Upon meeting Louie Ruvolo, one might see a tenacious 58-year-old man defying the inevitable march of time. Known for his impressive achievements as an ultramarathoner, Iron Man triathlon finisher, and a fourth-degree black belt in martial arts, Louie commands immense respect among his 10,000-plus followers on Twitter.
However, it's not just his athletic prowess that makes him inspirational. Louie's personal battle with alcohol abuse has turned him into a beacon of hope for others struggling against similar demons.
Two decades ago, a man in his late thirties, Louie doubted he would live to see his fifties, let alone imagine running a hundred miles. His life started spiraling downward early on. Constant family relocations resulted in fitting-in struggles, and by the age of 12, Louie fell into a crowd experimenting with alcohol and drugs. By 17, he had become a habitual drinker.
Addiction gripped him in his early twenties, causing his marriage to collapse and his health and career to deteriorate. Despite repeated attempts at a fresh start and constant support from family and friends, he often found himself in a cycle of relapses.
Finally, at 37, an existential wake-up call struck Louie. He understood that unless he initiated drastic changes, his life hung in the balance. With the support of sober friends and a newfound resolve, he embarked on a transformative journey. He immersed himself in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, embraced a twelve-step program, and sought the company of those who had achieved long-term sobriety.
“The balance had to change for me in order to get sober,” Louie recalled. “Before the age of 37, I still wanted to drink more than I wanted to be sober. But then, at 37, I had a realization about what my future would be if I didn't get sober. All of a sudden, I realized my life would be severely cut short. And my daughter would have to grow up without a father, and I thought about the things I would put my family through. I didn't want to live out my life in really poor health.”
Today, 21-years sober, Louie serves as an inspirational figure for his considerable Twitter following. Many followers are either in their own pursuit of fitness in later life or seek hope and guidance on their journey toward sobriety.
Running 100 miles in a single day (and night)
Earlier this month, Louie completed his second 100-mile run at the Chesterfield Gorge Ultramarathon, finishing in an impressive 22 hours and 55 minutes. However, his journey doesn't end here. He's already eyeing his next goal - to improve his time in next year's race.
Louie discovered his passion for distance running more than a decade ago in 2011. Starting with a modest goal of running a single mile in 14 minutes, he soon found himself participating in 5K races, half marathons, and eventually marathons. He didn't stop there. His ambition led him to complete a 50-mile ultramarathon in 2021, and an Ironman Triathlon and a 100-mile ultramarathon in 2022.
Louie's story underscores the importance of community support in overcoming challenges. He credits his success to his coach, Ryan Dryer; his fellow runners; his supportive girlfriend, Lynn; and his mother, Clara, a former marathoner who continues to run even as she approaches her 83rd birthday.
Helping others break free from the bonds of alcohol
Louie's transformative journey isn't just a personal accomplishment; it's a testament to his commitment to serve as a guiding light for others battling similar afflictions. However, he understands that his influence can only go so far, a truth underscored by a heartbreaking experience with a family member.
Louie cherished a close relationship with his nephew, who was like a son to him. They shared many life experiences, working at the same job and living in close proximity, as his nephew lived in one of Louie's apartments. Despite their bond, Louie's nephew tragically succumbed to chronic and acute alcoholism at the age of 34.
"I tried to be the example to help him," Louie said, his voice tinged with the pain of loss. "I tried to encourage him, and at times he would follow my lead, and then he would drop off."
This poignant experience taught Louie an important lesson.
"We can put ourselves out there to people, we can show them our lifestyle, we can show them the benefits of sobriety and all the gifts that it comes with, but to a large degree, it is up to that person," he shared. “Just like one can't selectively lose weight from a specific part of their body, I can't specifically choose who will embrace sobriety.”
Using Twitter to inspire
The realization he can’t necessarily reach everyone hasn't dampened his commitment to inspire and guide others on their paths to recovery. Louie actively reaches out, hoping to attract others to the prospect of a healthier, sober life. He receives direct messages from countless individuals seeking advice, and says he never turns anyone away. He takes the time to share his story and offers guidance to those who ask for it. He leads by example, embodying the transformation that sobriety and determination can bring about.
Indeed, his approach has proven effective on many occasions. While Louie recognizes that he can't necessarily choose who will follow his path, his enduring dedication and commitment to helping others provides hope and a source of inspiration for many. Louie's ability to attract others to sobriety and fitness, not by preaching but by leading by example, continues to make a significant impact.
Louie's journey on Twitter is a fascinating testament to the power of a shared story. Initially, he used the platform as an observer, following athletes and nutrition enthusiasts while occasionally responding to tweets. It wasn't until September 2021, after being on Twitter for a couple of years, that he began sharing his own posts. As he gradually found his voice on the platform, he noticed a handful of people starting to follow him.
However, the turning point arrived shortly after New Year's when he posted a tweet about his sobriety and athletic accomplishments. This post struck a chord with many, and it quickly went viral, amassing nearly 8,000 retweets. From a humble following of around 250, Louie's Twitter family ballooned to 1,500 followers practically overnight. This sudden surge of interest made him realize that his journey resonated with many, including those struggling with addiction, those striving to maintain sobriety, and others simply inspired by his journey.
As he approaches his sixties, Louie is the embodiment of what relentless perseverance and dedication can achieve. As a heavy equipment operator and supervisor at a Massachusetts scrapyard, he has successfully built a stable and fulfilling professional life, and looks forward to the future.
"I spent the first 20 years of my adult life drinking and talking about all the amazing things I would do in life,” he said. “Until I got sober, it was all a dream. I've spent the past 21 years in sobriety living out those dreams. Sober is the way."