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Free Yourself from Guilt (Part 1)

The Confessions of Eddy Hellebuyck in this month’s issue of Runner’s

Running 2:17:18 at the 2003 Boston Marathon at age 42

World magazine, tells the story of an American marathon champion’s courage to admit that the charges made against him 6 years ago for doping with erythropoiein (EPO), his failed drug test, and his suspension from professional running were justified.

Eddy met with John Brant, a RW reporter, who was following up on his life since his suspension.  His wife, also his manager back in his running years, was totally against the interview and let him (and the reporter) know it.  After his wife left though, Eddy decided to come to the table with the whole story starting with, “Yeah, I did it.”

Through the interviews and tape recording he made, Eddy courageously told the truth.   I encourage you to read the full article.  But here are some of the highlights I drew out of his experience with guilt and his courage to face the truth and admit it.

1)  The progressive stages of guilt:

When doing something we know is wrong, initially we feel immense anxiety, guilt and stress.  This is normal and if we use guilt at this level to correct our behavior it can be a positive force.  However, if we continue this activity we may feel relief from these feelings, because we are numbing ourselves to them through repetition of the activity.  This moves us into the denial phase because we don’t feel bad anymore.  Finally we may move into a state of excitement and anticipation as we continue doing it and realize we are not getting caught.  This is how Eddy lived for 3 years while running and doping with erythropoiein (EPO).  He had a huge amount of anxiety and guilt when he started, then it became part of his lifestyle with little feelings about it.  Finally, when he had immense success in his running career, through the use of EPO’s, he felt invincible.

2)  Be true to yourself, regardless of what others may think:

Quoted from RW:

“Eddy, clearly, was willing to risk a great deal, including straining his marriage, in order to assuage his guilt. “Shawn doesn’t know how I lie awake at night, worrying about what people think of me,” Eddy would tell me at one point. Chief among his worries was his son’s opinion; as Jordan progresses in his running career, Eddy assumed he would eventually hear the troubling stories about his father. “Jordan deserves the truth,” Hellebuyck would say, “and he needs to hear it from me. But how can I tell Jordan the truth while I keep up the denial in public? What am I teaching my son then?””

Having the courage to let go of the fear of what others are going to think can be overwhelming.  Eddy struggled with intense internal pain for years, and didn’t let anyone, even his wife Shawn, know about it.  She was in as much denial as he was.  Yet, he knew that this was his opportunity to come clean, be true to himself and relieve his guilt and he was willing to do it.  He risked his relationship with his wife, his prestigious name in the running community and his status in the eyes of his very own son.  But he knew that although the road would be rocky, freedom from guilt would now be his reward, which was better than any medal he had ever won!


Are you living with guilt from some past experience?  Are you hiding something that you don’t want anyone to know about you?  Do you feel depressed?  Do you lie awake at night like Eddy did?  Are you afraid of what others might think if you came clean?  If so, take some time to explore these feelings.  Write down the feelings you have that surround your guilt and specifically what is causing that feeling.  It could be sadness, anxiety, loss, fear, anger (at yourself or someone else), hopelessness, or frustration, among others.  Then be courageous, like Eddy was, and write down the benefits that you can see if you were to come clean from this guilt.  Benefits spiritually, emotionally, physically, in your relationship with yourself and others.  You may find other benefits too, such as in your career.

Stay tuned for Part 2 to explore what the conclusion to Eddy’s story is and for the steps you might take to end your guilt with a sense of victory!