Hi! My name is Amber and I’m a recovered alcoholic
I’m also a mother to two amazing boys, a second-grade teacher, a competitive runner, certified fitness coach, sobriety activist and the founder of Recovery Road Runners.
My life has been pretty “normal” by most people’s standards
I wish I could add here how difficult my life has been and list all the traumas and struggles I endured that led me to a path of addiction to alcohol, but I’d be stretching the truth quite a bit. I just happen to be one of millions of women who became addicted to booze. It’s BRUTAL!
The bad stuff started happening after I started drinking. Things spiraled from there.
You don’t need to go through some big traumatic event to become an addict
You can just be a normal kid who grows up in a normal home, with normal friends and a normal life with normal curiosities, and you can still become addicted to bad stuff. I know what that’s like!!
So, if you’re looking for a woe-is-me story about my divorce, or how my family reacted to my getting sober, sorry to disappoint you, but my recovery story is about seeking positivity, finding energy and purpose, and realizing happiness has always been there; it was just covered up by the boozing.
And of course, my story is also about running. :)
From my first sip at age 15, I knew I was addicted
I remember it like yesterday. I was a freshman in high school and had just made the varsity softball team. The girls took me to my first party. I felt so cool to hang with the older kids! They took me into a bedroom with a bottle of peppermint schnapps and a shot glass. They said “drink this, it tastes kinda bad but you’ll love the drunk feeling!”
So I drank it and they were right. I did love it.
That night, I wanted more, more, more. I didn’t get sick because I was treading lightly, and the girls didn’t let me drink too much since it was my first time. But I remember feeling like a superhero. I couldn’t get enough.
I loved the feeling of fearlessness being drunk gave me
I was really shy and awkward back then as a teenager (not uncommon, I know). I could not be myself and would rather blend into the crowd than stand out (at least when I was sober).
Alcohol helped squash my anxiety, made me feel brave and fearless. I could let loose for once! I thought drinking was the missing piece of my personality - the part that made me interesting to other people.
I dreamed of getting a softball scholarship to a Division 1 school, and I made that dream come true, only to totally blow it
I was good at softball. Damn good. In fact, I was a San Francisco Bay-area outfield all-star. I even received a full ride to Baylor University! Before that, though, the warning signs were already in place. Even though the drinking never stopped me from attending practice, I would often show up drunk or hungover.
I thought I was doing OK keeping it all together: school, softball, and partying, but my top priority was partying
I never missed practice or class, I just squeezed it all in, even once I got to college in Texas. It was like a little power I had in my life. I was still really good at managing everything that needed to get done, especially everything that needed to get done before I could DRINK.
I kind of skated by. I wasn’t really into learning, and more into softball, partying, and boys. School was my very last priority, actually, and I still laugh, because it’s funny that I became a teacher when all my life I was a terrible student!
Then I lost my scholarship after the first season in college
My dream back then was to play in the Olympics or become a college softball coach and I thought I was well on my way to achieving it when I got the Baylor scholarship.
I was drinking a TON, gained 20 pounds, drank every day, and I started playing like shit. The others on the team rose up to the Division One level we were at, and I couldn’t keep up. I was in total denial about this.
Coach cut me at the end of the season and said I wasn’t performing. I was SHOCKED and completely devastated. So were my parents. To this day, I wonder how good I could have been had I not been drinking.
I was very good at hiding my drinking
Aside from my softball career, I was very active in cross-country running, too. When I puked while running, everyone thought I was pushing myself to the point of exhaustion, which was partially TRUE, but sometimes I still had alcohol in my system from the night before.
Soon, I was the last one standing at parties
I could drink several shots and beers, several margaritas and beers. Basically, I would drink until 2 a.m. or later. Often, I would black out and throw up.
