From addict to ironman: a voice of distinction

Julianna Frantz

He took his first drink at age 13, and the first day of his senior year in high school, he did his first line of cocaine. Last August he was featured on ESPN, and last night at the Tuscarawas campus he shared his life, then and now, as part of the Voices of Distinction series.

On April 15, 1993, Todd Crandell received his third DUI after registering a .36 on his Breathalyzer test. He said he believes the incident was a wake-up call to turn his life around from more than a decade of drug and alcohol abuse.

“I believe I’m standing here as a miracle from God,” Crandell told the audience in the Founders Hall Auditorium. “Something snapped in me and it changed my life forever.”

Crandell talked about his past, starting with the fact that his mother committed suicide when he was three-and-a-half years old. Like her son, she struggled with addiction. He added that his uncle, his mother’s brother, had also committed suicide and dealt with addiction.

“Addiction is passed down genetically,” Crandell said. “I do have an addictive personality.”

After his first drink, his addiction escalated for 13 years. He described being expelled from school, kicked out of his house, having a physical fight with his father and step-mother and considering suicide.

For the first two years of his recovery, Crandell utilized programs and support groups, but he began to wonder what else was out there.

“I set additional goals, played semi-pro hockey and graduated from Lourdes College with a business degree,” Crandell said.

Later he would go on to use athletics as a way to make it through recovery. He began training and competed in his first triathlon in 1999. He has since participated in 13 Ironman competitions and is getting ready for the next one, scheduled for April 20 in China.

After returning home from a triathlon in New Zealand in 2001, a local paper ran his story of addiction and recovery.

“My wife asked what in the world I had done because the phone was ringing off the hook all day,” Crandell said.

He said he got calls from law enforcement officers, old friends, coaches and people who couldn’t believe that he turned his life around.

As a result, he founded Racing for Recovery as an alternative to other recovery programs. The organization has two goals: To prevent substance abuse in children and to show addicts that recovery is possible.

The program is funded by race entry fees, merchandise and book sales and donations.

ESPN’s story on Crandell touched many people, including two men he brought with him last night. They both saw Crandell’s story on ESPN, and made a decision to move to Ohio to seek help for addiction.

Gregg Andrews, dean of the Tuscarawas campus, was also watching.

After watching Crandell’s story, he came to work the next day with a mission for his public relations coordinator, Pam Patacca.

“He said find this guy,” Patacca said. “He was very impressed with the interview on ESPN.”

Within a week Patacca had booked a date for Crandell to speak at the Tuscarawas campus.

“Todd’s story will show people that it can be done,” Patacca said.

Crandell plans to continue his work through Racing for Recovery. His latest project is a national television show on FOX that will show the benefits of sobriety.

For more information about Racing for Recovery, call 1-866-SOBER-01, or visit the Web site at

Contact regional campuses reporter Julianna Frantz at [email protected].