Path To Recovery

path to recoveryIt’s been a while since my last post and I figured those of you who follow my blog deserve to know what’s going on and hopefully it will help others by sharing my story and being open about it. In a previous post I mentioned that I had a mild form of bipolar and I hit a low point and suffered from major depression for a few months. I was in a vicious cycle where I was depressed, didn’t want to exercise or eat healthy… and that only made me more depressed. I began abusing alcohol. My relationships suffered. Sure I was seeing a psychiatrist every month, but I never disclosed my true feelings because I was too embarrassed. I felt like the worlds largest hypocrite and a fraud. However, this month I finally grew the courage to tell my psychiatrist what was going on. To finally let someone know about my secret lifted some weight off my shoulders, but then I went back to The Breakthrough Weekend again as a student. In front of at least 60 people I told everyone that I had a problem and needed help. Talking about it and letting others know that I was suffering brought me huge relief. That weekend I learned that I had the power to overcome any obstacle that stands in front of my dreams. My dreams are to make Active For Recovery a non-profit, bring attention to recovery programs, and, in the future, provide health coaching services.

Since that weekend, I haven’t purchased any alcohol for my home. Instead of sitting home and drinking, I had to make the very conscience decision to do something else. So, I signed up to the gym that’s less than 5 minutes away and now go there. I go biking, walks, anything that would replace the time of drinking. If I’m doing something, I’m not drinking. I went to a few AA meetings, but really didn’t feel like they were for me. I enjoyed the company of people who want to be sober, but don’t care for the 12 step program (I’m also not very religious). What’s interesting is that I’ve relearned how to have a healthy relationship with alcohol. I went out with some friends and had a drink and was content. I no longer wanted to feel the way I felt after drinking to the point of being drunk. I also learned that drinking alcohol messes with the medication I take to control my bipolar/depression.

So now I’m back on track. I’m working on losing the weight I gained during my depression and realize that it’s a process. I’ve relearned that you just need to take it day by day. The biggest take away/message I can give to those that are struggling is to reach out. You may not realize it, but everyone has some problem going on in their life. They may not be able to understand your addiction, but by sharing it and being open to support you’ll have a huge weight lifted off your shoulders and will be able to take the next steps toward recovery. Everyone’s path is different. And that’s ok. Find what works for you. Attend AA/NA meetings. Go to a therapist or psychiatrist. Find “communities” in your own community like The Breakthrough Weekend. Learn to become vulnerable and accept the love that others are giving you. Eventually, you’ll find your own path and life will become fun again.

If you have any questions further questions about my recent recovery, please post below in the comments or contact me directly.

Thank you,
AJ

Transform Your Habits & Make Them Stick

Developing new, healthy habits can be hard. For those going through recovery, it’s critically important to understand how habits are formed and how you can build new ones. It may seem strange for people with an addictive personality to have difficulty creating healthy habits, but they’re different as, quite often, healthy habits won’t have the immediate “high” one might have experiences during their addiction. Even though exercise has been shown to help the recovery process by sending out similar “happy” chemicals to the brain, it can take time to develop that exercise habit.

So, let’s go into how you can transform your habits and actually make them stick.

Recognize your old identity

Recognizing who you are now is critically important. Something I’ve learned before starting to form any new habit is to first be grateful for who I am today, even if it’s not who I want to be. As a person in recovery, I’m grateful that my body has learned to survive under incredibly stressful conditions. If I think about it, I’m amazed that I’m alive today considering all the drugs I’ve put into my body. The fact is that your old identity will always be a part of who you are, and you can choose to either hide it or use it to empower yourself. So, take some time and think about who you are, what you’ve accomplished, the storms you’ve embraced, and be grateful that you’re now at a place where you can take on something new and grow.

