RUNNING FOR THE RESCUE MISSION: With supporters joining him on each segment, Allen Collins ran the 72 miles of the New Jersey portion of the Appalachian Trail last Saturday to raise funds for the Rescue Mission of Trenton. (Photo by Michael Mancuso)
By Anne Levin
After some stints in rehab and numerous arrests, Allen Collins knew his drug addiction had spun out of control. It wasn’t until he discovered his true passion — fitness — that things began to fall into place.
Collins is now a disciplined athlete and entrepreneur, and he owns three nutrition supplement stores. He also finds time to volunteer as a faculty member of the Rescue Mission of Trenton’s New Direction program, an intensive course that helps those in recovery realize their potential and, as Collins has, make a new life for themselves.
The Rescue Mission, which feeds the hungry, houses those who are homeless, and provides support for recovery from addiction, is the beneficiary of a fundraising 72-mile run that Collins did this past Saturday — in 24 hours — along New Jersey’s segment of the Appalachian Trail. Starting at the New York border near Greenwood Lake, and finishing at the Delaware Water Gap National Park, he finished the grueling run 30 minutes earlier than expected. His fundraising goal was $100,000. As of Tuesday morning, the run had raised $60,000. Donations are still being accepted.
“I’m undertaking this challenge because I’ve been so impressed by the transformational changes I’ve seen in people in recovery at The Mission,” he said in a press release.
In a phone call Monday, a rested and recovered Collins reflected on the run. “I had an amazing crew,” he said. “Four good friends of mine loaded a pickup truck with food, water, and dry clothes, and met me at certain sections of the trail. It rained, so I had to change shoes and socks a few times, but those were the only times I sat down. I didn’t rest, though I walked a bit at certain sections. Three of my crew ran with me, so I didn’t run one step by myself.”
Originally from Ocean County, Collins now lives in Vernon, a mile from the Appalachian Trail. Drugs became part of his life when he was a teenager. “When I was 18 years old, I went to rehab for the first time, and the last time I was in rehab was 11 years later,” he said. “During that time, I was arrested several times each year. My life had spun completely out of control. I kept getting high to avoid feeling the stuff I had bottled up. As a result, I was nothing but angry, often on the verge of rage.”
Following counseling, meetings, and journaling, Collins finally reached the crucial decision to save himself. His first legitimate job once he completed treatment was working at a gym for minimum wage. He found that he loved being around people who were focused on staying healthy. After a short while, he was promoted to the post of training manager.
These days, Collins follows a strict routine, starting with a cold plunge each morning, followed by lifting weights or going for a run in the mountains behind his home.
Building habits through discipline has been the key to his recovery. As he told his students at the Rescue Mission, “It takes an enormous amount of discipline to steal the money you need to feed a heroin habit. Now I’m using that same drive and discipline and to see opportunities that are positive. I’m here to tell you that if you can hustle enough to support a drug habit, you just have to turn that discipline and drive around to create positive results for yourself.”
Collins was never a client at the Rescue Mission, but his brother-in-law was. “That’s how he got clean,” Collins said. “He became a presenter at the New Direction program, and he asked me to do it. I didn’t want to — I fought tooth and nail, because I didn’t feel comfortable talking in front of people. But he convinced me, and I have done five presentations since then.”
The stories Collins has heard from clients at the Mission inspired him to come up with the fundraising run. “I knew I had to do something more,” he said. “They thought I was completely crazy when I suggested the run, but somehow it all worked out.”
Visit rescuemissionoftrenton.org/atrun to donate.