Jenna McMahon
New York, New York

On April 16th, 2018 I will run my 3rd Boston Marathon on The Herren Project team in honor of my brother Jake – My kind, smart, goofy, resilient, talented, compassionate baby brother… my brother who is also an addict.

I’ll never know what it feels like to be an addict – most days, even 9 years later, I’m still trying to sort out what it means just to be the sister of an addict. We had a good, solid childhood. We had hard-working, supportive parents with good morals. We took family vacations and had pets. We played sports and had lots of friends and each other. We were always warm and dry and well-fed and loved.

It’s so hard to understand how his addiction works, but I try. It’s hard to not live in fear all the time, especially when drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death among Americans under 50. It’s hard to digest other’s reactions when they find out – the awkward glance down, the look of sympathy. Sometimes, I can see the “he’ll never change”, the “just another addict” look in their eyes. When I’m on the subway, I often notice the casual, easy way in which an addict’s worth can be tossed aside and it angers me… because that person is somebody’s son, maybe somebody’s brother.

Am I furious sometimes? Sad this has happened to our family? Desperate for a solution? Of course. The feeling that consumes me the most, however, is the anxiety of worrying that Jake ever doubts his self-worth. The fear that he might somehow believe that he doesn’t deserve to be loved.

But my love is unwavering, through recovery and even through relapse. Sometimes he falls. Sometimes he falls really, really hard. But every time he finds the strength to pick himself up, find help, as challenging as that can be, and work tirelessly to maintain his sobriety, I am proud.

For 18 weeks I will train. I’ll have to run when I’d rather be doing anything but. I’ll have to put in the miles through the cold, the snow and the rain. There will be times I’ll want to quit, but then I’ll remind myself that this is not nearly as hard as what he’s been through. And in April I’ll run 26.2 miles in support of The Herren Project, an organization who seeks to increase awareness on the signs of addiction and bring hope for a better tomorrow, and in honor of my kind, smart, goofy, resilient, talented, compassionate baby brother… my brother who is also an addict.

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