Think about your new identity

Really spend some time and envision who you want to be, what your new identity will be. To make habits really stick, you need to start believing new things about yourself. Think about the goal you have in mind and then think about the type of person who obtains that goal. This can be hard, but try and think of the identity with the smallest, most viable first step. For example, let’s say your goal is to lose weight. Great! However, as many of us know, that goal may fizzle out (which is why I’m also a fan of battle plans). Think about a person who is fit and what they do, in the smallest measurable way possible. That person probably does something active everyday, it may not be “balls to the wall” crossfit style workouts, but they’re hardly sedentary. So, a small win for your new identity would be to become the type of person who simply moves more every day.

Tie your new habit to something you already do consistently

So, you have your identity in mind… now it’s time for action. Tie your identity to something you already do everyday.  Think about your typical day and things you consistently do without fail. Try and find a place within the parameters of what already works for you. The easiest thing you do without fail is waking up. Can you carve out some time for your new habit shortly after waking up? Remember, you only need to start small, so if your identity is someone who moves more every day, you could wake up and do some pushups, go for a walk, or any other exercise. Think about other possibilities like brushing your teeth, leaving work, going to bed, etc. For example, before going to bed I like to meditate even if it’s meditating while in bed (thank you Headspace). When I wake up, I always do some type of exercise/stretch/mobility workout or go for a bike ride.

Create a routine that supports the new habit

Now that you’ve figured out “where” you can support your new habit, it’s time to create a routine that supports it. When I first started working out several years ago, it was incredibly hard to go to the gym in the mornings. However, once I tied my “exercise habit” to waking up and then set aside my workout clothes and made my workout drink the night before, I almost felt compelled to go since I already set myself up. Nowadays, my car will typically always have a set of workout clothes and my swimsuit, just so that I have little reason to workout after work. The point is that preparation is key.

Reward yourself

Part of any new routine is treating yourself appropriately. This is something I’ve fallen for a couple times, I have a great week of adopting a new habit and I’d end up eating bad food or too much food as that was my “reward” but it was/is counterproductive to my identity. Pick something that is meaningful to you and incorporate it into your post-routine. It sounds silly, but for me I used to jump straight to the computer when I woke up. So, my “reward” now after waking up and exercising is simply getting on the computer and checking in on last night’s TV, my email, or brainstorming new Active For Recovery ideas.

Keep trying.

Defeat is not the worst of failures. Not to have tried is the true failure. - George E. Woodberry

Defeat is not the worst of failures. Not to have tried is the true failure. – George E. Woodberry

Inevitably life will through you some curve balls here and there. But the key thing to remember is that you’re trying to change your life for the better. Don’t how long it takes you to adopt a new habit to others, as everyone is different and this is your change. The only person you’re trying to be better than is your previous self, nobody else. You may have heard that it takes 21 days to form a new habit, but that’s not always in the case depending on the complexity of the habit. In fact, University College London conducted a study and discovered that some habits may take up to 66 days! This is why it’s important to start small. Starting a small habit that gradually takes you to your new identity will most likely pay off better than trying to start with huge changes. So, with that said, when you do fall off the wagon it’s important to get back on without thinking of yourself as a failure. You are, like many others and myself, a continual work in progress towards improving yourself… even if it’s just 1% everyday.

I’ll end this with what I feel is an appropriate quote from Theodore Roosevelt called The Man In The Arena which is an excerpt from his speech “Citizenship In A Republic”:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Breaking The Cycle of Feeling Like an Impostor

Sometimes I feel like an impostor. Especially over the past couple months, it’s been difficult to get back on track after life takes you down an unplanned path. Even with my certification in nutrition, I would eat unhealthy but give advice to others. I wasn’t exercising as much as I once did, but gave my opinion on different exercise plans. The fact is, to some degree, I relapsed… not back into drugs, but back into an unhealthy life and had troubles getting back into the swing of things. My battle plan wasn’t being implemented any more. With my confidence shaken, I began having thoughts that may be familiar to you as well…

I don’t belong here.
I’m not good enough.
I got lucky.
They’re going to realize I’m that smart.

