We live in an age, where we work more on our presentation of self, than we do on self as it stands alone. We hide behind social media, creating put-together, smiling faces, when underneath it all, we suffer. As we look upon the images of our friends, or of those we have lost contact with, we compare and instill in our minds that we suffer alone. And yet, we are not ignorant. We know, we know, that others deal with things we can’t imagine, that we are left only to imagine. Social media out of the equation, we present in life as we do on a computer screen. We hold it together as we walk through space. No use in involving others into the doom we have set upon ourselves. We walk on, we beat the demons that raise arms to us, and then we carefully hide their corpses. But to who, do we grant this favor?
In creating Choice in Recovery, a friend asked me what has led me to open up about my struggles with substance use disorder? What gave me the courage to come out about something that I had kept so well hidden, for years? Having recently enrolled in a personal development program, I recognized how inhuman humanity has become. In this same course, I also saw humanity in all of its rawness, its imperfections not hidden behind shields, but painted beautifully upon them, no longer raised. I gained strength in my own struggles by witnessing the courage of those around me. I then realized the stand I could take for others who were fighting a battle I had won. I could be their courage, if I was willing to dig up the corpse, dive into its rot, admit my role in creating it, and offer a hand of help. It hasn’t been easy, and only small accomplishments represent its having been rewarding. But here I present the twisting and turning this project has gone through, from beginning to present moment.
The light bulb. The light bulb lit up when I turned to speak to a woman next to me about how much I love writing, and how I felt that I was letting my artistic side take a backseat to “real life.” I was a personal trainer, I loved science, I loved math, but I also loved to write, to paint, to dance. I told her I would love to be a writer, but I don’t want to give up on my commitment to my clients; I don’t want to end a business that is still so fresh. She looked at me, suggesting that I write about personal training, it was a suggestion that I had already received and quickly rejected. I replied just as I had before, I do not want to write about training, my writing goes deeper than that. With that I began to explain to her what role exercise has played in my life. I spoke about my history with substance use, and how running stood in opposition to it. I ran to remind myself to live. I told her that ultimately, it saved my life. She looked at me, her face lit with realization, and stated, “Write about that.” Her enthusiasm fueled mine, it was like everything came together; worlds converged that had always stood apart.
The beginning. Here, 303 Infinite Fitness & Training: The Project was born. It was a convergence of my personal training business with my yearning to help people dealing with substance use disorder; documenting their journeys in a written work. The project was at the level of individual; I felt I had something that hadn’t yet been tapped into. I met with a certified addictions counselor and spoke candidly of my own personal struggle as well as my intention to work with others also struggling, given only one choice. In her words, I was an anomaly, she didn’t doubt my way of recovery (moderation), but found it to be unique and unlikely to be applicable to others. I took her response as a green light; thinking one dose of professional consensus was enough to see the project through.
You are speaking from your disease. After getting the thin veil of support from a professional stranger, I ran with my idea. I was ready and willing to talk to anyone who asked me what I was up to, about the concept of choice within recovery from substance use disorder. Support grew around me, but the time finally came when disagreement stood at the forefront. I was at a TEDx event in Denver, when I struck up a conversation with a man running an exhibit, who also happened to be a certified addictions counselor. Though I was prepared to hear that moderation may not work for others, I was not prepared for what he had to say from his professional standpoint. He told me that in his line of work, he was trained to recognize red flags, and in speaking with me, that was what he saw. “You are speaking from your disease, when you hit your lowest low, you will know.” I did not back down from my conversation with him; but my confidence did take a toll. A hit harder than I would like to admit.
Swallowing my pride. After speaking to this particular counselor, I began to question everything I had stood so confidently behind. My biggest worry was that, my intentions, though good, would ultimately produce more harm than benefit to the population I was seeking to impact. I dove into my identity, I questioned if I was delusional, questioned if was lying to myself. If that were true, then I was ultimately gathering others, and providing an option that kept them in their delusion as well. It was at this point that I recognized the need to take an individual project and expand it to the level of the community. More voices were necessary for any one of them to be heard. I swallowed my pride and researched what programs were already in existence that did not coincide with the popular discourse. They were already out there, it was no longer a matter of creating a program, but now a matter of bringing the programs that existed, into the public eye.
Choice in Recovery: the final product. As researched progressed, professionals and program representatives jumped on board for the ultimate goal of this project; to educate the public on the existence of the many pathways to recovery. Many different programs exist, some utilizing moderation, and some abstinence based, that follow a different pathway towards recovery than the most widely recognized 12 Step program. This is not to say that the 12 Step program is ineffective, but it is clear that it is not for everyone. We can either push those people aside that don’t benefit from one program, or provide them with other options that are very much geared towards their recovery.
As this project has transformed, I have realized the importance in stepping back, and letting go of the control that I so desperately wanted to hold on to. I have gained help, and am now really learning what it means to accept it. The project is no longer about me and not about any one individual who has graciously taken the opportunity to be a part of it. This project is about someone that we haven’t even met yet. Someone that will be grateful to be able to tell their suffering parent, their suffering child, their brother, their sister, their friend, that there is another way; it is just a matter of their choosing.