April 7, 2014
By Tim McIntosh

“CrossFit and AA have a lot in common. In both, you help by sharing your experience.” ~Abby Hildreth

Photos courtesy of Kim McIntyre

Newberg CrossFit Rebuilt might look like a typical CrossFit box. But Doug and Abby Hildreth are anything but typical box owners.

“I was a criminal,” Doug said. “I was homeless, living in the bed of my truck. I’d break into people’s houses to support my habit. When (the cops) finally caught me, they indicted me on 15 felony counts.”

Abby also had run-ins with the law and struggled with addiction.

“When I hit rock bottom, my dad told me, ‘This is your last shot,’” she recalled. “I knew I had to change, but I was scared I couldn’t do it. I would never have dreamed how good my life would be now.”

Today, Doug and Abby have three children together who they care for along with Abby’s first daughter. And the couple owns and operates Newberg CrossFit Rebuilt in Newberg, Ore.

But their recovery and transformation was anything but easy.

One Step at a Time

By the time Doug was arrested at age 20, he was “done with life,” he said. “I assumed I was either going to overdose or spend life in prison.”

He spent 17 months in prison. But before sentencing, he started attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and his AA sponsor wasted no time getting in his face.

“My sponsor called me a concrete-covered marshmallow: hard on the outside, but soft inside,” Doug said. “He was right.”

Doug, now 29, spent much of his time alone in his cell reading the AA Big Book. When a judge unexpectedly arraigned him in 2007, two friends from the organization broke anonymity for him.

“That’s a really big deal—to break anonymity to testify for me,” said Doug, his voice quivering with emotion.

Thanks in part to those testimonies, the judge allowed Doug to live under house arrest with his parents for three months.

“My only chance to get out of the house was to have mom take me to AA meetings,” Doug said.

A Perfect Pair

During one AA meeting, Doug met Abby.

“My first reaction to seeing her was, ‘Look at those legs!’” he recounted. “And I made every excuse in the world to be wherever she was from then on.”

While dating, they discovered they had almost met years earlier under very different circumstances.

“I was living in Newberg and I had ripped off my dealer,” Abby said. “The dealer tried to recruit Doug to hunt me down. That would have been a very different meeting.”

Their first date was July 6, 2007. Four years later, they discovered CrossFit.

“I was selling Chryslers in McMinnville, Ore.,” Doug said. “My boss invited me to go to a CrossFit workout. I was one of those ‘bench-press/curl guys.’ I thought I was in good shape. That first (workout) nearly killed me.”

Abby did her first workout after giving birth to Piper, now age 3. She had not worked out in a year and was still smoking. The workout nearly killed her, too. But she also got hooked.

Soon, Doug and Abby began urging the owners of McMinnville CrossFit, JP and Cyra Kloninger, to open a gym in Newberg. The Kloningers instead suggested that they become partners.

“Business partners?” Doug recalled. “The only business I had run was selling drugs.”

But Doug and Abby decided to give it a shot.

Shared Experiences

Right away, the couple put their plan into action.

“Like any good alcoholic, I began obsessing about it, driving all over town trying to find a good location,” Doug said. “The thing about alcoholics is that we are driven. We’re egomaniacs, desperate to prove everybody … to prove the voices in our own heads … to prove them wrong. The only time those voices shut up is when I’m in the middle of a workout or when I’m praying.”

Doug and Abby opened Newberg CrossFit Rebuilt on Jan. 3, 2012.

In 2013, Doug qualified for the North West Regional and went on to take 33rd place. After this year’s Open, he sits in 57th place regionally.

“CrossFit and AA have a lot in common,” Abby said. “In both, you help by sharing your experience. Female athletes come into our gym, they lack self-confidence, self-esteem, they just want to get skinny. I remember feeling that way, so I share my experience with them. We have a saying in AA: ‘When someone reaches out, you are responsible,’ meaning, you need to help them. I love helping because so many people have helped me.”

Doug and Abby aren’t ashamed of their past. Rather, they draw on their life experience and use it to lift up their community.   

“Being completely transparent—that’s when God works,” Doug said. “It might be in the middle of a horrible (workout) or with your AA community, but when you’re completely transparent, that’s when God works.”


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