Diabetes Forecast

The Healthy Living Magazine

Running Strong

Brian Long with his 2013
Boston Marathon medal.

I didn't think I'd make it through the night. One minute I'd be sweating, and the next I'd have chills. The worst part was the pain in my legs. I was in the middle of a hardcore opiate withdrawal. Come morning, my roommate and I convinced our dealer to spot us two more Oxycontin, running up our tab to $15,000. Did I care? Nope, I just wanted the pills.

But I knew that once that pill was gone, I'd be in for another night like the one before. I couldn't do it. By 9 that night, I was in detox—in the hospital with junkies and deadbeats. Somehow I'd managed to keep my job, but I'm not saying I was better than anyone there. Not at all. I'd done the same lying and deceiving. There I was, a broke, 37-year-old addict hooked on prescription drugs. From the second I woke up every day, my focus was getting high. Not for fun. I had to or I'd get sick.

With help from St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Brighton, Mass., I managed to knock the drugs out of my life. To get clean, I had to shut off most of my friends. I'd go to work and come home. Some nights I was in bed by 6 p.m. I replaced the drugs with junk food. I'd wake up around 3 a.m. and eat cookies in bed. My weight ballooned to 260 pounds. Dating? Forget about it. It was sad. It was hard work to get clean, and I wasn't taking advantage of the opportunities that being clean presented.

In 2011, two years later, my lifestyle caught up with me. I was sluggish and incredibly thirsty. At night, I'd have to urinate five or six times. I ignored these telltale signs of diabetes until it got to the point where I was missing work. Soon I was in the ER. The diagnosis: type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes? Me? I was depressed thinking about a life filled with needles, vegetables, and uncertainty. The great hospital staff prepared me for my new life with diabetes the best they could: education about healthy foods, blood glucose–testing tools, prescriptions for metformin and insulin. My mom and sister were incredibly supportive.

After a couple of months, my blood sugar numbers stabilized. My doctor took me off insulin to help me avoid lows. With an improved diet, I started to lose weight. Around Christmas, I decided to start running. I've managed a sporting goods store for 10 years and can tell you about every running shoe on the planet, but I'd never used them myself.

At first it was brutal. I couldn't even run a mile. I kept at it, though, and my mileage crept up. By July I was running over 40 miles a week. I think people feared I was going from one addiction to another. I didn't see it that way. Yes, I was hooked on running, but it was changing my life. I'd wake up at 6 a.m., throw on some music, and run out the door.

Today, I take one metformin in the morning and check my blood sugars twice a day. I started dating and have a great girlfriend. I turned 40. This spring I ran in the Boston Marathon. I was feeling great, thinking about everything I've dealt with, until at mile 25.5 we were told the race was over. Then I was running again, through all the chaos, to get to my girlfriend and friends. It was a tragic day, but it was good to have something to run for.

Brian Long lives in Cambridge, Mass.


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While she’s still spinning music, DJ Spinderella (aka Deidra Roper) is no longer spinning her wheels when it comes to getting the right information to help her family members who have diabetes. Read more >