Hi, my name is Marv and I am most definitely an alcoholic/addict. Today I know that drugs and alcohol were but a symptom of something far deeper, something that was apparent even in early childhood. Like many of us, I felt uncomfortable in my own skin, I lacked a sense of identity, and I needed constant validation from others. While I do not believe I came out of the womb with a deep sense of self-loathing and non-existent self-worth, those behaviors became so ingrained in me that they became my natural state of being.
My first escape from such an uncomfortable reality came in the form of daydreaming--yes, I know every child has daydreams--but I am talking about excessive daydreaming. I would fantasize about being everything I wasn't. How would I become the big, buff guy who was good at sports? How would I become extremely popular, ride a motorcycle, get all the women? And those were my positive fantasies. Others were very dark and centered around playing a victim.
I learned to play the victim at a young age, and that was my mode of operation for the first 27 years of my life. I played the victim for a reason. When I did, I felt self-pity and felt sorry for myself and I then became entitled to do whatever I needed to do to make myself feel better. It became my way to justify all sorts of less than ideal behaviors. It was easy for me to play the victim growing up and by the time I was 17, I had six major operations and a head injury (all of which continued to make me feel different than my peers), and ultimately I ended up in a deep depression.
That is when I found drugs and alcohol. I remember my first drunk, it was a life-changing moment. All of a sudden, my feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt vanished. I became smarter, sexier, more confident and able to talk to girls easily. I found drugs shortly after and within a year, things progressed to out-of-control proportions.
A vicious cycle began of allowing my using and drinking to consume me. I would get caught with major consequences, including flunking out of college my freshman year and landing in my first out-patient treatment program, back off things for a while as a 'dry drunk' and 'static addict', then slowly return to drinking and using. Each time, I would have all sorts of rules in place to justify what I was doing.
As I mentioned before, the drugs and alcohol were but a symptom of my disease, and this disease began to rear its ugly head in more areas of my life. One of those areas included body dysmorphia. I thought having a perfect body would fill the void inside of me, and as a result I became more of a trainwreck in motion, hurting myself further by adding more substances into the mix (namely, athletic drugs).
During this time I was going to college and studying Kinesiology, learning how to repair and improve the human body, yet I was downing massive combinations of drugs and alcohol on a daily basis. I was a walking oxymoron and a hypocrite. I preached an ideal to others publicly, yet did the exact opposite and worse as soon as I was behind closed doors. It was nothing but false pride encapsulating self-loathing, which I was certain everyone would figure out at some point.
I somehow managed to graduate from college with a BS in Exercise Science and even did so with a really impressive GPA. During my time in college, I was left to my own devices and without any sort of outside intervention, I now see myself then as a liar (telling myself THIS would be my last bottle, sack or vial, knowing damn well it wasn't going to be), a cheat (cheating myself out of a relationship with my Higher Power and most importantly, myself), and a thief (stealing myself away from my family, friends and loved ones while in the depths of my disease).
Fast forward a few years, through trips to mental wards and inpatient treatment centers, I was too afraid to kill myself yet too scared to live. It was misery. That misery worsened as I did nothing to work on myself. I was introduced to 12-step fellowship, yet I did no step work and had no real sponsor. I had no sort of foundation in recovery whatsoever. I was once again a 'dry drunk' and a 'static addict'. I decided to get loaded in secret, all the while a secretary of a 12-step meeting. I took dirty tokens and worked dirty steps. This was more than fuel for the fire for the voice of addiction in my head which only resulted in further self-sabotage.
Finally, after bouncing in and out of the rooms of various 12-step recovery programs, I finally found my GOD, or the Gift Of Desperation, on June 22, 2013. Honestly, I did not know it then, but that was the day I finally surrendered. I surrendered to the fact that I'm an alcoholic drug addict and I was doomed to either death or a life behind bars if I stayed the course and didn't make a drastic change.
So that's what I did. I did something drastic, and now I have over three years of consecutive sobriety! I went to an intensive short-term behavior modification program where I finally worked on myself, worked the 12 steps, utilized a real sponsor and most importantly, I got honest for the first time in my life.
Today, I am free.
I cannot begin to describe what it means to be able to look myself in the eyes in a mirror and recognize the man looking back. I cannot begin to describe what it means to have something resembling self-confidence and self-worth. Today, my self-worth allows me to have positive things in my life without self-sabotaging. Today, my recovery is worth all of the years of pain and suffering, ten-fold.
I always had major issues with body image, and because of such, exercise was always a huge part of my life, even in the worst of my disease. This may sound positive, but it controlled me in a negative way. Today, I have changed my relationship with exercise. It has become a spiritual endeavor. It didn't happen overnight and it is fluid, but most days I have a healthy relationship with all aspects of fitness.
I knew I wanted to give back and become a productive member of society, but for the first two years of my sobriety, I didn't know how to do so. Then I found my calling. To carry the message of not only recovery, but how exercise and health can and should be beneficial and is something that improves life, not controls it. By the grace of my Higher Power putting certain people in my path to encourage me, I figured out how to do it.
Today, I run a gym that I built and work exclusively with people in recovery. I have a blog that ties all aspects of fitness into the challenges faced by those in recovery. It is a thrilling time in my life, as I just left corporate America to pursue my calling full-time. I never would have had the courage or the fortitude to do so had I not surrendered to my disease and worked the 12 steps. Restoring a healthy balance allows me to work on improving my physical, mental, emotional and ultimately, spiritual health by blending aspects of fitness and recovery. It has been life changing and is how I aim to give back what was so freely given to me.
Marv owns One Rep At A Time, a gym on the West Coast, where he works with people who want to blend fitness with recovery. He also disperses lots of information on the two over on his site and Facebook page and Twitter. Go say HI! I personally have found movement to be essential to my recovery and is always the cure for creative blockage. I know Marv's story will help so many.