Why I am CYCLING from SF to NY

This dream began with a revelation I had on a bike ride through East Aurora over six years ago.  In early recovery, you have hard days and you have harder days, this was one of the latter.  I had been sitting in my room at Providence House, nearly a year sober, after the meetings and chores of the day, reveling in the joy that had arrived in the mail, a tax refund check for nearly $1000.  It was the sum of several proceeding homeless/ transient years, during which, I lacked the structure (or mailing address) to file my taxes from over a dozen ephemeral jobs.  With an hour until curfew, the numbers on the check taunted me until I somewhat reluctantly found myself riding my bike up Colfax to find a check cashing place which would have likely lead to a bar, motel, and eventually an alleyway, jail cell, hospital bed, or grave.  I continued to check my watch to make sure I could make it back for curfew although sadly, I knew in my heart the reality of my intentions, I was powerless once again.  As I pedaled harder, my heart beat climbing, beads of sweat forming on my beard, I began to feel just okay enough to pass the check cashing place, weaving my handlebars through a neighborhood and charging down a side street for several miles until I found myself in an unfamiliar park gazing up at a blanket of stars.  As I was gasping to catch my breath, helmet pads streaming sweat onto my face, I noticed that I felt completely different, I felt hopeful, alive, as if fully in the presence of God.  Was a vigorous bike ride all I needed to keep me from relapsing and destroying all the progress I had made in my recovery up to that point? I made it back to Providence House just in time for curfew, with the check safely in my pocket, and decided that if I somehow graduated Providence House and made my way towards restoring my life and career, I would plan a trip across the country on my bicycle both to feel like this everyday, and to give back to the organization that saved my life.  I also decided that I would work to share that days revelation, and encourage others to consider the tool of fitness during moments of near relapse.  For the last three years I have been researching and planning all the details of this trip and am beyond elated that it is finally going to be a reality.  One month into this trip, I will celebrate my seventh year of sobriety. These last seven years have given me time to reflect on the nature of addiction as well as the things that really helped me get sober and stay sober.

First and foremost, I believe that I am sober today because of the spirituality, structure and support that came from 3.5 years of living at Providence House, a first step 2 year transitional house, and Victory House, a next step affordable apartment. With careful reflection, I have also come to believe that addicts are a special breed of people.

Addicts are inherently attracted to adventure and drawn towards extreme living, often leading to their own demise.  It is also clear that addicts, especially in early recovery, have major neurotransmitter deficits as a result of years of chemical reliance. This is why I believe that fitness plays a key role in successful recovery by balancing brain chemistry, replacing the adventure inherent to a life of addiction, and repairing an often damaged self-esteem.

My hope for this trip is to feel as good as I did on that day for three months as I raise awareness for Providence Network and funding for a FirstStep transitional home for homeless young adults ages 18-29.  Since I was 27 when I arrived at Providence House, I have a special connection to this desperately under served demographic. My hope for the documentary is to tell the stories of other addicts across the country getting sober through faith, fellowship, and fitness.  I also hope to create a work of art: a time piece that reflects the beautiful landscapes of America and the triumph of the human spirit.    

About Providence Network

Click the image above to visit their website.

Providence Network is a 501(c)3 Denver faith-based, urban transformational housing organization that helps men, women and families heal from addictions, abuse and homelessness to become self-sufficient, productive members of the community.

Providence Network (PN) addresses not only physical, but emotional, spiritual and economic needs: 

— Shelter, food & safety
— Individual & group counseling
— Addictions recovery
— Life & job skills training
— Spiritual nurturing
— S
upportive services
— F
riendship, respect & unconditional love


Providence Network offers both transitional AND affordable housing for long-term success: 

FirstStep 2-year Transitional Housing
Those who come to PN often have nowhere else to go. Desperate to escape the trauma and challenges of their past, our residents find peace and understanding among a loving staff who truly care. The bonds formed in our community allow men and women to take that first step toward recovery and self-sufficiency.

NextStep Long-Term Affordable Housing 
We have found that without a supportive community for our FirstStep graduates to move into, they can fall back into past lifestyles when faced with challenges such as loss of a job, medical issues or a broken heart. To insure long-term success, our graduates need a positive next step: a healthy environment where they can live out their new skills and values among loving friends.

Providence Network is currently conducting a capital campaign to purchase two new homes: a FirstStep home for homeless young adults ages 18-29, and a NextStep home to provide the next step in their recovery. The funds raised from Bridge to Bridge will support Providence Network's effort to focus on the growing homeless population of youth and young adults.

Learn more about Providence Network with this short video.

Spencer shared a bit of his story in this video from 2009.

Spencer speaking at a fundraising event for Providence Network in 2014.