We drank in the morning. We drank all day. We drank to get rid of our hangovers. I had a group after college of about 3 guys, me and my friend Lacee. The 5 of us. Best friends. We had massive parties, full bar, rocking music, tons of people. Shots of everything, kegs of beer. We partied all night and slept all day. Then worked the dinner shift. We could go to work buzzed and no one knew. Work a few hours, then get drunk again. Every. Single. Day. We loved the karaoke bar next door and the mexican restaurant bar.
My drinking habits matured when I met my now-ex-husband
I switched from shots and beer to wine, for example, which because a big focus point to my relationship with my ex. When we met on a dating app online around New Year’s Day 2014. When we finally got to meeting in person, we met at a bar and fell pretty hot and heavy.
We were always wine tasting, that was our thing. The entire bay area where we lived is “wine country.” We loved to go wine tasting. By that point, the drinking didn’t feel so much like a party all night situation. It felt mature and responsible, because we were doing it as a couple.
When I got pregnant and we couldn’t go wine tasting and drink like we used to, we got bored with each other
And that’s when I started to see the red flags clearly for the first time because I was sober.
I felt trapped because I barely had any money of my own. We tried to make it work, went to counseling and had another baby.
Embarrassingly, I drank a little even when I was pregnant
I was really addicted to my wine, and I didn’t want to let it go. I asked my doctor if I could still drink wine, and he said, “Yes, just don’t drink too much.” What a relief! I measured my wine to 4-5 ounces per day, about 3 times a week.
I couldn’t WAIT to drink as much as I wanted after the baby was born. And I did! Right back to drinking multiple glasses of wine every day. I drank 4-6 glasses of wine on the regular.
I knew alcohol was holding me back
I would drink to drown out the feelings of overwhelm with life: working mom, two toddlers, a house to take care of, and a marriage that had already fallen apart before I was willing to admit it.
Through it all, I never stopped running
It was my one constant. In fact, I ran half marathons when my kids were infants and full marathons before they turned one!
Running gave me an excuse to get out of the house. It also helped me detox my body from drinking the night before. Detox to retox, I liked to say. I thought I was balancing things out: If I drink tonight, but I run 8 miles tomorrow, it all evens out in the end, right?
My marriage continued to crumble. I wanted OUT. And that’s when the starting line towards my new life appeared in front of me.
That starting line said, “Amber, it’s time to quit drinking.”
On May 26, 2020, I quit drinking for good.
I quit drinking for life.
I’ve had success in all areas of my life, but sobriety has helped me reach so many goals I never thought possible
My biggest wins: being a mama to my kids. Getting sober is up there, too. I also love being a teacher, and now getting to be a coach and mentor to other fitness enthusiasts seeking sobriety. None of these things would make me as happy as they do if I was still drinking.
I attribute my sobriety success with doing the hard work, sitting with my feelings, following my intuition and RUNNING
When in doubt, run it out, I say. Running has always been there for me, and as a recovery and fitness coach, I hope to encourage other people seeking recovery or are already in long-term recovery to find a fitness activity they love and can commit to long-term. It’s the ultimate tool for recovery.
Running and sobriety. They’re superpowers. They give me the superhero feeling that alcohol used to give me, but without the guilt, shame or hangovers.
I’ve done some hard things. But the hardest thing I’ve ever done was getting sober
And the second hardest thing was ending my marriage. I did them both simultaneously, with a huge leap of faith, and I came out better and stronger in every way.
Today, I feel unstoppable and I know you have it in you to feel the same way
As a sober person living a happy, healthy life with running, fitness and family at my side, I’ve been able to do so many great things, one of those being starting Recovery Road Runners.
Running is FUN. Anyone can do it (fast or slow does not matter). Running races is FUN. It takes you to new places, new adventures, new people along the way. You feel accomplished, satisfied, energized, like a kid again having an adventure! It’s accessible to anyone. All you need is shoes and a road in front of you. Just run. :)
If you want to feel unstoppable, it starts with quitting drinking and picking up a pair of tennis shoes instead of picking up another bottle
But you do need help getting there. I needed help, too, and I got it.