Researching it more, I stumbled upon something called the Impostor Syndrome which “is a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.”

By why does this happen? Most people who suffer from Impostor Syndrome are fully competent. Bertrand Russell, a British philosopher, had an idea:

The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.

The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts. – Bertrand Russell

Additionally, psychologists found something called the Dunning–Kruger effect which “is a cognitive bias wherein relatively unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability to be much higher than is accurate.” Basically, think of the first few contestants in America’s Got Talent.

And this happens with a ton of successful people:

Albert Einstein:

…the exaggerated esteem in which my lifework is held makes me very ill at ease. I feel compelled to think of myself as an involuntary swindler.

Maya Angelou:

I have written eleven books, but each time I think, “Uh-oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.”

So, what have I done to cut the cycle of feeling like I’m an impostor? Well, first off, I must admit that I believe this feeling is something that will always creep up. The only thing I can do, I believe, is to become more aware and mindful of when the feeling starts creeping in and examine why and how it made it’s way into my mind.

Anyway, here’s what I’ve done:

1) Take Off The Mask

For some reason, I’ve been comfortable in telling everyone about my accomplishments of beating addiction and obesity, but writing this post has been terribly difficult. I wanted to write it sooner… actually, I’ve been wanting to writing for about a month now. It’s not me telling the world that I’m a fraud, but it’s more about telling the world and those going through their own journey that they may find themselves down an unplanned path. Like many addicts, relapsing is hard on the mind and body. It’s hard to shake the mindset that you can rebound, which leads me to my next point…

Growth vs Fixed Mindset2) Focus On The Growing Mindset

In a previous post, I spoke about the Growth vs Fixed mindsets mentioned by Carol Dweck in her book Mindset. This also goes along with my belief in stripping away performance goals and learn towards learning goals. I’ve been focusing on how I can improve any aspect of my life, even if it’s just by 1% (something that one of my favorite writers, James Altucher discusses in Choose Yourself! and The 1% Rule for Creating All Habits).

“The 1% Rule can be applied to everything. If I spend 1 less minute feeling regret and use that to feel gratitude, how much better for my stress levels will that be in one year’s time.” – James Altucher

Getting back on track requires small steps, and that’s why I love applying the 1% rule everyday until I’m back on track firing on all cylinders.

3) Aim For “Good Enough”

At my job, we often discuss what’s a “minimal viable product.” Without going too technical, it’s part of the Agile Manifesto and lean manufacturer principles originally developed by Toyota. Basically, when we think about a feature we think about what’s the smallest increment we can release to get us towards the final feature we want. It’s not settling for a sub par feature, but we’re always looking for simplicity. We’re looking for what’s “good enough” from the get go. This is important as it also allows us to constantly adapt when we notice things aren’t going as we originally planned, or, more importantly, when bugs are discovered we can squash them before they get out of hand. And bugs do happen, in fact, did you know that Microsoft begins every project with the certain knowledge that they will choose to ship [a software product] with known bugs?

Being good enough isn’t settling for a lower standard. Barry Schwartz, psychologist and author of The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less, says, “The single most important piece of advice I can give is: Remember that good enough is almost always good enough. If people go through life looking for good enough results, the choice problem will take care of itself. Go through your day getting a good enough cup of coffee and a good enough toasted bagel and so on and so on and life will look much sunnier.”

Being good enough is the secret to happiness. Instead of constantly trying to keep up appearances and the illusion that you’re perfect, accept that you’re not. Don’t build on self-confidence, but rather build on self-compassion and learn to forgive yourself when you screw up.

That’s it!

As author Neil Gaiman says:

The moment that you feel, just possibly, you are walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind, and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself…That is the moment, you might be starting to get it right.

