DALTON, Ga. - Watching Gregg Ellis make short work of the 440-foot indoor track at the Bradley Wellness Center, it's hard to believe that about a year ago he was in an emergency room because of drug and alcohol abuse.
That was March 6, 2009. On March 6 this year, he will celebrate one year of sobriety.
Mr. Ellis, 39, plans to run that day in the Snickers Marathon in Albany, Ga., to try to qualify for the Boston Marathon. He'll need to run 26.2 miles in 3 hours and 20 minutes, about 7.5 minutes per mile.
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"For a long time I didn't like my life; I didn't like myself," said Mr. Ellis. "I like who I am today. I'm excited about my future."
Mr. Ellis said he has struggled with alcohol addiction for much of his life and drug addiction for about 10 years. He credits his recovery to wanting to change and to help he received at the Carter Hope Center, a nonprofit, low-intensity residential and outpatient drug and alcohol recovery facility in Dalton.
He's working to raise money through the marathon to support the Carter Hope Center.
"I know what it's like to have a hopeless feeling, thinking you're never going to be able to get out of that self-imposed prison (of) drugs and alcohol," Mr. Ellis said. "I want to do what little part I can to raise some money and help sustain the center so they can help other people."
So far he's raised about $2,400, he said.
Chuck Smith, director of the Carter Hope Center, said the center is struggling in the down economy.
"Without efforts like this, I'm not sure we would be able to keep the doors open further into the year," said Mr. Smith.
The center is funded mostly by United Way of Northwest Georgia and patient fees. The annual operating budget of $330,000 is about $15,000 short this year, he said.
At the same time, Mr. Smith said the center's 35 beds stay full and there's a constant waiting list.
If he qualifies for the Boston Marathon, Mr. Ellis says that's just the beginning.
He's also training for the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, and organizing a run across Georgia and back. He also plans to run across the country.
He's working to start his own nonprofit, called Racing for Recovery, that will continue to raise money for the Carter Hope Center and similar programs.
Dale Davis became friends with Mr. Ellis this year. They both work out at the Bradley Wellness Center.
Mr. Davis said it inspires him that "somebody can come back from what all he went through in a 10-year period and excel the way he's done."
Sports always have been a big part of Mr. Ellis' life. He was a punter for Georgia Tech on the 1990 national championship football team, but partying soon got in the way.
He said running may not be for everyone, but it helps to find a positive hobby when recovering from alcohol and drug addiction.
"Everybody's got a love for something," said Mr. Ellis. "I would suggest they follow that."