What I couldn’t find was a group like Recovery Road Runners, which is one reason why I started it! Our group is amazing and I’ve never felt more confident and secure in my sobriety as today with our group.
As a running and sobriety coach, I believe I can help others who want to free themselves from another hangover, another regret, another setback. I can help you feel amazing and unstoppable. We can do it together.
We are Recovery Road Runners.
Start Your Running and Recovery Success Story Today!
Coach Amber is now booking free consultations and taking membership applications for Winter 2021-22!
By Amber Cano
Like most people, I’m a lot of things.
I’m a mom, a grade school teacher, a distance runner, high school and collegiate softball champion, and I’m also a recovering alcoholic.
This doesn’t make me special or different, even, but my alcoholism changed the path of my life in both good and bad ways, from the minute I took my first sip of Peppermint Schnapps at age 14 to the last drink I had at age 38.
I’ve always been a high-energy person, something I get from my mom, who is always doing something interesting, while my dad is more laid back and easy-going. But even though my parents have almost opposite personalities, they always encouraged me to see life as a series of possibilities, not setbacks. So, it’s hard to know at what point I changed my inner voice from “I can” statements to “I can’t” statements, but I imagine it was about the same age I was when I adopted booze as my BFF.
My drinker mind said “I can’t” to a lot of things, like:
When I finally got sober on May 26, 2020, after almost a quarter-century of heavy drinking behind me, the things that I thought made me who I am today started changing. I started seeing the “I can’t” statements as “I cans” again.
Now these statements are more like:
One of the action items I took in early sobriety was to switch my mindset. If I don’t drink, I can do a lot of other things I’ve always wanted to do.
I can become a better teacher. I can be a better mom. I can get out of my toxic marriage and still coparent like a boss with my ex.
I can follow my dreams of becoming a running and recovery coach. I can start Recovery Road Runners and help others like me find long-term sobriety and lifelong health.
You can do the same.
What are the “I can’t” statements limiting you from creating the life you want for yourself? What are the “I can’t” statements that have you resetting your sobriety to day one over and over again?
Common ‘I can’t’ statements that prevent addicts from finding recovery
No matter what your “I can’t” statements are, these limiting beliefs won’t do you any good. When I coach people with running and fitness or for sobriety, we work together to switch your mindset so you aren’t telling yourself you can’t do something, when you absolutely can and will do the things that will make you truly happy.
Is it hard work? Yes.
Will it come naturally or happen overnight? No way.
Will you have to try and try again? Maybe. But with my team on your side, chances are, you’ll find your people (like I did) and turn those cannots into cans before you know it.
How RRR can help turn the ‘I can’t’ statements into ‘I can’ statements
As a teacher, professional fitness trainer and someone living in long-term recovery, my team at Recovery Road Runners knows how to motivate your mindset through one-on-one and small group coaching that’s designed with your personal goals and fitness levels.
I believe running saved my life and I see every day how positive an impact running can have on people seeking freedom from addiction. There’s a lot of science behind the ways running and fitness can enhance your recovery journey, and I’m living proof that it works.
One of the best ways to get to know me and Recovery Road Runners as a whole is to join our private community on Facebook. We’re a growing group of likeminded people who learn a lot about fitness and sobriety, and how the two go hand in hand. I hope you find us there, reach out and discover the motivation you have inside of you to change for good.
You can do this.
Recovery Road Runners Member
I found Recovery Road Runners (RRR) at a point in my recovery where I had been sober for a little over a year and was desperate for a recovery community. Everyone in my life still drinks and although they could have been supportive I really wanted to talk to people who knew what I was going through. I had tried a local women’s AA meeting, but I had a tough time accepting my drinking problem was due to a “personality defect” instead of alcohol being an addictive drug to which I had become addicted after 2 decades of drinking. I had primarily been a weekend binge drinker but in my thirties as my life was becoming more full (kids and work), my hangovers were becoming increasingly harder to manage. Where it used to be I could sweat off a night of drinking with a run or a hot yoga session, a hangover was turning into days of crippling anxiety and fatigue once the rest of my physical symptoms subsided.
