The race that represented Ruth Decker’s life turned into a jog that encouraged her to set a slower and more deliberate pace.
Decker was one of more than 6,500 runners in the Borgess Run For The Health Of It
on Sunday, May 5. Unlike many of those running, she wasn’t trying to be first. She simply wanted to finish a journey she began in January when she signed up for Run Camp, offered as part of the training for the Borgess Run.
Those who knew Decker during her earlier years may not have believed that she could train for and pull off a 5K run.
“I don’t blame anyone for the choices I made,” Decker says. “I chose to keep smoking pot and not do what I was supposed to do. When you lose your house, get a divorce and lose your job…I must not have dealt with it well.”
Now 54, Decker says she started smoking pot when she was 21 stopping only when she was pregnant with her daughters, who are now 23 and 21. At the time she had a house and a job and was self-sufficient. She categorized her pot use as recreational.
Then she met and married a man, who was not her daughters’ father, at age 45 and says that’s when her life began its slow and painful out-of-control spiral.
“When I met him, I was getting to the point where I was starting to dig myself into a hole,” Decker says. For her, she found that “marijuana is a depressant and it makes you not want to do anything more.”
The couple intentionally selected 4/20 at 4:20 p.m. to get married in a nod to their allegiance to marijuana. The marriage dissolved after three years and Decker lost the home she shared with him and her daughters because she couldn’t afford the mortgage payments.
What followed was a series of short-term stays with her sister and later a nephew as her daughters began spending more time with their father. “That was good because they didn’t have a room or anything where I was staying,” Decker says.
While living with her sister in 2012 Decker lost her job as a Players Club representative with FireKeepers Casino Hotel after failing a drug test. “I was a pothead and I wasn’t trying to hide that from anybody,” she says. “I was smoking it morning through night.”
Knowing that she would need to find another job, Decker sought help through a local addiction treatment program to get clean. She had every intention of successfully beating her addiction until she re-connected with an old friend who she describes as her “soulmate” in 2103. He introduced her to crack and she stayed with him in a subsidized apartment in the Washington Heights neighborhood.
Ruth Decker and her flowers after she participated in the Borgess Run For The Health Of It
She used money from her income tax refund to keep herself supplied with crack, which she smoked. When the apartment complex management found out that she was staying with her friend, she was asked to leave because she wasn’t supposed to be there.
Decker then landed at a women’s shelter operated by Haven of Rest Ministries
where she stayed off and on until 2015. During this period of time, her car was repossessed, which presented challenges with finding a job.
Ultimately, Decker found a job in Paw Paw where she made in-home visits to patients who were under the care of a physician’s group. Her sister leant her a car so she could get herself to and from that job. One year later, in 2017, she took a job as an Immunization Coordinator with the Family Health Center in Kalamazoo.
That job would be a salvation of sorts for her as she replaced an addiction to drugs with an "addiction" to candy and took advantage of opportunities to get healthy while also moving into a home in Battle Creek and strengthening her relationship with her daughters.
“They have these wellness programs and I signed up for one in the fall with the Turkey Trot 5K. I ended up not doing it,” Decker says. “When I signed up for Run Camp (the Family Health Center) helped pay for my registration, but we had to show up for 10 out of the 13 weeks. I showed up but didn’t do a lot of the stuff we were supposed to do in between.”
She did, however, start eating healthier and drew inspiration from other Run Camp participants, including a short, older woman with white hair and a gentleman in her Run Camp team who had undergone a heart transplant. The support she received throughout her Run Camp experience showed her that she was not alone.
“I just wanted to be healthier and they inspired me,” Decker says. “I needed to be me again and I needed my girls.”