In the early 2000s, I was midway through my decade of drug addiction. I was dating the woman who I would eventually marry and would become Jackson’s mother. We were in New Jersey attending a convention for Beatles fans and while we were standing in line, we would talk to other fans who had their own areas of collecting related to Beatles memorabilia.
One fan collected as many of the first print books that had been written about the Fab Four and, where possible, would get those first print books signed by the author(s). Another fan collected original posters and promotional material. Then we ventured upon a gentleman who said: “I collect everything. Everything I can get my hands on.”
That sounded more in line with what I was about, too. Just buy it all.
It’s a funny thing, collecting Beatles memorabilia. At the time, the band themselves hadn’t been a functioning unit in roughly three decades and most of the more valuable items would have come from the 60s when they were still recording, touring, etc.
The problem was (and likely still is) that if you bought Beatles memorabilia in the 60s, you were going to play it, read it, store it in places it was never meant to be stored and, as you can imagine, ruin the overall quality of the piece. It stands to reason that finding 60s era Beatles items in mint condition is quite the rarity.
So, for someone like me who was just cutting his teeth on a collection, I bought whatever I could, wherever I could, and hoped that what I had actually held some value.
Shamefully, I admit that I paid for most of my collection with money I made from selling drugs.
By this time, my addiction was well rooted and even though I always managed to hold down a full-time job, that job normally covered the cost of rent, my car, my utilities and little else. If I wanted to consume more drugs, I had to sell more drugs. And if I wanted a lavish Beatles collection, that same drug money afforded me the luxury.
At the time, it was fun. I’ve collected things as long as I can remember and getting my hands on Beatles items of any variety was a way to feed into that incessant need for more.
However, when I got clean, the collection didn’t mean as much to me. And the more distance I put between myself and drugs, the less I wanted to look at it, enjoy and appreciate that collection.
So, I sold off nearly all of it at a fraction of what I spent for it.
I reached a point where every time I looked at all of the things I owned related to that band, it gave me nothing but negative feelings. I knew where the money came from and I knew what dishonest, disingenuous and unsavory things I had to do to buy those items.
The only way I could get rid of that feeling, was to get rid of those pieces.
Getting off drugs solved only certain problems in my life. I had more money, which was nice and I had more mental clarity, which was also nice. But I had done a fair amount of damage to my body from all those years of drugs and I needed to start rebuilding a body and mind that had seen better days.
In addition, being clean meant that I had to start facing a lot of the demons I had tried to smoke, snort, drop and hallucinate myself away from. Like a lot of things in life, if you keep sweeping your problems under the rug, you don’t get rid of the problems, you just have a bigger mess to clean up at a later date.
I share this story and offer a statement from my friend and fellow coach, Dr. Brad Dieter: “You’ll never be able to go back to your old habits and be a new person.”
When I coach change for my clients, many people think that they can continue to cling to most of who they are (and often, who they were) and get these magical results.
That’s rarely the reality, though.
If you want fat loss, you generally have to create significant change. This is why the notions of “eat less, move more” and “lifestyle change” are correct but vastly over-simplified.
Much like I had to do with my drug use and my completely obnoxious Beatles collection, you have to be willing to shed some skin and leave the “former you” well behind.
Please don’t read what I’m not writing. If you’re a good, trustworthy, reliable person in most areas of your life, that doesn’t need to change. You can be all of those things and still have a really shitty way of handling the times of your life that are more stressful, more chaotic and less predictable than you’d like.
The fact of the matter is, I was a drug addict because I didn’t have good coping skills for stress in my life.
Here are some things I’d like you to consider:
–How do I react to stress? If the first thing you do when times get hard is raid the pantry, the fridge or drown your woes in a bottle, that’s a sign that something needs to change. Altering your environment can be a huge step because if you remove temptation from the home, you’re less likely to have that default reaction. It might also help to have a list of things that you enjoy doing that are also stress relievers so that, when the time comes, you can start choosing different outlets.
–Consider an If/Then approach. As an extension of what I referenced above about alternative outlets for stress, start crafting “if/then” solutions for your life. This will take some effort on your end. I’ll use dining at a restaurant as an example. Let’s assume that you’re trying to adhere to a diet plan and your family wants to go to an Italian restaurant, typically a place where you’re more inclined to overindulge.
One example would be:
“If” I go to an Italian restaurant, “then” I’ll order a grilled chicken salad with dressing on the side and light cheese.
“If” I go to an Italian restaurant, “then” I’ll ask the server to refrain from bringing bread as an appetizer and to box up half of my meal so that I eat a smaller portion than normal and can save the rest for another meal.
You’ll have to consider the examples that would be more appropriate to your life and your current obstacles.
–The person you were is not the person you’ve become. I frequently hear clients who are well into their 40s, 50s and 60s share stories with me about the type of training they did in their 20s and the type of diet they succeeded with before they ever had children. Those stories are all fine and good but they are rarely helpful when you consider that everything about that person’s life has changed over the decades. The body doesn’t respond the same because the mind is not the same, the responsibilities are not the same and there may be injuries to consider that weren’t a concern 30 years ago. I can’t train my body the same way at 45 as I did at 25 despite the fact that I’m otherwise healthy and at a reasonable weight for my liking. Clinging to a former you doesn’t appropriately serve who you are now.
–Change is painful. I recently read a book that shared the sentiment: Pain is mandatory, suffering is optional. (Apologies for not remembering who to credit that to). If you need to change your body to get stronger or you need to change your diet to get any degree leaner, it will be profoundly uncomfortable. This is not synonymous with impossible and it doesn’t equate to “no pain, no gain”. However, we (as people) generally don’t like discomfort. We like pleasant things, we like fun things, we like things that make us feel good. By and large, the things that matter most to us: a stable job, a functional marriage (or long term relationship), a better moving body or even a lasting friendship require work and will often have moments of stress and friction. Accept that discomfort and be willing to sit with it. Not every negative feeling or uncomfortable circumstance needs to be numbed or avoided.
–Shed the skin. My fellow addicts know that we will always be addicts (albeit with different vices). This has to be managed in as realistic a manner as possible. That being said, the man I was in my 20s is dead and I have removed nearly all signs of him from my life. I’ve replaced that man with someone who is generally more responsible, healthier, and better for all those around me. I’m far from perfect and what I can’t fix on my own has taken therapy to help with. Akin to what my friend, Dr. Dieter said, I can’t go back to that person and have or deserve all the good things in my life today. It was skin I had to shed, a persona that no longer served a greater good in my life and my only regret, is the people I hurt back then. You may have some skin to shed as well if you want a different life than the one you’re current living. Famed professor Joseph Campbell is known for a quote that is similar to the sentiments I’ve shared above: We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.
Pictured below is one of my only remaining pieces from my original collection, a piece of artwork from a Lennon art exhibit that now hangs in my office at the Rev. I paid for this with drug money too and while I probably could get rid of it, I think I swept away most of the negative sentiments from that collection. This is a reminder of how far I’ve come and that change was not only difficult but necessary.
I had to establish enough self-worth to remind myself of that.
That remains a work in progress for me.