This article is the first of a three-part transformation series created for the purpose of inspiring and motivating you to become your best self in this new year, internally and externally. Each edition is an account of how one individual completely revamped his or her life. Here is to the beginning of your inspiring transformation.
We all desire a better life, yet few of us dare to actually create it. Instead, we wish, compare and envy our time away. We fall to our knees and plead for deliverance from our misfortunes, often forgetting that what we do every day — when the lights are dim, when the curtains are closed, and when there is no one to bear witness to the unfiltered moments — is what makes us who we are.
Sometimes life serves us trials which feel like a brick slamming in the face, rendering us sore, bruised and with little energy to nurse our wounds. Other times it may feel like swallowing a bitter bite of humble pie, and so we choke our way through the horror of it all. Its aftertaste may render us gagging for days, weeks or months.
But, what if our periods of misfortune are meant to generate a level of discomfort so intense that we grow desperate enough to become who we really are?
If you are seeking inspiration for the possibility of transforming any aspect of your life, fasten your seatbelt. I am delighted to share with you a tale of an individual who dug himself into a miserable pit, but later crawled his way out of it. He opted not to hide in shame from his mistakes, nor to cover his ears from the sound of his circumstance’s roaring thunder. Rather, he chose to face the storm, to walk with blistered feet in the direction of redemption and, ultimately, to become a warrior. I hope you will be as inspired by his story as I am.
‘I can’t drink anymore.’
Less than one year ago, Marcel had an epiphany which shone like a glimmer of light through the veil of his hungover haze. He was unemployed, had earned himself three alcohol-related charges and had mastered the art of ‘couch surfing’. He sunk deeply into a church pew while seated next to his mother.
The words flowing from the speaker’s mouth were on the subject of integrity, and each began to strike him like lightening bolts. He held on to every word in an effort to distract his mind from his body’s plea to vomit up Saturday night’s alcohol consumption.
The evening prior had ended disastrously, and Sunday morning greeted Marcel with feelings of having been betrayed by the one thing he depended on to make him likable to others: alcohol.
It had been his most treasured tonic of illusion and confidence, but he had become confined to the walls of its prison.
Suddenly, reality blew through his state of fragility like an unapologetic gust of wind. His tears were taking on a life of their own and, for a moment, he wondered if he was at risk of drowning. With eyes lowered, he declared to his mother through a defeated whisper, “I can’t drink anymore.” He knew that if he was going to become a man of integrity, the first step was to swallow the dreaded reality that a bulletproof commitment to sobriety was the only option.
There were agonizing “growing pains” as he rounded his next corner, however. Addiction recovery proved to be a daunting task and as he described his initial weeks of sobriety, I pictured him somewhat like a toddler having been released onto the streets of Manhattan at rush hour. “I didn’t know how to function as a sober adult because alcohol had ruled my life 10 years,” he revealed.
It had played a key role in every social interaction, every creative endeavor and had forged the ultimate facade from the parts of himself he most loathed.
He was the son of a mostly absent father whose love and attention he had incessantly chased. At age 20, Marcel reached out to his father in hopes for a lifeboat from his drinking, which he feared was rapidly spiraling to an irreversible level of destruction. Rather than offer a place of guidance and refuge, his father whisked him away to the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas, providing his underage son with free reign to an open bar tab. He paraded him around in expensive cars, making life seem like a carnival ride. It was trickery, though, for behind every celebration was a trail of fraud and cover-ups.
“My father always made everything in life seem so great, but it was never real.”
As I listened to Marcel revisit the afflictions from his past, a parallel emerged, eager to introduce itself and have a moment to speak into the mic. I was struck with the realization that his father had never been present as a source of true connection, but had instead created a smokescreen from the awful reality of the truth.
Marcel had simply done what his father had taught him to do, following a near-identical blueprint: put a smokescreen in place in order to mask that which is too painful to face. And, even more than a smokescreen it became. Alcohol provided him with the ultimate pacifier for the multitude of voids he had never been able to fill.
