1. Turning Struggle into Strength :
"I am an alcoholic. I’m unsure if I was born with this disease, or let it manifest by my behavior. Maybe a combination of both. Regardless, for around a decade and a half, I slowly allowed it to consume my life. I drank to excess and blackouts each night, as the relationships around me eroded. I was never a drunk that went off the rails, acted out, behaved violently, or fell into depression. I merely drank myself into a useless stupor.
"My behavior soon helped me lose family, friends, and co-workers. I let alcohol isolate me as I continued to drink alone. It controlled every aspect of what I did. The more time lapsed, the less control I had. Alcoholism had consumed me, warped my brain, twisted and bloated the way I looked, and I found myself not caring about other people, jobs, or life priorities - only where my next drink was going to come from.
"On paper, from an outsider perspective, everything seemed fine. I had been engaged to a gorgeous woman, just signed the closing papers for my first house, and had a high paying job. But I was vacant. Empty inside. Towards the end, I was constantly sick, wrenching, puffy and bloated, and incoherent. My doctor told me my liver was severely inflamed, and if I kept drinking the way I was - I would be dead within 10-12 months.
2. When was your breaking point, and what got you into fitness?
"One evening, after telling my fiancé that I had since stopped drinking, she smelled liquor on me. She asked point blank if there was alcohol in the drink I had. I told her a bold faced lie. I saw her eyes and I saw her heartbreak. I realized that I couldn’t lie any longer. I couldn’t keep up the facade. The only relationship I had left, the one I had with her, my rock, my superhero….was on the verge of collapsing. I was about to lose the last person who was willing to tolerate me. I surrendered. I gave in, and I checked myself into rehab. I was on the road to sobriety.
"I had always been athletic-- a runner, and a very good runner at that. Throughout high school, college, and in my young career, I was proud of my PR times when it came everything from running 5K’s to full 26.2 Marathons; a hobby I had lost along the trail of my alcoholic journey. As I started healing, a new spark reignite an old fire inside me. I was sick and tired of looking like an obese mess of a man. I knew there had to be a better version of me in there somewhere.
So I took to training...hard. I couldn’t read fitness and health articles fast enough. I got on the elliptical twice a day for HIIT workouts, switched up my diet, laced my running shoes back up, and I was, for lack of a better term, off to the races!"
3. Tell us about how fitness helped you cope with your struggles?
"I feel there’s something unique about alcoholics. We go to extremes in a lot of ways. Our instinct is to change the way we feel, act, and perceive things with substances. Once we get sober, if done properly, we begin to see that there’s a lot of life yet to live, and a new freedom and happiness to experience. Fitness is a part of that journey. For me, for so long, I had crushed myself physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I found the answers to all of those issues with fitness. The exhilaration of a long run, the satisfaction of seeing gains in the weight room, the confidence I had through my transformation from a bloated mess to a trim, refined and athletic looking man was beyond compare. The endorphin rush I got after every single gym session, and run was far-and-away superior to any buzz or any feeling I could sip from a bottle.
4. What advice do you have for others struggling with a similar issue?
There IS a solution and, you are NOT alone. When we face this disease of alcoholism - which, by its very nature, isolates us, we feel like we’re the only ones struggling, and there’s no other human being on the planet who could possibly understand. But we do. We are here. We are evidence that there IS another path. We can’t do this by ourselves. To break the cycle, we MUST accept help. And that help can take many forms. For me, I had to surrender. I went to a rehab facility, and I now thrive in the rooms of AA. Others may find a different path. But one thing is sure. Recovery is a lifestyle. It’s a one-day-at-a-time path. In Virago, we offer support, hope, and a community of extraordinary people who have faced down their pain and struggles. We provide living proof that there is a better way of life. I think you’ll find that fitness not only offers healing and inspiration but the ability to walk through anything with conviction.
5. Is there anything else you'd like to share?
"Joining the Virago Fitness Warriors team has only fueled my passion and drive to achieve. To be better. Like others, I still have swings. I have good days and bad days but just the knowledge that I’m part of something bigger. A group of people who adapt, improvise, and overcome is a massive accomplishment in my pursuits."
After years of practicing in front of a mirror during my childhood, I have some decent Michael Jackson dance moves
I have an obnoxious obsession with shoes, with my current closet count standing at 15 pairs
Always have, always will: pick my nose. Especially when no one’s looking.