What A Decade Of Dealing Drugs Taught Me About Coaching

The story, as it goes, is that my decade of drug addiction started when I was twenty years old. I got clean at the age of thirty. My appetite and tolerance for drugs grew so quickly that my job no longer afforded me the luxury of buying what I wanted to consume. As a result, I transitioned into dealing drugs to keep working a regular job and be able to afford an increasingly growing habit.

I saw a lot and I learned a lot in those ten years. Most of it not of a pleasant variety despite the fact that it felt like one long, blurry party.

With an eye on the past, there were lessons that I learned not only of my own behavior but the behavior of those who partied with me and the people who only knew me because I had the supply they wanted.

Not every lesson is a comfortable lesson but one thing I’ve always appreciated is that there are parallels between our behavior with drugs and our behavior with food. I’m not going to talk to you about the addictive tendencies between cocaine and cookies because there is a monstrous divide even if the brain acts in similar ways.

What I will be writing about is three things I took note of then and I still consider now when it comes to helping people change their lives.

  1. People Will Do Almost Anything If They Want Something Bad Enough I saw people steal, lie, cheat and manipulate their way through the most bizarre scenarios just to get their drug of choice. I’m no exception in that. Most notably was a shift in priorities. Buying drugs would trump paying routine bills like car payments, mortgages, etc. I remember one customer of mine who intentionally never bought a car. It wasn’t that he couldn’t afford it. He knew that a car payment and the insurance for the car would affect how much he could spend on drugs. Instead, he worked jobs where he could ride his bike or take a bus and still have more than enough money for his habit. That was a calculated shift in what was important to him. He even knew where certain times of the year would bring in less income for him so he would stockpile drugs so that there was plenty around when money was tight. What’s the takeaway? When we, as coaches, talk to clients about values, priorities, desires, etc. what we’re trying to determine is what you (as the client) are willing to do to reach your goals. In it’s simplest form, we ask the question “What is your why?” WHY do you want to lose weight? WHAT are you willing to do/not do/temporarily sacrifice/temporarily compromise to get to your goal? HOW are you going to stay the course to reach your goal?
  2. You Can Never Judge A Book By It’s Cover What does a drug addict look like? Can you picture that? What details did your mind conjure up? Is it someone with gaunt facial features, or someone who twitches uncontrollably or someone with unusually cracked lips or vacant eyes? Maybe you drew this picture from something you experienced in real life or something you saw from a dramatization on television. I can tell you, firsthand, drug addicts don’t look the same. Sure, you might find someone who fits the description mentioned above but addicts are the soccer mom next door, the business executive in a three piece suit driving a luxury car and the person who’s down on their luck scraping pennies for meth. I served all of them (and every type of person in between). What they all had in common was that they used drugs to relieve stress, to cope with the demands on their lives or just to feel something that only drugs could give them. What’s the takeaway? Not every person who looks like they need to lose weight actually wants to lose weight. Not every person who looks like they’re not very strong are in reality weak people. Not every person who swears to you that they want to change their lives are actually ready to do so (more on this later). I have had to remind myself as a coach that it’s my job to understand where people are at this moment in time to help them bridge the gap between who they are now versus who they want to be. Taking a person at face value with the information they give regarding their lives, their challenges, and their personal history helps me understand what tools to give them. The more I know, the more I can help.
  3. No One (I Mean No One) Will Change Before They’re Ready This is probably the most difficult lesson to share. In my case, ten years is a very long time to spend with addiction and it’s a shockingly long time to spend dealing drugs in all sorts of scenarios and still manage to dodge incarceration, not to mention death at the hands of an overdose. Despite the concerns of my loved ones and at many points, the direct request of my family and loved ones to stop using and stop dealing, I wasn’t going to stop until I was ready. Watching friends suffer with their addictions and seeing friends go to jail wasn’t enough to deter my behavior. I simply assumed that what happened to them would never happen to me. Chasing the next high was all that mattered. What’s the takeaway? I would love to tell you that every person who steps through my doors at RevFit is ready to change. They might say the words and they may even have themselves convinced that they’re ready but it’s just not always the case. Change is hard. We live in a world of such high pressure to perform and high stress equally matched with poor coping mechanisms, poor sleep habits and a food environment custom built to give us instant pleasure (not better health). Despite the fact that many people know they need to reduce calories to a given extent, or to move more than they currently move and trying to keep it as consistent as possible all while dealing with setback after setback, wanting to change and ACTUALLY changing are two very different realities. The fact is, many people want improved health and are not prepared to do what it takes to move the needle forward. It doesn’t mean it will never happen. It may mean that change as people want won’t happen right now. They’re being pulled in too many directions and their priorities (see #1) are not aligned with their values.

I’m always somewhat hesitant to write about my past with drugs. I know that, for some, it’s a triggering conversation. I never mean to trigger anyone. When I was in the thick of it, I don’t know what voice would have been the most effective at getting through to me. What I do know, is that quitting may have been a one-man job but staying clean took having a solid support system and steering clear of undue influence.

If you want change, expect resistance, expect discomfort, expect things to work against you, expect to be frequently disappointed with yourself (in spite of your progress) but most importantly, value yourself enough to expect better out of you.

Pictured below, me, midway through those ten years.