Sometimes life serves us trials that feel like a brick slamming in the face,rendering us sore, bruised and with little energy to nurse our wounds. Other times it may feel like swallowing a bitter bite of humble pie, and so we choke our way through the horror of it all. Its aftertaste may leave us gagging for days, weeks or months.
But, what if such periods of misfortune are meant to generate a level of discomfort so intense that we grow desperate enough to become who we really are?
If you are seeking inspiration for the possibility of transforming your life, fasten your seatbelt. I am delighted to share with you a tale of an individual who chose to face his storm, to walk with blistered feet in the direction of transformation and, ultimately, to become a warrior.
"I can't drink anymore."
Less than one year ago, Marcel had an epiphany that shone like a glimmer of light through the veil of his hungover haze. He was unemployed, had earned himself three alcohol-related charges and had mastered the art of "couch surfing." He sunk deeply into a church pew while seated next to his mother.
The words flowing from the speaker's mouth were on the subject of integrity, and each began to strike him like lightening bolts. He held on to every word in an effort to distract his mind from his body's plea to vomit up Saturday night's alcohol consumption.
The evening prior had ended disastrously, and he realized his most treasured tonic of illusion and confidence had betrayed him -- confining him to the walls of its prison.
Such realization blew through his state of fragility like an unapologetic gust of wind. His tears were taking on a life of their own and, for a moment, he wondered if he was at risk of drowning. With eyes lowered, he declared to his mother through a defeated whisper, "I can't drink anymore."
Sobriety proved to be a daunting task as he rounded his next corner, however.
As he described his initial weeks of recovery, I pictured him somewhat like a toddler having been released onto the streets of Manhattan at rush hour. "At 29, I didn't know how to function as an adult because alcohol had ruled my life 10 years," he revealed. It had played a key role in every social interaction and creative endeavor, and had forged the ultimate facade from the parts of himself he most loathed.
He was the son of a mostly absent father, despite rare episodes of being paraded around various cities in style. Each time his father made an appearance, life was made to seem like a carnival ride. It was trickery, though, for behind every celebration was a trail of fraud and cover-ups.
As I listened to Marcel reveal this most painful piece of his puzzle, a parallel emerged, eager to introduce itself and have a moment to speak into the mic. I realized his father had never been present as a source of true connection, but had instead created a smokescreen from the awful reality of the truth.
He had simply done what his father had taught him to do, following a near-identical blueprint: put a smokescreen in place in order to mask that which is too painful to face.
While examining his life through sober eyes for the first time, a seemingly endless stream of questions arose: How was he going to be brave? Alcohol had deceived him into believing he had wings. How was he going to sleep? Alcohol had rocked him to slumber. How was he going to be in anyone's company? No one knew who he was on the other side of the colorful stained-glass window he had long been hiding behind.
He explained, "I had always known I was short, but at my weakest point, I felt shorter than ever before."
In the months leading up to his life-altering decision, Marcel had begun accompanying a friend to the gym. "It was one hour a day I knew I couldn't screw up." So, armed with his newfound commitment to sobriety, he began to pour himself more fully into the workouts.
Each of his prayers sprung forth from a well of hungry desperation, asking simply, "God, show me how you see me." As he focused on nurturing himself mentally, physically and spiritually, he began to see a different person in his mirror's reflection.
No longer were his daily actions creating ripples of contaminated water throughout every area of his life. Rather, they were resealing all of the pieces which had long been fragmented.
"I'm going to win this."
An old friend, impressed with the ever-evolving physical transformation Marcel had begun documenting on Instagram and Youtube, presented him with the idea of competing in an upcoming bodybuilding competition. By the conversation's end, an initially doubtful Marcel had become firmly convinced.
For five months which followed, he left no stone unturned, no workout unfinished, and no door ajar to the possibility of interference. "I'm going to do my best" soon crossed over into the realm of "I'm going to win this."
On the day of the competition, winning is precisely what he did.
The morning following his victory, Marcel returned to the church pew where he had experienced his life-altering epiphany almost a year prior. This time his tears were not of defeat, nor of shame. Rather, they were of awe and gratitude. On that day, his tears hit the face of not only a sober man, but of a thriving business owner and champion of a bodybuilding competition.
The Same Lawbreaker Cannot Continue Making the Rules
Consider the countless individuals who approach each new year with the promise to "really get it right this time."
Why, then, do the vast majority of goal-setters fail?
I believe the answer is so simple that we often race right past it in absolute oblivion: The same lawbreaker cannot continue making the rules and merely setting new goals because, eventually, he will revert to his old way of doing things. Therefore, you must change "you."
At the conclusion of our interview, I asked Marcel for any piece of advice he would be willing to offer readers seeking a personal transformation. He gifted me with the following simple yet valuable jewels:
- Stop making excuses for why your life is the way it is! Take full responsibility.
- Vow to forever stop doubting and underselling yourself.
- Replace each of your negative activities with productive ones you enjoy. Idle time is not your friend.
- Accountability is non-negotiable.
Before and after Marcel's transformation, he resided in the same city. He possessed the same parents and the same childhood memories. Drunk or sober, penniless or business owner, he was always the same height. The only thing he changed was his mind. As his mind changed, so did his entire life.