Paul Trehern, an insurance sales broker in New London, Connecticut. He’s a 47-year-old husband, father of three and grandfather of two. He’s also an increasingly accomplished age-group OCR athlete, qualifying and competing in the 2017 Spartan World Championships.
What makes Trehern’s success in Spartan Racing remarkable is that it was part of getting sober after hitting rock bottom as an alcoholic. “Up until the start of 2017 I was just existing in life and barely at that,” he says. His drinking, a DUI and collapsing health were compounded by the hit he took when his father died.
“I was at the brink of losing my job, getting a divorce, losing my home and even my own life. I don’t really know what made me take that first step but on Jan 29th, 2017 I took my last drink and then next morning my life started over again.”
That was the beginning of a year of recovering his life and health, in concert with pursuing OCR. His message for others who are struggling: “If you believe it can happen then you can make it happen. Don’t ever give up on yourself and leave nothing to chance.”
We caught up with Paul recently to talk about his journey.
Can you describe the moment you made the decision to take action and change your life?
I lost my dad on April 27 of 2016 after his four-year battle with cancer. He was the person I looked up to most. Still battling my alcoholism at the time I had registered in June 2016 for my first obstacle race (Spartan Sprint in Barre, Mass.). I almost chickened out but imagined my dad’s face looking at me telling me that if I said I was going to do it then I had to commit to it. This got the wheels turning. It me still another six months but then at the beginning of 2017. January 30, 2017 was the exact day I hit rock bottom and took my last drink.
In thinking back on your ability to make a change, did it almost seem necessary to hit rock bottom to summon the decision to turn your life around?
Yes. Every single day was the same….dark. I was just existing and barely at that. There wasn’t anything worth living for because I just didn’t care.
How important was getting the help and support of others?
Very important. Without the help and support from friends and family there is no way I could have done this on my own in the beginning. I had to make the initial step towards asking for help. Help was always there around me but I didn’t want it or was scared to ask for it. When I finally was broken and asked for help, people were there for me.
Were there bumpy spots in those first few months?
I was told sometimes you have to “fake it until you make it.” Yes, the first 24 hours, the first week, the first month—all were rough. I just had to break it down into small amounts of time. There was no way I could think long term. It was too scary. Many said: Just deal with today. Don’t drink today. So that’s exactly what I did. One 24-hour-day at a time. I would check in daily with friends and be open and honest all the time. I had to be accountable for myself.
If you were to meet someone on the street who was rock bottom in the way you were, what do you think you could say to them to help them open their eyes to the possibility of major change?
I would hold out my hand and ask them to take it. There is always help, even if you don’t think there is. If you don’t like where you are right now or how you feel and you are willing to take a chance on changing right this very minute…. I’m telling you that you can because I was there once too and I’m here to listen.
That you worked yourself into the elite category of Spartan Racing so quickly is pretty impressive. How did you do it?
It’s funny because I never was a jock back in school. When I started running obstacle races there was something about it that really pushed me. At first I only ran in Open divisions but quickly networked with others in the sport and they encouraged me to run more competitive, so I tried Elite. I really just started doing my own workouts in the local gym and outside. Then I stumbled onto an online training program called Yancy Camp. I joined the program and followed the workout schedules weekly. Also, teamed up with two local OCR groups. F4 OCR and Spartan 4-0. Members would frequently get together for group training sessions.
What are your race plans for this year?
I set some goals in January for 2018. First was to get a podium in a Spartan Race. Well, in March at Greek Peak I did just that. I placed 3rd in ALL Age Group Divisions. Next was to take on my first Ultra. I am doing that this month at the New Jersey Ultra Beast. Last was to once again qualify and return to the Spartan World Championships in September. Already qualified for the North American Champs! So I’m on my way.
It’s never too late to make a change. Download the Spartan Way of Life E-book