How Todd Crandell used sports to turn his life around
Posted: Friday July 14, 2006 10:27AM; Updated: Friday July 14, 2006 11:57AM
Crandell is content to get his high through racing -- and not from drugs or alcohol.
Courtesy of Todd Crandell
By Cory McCartney, SI.com
The first time Todd Crandell tasted alcohol, he knew his life had changed forever. A demon awoke inside the then-13-year-old, and for the next 13 years the same evils that claimed the lives of his mother and uncle would have him within their grasp, whittling away at his relationships with family and friends and extinguishing a promising hockey career.
When he finally hit rock bottom, in 1993, death would have been a welcome escape. But it would not come from the many overdoses or the drunken Thanksgiving he spent in his grandmother's garage, a gun pursed between his lips.
"I always felt like I really didn't belong here," the 39-year-old Crandell said recently from his suburban Toledo, Ohio, home. "I would wake up and my first thought wasn't how happy I was to be alive; it was like, 'Damn, I can't believe I didn't OD from all that stuff I took last night.' That's the level it got to, where the difference between living and dying was nonexistent."
In order to survive, to beat the addictions that ravaged his body and ruined nearly everything in his life, Crandell needed to discover a new high, something to focus his energy on and motivate him to get healthy. Crandell found salvation in sports and now pushes his body in competition rather than destroying it with drugs and alcohol.
Crandell carries a reminder of his past that stays with him throughout the 2.4-mile swims, 112-mile bike rides and 26.2-mile runs that have come to define him. It is a tattoo on his left forearm that reads "From Addict to Ironman."
Going downhill fast
Growing up, Crandell says, he "had everything a kid could want, materialistic-wise," but there was one thing missing, a void that possessions couldn't fill. When he was three years old, his heroin-addicted mother committed suicide by driving her car into a bridge abutment. Later, his uncle also took his own life as a result of a drug addiction. Crandell believes he inherited their propensity toward substance abuse.
"It's not an excuse for me to go out and do what I did," he said. "It's a potential answer."
Crandell's first encounter with drugs came in eighth grade, when he took speed. Later that year came his first drink, a few sips of beer at a party. Within a year he was drinking an entire fifth of Jack Daniels in one binge and chasing it with amphetamines. Once, in a stupor, he urinated in a friend's closet, a type of behavior that would become common during his freshman and sophomore years of high school. His drug habit escalated his junior year, during which he was regularly consuming marijuana, LSD, Quaaludes and Valium.
"I felt isolated, empty," Crandell said. "I lacked self-confidence. I think that was due to my mom's suicide."