While examining his life through sober eyes for the first time as a man, a seemingly endless stream of questions arose: How was he going to convince his mind to quiet long enough to permit his body to sleep? Alcohol had always rocked him to slumber. How was he going to be brave? Alcohol had deceived him into believing he had wings. How was he going to be in anyone’s company? No one knew who he was on the other side of the colorful stained-glass window he had long been hiding behind.
His vice had gifted him with the ability to pass as a charming extrovert, but without it he was only secure in his introversion. He further explained, “I had always known I was short, but at my weakest point, I felt shorter than ever before.”
In the months leading up to his life-altering decision, Marcel had begun accompanying a friend to the gym. Despite having been in a chokehold of addiction, it was the single positive habit he had managed to cultivate. “It was one hour a day I knew I couldn’t screw up.” So, armed with his newfound commitment to sobriety, he began to pour himself more fully into the workouts.
Each of his prayers sprung forth from a well of hungry desperation, asking simply, “God, please show me how you see me.” As he focused on nurturing himself mentally, physically and spiritually, he began to see a different person in his mirror’s reflection. His light was returning, his mind sharpening and his body transforming. No longer were his daily actions creating ripples of contaminated water throughout every area of his life. Rather, they were resealing all of the pieces which had long been fragmented.
‘I’m going to win this.’
An old friend, impressed with the ever-evolving physical transformation Marcel had begun documenting on Instagram and Youtube, presented him with the idea of competing in an upcoming bodybuilding competition. The 20-minute conversation began with the old friends exchanging their perspectives the same way two opponents toss a ball back and forth. “You can compete, man,” his friend assured him. “No, I’m too short,” Marcel replied emphatically . “But, you can dance, so your poses will be great,” the old friend fired back, undeterred. “No, actually. I’ve only ever danced drunk,” Marcel continued, still unreceptive to the possibility.
By, the conversation’s end, however, his friend had won the game. Something had shifted internally, allowing a once apprehensive Marcel to become firmly convinced.
For five months which followed, he awoke each day with a tenacious investment in preparing his body for the competition. He left no stone unturned, no workout unfinished, and no door ajar to the possibility of interference.
Initially, the competition was merely a task to channel his focus. However, as his confidence escalated, “I’m going to do my best” crossed over into the realm of “I’m going to win this.” On the day of the competition, winning is precisely what he did.
The following day, Marcel returned to the church pew where he had experienced his life-altering epiphany almost a year prior. This time, however, his tears were not of defeat, nor of shame. Rather, they were of awe and gratitude. No longer was he a penniless alcoholic. On that day, his tears hit the face of not only a sober man, but of a thriving business owner and champion of a bodybuilding competition.
The Same Lawbreaker Cannot Continue Making the Rules…
Listening to Marcel share the intimate details of his story with me, I considered the countless individuals who approach each new year with the promise to “really get it right this time”. We vow to renovate the contents of our refrigerators, to better manage our finances, to improve our relationships and to surrender our most gripping vices.
Why, then, do the majority of goal setters fail?
I believe the answer is so simple that we often race right past it in absolute oblivion: The same lawbreaker cannot continue making the rules and merely setting new goals because, eventually, he will revert to his old way of doing things. Therefore, you must change “you”.
At the conclusion of our interview, I asked Marcel for any piece of advice he would be willing to offer readers hoping to improve their lives in some way. He gifted me the following simple yet valuable jewels:
- Accountability is crucial. Gather a supportive team of people you feel comfortable sharing your goals with.
- Replace each of your negative activities with productive ones you enjoy.
- Stop making excuses for why your life is the way it is! Take full responsibility.
- Vow to forever stop doubting and underselling yourself.
Before and after Marcel’s transformation, he resided in the same city. He possessed the same parents, the same genetic makeup and the same childhood memories. Drunk or sober, penniless or business owner, he was always the same height. The only thing he changed was his mind. As his mind changed, so did his entire life.