Category Archives: Addiction

Destiny’s Manifesto

Over the past few days I’ve been writing the biographical part of what will become my manifesto. It’s a useful exercise in that it achieves two goals. It shows you where you’ve been and it shows you what matters most.

What matters most defines your core values. Your core values are the compass by which you navigate life. Being clear about those values is helpful, especially when wading through the murky and unclear waters that often comprise our lives “right now.” Hindsight is good but only after the fact and in the midst of a struggle a sense of bearing can be invaluable.

Unexpectedly, this task has proven a tad difficult. I can’t decide whether it’s too detailed or not detailed enough. I’ve spent enough time in therapy to see the value in my experiences and understand how they’ve come together to shape the man I am.

I also know somewhere out there is somebody who needs to hear my story. I know how helpful it can be to know, “I’m not the only one.” Especially since I grew up most of my life thinking I was the only one.

Growing up in the South in the 1980s my story is somewhat unique. But then again, maybe not. Maybe not so much unique as just isolated.

In late 1982, my mom left my dad for another woman.

Today, the response to this is really quite casual. “Yeah, so?” With gay being cool and shows like the L-word finding prime time status, a gay mom rarely raises an eyebrow these days.

In 1982 it was so earth shattering we couldn’t even talk about it. Becky, my mom’s girlfriend, was introduced as her “roommate” and, for some insane reason, people accepted this.

While I accept full responsibility for my future actions it is also clear that these and other early experiences eventually contributed to why I chose to hide from life in drugs. Drawing the map that connects all the dots will be helpful, not only for myself, but anyone in similar straits.

But damn, it’s a downer. So far I’m up to age 12 and the high point of my life was the neighbor girl who molested me in fourth grade. I’m sure there were happier moments but the truth is the low points were so low they over shadow everything else.

And then an epiphany, sort of snuck up on me. Epiphanies are not supposed to sneak. They’re supposed to blast you like a bolt out of the blue, but this one refused to follow script and just materialized out of the fog, so quietly that it seemed like it had been there all along. Which, now that I think on it, it had.

You are not your history.

You are not the things that happened to you.

The manner in which your past affects you is the manner in which you CHOOSE to let it affect you.

I know this is a lot. I know some of you reading this, especially those who may have experienced horrors far more foul than anything I’ve ever seen, will be offended and even hurt by what I say, but that does not make it any less true.

Viktor Emil Frankl was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist of Jewish decent. During World War II he suffered some of the worst injustices mankind has known as a prisoner of the Nazis. He was imprisoned in Auschwitz and Dachau, two of the most notorious camps.

Under these conditions Frankl discovered and refined his understanding of the human condition and the crucial component that determines a happy life from an unhappy one. Frankl discovered that in between stimulus and response, between the things that happen to you and what you think or feel or do about them, is a choice.

As humans we get to decide what we do with the lot we’ve been handed and we get to decide how we will let it affect us.

Admittedly, the harsher the lot, the harder this may be to do. Frankl, himself, exhibited a capacity I sincerely hope none of us has the chance to emulate, but the principles of his discovery remain and their truth, whether we’re ready to accept them or not, is sound.

It has taken me nearly forty years to realize I did not have to own the messages of my youth, that other peoples’ dysfunction was not a reflection of my own and that I was free to shape my own life. If it’s true for me, it’s also true for you.

It’s scary at first. We are often quite attached to these self definitions. We’ve come to see ourselves as the result of what happened before and these definitions give us security. That security comes at a price and we lock ourselves into a box in order to achieve it.

True freedom can be frightening. We can easily become afraid of losing ourselves.

We can also, finally, find ourselves. Like Frankl discovered, the choice is ours.

To your perfect imperfection,

Dave

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A Million Little Pieces

Hey there ,

Back in January of 2005, the first month of my sobriety, I read a book, A Million Little Pieces, by James Frey. Frey and his book had just been rocketed to instant celebrity by a gushing testimonial by Oprah over how much she loved the book and how badly each and every one of us needed to read it.

Just as quickly as he ascended he crashed and burned. His book, published as a memoir of his experience in rehab was revealed to be an elaborate exaggeration. Oprah rescinded her endorsement and he was publicly eviscerated, drawn and quartered, and his head posted on a pike outside the walls of Random House for all the world to see.

Well, not really, but it might have been kinder if they had.

If ever I get the chance to meet James Frey I will shake his hand and thank him for producing a work that, for me, was life changing. It saddens me that people get so hung up on details that they miss the importance and relevance of a work.

