February 15, 2014
Addiction to Conviction
By Lauryn Lax

"Now, training hard most every day, I am having some of the most fun in my life. This is my second chance."
~Andy St. Germain

Photos by Brian Flannery

There are multiple theories on the amount of time it takes to make or break a habit.

For 25-year-old Andy St. Germain of the South Central Region, it took one day. 

One day to determine CrossFit was made for him, he was made for CrossFit and he is not turning back to his old ways.

St. Germain is in recovery from a drug and alcohol addiction that consumed his high school years and early 20s. Participation in this year’s Open is symbolic of more than just a milestone for his fitness—it is a milestone in his new life.

St. Germain has only been doing CrossFit for six months. He trains five to seven days a week at CrossFit 78702 in Austin, Texas. He said his strengths include body-weight and gymnastics movements, while he continues to work on his weaknesses: “Particularly Olympic lifting since it is completely new to me,” he said.

With a Fran time of 2:36, a back squat of 330 lb., the ability to string 10-plus muscle-ups together and a Filthy Fifty time of 16:20, one may very well think St. Germain is headed to the 2014 South Central Regional.  

“CrossFit has shown me the dedication and determination I have as an athlete and that I can transfer that into other areas of my life—from the Open to my continued recovery,” he said. “CrossFit has helped me in so many other ways than being healthier and getting me in better shape. It has made me mentally tougher. I’m able to take my CrossFit mentality and apply it across the board.”

St. Germain stumbled upon CrossFit about six months ago one day at his local 24-Hour Fitness where he often spent hours curling, benching, pressing, crunching and pulling most everyday. 

“I had seen a girl in there a couple times before doing some really tough looking workouts—pull-ups, burpees, cleans, deadlifts, box jumps—and I asked her that day if she did CrossFit,” he recalled. “I was somewhat familiar with it from my college days as a wrestler, when I would dabble in some CrossFit workouts for extra training, but it was more of a fad. Several years later, I was looking for something to fill that void I had to continue to compete. I asked the girl if I could do a WOD with her the next time, and she said, ‘Sure.’ I knew this was my opportunity to continue to compete and kind of transfer the dreams I had lost in wrestling over into CrossFit.”

A former wrestler from a small town outside of Chicago, St. Germain found his love for pushing his body to new heights and competing when he was 10 years old. He went on to be a top wrestler in high school and college until he was forced to end his wrestling career early. 

His addiction got the best of him.

“Drugs and alcohol didn't take a huge role in my life until about junior year of high school, and from the beginning, consequences and problems arose,” he said. “My junior year I was 30-1 and ranked second in the state of Indiana. However, one week before the postseason I was caught for the first time at a party drinking by the cops, and I was forced to sit out the last three meets by my high school, making me ineligible for the regionals, semi-state and state tournament. I was devastated.”

After watching his teammates from the sidelines the remainder of the year, St. Germain said he realized he had an opportunity to redeem himself during his senior year. He started the year off with a bang, winning the Brute & Adidas Nationals in Nebraska before his season began. Then the drugs and alcohol took him down. 

“I had hopes of wrestling in college so I knew this year needed to be a big year for me if I was wanting to pursue that dream,” St. Germain said. “I ended up finishing second in the state. Even though I didn't win, it was still a big thing for me to accomplish due to all the controversy my junior year with my arrest. Despite the success I had in wrestling my senior year though, that was the first time I had tried heroin and everything spiraled downhill quickly.”

St. Germain ended up receiving a scholarship to wrestle at Harper College in Palatine, Ill., in 2006—one of the top junior colleges in the nation and former national titleholders. The 125-lb. St. Germain was driven to bring the school another victory with his fresh start. By then, though, he was no longer in control of his drug and alcohol use.

“I moved away from home and I thought this would be the opportunity to stay sober and really focus on wrestling,” he said. “I was wrong.”

He started shooting heroin regularly and showed up to wrestling practice and meets high. 

“My whole ability to function depended on if I had heroin or not,” he said. “I remember going to meets and detoxing; having to cut weight but also being sick from withdrawal; having a two-day tournament and not being able to sleep because of my withdrawals.”

With continued drug use came more trouble with the law. 

“I had three arrests that year due from driving while intoxicated and possession. Life was pretty much hell,” he said. “My drive for wrestling and competing had completely been taken over. … I had given up. I couldn't continue cutting weight along with detoxing from heroin withdrawals. It was just too much.”

“After that first year I decided to move back home and try and get my life straight,” he added. 

After taking some time off, during which nothing really changed, St. Germain received a call one day from the wrestling coach at Calumet College of St. Joseph, an NAIA school in Whiting, Ind. 

St. Germain believed this would be his opportunity to redeem himself. Unfortunately, that was not the case.

“It was almost a reenactment of my first year in college. Heroin ran and controlled me and I was forced to quit midway through the season due to my addiction,” he said. “On top of that, I had three more pending arrests with over 10 charges against me. The regret and shame I felt almost brings tears to my eyes thinking about it now.”

Fast-forward four years later to March 2011. St. Germain said he had “lost it all.” After several overdoses, stealing, getting kicked out of his parents’ house, he had nowhere to go.

“I burned all my relationships with my friends and had nothing. I was forced to live in my car,” he said. “I would shower at the local health club and pretty much try to figure out how to get high the rest of the time. I did not want to live anymore. I contemplated killing myself over and over.”

Then help came. 

His aunt and uncle reached out to give him one last chance—treatment at an inpatient facility in South Padre Island, Texas. St. Germain gave in and accepted. He said treatment was helpful in getting him back on his feet and he moved to Austin upon discharge.

However, the story does not end there.

“While in Austin, after 11 months of sobriety I suffered a relapse. In three days of using I was right back to where I left off,” he recalled. “On the third day I had overdosed and almost died.”

“When the ambulance found me I was breathing six times a minute and they said if they would have been any later I wouldn't have made it,” St Germain added. 

He found himself back in treatment. Today, nearly two years later, St. Germain is sober.

“The desire to use is completely gone and my recovery is something that is more important to me than anything,” he said. “CrossFit has also helped me tremendously in my recovery. It gives me goals to shoot for and fuels that drive to compete. It is a way for me to diminish the regret I hold from those years of my addiction.” 

As a rookie in the competitive arena, some may say St. Germain has high goals this year. He begs to differ.

“I want to qualify for Regionals. Period,” he said. “Recovery is supposed to be fun. If I’m not happy or having fun in recovery, what’s the point? Now, training hard most every day, I am having some of the most fun in my life. This is my second chance.”