Lastly, it’s important to know that everyone wears a mask every now and then. It’s part of life. However, from now on if I’m going to be wearing a mask it won’t be because I’m an impostor, it will be because I want to be a super hero. And being a true super hero means allowing everyone to know who you are, how you are, your vulnerabilities, and what you want out of life.

Some Days I Feel Like Giving Up. Here’s What I Do to Fight Back

It only takes one person to change your life: You! It’s crazy, I know, but I have to admit it. I often hear from friends and family how much of an inspiration I am to them or how I’ve motivated them to do something to improve their lives in someway. They think I’m a constant motivation machine and am always on target. Damn, I won’t lie, I feels amazing to hear these words as all I want to do is inspire people to breakthrough and show them that their life is in their control.

But what many people don’t realize is that I have off days just like them. My diet isn’t “perfect,” and why should it be? Some days I wake up and don’t have the same motivation I had yesterday. Some days I wonder why I’ve started a business or began putting together an event like Active For Recovery Bike Ride 2015, when I have bills and so many other distractions. I think, “Maybe I should have waited another year, when more bills were paid off, when things would be have been safer or easier.” Thankfully, I said screw that and started this journey anyway.

Here’s the thing though, and a huge key to leveling up your life and something I want to stress heavily: I’m constantly working on leveling up my own life.  When I started Get Leveled Up, it wasn’t to just share my experiences of leveling up through exercise and nutrition, that’s just a small portion. What I really want to share is how you can truly level up your life by learning more about mindfulness and self-awareness. To become more aware of your thoughts, how to listen to what your body is feeling, and how to follow your heart is difficult; for me it’s much more difficult than any exercise routine, but so incredibly rewarding.

When I feel like giving up or unmotivated, is when I kick my mindfulness into high gear. For the thoughts that enter my head, I start asking why. Sounds simple enough, right? But if you follow the “rabbit hole” a little bit and continue to ask yourself why, even when it takes you into uncomfortable terrain, you eventually stumble upon the root. The root, or reason, may be something you can tackle head on or may be something you can just tell yourself, “That’s interesting, I never really thought about it like that.” and move along your journey. This process helps clarify things a little bit more in your mind, it begins to clear the clutter and distractions, and allows you to begin to focus more on why you started your journey or project to begin with.

It’s important to not disregard your thoughts. I know it’s easy for me to “stash” away my thoughts by temporarily forgetting about them and go hard exercising. But they’re still there, they won’t go away until their addressed with respect. It’s hard, I know, to quickly judge your thoughts and say, “That’s stupid.” But every thought, especially when you feel like giving up or lacking motivation, can be taken as a suggestion. Most of the time, it’s a simple suggestion from your mind saying, “This path is too hard. Let’s take the easier path.”

This is why it’s incredibly important to know why you’ve started your journey and defined who you want to be. This is where you start building your grit. Turning your thoughts into suggestions, and then recognizing that most of the time it’s your mind, not your heart, wanting to take the easier path, gives you the ultimate personal power to choose. Visualize the feeling of completing the workout you were unmotivated to do (side note here: I’m not suggesting working out when your body needs to recover from the previous workout). Visualize finishing the first step of your project or goal, then the next steps, and then finally accomplishing it.

Visualize how you’ll feel when you can respect yourself and the identity, or the “new normal”, you’re working so feverishly to create. Don’t think or care about if others will respect you, screw the others. They’ll either respect you or not, but that’s out of our control so don’t be bothered about it.

Visualize and then recognize: you have the power to choose if you want to fight for that or not.

I’ll share my final technique. I’ll have an internal dialogue with myself that simply reminds me to put more faith in myself. It may sound crazy, but I believe it works and that’s really all that matters. It’s along the lines of why I love having battle plans rather than goals. I tell myself, “I know that if I continue on doing what I enjoy doing and working towards my why, that I expect it will happen no matter what, because I believe in myself and in what I’m doing. I will make my why a reality over time, even if it takes a little longer, because I trust myself to work harder and persist further to achieve my why.” Give this a shot and see how it works for you.

