Warren native runs half-marathon on road to recovery with the help of Grace Centers of Hope
By Brian Louwers
October 6, 2017
WARREN/CENTER LINE — Sean Milich said he started abusing prescription drugs after a sports injury in high school. He eventually graduated to heroin and spent years running from addiction.
But on Sept. 24, Milich, 32, and a dozen other recovering addicts at Grace Centers of Hope in Pontiac, ran in a different direction. The team of seven women and six men, each carrying their own burden through recovery, completed the 13.1 miles of the 10th annual McLaren Health Care Brooksie Way’s half-marathon in Rochester.
“I would just say that anything worthwhile that’s good in life, it takes work,” Milich said on the Tuesday after the run. “The same goes for recovery. That’s the main thing I’ve learned out of it. If you want the good stuff in life, unless you get extremely lucky somehow, most people get where they are by hard work. Just keep plugging away.”
Milich, who grew up in Warren and went to Center Line High School, said his journey to the Brooksie Way started with an announcement at Grace Centers of Hope. Established in 1942, the faith-based residential rehab facility offers a yearlong life skills program for those battling drug and alcohol addiction.
Greg Guidice, a board member at Grace Centers of Hope and a trainer for its team of runners, said those who began preparations for the half-marathon struggled to run just 1 mile at first. Training on the streets of Pontiac at 6 a.m. four days a week for the next 14 weeks, he said the runners developed a connection that was cemented by the experience.
“They really became accountable to each other. They created a bond amongst themselves,” Guidice said. “And now, all I’ve been hearing since the half-marathon is, ‘When are we going to run again?’ It’s become part of who they are and part of their recovery, and they want to continue this positive lifestyle, which is the whole objective, right?”
Guidice credited three women who completed the run the year before — Melissa Aupperle, Kim Westman and Lisa Chambers — for helping to coach this year’s team across the finish line.
There were, tragically, people lost along the way.
“One of the women that started running with us ended up leaving Grace Centers and overdosing and dying a short time later. That was really hard for the women who were close to her and friends with her,” Guidice said. “It’s real. This is real life. We talked about that every day.”
The transformation physically and mentally for those who spent years abusing their bodies and minds was “a very rewarding experience” for the trainers, Guidice said.
He said the Brooksie Way course in Rochester is demanding, particularly the second half, which winds mostly uphill.
“It was a huge accomplishment for them,” Guidice said. “It’s a huge accomplishment for anyone, period, to run a half-marathon.”
Milich said the experience took him a long way from his transient lifestyle, where he’d choose drugs over food or shelter “nine out of 10 times.”
“I’ve been homeless time and time again. If things can turn around for me, it can turn around for anyone,” Milich said. “If you put the work in, things will change.”
This article was written for C&G News and was originally posted here.