Whether or not Frey’s work is fiction or autobiographical doesn’t matter to me at all. What matters is that that book came into my life when I needed a mirror.

Yes, the details of his book were far uglier than what my experience was, but the principles were the same and in his story I could see my own face. He was a junky and his story left me with only one conclusion – I was a junky as well.

It was at this point I had a choice to make.

I could continue my decent into self loathing. I could give in to my own depression, my lack of self worth and the belief that this was the best I’d ever do.

Or, I could fight. I could recognize that every moment holds an opportunity for change.

I made the decision that my daughters deserved better.

I made the decision that my wife deserved better.

Finally, I made the decision that I deserved better.

For the past few days I’ve been telling you that you are perfect just as you are and that’s true. Too often we blind ourselves to our potential by believing that we have so much work to do before we can start.

That’s a delay tactic. That’s Low Self Esteem talking, that’s Insecurity, Self Loathing, Fear or any other form of what Steven Pressfield calls Resistance. Resistance is anything that gets in the way of doing your work.

We are all here to do work. You know this deep down. Your work is that passion that burns inside you. That thing that makes your pulse quicken. It might scare the crap out of you, but you also just can’t leave it alone.

The day I decided I was good enough on my own, without self medication, was the day I stepped out onto my true path. That was the day I started doing my work.

You are perfect, right now. You are ready to start your work, right now. There is nothing you need to do other than let you be you.

Don’t confuse yourself. You are not the things you do. You are so much more.

Allow yourself to be that which you already are.

To your perfect imperfection,

Dave

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“Everything Happens for a Reason”

Hey there,

On Friday I shared a bit of my history and that pivotal moment in my life when I decided to stop using drugs.

There is a cliché that’s often bandied about in self-help and get-off-your-ass-and-do-something circles and that is,

“Everything happens for a reason.”

What we most often take from this is that there is some divine plan at work; that we are a part of a bigger scheme devised by God, or the Universe, or whatever name you choose to describe the force that drives what we know as reality.

There’s comfort in the idea that someone else has gone to the trouble to think about our lives in advance and that even if we are miserable our lives serve some greater purpose.

I’m not here to tell you that’s not true. For all I know it is, but there’s another way to look at this phrase that I find more helpful and that is:

“Nothing happens without a reason.”

At it’s simplest this is the Law of Cause and Effect applied to your life. This means that everything that is happening in your life right now is the result of things that happened before.

There are some people who will tell you the past doesn’t matter, that it’s all about right now and what you do with your future.

There’s some merit to this, but if you don’t understand the missteps of the past you’re bound to repeat them in the future.

It’s important for me to realize, I didn’t just become a drug addict because I had nothing else to do. There was a sequence of events and their associated emotional responses that drove me toward a place where a manufactured happiness seemed my only recourse.

This does not mean I wasn’t responsible for what I did.  Every choice I made I made of my own free will, but it does show me why I was inclined to make those choices and how I can orient my future so that I’m not inclined to repeat those errors.

If you went to Sunday School as a kid you probably remember singing “This Little Light of Mine.” It’s a syrupy little ditty all about how we’re not supposed to hide that special little light of individuality that, if you’re Christian or Jewish, God put in each one of us. (Don’t worry, if you’re not Christian or Jewish, you still have that light, it just got put there by someone other than dear old Yahweh.)

For most of us, this is the original sin. We let someone else convince us there was something wrong with our light and we hid it. I believe that most of our subsequent suffering came as a result of squashing who we really are and then trying to deal with feelings that came from that.

Do you remember when you were a kid and hadn’t yet learned to care what other people thought of you? Do you remember how goofy and spontaneous and joyful and free you were? Did you know you were beautiful?

Did you know that still lives inside you?

To your perfect imperfection,

Dave

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Clean and Sober

Hey there,

For a good ten years I was a drug addict.  I was a “recreational user” for longer than that but by addict I mean I was daily user — for ten years.

I stopped seven years, nine months and 27 days ago.

New Year’s Day, 2005 ranks, along with the day Samantha and I snuck off and eloped and the days my three daughters were born, as one of the most important days of my life.  It was the day I decided I was bigger than my problems and that I didn’t need an external salve to make it through the day.

Samantha can tell you, the ensuing 30 days were rough.  Detox can be hard and I was not the most pleasant person to be around, but I made it through.

Having stayed stoned for ten years, clarity was a bit of a shock.  As an addict you get really good at talking to yourself and even more at lying to yourself.  I was the king of justifications and I thought while stoned I functioned just fine.

