In the post How I Changed My Life – Part One I spoke about the reasons why I changed my life; moving from compulsive escapist behavior towards a more direct and purposeful course. The intention of this post is to paint a clearer picture of the specifics and to unpack some of the more practical / experiential components of it.
My life was a mess. I worked-out a lot, did hours of cycling each week, taught cycling fitness classes and was training people. I looked really good, lean and muscular and seemed to have an abundance of energy. But I was eating at least a box of cookies a night and on weekends I’d gorge until I passed out and drink too much. I had started smoking again as well. While these behaviors didn’t seem to impact my teaching or training, I wasn’t doing what I was asking my clients or participants to do. I was being a hypocrite by advocating lean eating and avoidance of alcohol then doing those things. My justification was that I needed to re-feed to make-up for all the training I was doing.
That wasn’t workable. The most effective people do the things they advocate for. My integrity in this area was nonexistent. Worse than that was the fact that I would ride my bike to escape life vs. to improve my cycling or health. Cycling helped release a lot of the anxiety that my behavioral choices created. But since it was a form of medication / therapy, I was abusing it and was in free-fall with the cyclical nature of my choices.
Exercise causes an increase in physiological pollution within the body. This pollution can be cleaned-up through proper nutrition – green leafy vegetables and nutrient rich foods will eliminate a lot of the bi-products from exercise. However, there is a limit to the restorative potential of high quality food; moderate amounts of exercise are easily handled but there is a level at which some of the pollution remains, causing damage to the body. I wasn’t eating well enough to clean-up the mess I was making with all of the exercise I was doing. While I looked healthy, I was starved for recovery and nutrients.
It’s safe to say that anyone who is engaging in escapist behaviors has created an identity that mandates their actions; given that people act only in a way that is congruent to their view of themselves. I was running out of track when it came to the stories I was using to justify the life I was living. Logically, I knew things weren’t right. Emotionally it was starting to feel more and more wrong. Once you notice these things it is impossible to forget them. Change was the inevitable outcome, it just became a matter of when.
Looking back on all of it, it sure seems like the change occurred quickly when I woke-up one morning and said “this is the last day of this life” and that was the last day of that life. But that’s only the day I made the decision. The change had been occurring for a while with the foundation of a new life being created just below my consciousness.
Change can take a while, big changes tend to take even longer. In a few instances, massive transformations are instant – some people learn to operate this way and simply go about doing the big things on a whim – but for most things, there is a process of building unworkability and increasing awareness before the moment of decision. With my life, the instant of decision had been fueled by about a year of growing turmoil.
The change itself was easy in the ways I thought it would be tough and tough in ways that I hadn’t even considered. The first 2 days were a lot easier than I thought they would be – I was full of power and intention to make a new life, so I just did what I had to do. The time between day 3 and day 20 were the tough parts. First off, whatever state change I had been getting from my behavior was chemical in nature so the eliminate of those chemicals caused withdrawal symptoms – an increase in anxiety, boredom, sleepiness, loss of appetite, changes in mental functioning. There was a monkey on my back, a few of them, and they were pounding on my consciousness in an attempt to restore things back to how they used to be. I wasn’t craving anything, I just felt wrong, aware that things were not as they used to be.
From about three weeks on everything just got easier. The withdrawal symptoms were gone, a new baseline, my natural baseline, had been established. The process of the transformation had been rather unremarkable; especially when compared to what I had thought it would be like. It was possible and I had done it. I had been correct that I was living a life that wasn’t fitting for me and I had been correct that I didn’t want to live it anymore. It had taken some time to prepare for the decision to change, but once that decision had been made and become something that I must do, it had been done.