In RRR I found a tribe of other sober runners (and wannabe runners!) who knew exactly what I was talking about when I said I used to sweat out a hangover! Also, there were members who were way more knowledgeable than me who could actually help me become a BETTER runner. At first I was intimidated by all the people training for marathons (and beyond) but I quickly realized they were on a similar journey of recovery. I joined a 16 week challenge where a group of us training together check in daily with our workouts and sweaty selfies and I found more people who understood me at the weekly meetups where we talk about life in recovery. I now have people in my life who I can call when I’m having a tough day and with whom I never have to filter the struggles of not drinking in our booze filled culture.
The thing I appreciate most about RRR is that we are a tribe of people with a growth mindset and are focused on making a better lives for ourselves without alcohol. Together we are dedicated to getting physically and mentally healthier and want to help each other on our respective journeys. Thank you Amber for starting this community and giving us all a safe sober space where we can heal!
Hey RRR family! I had a chance to share my personal struggles with alcohol addiction on Jeff G.'s Getting Bac 2 Zero vlog. Even though I had to get up at 4 a.m. and attempt to be bright-eyed for the 5 a.m. Zoom call, it was an amazing experience.
Jeff asked me all sorts of questions, and I found myself looking pretty far back into my own personal history before I could fully explain how I got to where I'm at now. Like the times I had to stop during track and field practice to puke and pretended I was just pushing myself too hard (when in reality, I was hungover). That was way back in high school!
I'm so glad Jeff asked me to be on his show and I can't wait to do more interviews like it. The video is available for you to watch or listen to. Just click or tap the button below and enjoy!
I always thought I had the best of both worlds: I could drink (and eat) as much as I wanted to and then run it off the next day. Since the age of 19, I've run hundreds of races ranging from 5k to full marathon. But it always bothered me when people would say, "You always run so much, so why aren't you as skinny as a twig?" I looked fine, but they were right. I didn't look "like a runner." And I sure didn't act "like a runner." I drank too much, and I was hungover most days out of the week. I was using running as a way to soothe my hangovers. But after about 25 years of this same-old, same-old, that shit finally got ...OLD. If it's gotten old for you, too, read on, my friend. Running is hard, but we don't have to make it even harder for ourselves than it already is by running hungover and dehydrated.
When I quit drinking, I actually started to ENJOY running again. Without a pounding headache and nauseous stomach to slow me down, I started going faster, farther, and with less effort. I started sleeping better, and eating healthier, which led me to actually shedding a few extra pounds. I started to notice the beautiful scenery around me, and stopped to talk to familiar faces along the way. My entire mood lifted (hello, endorphins, I can feel you, now!), and I started to see running as more of a treat rather than a punishment for what I drank the night before. I also had extra money in my bank account (from no longer buying all the wine) that I could spend on race entries!
But then I started to wonder, "where are all the other sober runners at?"
I knew there were more people like me out there, and I wanted to find them. Like, I REALLY wanted to find them! It started off slowly in January 2021, with just a handful of my friends who I asked to join Recovery Road Runners to get the group started. And here we are, 9 months into the journey of RRR and with over 500 people in the Facebook group. I think I've found what I was looking for: a group of sober runners who GETS IT! RRR has become an amazingly supportive, inspiring, friendly, and welcoming group. We now train together, talk on the phone and text, share photos, meet up for video chats throughout the week, celebrate the races we've completed, and we share our sobriety milestones together (chip night!). RRR is a sober running family, and I hope that you'll join us if you haven't already. Because the best part about it is the connection with like-minded folks, just like you, just like me. :)
About the Author
Amber Cano is the founder of Recovery Road Runners, a community for athletes committed to recovery from alcohol and other addictions.
