Monday, February 22, 2010

Chris Del Bosco: It's About Perseverance

When I was a kid, my favorite parts of a movie were typically the action sequences. I still feel that way, though to a lesser extent. I've grown to appreciate the stories behind the characters and therefore, what it means to them to be participants in the action. Their passion gives it significance. I feel the same way about the Olympics. The personal interest segments that interrupted my childhood absorption in the events, are now the very things I want to hear about most.

Ordinarily, these involve a family member with a chronic illness, the loss of one or both parents, a family overcoming financial difficulties and making sacrifices to drive hundreds of miles one way so a child can practice their sport. They're about people you'd like to have for neighbors, relatives, and best friends. People you talk about over dinner and wonder how they manage to do it all. Chris Del Bosco's, however, is one you don't generally talk about. Chris Del Bosco's story is about addiction.

He was fourteen when he had his first drink. At 17, he was kicked off the U.S. Ski Team for testing positive for marijuana. Over the next few years, he was arrested three times for driving under the influence and might have died one evening when he fell into an icy stream in his hometown of Vail, Colorado. A passing stranger saw him, called emergency services, and he awoke in the hospital with no idea where he was or how he'd gotten there.

Eventually, he got into treatment and has been sober the past three years. A chance encounter between his cousin's wife and a representative of the Canadian Ski-Cross team led to an offer and now, at 27, he's at the Olympics, his life beginning again, one day at a time. Keep in mind, there is no "ed" at the end of recovery, only an "ing." The process is ongoing with the end never in sight. But don't feel sorry for Chris; recovery isn't a burden, it's freedom. For the first time in a long time, he's in a position to address life on his own terms, not those dictated by alcohol.

Endurance measures how much we can take. Perseverance, how many times we get back up after we've been knocked down. Chris fell during his final run in the ski cross last night. As John Lennon said, "Life is what happens when you're making other plans." Not so very long ago, he might have resorted to drinking. That's no longer an option, not if he wants to live, and it looks to me like he does.

Recently, he said,
"People were there when I needed help and told their stories. I'm in a place where I can help." Considering how far he's had to come, simply being in the Olympics is huge. Winning can be inspirational and falling at the critical moment heartbreaking, but that experience gives him just one more opportunity to get back up and show us we can do the same. It's another way of helping.

Perseverance. That's what he's about now. Go, Chris.

"For ski cross racer Del Bosco, new sport offered a fresh start," by Vicki Michaelis, USA Today, January 14, 2010,
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