I’ll end this post with some lyrics (some expletive) from a song called “Moral of the Story” by Watsky. I love this song for pumping me up when I’m not motivated. While Watsky is honestly a little outside my norm of music genres, he’s incredibly talented… at least I think so, and I don’t care if you agree with me or not :).

But if your blockin’ me I will soon defeat you I will build a bridge above you, or I’ll tunnel underneath you I will eat you and excrete you and I’ll feed you to the flowers If I need to I’ll go through you and absorb your fucking powers I put in hour after hour let’s be crystal clear I’m gonna get there if it takes a day or fifty years I’ll fingerbang my fears, I’ll fucking punch a dragon Even with the Himalayas in my way it’s gonna happen ‘Cause waiting doesn’t work, and praying may not come through And hoping doesn’t work. So I will be the one to work

I hope this post helps you and would love to hear your thoughts below in the comments section!

Thank you for reading,
AJ

Are You Seized By Fear?

There is no illusion greater than fear.

Fear is all around us and has been instilled in us since we were young children; even in the subtle ways that our parents/guardians, teachers, and friends interacted with us by asking us, “Are you sure….?” or “Be careful of…” and these fears were almost necessary as a child for our survival. However; as an adult, we hold onto fear and even let it control our lives. It affects us in ways unbeknownst to us, causing worry, hesitation, anxiety, avoidance and more. Fear can make us feel like we’re not capable, worthy, or ready. Fear is what stops us from following our dreams, asking for that deserved promotion or raise at work, pursuing someone we’re attracted to, or from going outside your comfort zone and developing personal growth. All the emotions tied to fear, when left unchecked, lead to an unhealthy lifestyle… we’ll overeat, over exercise and injure ourselves, find distractions (like my drug abuse), or you simply avoid life all together. Here’s the thing: As an adult, we can redevelop our thought patterns and reframe situations and control how we handle fear. We can become more mindful and conscious of fear and ask yourselves why we’re feeling fearful and then focusing on the “what ifs” in a positive manner. For me, I recognize that I’m fearful of many things going on right now:

  • I’m trying to write a book that’s part autobiography and part self-help (how to level up). You can ask anyone who’s written a book (or even a blog post) and most of them will admit that it’s scary. But, instead of focusing on the scariness of it, I’m choosing to focus on the positive “what ifs.” What if this book or blog post helps someone breakthrough as it resonates with them or someone close to them? What if this helps me grow my business?
  • I’m also trying to put on an event for the first time called Active For Recovery Bike Ride and I’m fearful that the event won’t be as great as I’m imagining or that I won’t raise as much money as I’d like. But focusing on those negatives held me back from starting this event a year earlier when I first started talking about it with people. Now, I’ve learned that the positives of the event far outweigh the negatives. At the absolute very least, the event will raise awareness of drug addiction and recovery.

You see, fear can be just a temporary thing, but most of us get caught up in this fear and let it control our lives, we let fear feel like it’s our entire world. Think about this:

  • Some of the most successful people in the world, who have made great accomplishments, originally had no idea what they were doing when they started. Do you really think Thomas Edison or Nikola Tesla had any idea what they were doing when they first started playing around with electricity? Richard Branson had no idea what he was really doing when he started Virgin Atlantic, as he previously only had background with music record labels (Virgin Records).
  • You have endured life so far. You didn’t always know how to walk, ride a bike, lift weights, work on a computer, or do whatever you enjoy doing. Most likely, you had to endure the initial struggle of learning. Your probably fell or flat out failed a few times, but you survived. You’re reading this blog post now.

