How Addiction Changed My Life for the Better
A true confession: I used to be an addict. My addiction changed everything about my life.
Let me start this story from the beginning.
For years, I was a "runner". I ran cross country in middle school, into high school, and kept running casually during college. It was just who I was and what I did. I talked about it, I loved it, it was my exercise, it was my hobby.
And let me tell you, I looked every bit of a runner. I was skinny as a rail. I was all limbs and no muscle. I looked malnourished. I looked like I had an eating disorder. (Thank goodness this wasn't the case).
For as long as I'd known myself, I'd always taken for granted this was how I looked. Yes, I was a runner, and this is how runners usually look. But I also just figured that's who I was. I was Bob Hinrichs, a skinny dude, and those were the cards I'd been dealt and who I'd forever be. In my mind, "skinny" and "runner" were just as much part of who I was as my birthmark or fair skin.
I was a skinny runner right up until the day I wasn't one.
It was a fateful day. A day that forever changed my life. On April 16th, 2013 I had my first taste of the addiction that would consume my coming years. I didn't even realize at the time, but this was the day I became addicted to the gym.
On this fateful day, I had my first encounter with this foreign concept called "weight lifting". As a runner, I had absolutely zero idea what it meant to lift weights. If I ever wanted to workout, I'd go for a run. There were no other alternatives. Why they hell would somebody bother lifting weight?! What a waste of time!
Yet on this fateful day, things changed. I embarked onto a whole new path in life. On April 16th, I started P90X. For those of you not familiar with it, P90X is a 90-day, very intense, at-home workout program.
This was my first time dipping my toes into the water of lifting weights. Let me tell you, it kicked my ass. For 90 straight days, the videos of Tony Horton and his workout cronies played in my house. For 90 straight days, I lifted weights.
I fucking hated every bit of it. It was incredibly demanding and completely opposite the world of running. It wasn't a long and leisurely jog...it was short and intense bouts of torture. The bicep curls hurt, the squats sucked, the pushups were painful. All of it was fucking terrible.
On top of it all, I didn't see a shred of results in those 3 months.
My physique didn't change in the least. If you saw me on Day 90, you would still have thought I was some broke college kid who couldn't afford to eat. Nothing had changed.
While yes, I did get somewhat stronger: I could now use slightly heavier weights. The 20lb weights were traded in for 35lbs. But even with the added strength, every exercise was just as challenging on Day 90 as on Day 1. The pain was still the same. The intensity was still the same.
Lifting weights sucked.
Yet somehow, as those 90 days were coming to a close, the weightlifting gods opened the heavens and convinced me to throw myself into another 90 days. That's just what I did.
Somewhere between Day 90 and Day 180, things began to change...in huge ways. All of a sudden, I was developing muscles. Clothes didn't fit right. Friends were asking me what I was doing. My body was changing, and all for the better.
People saw me differently. I saw myself differently. With that, the addiction set in.
Life spiraled out of control. Round 2 of P90X quickly became round 3. After that session, I was shopping Craigslist and buying a whole set of weights to use at home. From there, I discovered the gym.
For those of you who are runners, and need some clarity, let me define things:
"The gym" - this is a building with 4 walls, a roof, and all the workout equipment you'd ever need to lift weights. This is also a building that runners never set foot in.
This was a foreign land to me. I didn't know what the fuck I was doing, but I joined. I went from being a runner to a weightlifter, and wasn't looking backwards.
I put on pounds. Stepping up from the mid 150's up to the 160's and beyond. (One day even reaching 200lbs). Let me tell you, all of a sudden, I looked good. I had abs. I had muscles. I had a body that was WAY better looking than my former lanky self.
Forever I'd thought my fate was to be skinny. Apparently, that wasn't the case. From there, an junkie was created.
I was in the gym ALL THE TIME!
Every single day, 7 days a week, I was hooked. My body was growing, and I could see it. Everyone around me could see it. People were commenting. And let me tell you:
I was fucking addicted to the praise. I was fucking addicted to the growth. I was fucking addicted to the results.
