HEALTHY MIND MATTERS

Two Families Find Healing From Addiction Through Marathon Racing

Jul 27, 2018, 8:33 PM | Updated: 11:08 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – 41-year-old Don Hutchings and seven-year-old Emma Robison have one thing in common. They have both overcome a drug addiction, but their journeys could not be more different.

Emma only weighed 2 pounds 2 ounces when she was born. Freyja Robison and her husband adopted Emma at birth.

Her birth mother was addicted to opioids — so addicted that even becoming pregnant couldn’t stop her from using them.

Emma was exposed to the drugs in utero, significantly altering her development.

“She is non-verbal, she is legally deaf, and she is legally blind,” Freyja Robison described. “She loves to play with sensory toys that light up and play music. Music is her language.”

Three weeks after birth, Emma’s system was finally drug free. Around the same time, Hutchings was also reaching his own sobriety.

“I’ve struggled with a lifetime of addiction. It started at age 12 sneaking beers out of my grandparents’ fridges,” Hutchings explained.

After his father went to prison, Hutchings fell into a deep depression and started to self-medicated with methamphetamines.

“If I didn’t have my substance, I laid in bed and shook and slept until I got my phone call,” Hutchings described.

He was pouring $350 into the addiction daily. Sitting in jail time after time finally triggered a change.

One day Hutchings was sitting in jail with a bunch of 18-year-olds comparing charges and he thought, “Is this what my life has come to?”

Hutchings’ and Emma’s lives crossed paths when he volunteered with a group called Addict to Athlete. It’s a program designed to help people battling addiction by training for and racing in marathons.

Hutchings initially went just to meet his probation requirements.

“I went purely out of greed. I wanted to sign off community services hours,” he admitted.

But it didn’t take much to change his heart.

“There was an energy about the team. You could just feel it!” he said.

Hutchings soon fell in love with little Emma. They became racing partners in mainstream marathons. Hutchings pushes Emma in a specially designed racing stroller during each race.

“When Emma sees it she just lights up… and giggles and bounces and squeals. It is the best thing for her!” Freyja Robison said.

The program’s director Coach Blu Robinson said running marathons is a lot like the journey of recovery.

“It sucks, it’s hard, but when you’re done feel good,” he said.

As an addiction counselor, he found running alongside his athletes to be the most effective form of therapy.

He said, “They’d tell me more outside on a training run than they even did in my office.”

Robinson said running offered a new meaning for their lives.

“To allow them to erase the addiction and replace it with things of greater value,” he explained.

Running together has brought healing to two families each suffering from the bonds of addiction.

Hutchings’ wife, Brooke Hutchings, lived through the highs and lows of his addiction and recovery.

“It’s not just the addict that suffers. It’s the family too,” she said. “I never thought we’d make it!”

Brooke Hutchings also volunteers with the team. She said the program has saved their family.

“We have a whole community that surrounds us and we all recover with him together,” she described.

Hutchings said the relationships he has developed on the Addict to Athlete team helped fill a void he experienced while he was addicted.

“It gives me my connection with people who are like minded. People who are on the same journey,” he said.

Hutchings’ 11-year-old son, Russell Hutchings, cherishes the time he is able to spend with his dad today.

“Why I run is now I can spend time with him because back then I couldn’t,” he explained.

Freyja Robison said becoming friends with Hutchings and his family has helped understand how hard it was for Emma’s birth mother to quit. Freyja Robison said she forgives her.

“I didn’t understand that until I got to know people who have really been through the battle and come out the other side,” she described.

Hutchings’ service enables Emma to move in ways she otherwise could not.

“Racing gives her the ability to be free!” she said.

The bond Emma and Hutchings share is extremely special and unique.

“Even though she has trouble seeing and hearing, she knows when I’m there. She can feel me,” Hutchings said.

Frejya Robison believes Hutchings presence comes from a higher power—“an angel in human form!” she said.

In October, the Addict to Athlete team is flying to Washington D.C. to support Hutchings and Emma who are running in the Marine Corps Marathon.

The organization has more than 2,000 athletes in Utah and welcomes anyone touched by addiction.

Check out more stories of overcoming addiction in KSL’s Healthy Mind Matters series:
Ogden Man Overcomes Addiction With Help Of Intermountain Healthcare’s Access Center
Parents Fight For Opioid Education Earlier In The School System
Living With Pain Without Opioids

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Healthy Mind Matters

Valentina, 12, and her mom Monica Lopez talk about the wait for a therapist....
Ashley Moser, KSL TV

Bridging the treatment gap: Solutions for families waiting to connect a teen with a therapist

The average wait for a mental health care provider for a new patient referral in Utah is between two to six months. But experts say there are tools available to help bridge the treatment gap.
4 days ago
(KSL TV)...
Mike Anderson, KSL TV

Teens need to learn early about the signs of abusive relationships

Advocates said it's important for young people to start learning about good and bad relationships early.
4 days ago
Lauryn Batista uses scribbles to help illustrate how she feels sometimes. (KSL TV)...
Peter Rosen, KSL TV

Visualizing the Conversation about Mental Health

Southern Utah University art student Lauryn Batista wants to talk about scribbles. That’s how she visualizes the anxiety and depression she’s dealt with for the past few years.
4 days ago
...
Shara Park, KSL TV

Weber School District creates Happiness Hotline

Need a pick me up, life advice, or words of encouragement? Try calling the Happiness Hotline (833-88-HAPPY), a free resource created by students and faculty in the Weber School District.
4 days ago
...
KSL TV

Kids In Crisis: Supporting your children with the right conversations

If you're the parent to teenage kids, you know getting them to talk isn't always easy -- and yet they need your help now more than ever.
4 days ago
This summer, every state will be rolling out 988 as the new National Suicide Prevention Lifeline nu...
Jacqueline Howard, CNN

States prepare for summer launch of new 988 suicide prevention number

This summer, every state will be rolling out 988 as the new National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number to call for mental health crises — similar to how people can call 911 for medical emergencies.
4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Earth day 2022...
1-800-GOT-JUNK?

How Are You Celebrating Earth Day 2022? | 4 Simple Ways to Celebrate Earth Day and Protect the Environment

Earth Day is a great time to reflect on how we can be more environmentally conscious. Here are some tips for celebrating Earth Day.
Get Money Online...

More Ways to Get Money Online Right Now in Your Spare Time

Here are 4 easy ways that you can get more money online if you have some free time and want to make a little extra on the side.
Lighting trends 2022...

Lighting Trends 2022 | 5 Beautiful Home Lighting Trends You Can Expect to See this Year and Beyond

This is where you can see the latest lighting trends for 2022 straight from the Lightovation Show at the Dallas World Trade Center.
What Can't You Throw Away in the Trash...

What Can’t You Throw Away in the Trash? | 5 Things You Shouldn’t Throw in to Your Trash Can

What can't you throw away in the trash? Believe it or not, there are actually many items that shouldn't be thrown straight into the trash.
Make Money Online Easily...

4 Ways that You Can Make Money Online Easily in Just a Few Clicks

Here are 4 ways that you can make money online easily in no time at all! Some are as simple as just a few clicks away.
tips to winterize your home...
Bonneville Digital SLC

Tips to Winterize Your Home | The Top 5 Ways You Can Prepare for the Cold Utah Winter Ahead

Before the snow hits, here are the top 5 tips to winterize your home to prepare for the cold Utah winter this year.
Two Families Find Healing From Addiction Through Marathon Racing