Thirty days of sobriety were enough to show me just how wrong I was.

When I finally did get a clear head I tried to distance myself from my past.  I was embarrassed and ashamed.  Those ten years are a long list of stupid risks and near misses that jeopardized everything I had in those days, most importantly, my wife and kids.

Recently I’ve begun to look back and reflect on those years.  The pain and the embarrassment is not so sharp, I can look at the things I did and, more importantly, why I did them.

The “why” stemmed entirely from my sense of self.  I was so convinced that I was unworthy I couldn’t even stand to be around myself.  I lived in a fog of depression and staying high made me feel better.

What I didn’t realize was there was a part of me that knew better.  There was a part of me that knew I was WORTHY, that I had VALUE, and that I was meant to SHINE but, in the cloud of drugs I lived in, it never got a chance to breathe.

When I finally did step out of that cloud, that part of me took off.  Within a year of quitting drugs I had a new career, a new car, a new house and a new life.  I reclaimed my wife and children who were slowly starting to slip away.

That part, that voice, that lives in me lives in you.  It’s the voice that tells you not what you should be, but what you ARE, even if you haven’t realized it yet.

Give that voice a chance.  You’ll be amazed at what happens.

To your perfect imperfection,

Dave

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What I Want

I think I may have stumbled upon a new level of maturity.  Either that, or I’ve completely regressed and I’m delusional to boot.

Here lately, I’ve become more and more concerned about what I want.  Which at first blush seems to give more credence to the regressed option, but bear with me, I think I can make a better case for development.

For most of my life I’ve been concerned about what others want.  I quickly learned to navigate a dysfunctional family structure by learning and then giving my parents what I thought they wanted.  My childhood, adolescent and young adult friendships where characterized  by an acute ability to ascertain what would meet the highest degree of approval and doing that.  School was less an exercise in learning and critical thinking than in intuition and creative regurgitation–give them back what they just fed you, just alter it enough to make them feel like you thought about it, but don’t over do it or they won’t recognize it.

And now?  I’m done with that.  I’m done with the cringing, snivelling feeling of worrying over whether my thoughts are acceptable.  I’m done with worrying over whether or not I can say what I feel inside.  I’m done trying to convince myself that somehow I’m the one with the problem and that I must contain and hide it for fear of exposure and rejection.

I know what I want and I’m willing to go get it.

And that, right there, is what makes the difference between maturity and regression.  Most healthy three year olds, as they begin to develop a sense of self and identity, know what they want.  If you’ve been around one, you know, they can be quite comical and sometimes downright annoying in the strength of their wants, their short, stubby little bodies full of ego and defiance, adamant with their desires, but relatively powerless to actualize them themselves–children may know what they want but they need you to get it for them.

Adults know what they want and take the steps to get what they want themselves.  At this point you may begin to consider some of the adults you know who act more like children, not willing to take the actions they need to realize their wants.  The truth is, when like this, they’re not fully adults–sad, but true.

So, here I am at 40, embracing another aspect of my maturity, allowing myself to not only have wants but pursue them as well.  A sad comment in and of itself, but again nonetheless true.

In my early thirties, while still a pothead and decidedly immature, I had recurring back issues.  During a flare up the pain was substantial, I had sciatic pain that burned intensely and radiated all the way down my left leg.  I pursued relief from various professionals, holistic therapists mostly.  At one point my acupuncturist referred me to a massage therapist named Wilfred Hunt.

Wilfred was a tall, slender man with a long, thin pony tail that hung in a braid, almost to his waist.  I remember that my first session was excruciatingly painful, my muscles were so bound in knots and spasms that the direct pressure of deep tissue work was almost more than I could stand.  I also remember seeing a picture of the hugging saint, Mata Amritanandamayi, a Hindu spiritual leader whose practice centers around hugging, in his therapy room.  I had recently run across her image while wasting time on the internet at work and so I asked about her.

He was impressed I knew who she was and I like to think that conversation set me apart and opened the door for the work that followed.  After a few more massages I entered his office one day for my next appointment, he sat me down and explained that there was nothing wrong with my back.  “But I’m still in pain.”  That, he explained, was in my head, it was my body’s way of alerting me to an incongruence.

He went on to tell me about the concept of body symbology.  The idea is that sometimes what we perceive as injury is really our subconscious trying to redirect us.  This is frequently done with pain, as it is the most direct way to getting our attention, and in a symbolic or pun-ish way.

‘What are you ‘backing out’ on?” he asked, “What is it you want?”

