An Alcoholic's Look Back at His Body Dysmorphia
[EDITORS NOTE: For those unfamiliar with "body dysmorphia," here's the Mayo Clinic's definition of it.
The author of this blog is demonstrating the connectivity between the disorder and his addiction. This is very, very real and many disorders can lead to or exist along side addictions of many types.]
Hi my name is Marv and I am a recovering alcoholic/addict with over 3 years of sobriety.
I know for me personally that the drugs and alcohol were but a symptom of something far deeper…a void that I felt from a very young age.
My disease of alcoholism showed itself in multiple areas of my life…so instead of talking about the obvious manifestation of blackout drinking/drugging for almost 10 years…I am going to talk about how my lack of self-worth and absence of personal identity led to extreme body image issues:
To be a man and to be honest about body image issues is definitely not en vogue.
It is not confidence inspiring.
It is not sexy.
Yet I feel it is a very big issue that lurks in the shadows of today’s society.
By nature it is very easy for body dysmorphia to become a serious issue for those in the modeling/fitness industry.
They are judged mercilessly and if they are not physically “perfect”, they go hungry.
The very best of the best in fitness and modeling have to have a drive so insatiable they go to any lengths in an attempt to further perfect the already perfect physical specimen.
That’s what makes them so great at what they do – to be a part of the truly 99.9% percentile of human physiques.
I am not a hater by any means – they do what they do to have careers most of us can only dream about.
However, the problem is when these unrealistic expectations trickle down into the minds of the average gym rat or weekend warrior.
They think they HAVE to look like the professional fitness models or physique competitors in the magazines to be deemed super sexy.
They (your average gym goer) begin to believe the hype of the fitness industry that with the right supplements, the right weight training program, and the perfect diet they too can look like them.
Everyday people buy into this unattainable dream and spend their hard earned cash, give their blood, sweat, and tears to look like the professionals.
Yet it’s never going to happen!
How do I know this?
Because I too became one of those people in search of the perfect physique.
I spent $100’s if not $1,000’s of dollars each month on supplements.
I followed magazine advice to a “T” but was always dissatisfied with my results.
Even when I was told I was in GREAT physical condition – and looking back I was “better” than 90% of the people out there – I shrugged it off and pointed out my flaws instead.
I was incapable of taking a compliment because I was always judging myself.
Sure I’d tell you thanks and smile, but immediately in my head I would go, “Yea well my upper chest SUCKS, or I don’t have ENOUGH ab veins, or I don’t have ENOUGH separation between my brachioradialis and my biceps!”
I became obsessed with looking like a professional fitness model.
And not your natural looking guy, but a lean muscle monster (thankfully I didn’t want to look like an IFBB bodybuilder).
Because of this I turned to athletic drugs at the age of 21.5 with less than 2 years of lifting under my belt when I started realizing steroids were the missing ingredient in my quest for the “perfect” body.
The problem was I had already developed a pretty damn serious drug and alcohol problem by the time I threw steroids into the mix as well.
In fact I had flunked out of college and went to my first outpatient treatment program at 19 years old.
After leaving (but not completing) that program to the time I started using steroids, I slowly started returning to my drug and alcohol use; albeit there were all sorts of “rules” I had in place to justifying drinking and using again.
I was off the “hard stuff” and everyone drinks when they’re young right???
Honestly, it was only a matter of time before this cocktail of steroids and alcohol came to be part of my routine.
You see LONG before I ever picked up a drug or a drink I had alcoholic and addictive thinking.
As a child I was uncomfortable in my own skin.
My first escape from reality came in the form of day-dreaming.
Now I know this is common for most children to do – but I’m talking about excessive day dreaming.
Every day I’d dream about when I reached a certain age I’d be big, buff, good at sports, popular, riding a motorcycle, getting all the chicks.
These were the exact opposite of everything I was growing up and even through high school.
I was extremely insecure to where even at a young age I was self-deprecating, self-sabotaging, self-loathing and a perfectionist.
I ran on self-pity because when I felt sorry for myself and played the victim I felt entitled to do whatever necessary to cheer myself up.
NOT A GOOD COMBINATION!
When I finally discovered drugs and alcohol I was off to the races pretty much immediately.
They fixed everything for me.
I hadn’t yet developed a love for the gym and lifting weights yet – but getting loaded – HELL YES!
Getting loaded became my calling card – I took pride in the massive quantities I was able to ingest and became known for this.
Doing so was how I finally achieved what I thought was popularity.
However the problem soon became not how MUCH I could take, but how readily apparent it became I could no longer control how OFTEN I was taking these substances.
Things got really out of hand fast…hence the flunking out of school and getting sent to the outpatient program within 1 year of finding such substances.
That’s when I was introduced to the gym.
I had forgotten how when I was young I wanted to be big and “buff.”
After a few short months in the gym I decided to seek physical perfection.
This would be my new escape and my new identity.
