Articles, News - 8th September 2023

parkrun as an ally in overcoming addiction

parkrun volunteering to overcome addiction

The journey of overcoming an addiction is often challenging and one that requires dedication, resilience, and a willingness to seek positive change. But did you know that discovering alternative paths to healing often yields great results?


One such path involves finding strength in volunteering at parkrun events. Although the mix between battling addiction and volunteering at parkrun might not be immediately clear, the journey toward recovery and self-discovery is often driven by the unexpected.


We recently spoke to one such person, Nick Alexander, a regular at Bushy parkrun, Dublin, who is overcoming alcohol addiction. Below Nick explains how volunteering at parkrun can be a powerful tool in conquering challenges related to alcohol addiction.


The struggles of alcohol addiction

Alcohol addiction can cast a shadow that stretches far beyond physical health. It affects relationships, self-esteem, and overall wellbeing. Overcoming addiction requires rebuilding not only the body but also the mindset. The journey involves finding purpose beyond the bottle and embracing activities that promote positivity and personal growth.


The healing power of volunteering

Volunteering at parkrun might seem unrelated to addiction recovery at first glance. However, it aligns perfectly with the recovery journey. Consistency is key to recovery. Volunteering at parkrun offers a structured routine, helping individuals establish healthy habits and reclaim control over their lives.


I got sober in 2015 and took up running. Initially, I wanted to try to run 5k without stopping. Then I saw other opportunities with volunteering. I noticed how different the pace was when I tail walked, a volunteer role that ensures no one finishes last. I felt calmer and more open to talking to strangers.


overcoming addiction with parkrun Ireland


Community connection

Volunteering connects you with like-minded individuals who share a commitment to wellness. The parkrun community becomes a support network, fostering a sense of belonging crucial to healing.


When I moved to Bushy in Dublin, I was asked to do the first-timers briefing. I had not spoken to a group of people in years, other than in rehab meetings. I had a massive boost in my confidence and was delighted to be asked to do it again soon after.


Physical and mental health

Engaging in regular physical activity has immense benefits for mental health. Volunteering at parkrun not only contributes to physical wellbeing but also promotes mental clarity and stress reduction.


I looked forward to the walk and who I was going to join on the day. That sense of promise, that someone was expecting me often gave me a real mental lift and really added to coming back to parkrun again and again. I now consider myself to have an extended family at parkrun.


Sense of accomplishment

Being part of a team in volunteer roles provides a sense of achievement, boosting self-esteem and confidence. This feeling counteracts the often diminishing self-worth experienced during addiction.


Bushy parkrun overcoming addiction


Positive distraction

Volunteering takes your focus away from triggers and cravings, channelling energy toward positive activity that nurtures your growth and healing.


Find your own way of doing things. parkrun is many things for many people.  Initially, it was my way of not drinking on a Saturday morning!


Like anything in life, there is no ‘set text’. I wanted to volunteer for pre event set up initially as I could also run! I actually enjoyed being one of the first at the course and setting up made me feel like I had contributed to a great event.


overcoming addiction bushy parkrun


A new outlook

Volunteering at parkrun isn’t a small diversion, it’s a doorway to transformation. It’s a healthy space where individuals in recovery can find their footing, connect with a supportive community and contribute positively to their own wellbeing and that of others.


While the path to overcoming alcohol addiction can be complex, embracing the spirit of community can be a key motivator for healing and lead you to a brighter future.


It has reaffirmed my belief that it’s never too late.  Anyone can walk, jog, run or volunteer and meet new people, everyone is friendly.  I particularly love doing first-timers briefing and meeting people who are new to parkrun.


I’ve made many friendships from parkrun and involved in a few different groups as a result. I even met up at the all-Ireland final with a parkrun friend who was up from Kerry for the day.  Another friend introduced me to Bohemian FC and now I try not to miss a game of theirs either!


I love being part of the volunteer team, it shows another side of parkrun and makes you more thankful to have an event. I try to make my efforts contribute to a nicer friendlier experience and to see that happening each time is very rewarding.


In this shared movement, individuals battling addiction can find their own dawn, breaking free from the grip of alcoholism or others, while stepping into a life of purpose, health, and hope.


The journey is long, but with every volunteering opportunity at parkrun, a step forward is taken on the path to recovery and renewal.


Nick Alexander, Bushy parkrun



Join parkrun

parkrun welcomes everyone to participate in walking, jogging, running, volunteering, or simply spectating. To become a part of the parkrun community, sign up here and discover your closest event.

Share this with friends:


Sharon Ashmore is our Vhi parkrun Hero winner for August

The Vhi parkrun Hero award for the month of August has been awarded to Sharon Ashmore from Royal Canal parkrun.   The monthly award recognises and rewards inspirational, hardworking, and dedicated members of the parkrun community who embody the ethos of parkrun or have made an outstanding contribution – be they participants or volunteers.   As…

Clashduv junior parkrun Cork

Another new junior parkrun launches in Cork

There was more youthful energy springing in Cork on 27 August with the launch of Clashduv junior parkrun. Clashduv Park is situated in the suburb of Togher and can be found here on Google Maps.   The inaugural event attracted 45 junior parkrunners who walked, jogged and ran the 2k course, with the following two events well…