At the time I couldn’t answer.  All of my “wants” were related to the needs of others and I couldn’t access what it was that I wanted.

It’s taken several years of growth and development to begin to figure that out, but now more than ever I have a sense of what it is I want.  The funny thing is that it still involves you, but not in the same way it once did.

Perhaps it’s becoming cliché, if you’ve been following these posts for a while it is certainly redundant, but what I want for me is to become the strongest, most vital, most present version of myself possible.  That means I both want to be strong enough to be victorious in my struggles, but also strong enough to live in and learn from my failures.

One does not become the strongest version of themselves just by saying they want to be.  That may be a crucial first step, but beyond that is much struggle, much trial and error and many mistakes.  Perhaps the strongest thing you can do is fully embrace the journey and accept equally the mountaintops you summit and the muddy ravines you slide into, the key to growth being that you refuse to spend too much time in either place.

So where do you come in?  You come in because it is not enough to do this just for and by myself.  You are part of my tribe.  You, for reasons you may not fathom yourself yet, are drawn to me, my story and what I do, not because I’m so unbelievably awesome, but because I’m human, like you, and my story is your story.  Everything I have done, can do and will do, you can do, too.  Part of what I want is to help you see that.

There are 9 days left of the special discount pricing for the Bodytribe Fitness 2-day Workshop.  The price is $199 for two days of learning practical tools and techniques for becoming a stronger more vital you and, unlike high school, critical thinking is not only encouraged, it’s required.  After July 14th, the price goes up.  Attendance is limited so secure your spot now.  Click HERE for more information or to sign up.

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A Note to my Former Self


I saw “A Note to my Former Self” as the title to a post on someone else’s blog this morning as I was logging on to WordPress.  I was somewhat neurotically checking my stats on the dashboard, “Is anyone paying attention to me today?”–it’s not really as bad as I make it sound but it pays to be aware of your motivations and I’ll admit that many of mine are selfish, or at least self oriented.

Anyway, I began to consider that maybe it’s time to write that post–the note to the me that was.  The fact that the whole idea is as appealing as a back wax tells me it’s something that needs to be done.

The problem is that I don’t really like the me I used to be.  Years ago when I first met Zach Even-Esh at the Level 1 Underground Strength cert, he encouraged me to use my story.  It would resonate with a lot of people, he said, and I could use it to expand my business reach and help more people.

I kinda half-assed that one.  I would allude to it in conversation from time to time with clients and would dance lightly around the subject in blog posts, but it wasn’t until I wrote Agoge Defined that I really addressed the subject and stated it for what it was.  I was a pot head.

Which if you really think about it is a pretty lame addiction.  And addicted I was.  That put me in a funny place, beating myself up for being an addict in the first place and then beating myself up for not being addicted to a “real” drug.  I mean, wouldn’t beating crack or heroin be more substantial?  Who gets street cred for dumping a pot habit?

Marijuana is known as a fairly benign drug, and it is really.  What I had to learn was that it’s not so much the drug, but what you bring to the drug.

For some people food is a drug.  We’ve all heard the stories of people who become so obese they literally have to be cut out of their houses.  That is an addiction, but no one would reasonably blame food as the culprit.

So, today I’m writing a letter to myself–only I’m not really doing that yet, am I?  It’s so much easier to talk to you, to just tell you about what and who I was than it is to speak to that former self…I didn’t expect it to be this hard…Okay, here goes.

Dear Dave,

Just what the f*ck were you thinking?

Were you even thinking?

No, now as I think about it I realize you weren’t.  You were just a scared little rabbit trying to avoid the wolf, running as fast as you could.

I could sit here and detail all the stupid things you’ve done, the risks you took, the big mistakes that somehow, by the grace of God, you managed to miss facing the consequences for, things like: dealing to support your habit, keeping felony size quantities of marijuana in your house, and other risks that involved not only you but your wife and children as well, but I know your motivations.  I also know they don’t excuse any of your actions, but I understand how blinded they made you to their potential consequences.

You think you’re owed something.  You think because of all the previous injustices in your life that you get this pass.

Dave, you’re not and you don’t.

Nobody owes you anything, ever.  Your are not entitled a life, you earn it.  If you have the faith and the strength of character to pay it forward, to actually do something in and for the world, you might be surprised by the return, but nothing will ever come to you if all you ever do is sit and sulk and try to make yourself feel better.

Grow up.  Become the man you could be instead living like the boy you’ve always been.

