The desire for alcohol and pain pills is gone now, Greg Seaton says.
But his desire to compete on the world stage is very much alive.
Seaton, a 65-year-old Crooked River Ranch resident, has overcome years of addiction to qualify in his age group for the duathlon world championship in Pontevedra, Spain, in April.
Seaton had never even competed in multisport events until 2016, and that year he qualified for the USA Triathlon National Championships. He switched to duathlon in 2017 — a previous neck procedure rendered him unable to swim freestyle — and he finished 10th at the 2018 national championships last April in South Carolina to qualify for Spain. The International Triathlon Union’s sprint duathlon world championship, in which Seaton plans to compete, includes a 5-kilometer run, a 20K bike ride, and a 2.5K run.
“It’s total redemption,” Seaton says. “I try to inspire others to get out there and exercise. And that’s what I’ve noticed, is my big purpose right now is to get America back in shape. Get away from obesity. It’s an epidemic.”
Another epidemic is the opioid crisis. Seaton’s saga is like that of millions of others who become addicted to pain pills.
Seaton spent most of his adult life as a plumbing contractor in Simi Valley, California. He was a victim of the 1994 Northridge earthquake, suffering a broken kneecap when a TV flew off its stand and landed on him. He underwent five knee operations that year.
Doctors prescribed Vicodin after the ensuing surgeries, he recalls.
“One day I realized I wasn’t taking the Vicodin and the other stuff for the pain,” Seaton says. “I was taking it for the high. Then I realized I was addicted.”
After years of struggling with addiction, Seaton moved to Central Oregon in 2013 to be closer to his two children and four grandchildren.
His daughter Kelly Cloud, now 38, was in middle school when she moved with her mother to Idaho. But she says she remained close to her father despite the distance between them. Cloud now lives in Redmond with her husband and two children and has been instrumental in bringing her father to Central Oregon and helping him in his recovery. Seaton’s son Scott lives in Salem with his two kids.
Seaton recalls that he was still battling with addiction shortly after moving to Central Oregon, as he continued to drink heavily. While driving from his home in Crooked River Ranch to Cloud’s birthday celebration in 2014, he rolled his Jeep while making a turn.
It was his fourth rollover crash. He had avoided serious injury, but it was his wakeup call.
“It wasn’t the physical pain at all, it was seeing what I did to my kids that finally woke me up,” Seaton says.
The combination of the Central Oregon outdoor lifestyle, a 12-step program, exercise and duathlon competitions has helped Seaton shed his addiction — and qualify for the world championships.
“It’s been really incredible to see him on this journey,” Cloud says. “When he moved here he was in really rough shape. The Redmond Athletic Club was a part of my routine. Everybody knew I was going to be at the gym at 4:30 a.m., and I knew that when he moved here, if I could get him to try a spin class here or there, or if he would just start going, I knew he would meet all these incredible people who I knew.”
Seaton committed to going to the athletic club most days and soon fell into a routine. Now he focuses on high-intensity training and cycling, exercising for up to four hours per day.
He had not participated in organized athletics in years, but he started running in 5K events, and he won his age group at a triathlon in Auburn, California, in 2016 to qualify for nationals that year. Now, he teaches a 5 a.m. “boot camp” class at the RAC and has stayed devoted to the 12-step recovery program. He enjoys fishing, kayaking, swimming, hiking, biking and water skiing.
“I take every day, 24 hours, one day at a time,” Seaton says. “Having a purpose like I’ve got has really helped. I don’t have the desire to use anything. A lot of people think that this (exercise and duathlon) is my addiction now. But it’s not my addiction, it’s my passion, if that makes any sense.”
Being close to family and immersing himself in a like-minded community of fitness-oriented folks who will support him at the Redmond Athletic Club has also helped Seaton.
“It was pretty cool how quickly everybody accepted him,” Cloud says. “That gave him the motivation. It just kind of took off and just went crazy. Being a recovering addict, he has that OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) personality, so it was neat to see him throw his energy and his passion into something healthy.
“He realized he was inspiring others, and that’s his platform, he wants to help others,” Seaton’s daughter adds. “He just pushes himself a little bit farther in everything. It’s fun to see him, instead of just retiring and just holing himself up, he’s out there. He’s a natural athlete. He works hard for sure, but I do think he’s been given a gift to do this.”