When my flight landed in Virginia Beach last night at 1230am, I was 4 years sober. It was the end of a long day of traveling, but I had planned well ahead. I broke my fast early in the day, to ensure I wouldn’t be tempted to choose something unhealthy to eat at the airport. My nutritional yeast flakes, goji berries, single Brazil nut and walnut were in a ziploc bag in my pocket, as I sipped my smoothie on the ride to the airport. The smoothie itself consisted of whey protein, collagen, prebiotic powder, glutamine (to help with muscle recovery), maca, matcha, and açaí. On the plane, I chewed on grass fed jerky and savored the delicious collagen protein bar I’d splurged on at Whole Foods. When I arrived at my home in Virginia Beach at 130 am, I had a scoop of whey dissolved in water, to help preserve my muscle through the night. I am on a calorie deficit after all, currently limiting myself to a diet of only 2000 calories a day, in an attempt to lose a bit of fat before transitioning to a low carb diet in the new year. I end the day at exactly 225g protein, 100g carbs, and 77g fat. It’s the perfect recipe for healthy living. And it bears no resemblance to the man I was 4 years ago.

This night, 4 years ago, I was binge drinking Burnett’s vodka with 5 calorie cranberry juice. That was my attempt then at being healthy, as I’d read in an article in Cosmopolitan magazine that a vodka cranberry was much less calorific than a margarita, and would help keep the pounds off. I needed all the help that I could get. At 230 pounds, my body was anything but a temple. I wanted nothing more than to be healthy, to be fit, to be skinny. But I couldn’t stop. Putting substances in my body was the only way I knew of comforting myself, and constant self-comforting was my only way of getting through the day.

I was a bundle of nerves, from the moment I woke up to the moment I put the cup of alcohol to my lips at night. Every morning, in addition to being hungover, I would wake up in terror. I felt like I was going to die. My alarm was like a knife, pinning me to the bed while I struggled to breathe. Even though my only relief was to roll over and get out of bed, the prospect of facing my day was somehow worse. Every interaction carried with it the weight of the world. Everyone in my life was someone who I would only let down, someone who wouldn’t love me if they knew the kind of person that I really was. I cared about other people, but not as much as I cared about what I could get. I wanted something for nothing, and I thought that “being a good person” meant that I deserved it.

Every once in a while, I would get it into my head that I was finally ready to make a change. I’d ask for a treadmill for Christmas. I’d get a gym membership. I’d start drinking tea in the mornings. Somehow I would become healthy. But every night, I would drink. And in the morning, my desire to be healthy would flit away, forgotten as quickly as it was created. My life was a cycle, one that I could not escape. But it was a comfortable cycle, a familiar one. I knew the pain of hating my body. I knew the feelings of letting people down, of letting myself down. I could live with that pain. But I couldn’t live with the unknown. The fear of being afraid- that fear paralyzed me for 20 years. I wanted to change, but I was too afraid of what would happen if I did. If I failed, or worse- if I succeeded. What if I succeeded, and I changed, and nothing else in my life did? What if I was the same old person I had always been, skinny and successful and still unhappy? So I didn’t change. In fact, I did nothing at all.

One day, I woke up, and something was different. I was ready. I didn’t make a change- I was changed. I suddenly realized that one day, maybe soon, maybe not for years, but one day I would die. And I would not have lived a life worth living. And the one thing that was stronger than the fear of the unknown was the simple fact that I wanted more for myself. I wanted that life I’d always dreamed of, and I didn’t want to settle for anything less.

So I turned my will over to a power greater than myself. I took my hands off the wheel, and I asked for help. I turned to people who I trusted and asked them what to do, and followed their advice. I acted on the faith that if I did what I was told, I would be taken care of. That if I was of service to other people, I wouldn’t need to worry so much about myself. And four years later, that faith has never once been wrong. I continued to turn my will over to my higher power, and things began to happen in my life. And although not all of them were good, they always moved me forward. After spending my entire life feeling stuck, the wheels finally began to move, and I began to change. I met people who knew so much more than I did, who befriended me, mentored me, and helped me.

I became a different person, but not in the way that I thought. I became the best version of myself, the person that I never knew I had the strength to be. And sure, I am far from perfect. I mess up constantly, I still have an obsessive mind, and I often get resentful. But I am always learning, and I am always growing. I try not to make the same mistake twice, but if I do, I have the tools and the means to deal with it. And no matter what, I’m always moving forward. I’m four years sober, I’m healthy, but most of all, I’m finally moving.

-Theodore Dandy

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