At the age of 13, Todd Crandell had it all going for him—a loving father, a brain for books and a promising hockey career ahead of him. But a dark chapter in his childhood, and a subsequent inability to cope, eventually came to the surface and nearly ended his life.
“After my mom committed suicide when I was three, I had a lot of anger,” Crandell said. “I didn’t understand myself emotionally. I didn’t understand why I hated myself so much.”
Self-loathing thoughts led to self-harming behaviors that haunted him for years. Bleak as his future seemed then, there was a bigger purpose in Crandell’s life.
After losing almost everything, Crandell didn’t just recover—he reinvented himself. Years of work allowed him to fight his decade-long dependence on alcohol and cocaine, then tap into a new sense of purpose.
The powerful energy that once led him to reach for bottle after bottle, now propelled him toward a rigorous training regime through which he would take back agency and purpose.
Aside from serving the Toledo community, leading hundreds of people through their recovery journeys, Crandell is an experienced Ironman racer—a triathlon challenge that comprises no less than a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a marathon to top it off.
He is also somebody who understands the power of the narratives individuals tell themselves.
“I don’t like the term ‘addictive personality,’” he said. “I am not addicted to anything now. What I am is driven, motivated and dedicated.”
When Crandell spoke about his struggles with substance abuse, there was little of that self-harming kid with low self-esteem and anger issues. He shared his story with a rare sense of clarity and self-awareness.
“It all began with one newspaper article on the Toledo Blade,” he said. “I’d been sober for eight years at that time, I had reclaimed my hockey career and was doing very well, so I was contacted for an interview about my recovery. After it came out, my phone was ringing off the hook. Everyone wanted to speak to me about it. I knew then I had found my purpose.”
In 2001, he decided to become a counselor and open his own recovery center. Racing for Recovery, located in Holland, Sylvania, is a center for recovery that innovates.
Participants are encouraged to bring family members to the meetings. The sessions are also available online through live streaming.
Informed by his own recovery, Crandell’s method takes the focus out of their experiences as addicts, and instead concentrates on the benefits of learning how to handle emotions properly.
What Crandell has done—and continues to do—is unprecedented. The meetings, which take place twice weekly, gather hundreds of people on a weekly basis.
In spite of a 17-year-long career as a counselor, the Ironman racer hesitates to call himself an “expert.” His ability to help so many people to recover, he said, came from having a shared experience with his clients, the key to developing trust.
Like him, many people who engage in self-harming behaviors are in the process of learning how to cope with past trauma. Those who attend the meetings are invited to talk about what they want out of life and the purpose-driven path that awaits on the other side of addiction.
Though Crandell is a committed racer, completing an Ironman race isn’t required for those wishing to participate in Crandell’s sessions. However, he said, overcoming addiction entails a life change from the inside out.
“I took a negative addiction and turned it into a new focus—one that is done in a balanced, holistic manner,”Crandell said.
As the name suggests—”Running for Recovery”—is a central part of a holistic life, but it’s not the only one. The message is, indeed, simple: Purpose, loved ones and a self-respect that manifests into choosing sobriety, not just once but over and over, day after day.