able to run a 5K and the feeling to him was similar to the high he had experienced on drugs. Soon he started running marathons but that wasn't even enough. Barrera ran a 50 mile race last June and then three months from now, he plans on running an 100-mile race in the mountains of Colorado.
Being able to understand the body and the mind is very difficult. Some who have worked in drug rehabilitation suggest that many people have a predisposition to addiction which causes something in the brain that must continually be satisfied. Some believe that there are healthier dependencies than others, such as exercise. Others believe that any type of unchecked addiction is destructive to the body, regardless of what the activity might be. Barrera thinks that his only chance at having a normal life and keeping his old life away is to keep channeling his urges through running. He also attends services at church, reads books that merge religion and running, and judges the success or failure of every day by how many miles he was able to run.
Barrera says that he was molested as a child and he believes that the negative experiences he had in his childhood pushed him towards a dangerous path and weakened his inhibitions. He began drinking alcohol at age 16 and experimented with ecstacy at 19. Before long he was using drugs and drinking in Washington almost every weekend. Crystal meth was strong and in his mid-20s, Barrera traveled to California to get sober. However, he ended up getting addicted to crack instead. During parties, he would be the one to meet up with dealers at the alley, get attacked, robbed, or be arrested. When he was sober, he would have hallucinations. This made him want to change. In 2009, he checked himself into the La Casa shelter outpatient program, which was designed for mild abusers but he found his way back to the parties filled with drugs and alcohol. He now runs to replace the addiction that he once held for these vices with healthier activities that will lead to self improvement.