Understand becoming a man does not mean just “sucking it up.”  Although there may be times when that is called for, a man faces his issues.  He recognizes that everyone has their own problems, hurts and injustices and he helps no one by wallowing in his own misery or wearing it out on his sleeve.

A man does his work.  He sees that his path in this life has a purpose but that he can’t begin that purpose until he’s first dealt with his own personal obstacles.

The good news, Dave, is that you’re capable of overcoming those obstacles, but it’s time for you to get to work.

Don’t worry, I’ll be waiting for you on the other side.

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Elliott Hulse

All I can feel is sound, the roar of a thousand lions, caged, furious, mad with rage.  Bulls bellowing with all of their strength straining to break their bonds, every fiber taut, fuelled by an anger so deep it’s origin is nameless.

In a moment of clear consciousness I realize–it’s coming from me.  I’m on my knees beating the floor with both fists, bawling for all I’m worth.  My neck strains, my mouth stretches and all I can do is let it out.

Around me fifty some odd guys and a few women are in the throes of their own catharsis.  Most are yelling, adding their own voices to my own, giving release to years of pent up anger and frustration.  A few, the really brave ones, weep, curled up in their own personal sorrow, giving release to grief they’ve carried for who knows how long, over tragedies untold and unnumbered.

What the hell is happening?

It’s Elliott and we’re in the middle of his “presentation” as he shows us what he really means by becoming the strongest version of ourselves.

If you’ve followed my writing for any length of time, you know I think the world of Elliott Hulse.  He’s my friend and a mentor.  Over the past year I’ve spent a fair amount of time travelling back and forth from St. Petersburg, learning from Elliott and building a relationship.  So as the conference rocked along and the buzz would surface about Elliott, I’d just smile, “Dude, you have no idea.  Just get ready for something big.”

There was no way to get ready for this.  I’d had a taste but never seen the true potential, the capacity for change, and on such a scale.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I love Elliott.  He’s an awesome guy.  He does tremendous work and has the capacity to be a hugely positive influence in many people’s lives.

He is not Jesus.

He’s a human being and he’s got his problems just like all of us.  Very little of what he gives is “original.”  What he does is take his thirst for knowledge and understanding, focus it with a laser-like precision and then processes what he learns.  He takes it in, chews on it, digests it, and makes it a part of him.  He then shows you himself.  He opens himself up to you and shares his understanding, “This is what I learned from these other guys and this is what it means to me.”  That makes him unique.  That makes him outstanding.  That makes him remarkable.

It shouldn’t.  We’re all capable of doing the same thing.  Elliott’s just done more of his “work” than the rest of us.  He’s gotten “himself” out of the way and therefore made it easier to share himself, what he knows, what excites him.

What excites him is becoming the strongest version of himself and showing you how to do the same.

So there we were in the middle of a twenty minute “meditation,” based on the knowledge and teachings on old masters like Osho, Alexander Lowen, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Wilhelm Reich, purging some of our own personal demons and letting fly emotional baggage most of us didn’t even know we carried.  Like ancient samurai we faced the wave of our life, through chaos, catharsis, death and rebirth.  Elliott was just there to show us a way.

In the aftermath was a peace I have rarely known.  Even when I sought my own personal solace in drugs I never knew this peace.  That was always superficial, a false layer of “feel good” I smoothed over the crap to distract me, for a time.  This was pervasive, it reached all the way down to my center and then radiated out into the world from there, on my return everyone commented on how different I was–open, strong, smiling, vital, alive–that much closer to the strongest version of myself.

As I watch Elliott grow and develop his mission I see its potential.  I see how important it is, for me and for you.  We live in a world that is threatened by you.  Society wants you to think you can’t, that you must depend on others, that you’re not strong enough, smart enough, good enough.

I’m here to tell you, I am–and so are you.

Become the you you were meant to be.  Become the strongest version of yourself.

Why?  It’s your birthright.  These are your God given abilities, don’t let anyone take them away from you.

You know I see the gym as a crucible for learning these lessons.  Agoge Fitness Systems is not about how much you can lift.  It’s about finding your own strength, your own ability.  It’s about using your body to learn your own personal power.  Strength is not so much what you can do today.  It’s what you can do today that you couldn’t do yesterday and the effort and struggle you put forth in order to make it that way.

On the last Saturday and Sunday in July, Chip Conrad will be here at our gym.  He’s bringing two days of learning, sharing with us his own journey of development and the skills he’s picked up along the way.  You are all invited.  When it’s over I guarantee you’ll see every tool we have here in the gym, including your own body, in a whole new light.  Join us.  CLICK HERE.

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