So, when fearful thoughts begin creeping into your mind. Recognize it, don’t hide from it. Trust yourself and remember that in each moment, you will be ok. Take action, the first step, toward whatever your goal is or whatever would help you conquer that fear. But learn to trust in this perceived discomfort, this ok-ness. Imagine yourself enjoying the struggle of obtaining your dreams, rather than fearing it. Once you become more conscious of your fear, becoming more ok with it and the present, and trusting in yourself, you will upgrade your “childhood” tools into “adult” tools so you can become more equipped to deal with life and pursue what you’re passionate about.

The Breakthrough Weekend: Awakening Your Power

Breakthrough WeekendIn February 2014, I went outside of my comfort zone and decided to enroll in a course called “The Breakthrough Weekend” which is based out of Gainesville, FL. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. I recall sitting in the waiting area asking myself, “What did I just get myself into?” The event starts on a Friday night as they give you some background of the organization, the coaches, and a broad idea of what to expect. Initially on Saturday I had my walls up and was protecting myself from feeling any emotions, but I began to realize that they only way I could possibly grow personally and professionally was to try and open up a bit more. I thought to myself, “What am I really trying to hide?” and, more importantly, “Why am I trying to hide it?” I mean, by this time I had this blog running and most of my friends and family knew about my drug addictions. It’s become so easy to talk about for me and I enjoy sharing that recovery process. But, there was something nagging me from deep down as the coaches began explaining how we relive experiences from our childhood, teenage years, and beyond. As I was sitting there listening to other people share their stories, it hit me: the one thing I really never spoke about or “handled” was when I was jumped on my way home from middle school and then bullied all throughout middle/high school because of my weight. Even though the weight has been shredded, those memories were still there and in control. In fact, they controlled my life more than I thought. Even though I’m no longer bullied, the baggage of weighed me down. I didn’t realize that I honestly felt some guilt about being bullied (crazy, right?). I felt like I could have or should have done more when I was jumped on my way from school as my parents transferred me into a private school (where I never got into a fight, but let the bullies control my life). However, I learned something crazy important and I want to share it with you. You see, when I was jumped it was by several older (“highschoolers”) guys. The “young me” did what I needed to do to protect myself. What could have happened if I fought back? The end result could have been much worse than some bruises. The problem is that these “tools” we acquire throughout our young lives are often required for our own protection, but they often fall very short in our adult lives. The opportunity for us to be who we want to be, do what we want to do, and live a happy life are for the grabs: we just have to ever so slightly jump out of our comfort zone every now and then and become curious.

I bring this up now as I just had the pleasure of assisting for this month’s Breakthrough Weekend and I left feeling exuberant. Not only did I walk away about learning yet more about myself, but about others and developing a truly close connection with people. I walked away knowing that my “Breakthrough Family” knows who I truly am and they’re supportive and loving.

And while the coaches were different this time around and some of the exercises were a bit different, there was one thing that I found consistent and that’s developing a true curiosity about yourself. Asking yourself why you feel or act a certain way can take you down some winding roads and stir up some emotions that you may not be entirely comfortable with, but it’s ok to feel those emotions. It’s ok to take a few steps back from the minute-by-minute, fast paced life and become an observer of who you are and who you’re surrounding yourself with. It’s ok to take time a grieve if you need to grieve, let out anger if you’re angry, and to have fun and laugh.

I’d admit that I still have a lot of personal growth to do, but I’m learning to build up my tool chest with new tools to help me tackle this crazy world we live in. If you take away one thing from this post, know this: Personal growth will not happen unless you change; you cannot let “life” or others control what you want out of life. You are the change. You are in control and have the power. Now go out there and get it!

