Thursday, July 5, 2012

Fit for life

I'm sober 9 months as of today. Since I quit booze (after a few months where I replaced it with chocolate and poutine), I've lost 6-7 inches on my hips and 5 inches on my gut. My chest, the one my mom tells me I inherrited from my "barrel-chested" great grandfather, remains unchanged, but that's fine by me. I weighed in at my dietitician's office last week at 244lbs, which means I've also lost about 15-20 pounds.

It's not just the booze. I've been excercising more often (which I can only do because I'm not hungover half the days of the week), and I'm starting to kick it up a notch. As I mentioned, I saw a dietician last week (her big message: "Eat more vegetables!!"), and I'm making a commitment to get 30 minutes of cardio 5 days a week in addition to lifting weights.

All of this is really important to me. I just turned 35, and all my life I've felt like the "fat kid". More than that, I've always wanted to be muscular. I'm embarassed to talk about that, but I see bodybuilders and strength athletes and I'm always in awe, I always want to look like that. At least a little bit. I've been going to gyms and lifting weights since I was 15, but never consistently: I'll work out for 2 weeks and then stop for months, go back for a day but then be back to eating burgers and gravy-laden fries for a season or a year.

Weightlifting and bodybuilding are more like marathons than sprints, you need to make small good choices one after another for the long term, and I was nowhere near mentally able to handle a marathon. I would read articles and websites about fitness, I knew what I needed to do and what I needed to eat....I just never did it. Last year, when I was deep in the thick of realizing how shitty I felt and that I needed to change, my physical condition was one of my biggest regrets.

The other big regret (and bear with me for what seems like a subject change) is my education. In junior high, I scored the highest in the school on the provincial achievement test. In high school, I was tied for 13th highest GPA. I got accepted into the neursocience program at Dalhousie (a great university in Atlantic Canada) and planned to become a brain surgeon. In my first year, I got an A in the core psych course for my major.

Two years after that, I dropped out of university, probably weeks before I got kicked out for not maintaining my GPA. I was skipping classes, failing exams, not attending labs. But while I wasn't showing up for classes, you could count on me showing up at the liquor store every payday. The apartment I shared with my brother before I moved in with my then-boyfriend, had an entire wall dedicated to my empties: cases of beer piled atop each other, King Sized bottles of vodka and whiskey filling a recycling bin. And piles of pizza boxes so high they could crush a small child if they toppled over.

There are probably a few reasons why I failed at university, but the absolute biggest one was the booze. And ever since, I've been this really smart, really intelligent guy (I'm owning this, because it's true, dammit!) working at customer service jobs and feeling like a failure. Without the booze, would I be a brain surgeon right now? Would I be working in a lab somewhere doing research, or operating on people with cancer? I try not to think about this alternate me, because it's a fool's game. No one's gonna take me back in time and fix all that.

Every now and then I would try the school thing again. My CV is littered with half-completed community college programs. I've done creative writing, I've done editing, and I've done Human Resources....but I haven't finished any of those certificates. I just completed one or two classes and dropped out. Because, like fitness, higher education is a marathon, not a sprint. (Aha! I told you I was going somewhere!)

This week I submitted an application for a student loan. If I can somehow work it out, I am going to return to school full time. I'm already registered at a distance education university and am partway through a class where I scored a 90% on the first quiz. I want to get my degree, this time in psychology. I feel like I can do this, and more than that I feel like I HAVE to do this. I need to take control of my life, something I haven't had in the twenty years since I started drinking.

My fitness goals and my education goals will take a lot of hard work, and dedication, and focus. But I'm ready for that. When I first gave up alcohol, I wasn't sure if it was going to be for a month or a year or forever. I know that it has to be forever, I don't have any choice. I worried and hesitated about that...give up booze FOREVER? But where I am now, I see just how much space alcohol was taking in my life, space that should have gone towards other things, like school, like my health, like my relationships and my interests. Where I was once worried about how to deal with the void that alcohol was going to leave, I see all of these other things, these great and wonderful and fulfilling things, rushing in to fill the hole.

The longer I'm sober, the more I see all that I have to gain. Maybe I don't always feel this way, but I'm working on it. Because life, just like school and fitness and a hell of a lot of other stuff worth doing, is a marathon. And this time I'm ready.


  1. Congratulations on 9 months! That's huge!! Also, congratulations on the weight loss! I bet both feel incredible. Funny how not drinking opens so much else up. Love reading about the positive changes in your life, but mostly how you recognize them. The world is your oyster or some other thing that sounds better than an oyster.

    1. My dad was raised by farmers and fishermen, so oysters are fine. And thanks...I enjoy your blog,'s given me a lot of food for thought.

  2. hi there, nice to *meet* you. going back to university is AWESOME. and as an 'adult' you'll skip all the bullshit, you'll do the readings, and you'll kick ass :)