brighter future

How sports helped this triathlete get sober and come out to his wife and family

Mark Turnipseed is an openly gay triathlete, coach, and father. In a powerful new essay published by Outsports, he writes candidly about his struggles with addiction and how sports allowed him to overcome his demons and accept his true identity.

Turnipseed explains that growing up in a Southern Baptist household in Georgia required him to hide who he was all throughout his childhood.

“I started lying about my preferences around age 5, when the things I seemed to like weren’t the same things other boys liked,” the 33-year-old writes.

“Out of shame, I started to force myself to like ‘boy things,’ like baseball and boxing gloves. But then it got really confusing when I started to have crushes on my friends.”

Eventually, Turnipseed left George to attend college in Montana.

“Unfortunately, my lies followed me and I ended up choosing methods to avoid the pain those lies caused that took me into drug and alcohol addiction,” he reflects.

For the next 15 years, he abused drugs and alcohol.

Over that time, he became suicidal, received multiple DUIs, and nearly died after overdosing. He also married and woman and had a child in hopes of achieving what he thought would be a “normal” life.

“I liked who I had become on the outside–seemingly straight with a beautiful wife and a baby,” he writes. “On the inside, I kept sliding back into relapses because of the inner conflicts I had been so keen on hiding. I was so used to living this way, I thought it was normal.”

Then in 2018, someone at his gym casually suggested he participate in an upcoming triathlon. It was a chance meeting, but after the conversation was over, something inside Turnipseed clicked. A little voice asked: “How long are you going to keep lying to yourself with all this?”

That’s when he decided to make a change.

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What’s possible? Anything with the right program! #throwbackthursday For a long time, I was complacent. I knew how to smile. I still laughed. I felt pretty good. But, there was so much more in store for me that I wasn’t even open to trying. Sobriety led to diet changes and an exercise program. I worked with a coach (@sm_endurance_solutions )who gave me online structure to prepare me for a triathlon. The rest my friends, is history! I’m now a coach myself and I have a program to share with you guys! Please, don’t limit yourself with a couple good things when the world is literally your oyster! #transformation #transformationchallenge #lifestylechanges #tbt #gayathlete #soberfitness #sobercoach #lifecoach #opioidaddiction #recoveryispossible #instagay #gayandsober #sobrietyrocks #soberliving #fitnessmotivation #fitnessjourney #gaymodel #fitnessmodel #bestself #strengthtraining #gaymen #addictionrecovery #diabetesmanagement #hearthealth #fightingobesity #obesitysurvivor #hypertension #healthylivingjourney #beforeandafterweightloss

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“I decided to do something different to see what I could become,” Turnipseed writes. “I had no idea this decision would bring me to where I am today.”

Shortly after that, he began training for the triathlon.

“What I didn’t know is that triathlon would push me so hard to accept many things about myself and each time I accepted one of these things I felt better, not worse.”

The training was grueling and required him not only to push himself but to accept his limitations, both physically and mentally.

“I began realizing I was learning more about acceptance then I was about triathlon. I was learning to accept all of my weaknesses in both character and sport.”

Eventually, he was able to admit to himself that he was an addict and work on getting sober. He did. Then came the even harder work.

“Now it was time to let it work for my sexuality, so that I could finally be free.”

Coming out was not easy, Turnip says, and was not without many tears.

“Owning up to my lies had some serious consequences, for myself and others,” he explains. “My wife and I cried endlessly over the truth. My coming out was far from rainbows and pink clouds.”

He continues, “Ultimately, we have begun accepting that to show our son a life of integrity we must be willing to live our truths no matter what the consequences. To show him, and others, the importance of living this way is to potentially steer one clear of the horrors I had to live through before coming to terms with who I am.”

Today, Turnipseed says he feels free for the first time in his life.

“I finally feel confident and complete in my own skin,” he writes. “I don’t have a fear overshadowing my every move, inhibiting me from facing and conquering challenges.”

He adds, “I can finally look people in the eye without trying to hide.”

Scroll down for more pics from Turnipseed’s Instagram page…

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?”Oh mamma, please don’t make me lie. I need my freedom, need my rainbow sky” -Railroad Earth *paraphrased* ???? But really, since early childhood I thought I had to maintain a lie. To get to heaven. To be successful. To be loved. I now know that is so far from true and I also know my mamma never wished me to feel that way, to feel the shame I did. Most of that was due to culture and society. I’m so happy we are growing as a human race. Growing stronger and more inclusive. Let’s keep rising y’all! Damn it felt good to get into the woods today for a run! #comingout #comingoutstory #sobercoach #triathlete #trailrunning #leapsandbounds #running #tri_community #runnersofinstagram #runningmotivation #runningcommunity #fitnessmotivation #fitnesscoach #gayandsober #wilderness #thegreatoutdoors #getoutsideandplay #freshair #healthylifestyle #healthyliving #gayrunners #runnersofinsta #instarunners #trailrunninglife #trailrunningview

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There are definitely days that I dread my morning swim and since today we increased volume 10%, it made Today was one of those. Half way through I didn’t think I could keep going. So I pictured a coach on deck, yelling at me to screw my speed and keep my form. Ultimately, this worked. When you’re too tired to keep going. Concentrate on how you hold yourself and not what your trying to accomplish. Sometimes all we can do is stand up straight. The hard times will pass and eventually you can stand on the edge with your head and hands held high. Today was one of those days. #swimbikerun #triathlete #tri_community #swim #swimming #swimriderun #swimharder #swimmersofinstagram #gayathlete #speedo #speedoboy #trilife #3athlonlife #triathlontraining #ironmantraining #ironmantri #ironmantriathlete #torsotattoo #soberathlete #sobrietyrocks #soberliving #recoveryispossible

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Yeaaa the suns back out! There’s always something to be grateful for, even on the hardest of days ?? I’ll be honest, coming out is not easy. It’s far from fun, it’s scary and it’s not always met with love and understanding. There have been a few moments over the past couple of weeks where I didn’t think I could make it. I thought of giving up. I wrestled with demons that I haven’t had to meet face to face in a long time. That’s why, each day over the past month I have been making gratitude lists. I’ve also forced myself to reach other to people who I may be able to help and I’ve talked to at least one friend a day, despite wanting to isolate and binge watch Netflix with pizza and hash brownies. I see the light now. I see it more and more every day. If you are facing a huge challenge like addiction or coming out as gay or mourning the illness or death of a loved one or relationship- try it. Try to make a gratitude list and seek the power within to find and keep a healthy in the midst of any storm. If I can do it, so can you! #sunshine #grateful #gratitude #stretch #mindfulnesspractice #mindfulness #meditation #believeinyou #believe #openyoureyes #comingoutstory #comingout #pride? #celebratelife #loveyourself #gaytriathlete #instagay #instagays #gaygram

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