Learning To Let Your Body Recover

It all started in November 2014, when I injured my hip after biking 50 miles for the first time. That injury prohibited me from running in a 10k that I was looking forward to. Shortly thereafter, while practicing handstands I fell awkwardly and landing on my toes, causing some pretty bad inflammation. The idea of running my first half marathon was thrown the window, as I could barely run a 5k without being in pain. So, I skipped that event. Lastly, in late March, while having fun and testing my limits on my mountain bike, I fractured my knuckles, sprained who knows what else, and ended up causing some internal damage requiring surgery this past Wednesday, April 22. I was more than aggravated with myself, as I was looking forward to participating in my first triathlon of the season, the St. Anthony’s Triathlon. Recovery time from the surgery is approximately 3-4 weeks, maybe longer. I’m supposed to have a triathlon in the middle of May, but I’m hoping I can transfer it to another event in June.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been in a depressive rut as I’ve been thinking about all that I’ve “lost.” My strength. My endurance. A few days after my surgery, I tried to get back to work but was in obvious pain. During a casual conversation with my boss, he provided me some insight. I was sending my body signals that it needs to recover, now. I completely forgot about a tool that I’ve used in the past: mindfulness & meditation, but more focused. I was telling my body to do whatever it was required to do; whatever I wanted it to do… and it would somehow compensate and do it. Could I walk? Sure, but painfully.

After talking with him, I took the rest of the day and two additional days off and actually did some focused meditation. To release my body of it’s anxiousness of what it may lose in a month. To release the unnecessary tension between my mind and body. To tell my body, “Listen, we really need to recover. Not just from this past surgery, but from the past six months.” Amazingly, over the course of two days of focused meditation my body has responded very well. I went back to work today and my appearance was immediately noticeable by coworkers and my boss.

This experience has really reminded me of the signals we’re constantly sending our body. The hormones we release. Sure, I’m about pushing limits and developing grit and I know my body is incredibly resilient, but I don’t a body that’s overly compensating. I want a body that’s firing on all cylinders and, when I’m able to come back, come back stronger and better than before.

A Poem to Live By

The Man In The GlassThe Man In The Glass

By Peter Dale Wimbrow Sr.

When you get what you want in your struggle for self
And the world makes you king for a day
Just go to the mirror and look at yourself
And see what that man has to say.

For it isn’t your father, or mother, or wife
Whose judgment upon you must pass
The fellow whose verdict counts most in your life
Is the one staring back from the glass.

He’s the fellow to please – never mind all the rest
For he’s with you, clear to the end
And you’ve passed your most difficult, dangerous test
If the man in the glass is your friend.

You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years
And get pats on the back as you pass
But your final reward will be heartache and tears
If you’ve cheated the man in the glass.

What are you willing to do to become what you know you are?

Patience. I will become what I know I am.Life has been difficult lately, so much so that I’ve neglected my own passion Get Leveled Up for some time now. And it’s not because I haven’t been thinking about it, but it’s because I’ve been busy, stressed out, and, frankly a wreck. Many people look at me as an inspiration and that sometimes carries an additional weight on my shoulders, like I really shouldn’t screw up now or I really shouldn’t eat this ice cream. It’s dawned on me recently, though, that I haven’t shared a lot of what’s been going on in my life and figured that it may help to get it out there. This isn’t a “poor me” post, but a post that’s more or less put together to help me recognize that even though I’m dealing with some shit, my mission for Get Leveled Up hasn’t changed: to help those struggling with substance abuse, depression, and obesity overcome their obstacles and guide them towards a healthy life and thrive.

The problem, I’ve learned mental illnesses (like substance abuse, depression, anxiety) aren’t ever really cured. They’re a constant work in progress. For example, I’ve been recently diagnosed with cyclothmya, a milder form of bipolar disorder. In addition, my anxiety attacks have come back again, which has caused me to do some reflection as to why I’ve been feeling more anxious:

  1. My bankruptcy is coming to a close, with many accounts already marked as closed and my Honda Accord being repossessed. Thankfully, I kept my old Toyota Avalon with over 200k miles so I have a back up vesicle, but it’s got some issues.
  2. My relationship with my boyfriend of five years came to an end after some trust issues came up.
  3. Recently injured my hand in a mountain biking accident trying something new that scared me, which left me using one hand for about a few weeks. My hand is still in pain and I’m still recovering. Before this injury, I injured my iliopsoas/hip flexors and a toe.