How did I get here? I mean how did I end up HERE? A single mom of two kids under five, drinking two bottles of wine nearly every day. Well, let's go back to the beginning.
I had a pretty "normal" childhood. I grew up in a cute country town right outside San Francisco, CA. My parents were great, loving, and caring parents, and I have an older brother who I did everything with (baseball, Nintendo, bikes). I grew up in the 80's, when kids could play outside with the neighborhood friends until dark and we had no worries. What I didn't know then was that my "normal" childhood was turning me into a people-pleasing, codependent-alcoholic who couldn't feel any feelings other than "happy" or "fine." Like all parents, mine did the best they could. My mom grew up with challenges of her own; an alcoholic father and a mentally ill mother. The pair divorced when she was in high school. As for my dad, well he's quiet and reflective, like me. And he's a short-fused hothead, like me!
Because of this interesting family dynamic, I was a timid and shy little girl who believed that my own instincts always failed me and that I couldn't get anything right. My mom assumed the role of Queen Bee, and I learned how to people-please. But I was a little kid and I didn't know any different, so it was "fine." What I learned while growing up was to put on a big smile, whether it was real or fake, and pretend like everything was always so great! :-) I shoved my real feelings down deep inside me, because my parents weren't available to help me deal with them. Failure was not an option. Our family was a special group of over-achievers, and when I failed (which I felt like was pretty often), Queen Bee (mom) stepped right in to clean up the mess. I never had the experience of a natural consequence; it seemed like things just magically worked themselves out. I lived life on Easy Street and I thought it was great!
My family was always really into sports. My brother and I are naturally athletic. We played baseball, soccer, and basketball, and my dad coached our teams. Those were the best memories of my childhood. When I began high school, I signed up for the cross-country team (at the suggestion of a dear friend of mine) in order to get in better shape for the upcoming basketball season. I had no interest in running long distance, but my friend was really cool, and I was a people pleaser. But once I began running I knew I had found my true passion. I was totally hooked! Something about pushing myself physically to the max.. it released all the pressure that was built up inside me. It was such an amazing feeling! For the first time in my life, I had some control. I felt like an animal who was let out of its cage. I was wild and free. Plus, the girls on my team became my best friends. There were 7 of us. We ran together almost every day of the week. That type of special friendship is unique, and can only be found when friends share a common threshold for the pain and misery of their shared activity. We spilled our guts out to each other on the trails, travelling and racing together, and cheering each other on till the very end no matter if we ran fast or slow. (20 years later we are still friends, and some of us still run together!)
Shortly later, but still during my freshman year of high school, I made the varsity softball team (growing up I lived and breathed softball). Those girls were very different from the cross-country girls; they were all older than me and they liked to party. The two team captains invited me to a party to celebrate my making the varsity squad: my right of passage. I remember how exciting it was getting to hang out with juniors and seniors, and meeting all of their friends. I had never been to a party like that before. There were people everywhere and no parents. There was loud music and dancing, and people sitting in the hot tub. They had a keg of beer and bottles of alcohol spread across the counter tops. My friends were already drinking but I hesitated. I didn't know what the alcohol would do to me; I was so out of my comfort zone. They noticed my hesitation and they knew I had never drank before. They pulled me into an empty bedroom with a bottle of peppermint schnapps and a shot glass. They were so enthusiastic about having the pleasure of introducing me to my first drink. One of them said, "just drink it quick, and then you'll start to feel really good." So I drank it quick, and they were right. They were soooo right. The alcohol trickled down through every single cell in my body, and I felt like a brand new person. I felt so alive! I felt confident, more fun, less anxious, and energized. I thought, "give me more of that stuff!" Game. Over. I was freaking hooked. That night, at the delicate age of 14 years old, the trajectory of my life took a dark and twisted turn for the worse. I would be a marathon-running-binge-drinker for the next 25 years.