Sixties Scoop survivor transforms life 1 km at a time
Mike Alexander was sick, tired, and fed up. He was 40 years old, weighed 320 pounds, and was drinking too much. The Sixties Scoop survivor was deeply depressed and mired in a cycle of cynicism and negativity.
So in the summer of 2014, while living in Winnipeg, he decided to do something about it. He jumped on a clunky, heavy, second-hand bike from a discount store and started cycling. After that initial 17-kilometre trip, something changed.
"At the end of it, felt like this was something that maybe I could do. Maybe this was something that could actually bring about some of the change I so desperately wanted for myself in life," he said.
Long-distance cycling has led him on a path to self improvement on many fronts.
In 2016, he moved to Victoria, B.C. to be closer to family. He has lost 120 pounds, and is managing his Type 2 diabetes through diet and exercise. He no longer needs to take medication to control the disease. He has better control of his dark moods, and is generally more positive about his life.
His depression is under better control too. Riding, especially long distances, helped Alexander make the connection between emotional health and exercise.
"I started to see there was a link, feeling the endorphins on a good long ride and a workout and how that would affect my mood and how that would, in turn, affect my body," he explained.
"I started to feel better. I started to feel more motivated to keep pushing myself to see what would happen next, to see how far I could go next. So I began to motivate and challenge myself to go longer distances, and to get myself working harder."
Working harder is his mantra for 2018.
At 43, Alexander will compete in his first triathlon in the spring of 2018 in Victoria. The West Shore Triathlon is a 40-kilometre ride, 1,500 metre swim, and 10-kilometre run.
"It's a challenge. I don't think it's going to be very easy ... It's realizing a dream," he said.
Despite being in a positive place today, Alexander has had some dark days even after discovering cycling. Two years ago, he tried to commit suicide by combining alcohol with his prescription medications. After that attempt was interrupted by police, he quit drinking and decided to get sober.
"I had hit rock bottom if you can put it that way. But the bike was with me, the bike was there, the bike was waiting for me to get back on. And I had a decision to make, 'What did I want to do?'"
Alexander decided he wanted to live and thrive.
"The way out of these dark times I have had has been through sports, as it turns out," Alexander said.
As he looks forward to his first triathlon, Alexander hopes others, especially other Indigenous athletes or aspiring athletes, learn something from the twists and turns of his life.
"You are never too old to start something new."