I was spending 3-4 hours in the gym. Every. Single. Day.
It didn't matter if I was tired, I'd go to the gym. It didn't matter if it was blizzarding outside, I'd go to the gym. It didn't matter if I was sore, I'd go to the gym. It didn't matter if I sacrificed friendships, I'd go to the gym.
I was reading forums. I was ordering supplements. I was watching videos. I was becoming a gym rat.
I was growing bigger. I was growing stronger. I was watching my body change before my very eyes. No longer was I trapped in the body of a skinny kid. I'd found a way to escape the "me" I used to be.
I had become an addict.
As time wore on, my addiction slowly began to wane. 3-4 hours a day turned into 2-3 hours a day. The entire week turned into 5-6 days per week. And after that, it waned even more, until it came to rest at a more societally-accepted level.
Truth be told, my addiction still lives inside of me. I don't think I will ever shake it. Exercise has become a fixture in my life. I don't act on it the same way I used to, but it's still deeply rooted within me.
In all this...from the days prior to my addiction, to the days I was fiending for a lift like a junkie, to the days that have followed...I've learned one big lesson. In fact, I've learned one massive life lesson.
My addiction taught me this: the squat or bicep curl I did on my first day is no less challenging than it is today. Yes, I've gotten stronger and yes, I can lift heavier weights.
However, the exercise is just as painful and challenging today as it was then. And quite truthfully, that pain sucks. That pain is what I hated in my first 90 days. That pain is still what I hate, even today.
But my addiction taught me this: despite the pain, you can learn to love the process. You can learn to love the journey.
I didn't became an addict to lifting weights. Really, I became an addict to what lifting weights offered: a new version of myself. It offered growth. A healthier, a stronger, a more vital, a more impressive outward version of myself.
Through the pain was a path towards growth. A path towards something more. I grew in size, sure. But really, I grew as a person. I grew in perspective. I learned that if I travel that path and show up every day, I can grow into the version of myself that I see myself becoming.
Becoming an addict taught me to love the process. To love the journey. To love the everyday actions, not always for what they are, but for the fact they are part of something bigger. They are part of the whole. They are part of growth.
Every workout I've ever done has contributed to the body I have today. All the adversity, all the successes. The pain and the challenges. The happy moments and endorphins. All of it has led me to grow into the person I am today.
Lifting weights just one time will leave you sore, without a bit of growth. Lifting weights 90 days in a row will leave you sore, and maybe with something to show. But become an addict and lift every day, and you'll find it all. Soreness, challenges, hardship, and physical growth. Most importantly, you'll discover that everything you've done contributes to who you're becoming. Every moment is one small part of something bigger.
That lesson applies to every corner of life. Any part in life may suck (or be awesome). And it's easy to quit doing something because that little bit of suck/pain.
But if you string together enough hardships (and successes), you begin to see that you don't do anything for the individual moment, you do them for the bigger picture.
I'm so glad I didn't stop on Day 1. I'm so glad I didn't stop on Day 90. That would have been the easy and pain-free route.
I'm so glad I became an addict.
There is growth in the process. It's easy to judge the single moments in life and call them "good" or "bad". Painless or painful. Right or wrong.
But string together a lot of little moments, and all of a sudden the little moments add up to be part of the whole. And the whole is WAY more worthwhile than any single trial or tribulation endured in the process.
Growth comes from pursuing the journey. The journey is made up of many small moments. Some may suck, some may be awesome. It's okay if they suck. It's okay if they're awesome.
But whatever happens in the individual moments, remember that they're part of something bigger. They're part of our life. They're part of our growth.
Becoming an addict was one of the best things that happened to me. Now pain isn't so painful. Now challenge isn't so challenging. Now risk isn't so risky. Now fear isn't so fearful. The little adversities that used to hold me back are now the ingredients I choose to embrace. They're the ingredients that make me grow. They're the ingredients to a deep and meaningful life.
I accept the ups. I accept the down. I accept the whole fucking journey. It's all part of who I am and it's all part of where I'm going.
Now please excuse me, I'm headed to the gym!
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