By Matthew Giron
I first met Peter some months ago at a recovery support group in downtown LA’s Skid Row. When I heard Peter share I was taken aback by his genuine joy and cheerfulness for living. At the time I secretly held on to the belief that one could never be truly happy in a sober state. As I learned more about Peter’s story I become even more amazed. Peter currently has over three years free from drugs and alcohol, leaving behind decades of crime and a daily intravenous methamphetamine habit. He’s spent years trying to get clean, in and out of jail, along with 27 visits to various rehabs!
Sobriety has not been a ‘bowl of cherries’ for Peter. This food idiom was chosen purposely, as Peter gained nearly 200 pounds in his first year of sobriety, substituting his drug addiction with a food addiction. It’s taken 3 years for Peter to finally reach a point where he can say he’s thinking clearly and in good physical shape. Peter has done some amazing things sober. He’s started many 12-step recovery meetings Downtown. There had been a need for anonymous support group meetings for kleptomaniacs and shoplifters in the Downtown area so Peter pioneered one of only four such groups in California. Living in an apartment on Skid Row, Peter is proud to call Skid Row “home”, and is fond of the recovery community that exists there.
I knew Peter would love the Skid Row Running Club given his dedication to changing the face and perception of Skid Row. I wasn’t surprised by his acceptance to my invitation to run with us. As I was waiting to welcome Peter to The Midnight Mission for one of our Thursday morning runs he walked in wearing running shoes and blue jeans! At the end of the run we teased Peter for his strange choice in running attire. We all laughed as we gave him the nickname “Peter Pants”.
Later that Thursday night I saw Peter at a recovery meeting and he was beaming with joy as he was sharing how much he loved being a part of the morning run with the Skid Row Running Club. He practically shouted “I feel so alive! I haven’t felt this alive since my first year sober". He then added, "I wish I would’ve begun running a long time ago”. He also related how he was so excited to bump into one of the club’s female runners while she was in full police uniform outside of his apartment building that afternoon.
Peter said he bought some running shorts and will be wearing them on the next run. He’ll always be “Peter Pants” to all of us!