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I Only Exercised LOADED!

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I only exercised while loaded during the first 7 years of my love affair with the gym.Well, obsession with the gym is more accurate; but yes, I only worked out with heavy weights drunk, high, or both. Now, that sounds pretty crazy in hindsight, even to me, but at the time I didn’t think twice about it.

A huge part of my disease came in the form of body shaming (which ultimately led to body dysmorphia), feelings of inadequacy, and feeling weak or downright pathetic.

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As a kid, I was picked on a lot as I tried to hang with the “jock” crowd in high school. I was an easy target as I was considerably weaker and smaller than them, still uncoordinated, and never made it off the bench on the varsity basketball team. Basketball coaches tried to get us to lift in the high school gym, but I had zero interest in struggling with weights less than half of what everyone else was lifting. Why the hell would I want to give them another reason to make fun of me?

It wasn’t until I was 19 that I started to go with my new buddies to the gym… my using buddies. I had a rule though, where I only went with them if I was drunk and/or high out of my freaking mind.

Looking back now, I guess I needed to be loaded to go workout so I could quiet the voice of comparison to the “muscle beasts” I saw at the gym, or not feel embarrassed with how weak I was compared to my buddies, or how I didn’t just automatically know how to use every machine or perform every exercise from day one.

I wasn’t getting great results (how could I, as I had no clue what I was doing or couldn’t remember what my friends taught me the time before), but something inside me just “clicked.” I became hooked on lifting weights, in addition to basketball, triathlons, and running. I trained for triathlons high (never drunk), but could never play basketball loaded so that was the only form of exercise I was sober for.

The gym and weight lifting quickly replaced those other activities as my favorite form of exercise. After a few months I quit getting drunk before the gym, I only got high. High on cocaine, marijuana, and painkillers. I’m lucky I didn’t have a heart-attack those first 6 months in the gym. After that, I got off cocaine to “justify” my smoking and drinking in my head as I was no longer a “hard drug user.”

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Again, I never thought once about how it probably wasn’t best that I was loaded while lifting weights. For me, being stoned on weed just made it a much more enjoyable experience, or so I thought.

I told myself, and others, that it helped with pain tolerance and helped me “feel” my music more. In reality, I think I enjoyed it so much because it helped me judge myself a little less, as I was synthetically happy in the gym with that quiet voice of self-hatred silenced from the drug-induced euphoria. Pair this with my newly started steroid use, and I was off and running down a very dangerous path.

It was always a joke, with whichever friends I associated with, that I was a “work out fiend” who also loved to get loaded just as much.

I remember a close, sober friend showing me one of those “effects of alcohol on the human body” posters you see up in treatment centers highlighting the fact “alcohol reduces muscle mass” in hopes of getting me to scale back my drinking. I just laughed and thought, “Well I don’t lift drunk any more, dumbass, so that doesn’t apply!” Again, I was invincible in my own head – nothing bad would happen to me!

In college, I would literally do yoga at home and while I was in the chair position a roommate would come hold and light the bong for me and we would all have a great laugh, saying “that’s teamwork right there!” Of course, my continual weed smoking, in combination with certain steroids that I was taking, severely impacted my cardio capacity, so basketball disappeared as well as long distance running. Despite this, I still got stoned before going on my daily runs, but I was only able to run maybe ¼ of what I used to.

I would return to the house coughing up chunks of mucus with my throat burning. While that was disheartening at times, I never once considered cutting back smoking and drugging. It was how I HAD to live my life – always loaded - otherwise my self-loathing, self-doubt, and cowardice would come roaring back into my reality.  I was trapped in a viscous cycle and had no clue how to end it.

courtesy of Seattle's Union Gospel Mission

Luckily, I found my bottom on June 22, 2013 and have been clean and sober ever since. It was weird at first, working out sober. But I eventually adapted and now I get so much more out of being clear-headed when I do train. I am much more focused on each rep, and the spiritual refueling I experience from each session is beyond words. Plus, let’s not forget the fact that I can actually perform cardio without hacking up half a lung or doubling over in pain halfway through from a brutal side cramp.

I’ve worked out loaded, and now I’ve worked out sober; the two don’t even compare! I hope those who are reading this experience the latter. I hope those who are reading this experience the serenity I find through daily exercise as my form of meditation.

If you haven’t yet, I strongly encourage you to give it a shot!

Just one day at a time.

One set at a time.

One rep at a time. 

-Marv, One Rep at a Time 

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