This is a candid post from Propane Athlete and child behavioural specialist David. Here’s his story of how developing a training habit helped him to overcome depression and a gambling addiction.
I’ve been tempted to write about my experience with addiction for months, but like a lot of people, I’m too damn scared of what everyone thinks. Recently it hit me, why do I care? I should be proud of my recovery and of how far I have come.
I was in a place that looked happy on the surface, but I was really just living out the role expected of me.
Though I couldn’t admit to it at the time – I had moved into a house with my long-term partner and should have been happy – deep down I was profoundly troubled. I couldn’t afford the new house and I was trying unsuccessfully to kick my gambling addiction. Everything was getting too much for me to deal with. I often found myself pacing around in the early hours of the morning to clear my head. I’d confided in no one about my compulsive gambling and everywhere I went my anxiety followed like a shadow, permeating and ruining every possible opportunity and situation. It hampered all my attempts at moving forward.
The more depressed I became the more the addiction took over: my life consisted of “just one more fix” and “I only need one more bit of luck”. Things were deteriorating and spiralling out of control. On a positive note, I was still continuing to train and this was my escape from the awful reality of my life, my relief, my therapy! One day in the gym, I saw someone shifting some really heavy weight and we got chatting. This turned out to be Yusef, one of the coaches at Propane Fitness.
This, I now know, was my turning point.
After this this chance meeting, and with Yusef’s guidance, I started taking powerlifting more seriously and training 4-5 times a week. Whether I was foam rolling or deadlifting, I would spend hours in gyms, and consistently I was rewarded with a sense of relief when I’d achieved what I’d set out do in there. Despite this, however, things outside the gym got worse. I couldn’t move on. Everyone thought I was happy and couldn’t guess at my inner turmoil. However, eventually the grind of each lift, the struggle against myself and winning, achieving PB after PB – this kept the shadows of my life at bay, beyond the gym’s walls.
Training became my main focus, a new and healthy obsession.
My addiction had changed from gambling to pushing my body to the limit. I was so much healthier mentally for this new addiction and it had a domino effect: its positivity spilled over and I began to face my other problems honestly as well as transforming my physique. For the first time I felt bigger than the shadow and I felt able to embark on a journey that would ultimately lead me to where I am now. Eventually I split from my partner, I moved out of the house, and signed up to compete in a Powerlifting Meet – all within a week. It was a hectic and emotionally torturous turn of events. But am I better for it? Certainly. And could I have done it without the gym? Certainly not!