You’re Not In Enough Pain To Change

“What made you decide to quit drugs?”

It’s the question I am frequently asked when people hear about my past with drug addiction. The answer is that I reached the point where I couldn’t bear the pain any longer.

You’ll hear this commonly referred to as “rock bottom” and I guess that’s appropriate but it didn’t happen the way that many might think.

I thought, in many ways, that drug use was erasing my pain. In reality, it was just masking it so it could reappear the next day or at a later date. My pain didn’t go away because I never faced it and dealt with it.

Throughout my decade of hard drug use, I saw friends get hospitalized, die, get arrested (some are likely still in jail) and just become vegetables from how drugs affected their bodies and minds. For some reason, that didn’t motivate me to quit.

I was never arrested for drug use, I didn’t have any overdose experiences, and I didn’t have any particular life-threatening events occur.

It boiled down to money.

I was living in Tennessee, working a very stressful job that paid well and allowed me to pay all of my expenses. Strangely enough, I always had drugs and I was always behind on my bills.

I had reached a point of drug use where the only way I would function through my day was to be high from morning until night. Towards the end, it was cocaine and weed. Every other drug had filtered out of the repertoire.

I was living in a house that my father had to co-sign on due to my lack of employment history. Even though I made enough money to pay my mortgage, the lender wouldn’t let me do it on my own because I hadn’t been with my employer long enough.

At this point in my life, I had alienated most of the people around me and most of my drug intake was by myself. I was suffering with some digestive issues that kept me in and out of a gastroenterologist office and I couldn’t find the missing link that was causing this unbearable pain in my stomach. We later discovered that was the stress of my job.

My father called me one day and asked me why I was behind on my mortgage payment. In my state of mind, I wasn’t sure how he knew I’d fallen behind on my bills. Come to find out, he was changing business credit cards for his employer and since I was late on my mortgage it affected his credit score as well as mine. As a result, he didn’t get approved for the card.

I was devastated.

It was one thing to wreck my own life. I couldn’t imagine wrecking his.

I knew I had to stop. This was my lowest (highest) pain point.

That was nearly 14 years ago.

And so, after a decade of usage, I was done.

When I work with clients, the hope is always “change”.

-I want a leaner body

-I want my joints to hurt less

-I want to be toned/more defined.

-I want to look better naked.

-I want my spouse to be more attracted to me

-I don’t want Type II diabetes

-I don’t want a heart attack/stroke

I hear all of these things.

And yet, those same people are not in enough pain to make change stick.

Are they broken? No.

Are they ignorant? No.

Are they weak? No.

They just haven’t reached that point where the pain of their actions outweighs the pleasure they believe they’re seeking.

I’ll caveat this with mental illness. If you are suffering from clinical depression or anxiety, your lowest “pain point” will be the day you go to your doctor and demand that your medication help you and not lead you down a darker path than the one you’re on. Medication can be wonderful for those who need it. If you find that the mental illness you’re struggling with is keeping you from living the healthiest life you can, take the time, effort and energy to get the right medication for your mind and body. You will need that stability to conquer the rest of your goals.

Unfortunately, much like drug addiction, some people never hit rock bottom. Rock bottom is death. That’s a frightening thing to type out.

I’ve seen people on the verge of losing limbs, due to choices they made with food that they were unwilling to change. “Take the limb, I’m not going to eat differently.”

It’s not my place to judge. It’s my place to help.

Whoever you are, whatever battle you face, whatever end result you crave, you have to ask yourself how much pain you’re currently in and if it’s worth the pain/discomfort of changing.

What diet books and diet gurus won’t tell you is that change is frequently painful. It’s painful because it upsets the status quo of your life. It affects your marriage/relationships. It can affect your co-workers. It affects your social life.

Every aspect of your life has been custom built (often by you) to keep you comfortable with the decisions that now make you physically and emotionally uncomfortable. Maybe that’s a 20 pound problem and maybe it’s a 220 pound problem. Either way, there is a moment you’re trying to hit where that problem is so painful that you have to change course.

When you consider that circle of your comfort zone, many people just want to stick their big toe outside of it and go “Ok, let’s get those results!!”

It won’t happen there. You’ll need at least a full limb outside of that circle.

Matter of fact, do the hokey pokey and turn yourself all the way outside of that damn circle (…that’s what it’s all about…)

If you’re not successful at reaching your goals, I challenge that it’s not the diet, not the training, not the motivation/willpower. It’s your level of pain tolerance.

When you decide you can’t take anymore, you will move mountains to see different scenery. You’ll fight, you’ll cry, you’ll lie awake at night, you’ll do the things you didn’t do consistently enough before because the skin you’re in no longer feels right.

That will look different for everyone so this is where you may not want to get lost in the comparison game.

Change is hard. Change is frequently fraught with resistance, frustration, and doubt. That’s “part of the process”.

Before you invest another dime on the next diet fad, HIIT workout, or seek to demonize a food group, take a more important step and ask yourself what your pain is like now.

Is it time to change?

Are you ready for change?

These are the conversations I have with my clients like the ones you see below, people just like you: with jobs, and families and stress and goals.

Left to right: Eric, Bill, Jean, Kelvin (front), Brandon and Pete.

“We Make Great People Greater”