So while I was chasing physical perfection with very little actual training and dieting time or knowledge under my belt, I would add toxins counter-productive to what I was trying to achieve in the form of alcohol and “soft drugs.”
This all but guaranteed less than ideal results.
The first legitimate opportunity I got to obtain steroids from someone I knew I took it no questions asked.
I did very little research.
Because I had already developed body image issues and saw no other route.
With this new drug use came insane gains and inevitable female compliments and attention.
I was hooked almost immediately.
Thankfully I had enough common sense to run only 1, maybe 2 cycles a year lasting 2-4 months each since I was still drinking and beginning to use more and more often.
I developed a nasty routine of getting loaded, let my nutrition go out the window due to the “munchies”, then feel extremely guilty and beat myself up over it.
With this came more self-pity followed by more self-sabotage and negative self-fulfilling prophecies.
I could never develop my physique to my liking.
This led to more and more aggressive cycles including a multitude of various athletic drugs while my drinking and using concurrently escalated to reach every damn day frequency.
During this time I portrayed an image of confidence bordering on cockiness – in reality it was false pride encapsulating my self-loathing.
I could never let anyone in close – to let them know how much I hated myself – and I mean hated.
I couldn’t look at myself in the eyes in the mirror.
Whenever I did my daily mirror flex routines I saw huge holes in my physique no one else saw.
It became a vicious cycle (no pun intended).
I could go on and on about my history with this issue but I think you see the pattern.
Thankfully I finally hit my true bottom in 2013.
I finally got my GOD – the “Gift of Desperation”- and I truly admitted I am an alcoholic and a drug addict – that without a spiritual awakening by working the 12 steps I am doomed to jails, institutions, and inevitable death.
So after being locked away in my most recent (and hopefully last) treatment program for 4 months I transitioned to the outpatient program and decided to do things differently.
I decided to work on myself for the first time ever – in particular to work on my relationship with myself and develop an identity.
This is why I didn’t allow myself to return to training the second I got out of treatment.
After I felt I had done the necessary leg-work I returned to training and dieting.
So, I think the question on your mind after reading all this, is where do I stand with my body image issues today after I’ve worked the 12 steps?
To be honest it’s fluid – most days I am ok with where I am at.
When I do find myself becoming obsessive it usually means my program and daily spiritual maintenance is lacking (remember…I suffer from alcohol-ISM, where the ISM stands for “incredibly short memory” so I need to work on my recovery every single day no if’s, and’s, or but’s about it).
I still have my trouble spots that my brain inevitably points out to me – but I do much better with ignoring that filthy little voice in my head.
Most importantly I have an individual identity outside of my physical appearance for the first time in a very long time.
I still struggle with instant gratification when it comes to food – I still do countless “tomorrow I’ll start my perfect diet” episodes.
Then comes the guilt after binge eating.
And the comparison to where I use to be.
Then….thankfully…the voice of grateful recovery comes into my head replacing those nasty thoughts.
If it doesn’t come quick enough I say my own personal version of the third step prayer and I regain control.
Slowly but surely, my training has for the first time ever, become more or less spiritual for me.
It’s no longer a way to take out pure anger and hatred of myself – frustration with life on life’s terms yes, but with an overall more serene mindset.
I find myself judging myself less and less.
When that’s not the case it’s one of my major first tell-tale signs I need to work on myself and throw myself into the 12 step fellowships I choose to attend.
Hopefully sharing my struggles has made sense to you – maybe you’ve identified with some things I said and maybe you haven’t.
Just remember – we are always are our harshest critic.
I think that’s natural to have that damn voice in our heads pointing out where we fall short – but we don’t have to listen to the voice any longer.
We don’t have to live in that insanity any longer.
I go by Marv and I live in Southern California. My sobriety/clean date is June 22, 2013. This is not my first go-round in recovery as I was introduced to the rooms of 12 step fellowships as early as 2005…but it is the first time I did nothing more than a half-hearted “try.”
Finding recovery and ultimately personal freedom as a result of a spiritual awakening from working the steps has made the decade of pain and suffering something I am truly grateful for. Unfortunately, I cannot undo the pain and harm I inflicted to countless individuals and loved ones while I was in the depths of my disease. This is why I live my life as a daily amends to those individuals, my family, and most importantly myself.
I have a Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science and recently quit corporate America to focus on my recently found “calling” in my life of recovery. I built a private gym and train people exclusively in recovery as well as started a blog tying all aspects of fitness into the challenges faced by those in recovery from some sort of addiction.
If you liked my post please check out my site at www.onerepatatime.net. My personal Facebook page can be found at https://www.facebook.com/OneRepMarv while a page also for my blog can be found at https://www.facebook.com/onerepatatime/
It truly does get better if you do the work! I am a living proof of this and you can be too!
On Rep At A Time
[NOTE: Do not be confused with the "other" One Rep At A Time. In Marv's Twitter link, there is an underscore (the underline "_" mark) in it. This is highly important, as it will take you to the wrong account if you don't have it.]