What does all of this have to do with who I know I will become?

It all comes down to patience. Sure, I’m frustrated that I’m dealing with these issues. Sure, I thought I had my mental illnesses figure out, but I’m also genetically predisposed to bipolar, so being mindful enough to recognize some bipolar traits and catching them early is a huge win in my opinion.

Declaring bankruptcy, essentially over $70k worth of debt incurred while on drugs between 2004 – 2010, will give me the financial freedom to start saving money, participate in more triathlons, and allow me to go on adventures in life and have some fun.

Injuries, I’ve learned, are sometimes a sign that you’re doing something right… especially when you’re trying something new, getting out of your comfort zone, and doing something that scares you. I failed while trying to do a mountain bike jump and broke me hand, it hurts… but someday I’ll land that jump and that day I’ll be triumphant.

No matter where you are in your lifelong journey of health and fitness you’re going to have set backs. You’re going to have to make some tough decisions that will dramatically change your life. However, it’s important to just keep your goals & dreams at the forefront of your mind and become patient.

Michael Jordan said it best, “Patience. I will become what I know I am.”

Everything Is Possible

We’re a funny group of people, aren’t we? As 2014 came to a close and a new year starts, we make a ton of goals for ourselves. We tell ourselves that this year will be different. This year I’ll lose weight. This year I’ll exercise more. And then, as the year goes by, we let life happen and we lose focus on ourselves. Heck, when I first started my journey I sometimes felt incredibly guilty. I felt selfish. I was spending all this time on me and improving myself. Why did I torture myself with these thoughts? I don’t know. I do know that I eventually overcame these thoughts once I realized that by spending time on myself, by improving myself, I was indirectly improving the lives of those around me as I was now giving my best self to the world. And that’s really what matters.

Think about it. By not spending time on making yourself happy, you’re giving others your second or third best version. You are not giving them everything you can give. Shouldn’t the world deserve more?

So, how can you become the best version of yourself? Besides the obvious of eating healthier & being active (not strictly exercise!), we need to focus our mind on our dreams.

But what is most important is that you have to dig deep down, dig deep down and ask yourselves, who do you want to be? Not what, but who.

And I’m talking about not what your parents and teachers want you to be, but you. I’m talking about figuring out for yourselves what makes you happy, no matter how crazy it may sound to other people.

– Arnold Schwarzenegger

This is hard. You’ll have to figure out how badly you want it. You’ll need to pull back the layers in your mind and try to obtain some clarity. By no means is this something I’ve mastered; I don’t think anyone has. However, one tool that I’ve been using is Headspace for meditating. Meditation has taken me into uncomfortable places. It’s allowed me to ask why I feel an emotion. Why do I feel anxious? What about this particular moment makes me uncomfortable? It’s then allowed me to become comfortable with these thoughts. I recognize them and then tell myself, “Wow, that’s interesting.” and let it pass. People think meditation is something that allows you to control your mind or “bend it” to your will. However, that’s not meditation. Meditation allows you to recognize your thoughts as simply passing by in life. Think about them as cars on the highway and you’re just watching them pass by. You see a really weird car and tell yourself, “Wow, that was a weird car.” and then it goes away. Maybe it will pass by again, who knows.

So, one of my resolutions this year is to spend more time in meditation. Right now, I spend about 10 minutes every other day. I want to try and make that a daily ritual.

This year I challenge you to be a little selfish. Dedicate a little sliver of time each day to yourself. Set aside 10 minutes, 30 minutes, or an hour to yourself. Tell yourself that no matter what, you’ll tell the world, “Not now.”

For warning though, you’ll need to be ok with failing. However, if you take responsibility and decide that you want it more, that you want to succeed, that you care about yourself, you will make it happen. You need to believe in yourself.

Check out these videos as I’ve watched them more than a few times for extra motivation: