Hi! My name is Marv, and I am a recovering alcoholic drug addict. I’m a 31-year-old living in San Diego, CA and as I write this I’ve been blessed to see 1,428 days in a row where I’ve fallen asleep and woken up versus passing out and coming to. That’s a lot of small miracles in a row!
Now, before I ever picked up a drink or a drug, I displayed alcoholic/addict-like thinking. I don’t believe I came out of the womb full of self-loathing or with ZERO self-esteem but those thought processes became so engrained in me at such a young age they became my natural state of mind. I cannot remember a time where I didn’t feel uncomfortable in my own skin or different from my peers.
As I stated above, I had zero self-esteem resulting in me not having my own intrinsic identity so I relied on others to feel okay about myself. I guess you could say my first drug of choice was your validation. If I got any hint of someone acknowledging me I was able to be a little more secure about myself. For the first 27 years of my life I used something, or someone, to identify myself by. Every few years this identity would change as well as my circle of friends and interests – sometimes by choice, other times not by my own decisions.
While my first drug of choice was your validation, my first escape from reality was daydreaming. Now I know you’re thinking, “Every kid daydreams,” but let me explain. I would daydream excessively about how things would be oh so different when I reached a certain age. I had two different types of daydreams. The first was positive…you know, the typical, “I want to be big, buff, ride a motorcycle, get all the chicks, and be good at sports.” The second type of daydreaming showed that at a very young age I thrived off of playing the victim. This type of daydreaming went something like this…
“If I could just be the star quarterback of the high school team life would be good. If I could just be the star quarterback of the high school team and throw the game-winning touchdown pass at Homecoming as time expires life would be great. But…if I could just be the star quarterback of the high school team and throw the game-winning touchdown pass at Homecoming as time expires, get paralyzed on the play, have to be carted off the field with the crowd chanting my name and all the girls crying in the stands, life would be perfect!”
You may be laughing out loud right now but I am dead-ass serious…I would pray that this would be my future and I would actually play make believe of this exact situation in my room with a small football, football helmet and pads, bean bag chair, and Bugs Bunny stuffed animal. I don’t think that’s exactly “typical” daydreaming or playtime for a young child do you?
Let’s fast forward a few years to my 17th birthday where I ended up landing myself in the ICU with a head injury, snapped wrist, and several other injuries. I woke up not knowing my middle name or what the hell happened, and had some pretty serious residual effects that I still face today.
At that point, my identity was getting good grades, and overnight I went from a straight-A high school A.P. student to having to be placed in classes several levels lower and was still struggling to keep up. I fell into a deep depression and THAT is when I discovered drugs and alcohol.
That first time I ever got drunk I knew I had a problem. Well, come to think of it I didn’t phrase it that way in my head. Instead, I thought, “This…..solves……eeeeeeeverything!” I was somehow instantly smarter, stronger, sexier, wittier, could talk to girls, was comfortable in my own skin - everything I lacked, alcohol made up for. So, instead of thanking my lucky stars I survived a very serious accident and allow my brain to heal after the injury, I started drinking and drugging.
Within a year I was using “hard drugs” and skipping classes to get loaded. Now, I failed to mention I was raised in a VERY strict, religious household which was run on, Leave It To Beaver values; so this was in direct rebellion on everything I had been raised on. Since I ran on self-pity, I was able to justify my behaviors.
What do I mean by that?
Well…when I play the victim and feel that self-pity for myself, I then, in turn, feel entitled to do whatever the F*** I had to do to make myself feel better. Over the next decade, this meant using drugs, alcohol, sex, manipulating others, and other darker behaviors I will leave un-named.
By the time I hit 19 years old I found myself in my first outpatient program after flunking out of college. I got off the “hard stuff” and was a dry drunk, or static addict for about a year before I started returning to drinking and use of certain substances, namely weed, a variety of prescription pills, and eventually a whole heap of athletic drugs.
During this time, I got my act together enough to graduate college with a phenomenal Bachelors of Science degree in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Exercise Science. I took my schoolwork very seriously. This meant I put the expectation on myself to get the top score on every exam more often than not, but I had a dirty little secret.
What was that secret?
Well, here I was studying hard to learn how to repair and rebuild the human body, yet I was a walking oxymoron. I would literally set off to ride my bicycle to campus every morning but before I did that, I had to do my “daily ritual.” That ritual? Take a hit (or ten) from my bong, wash down some pills with a glass of whiskey, and inject myself with a syringe of athletic drugs. The best part? I was absolutely, 100% fine with treating myself like that because I had somehow convinced myself I was entitled to do so!
After college, I could no longer maintain or control my addictions…which, let’s face it, the second you are attempting to control your addiction is the moment your addiction is controlling you. Anyways, I hit “my bottom” at the end of 2011 when I landed in the lock-down unit of a psych ward and ended up going through a total of 6 months of treatment between all the various programs I went to; inpatient and outpatient rehab at a VERY expensive facility as well as outpatient Cognitive Behavior Therapy at the psych hospital.
I moved into sober living, got a “sponsor”, got commitments at 12 step fellowships, and became “Mr. Recovery.”
NOTE: Let me state now that 12 step fellowships are not a requirement for a clean and sober lifestyle as there are many paths to the same top of the hill. For me and my story, those were crucial to saving my life and making me into the man I am today.
Once again, on the surface everything in my life looked fantastic - I was “saved” and making a huge turnaround. At least that’s what I was preaching to everyone. Well…not so fast. Similar to my days in college, I had yet another dirty little secret.
This new secret?
I hadn’t truly worked on myself, I hadn’t truly worked the 12 steps, my “sponsor” was little more than a guy’s voicemail I talked to 6 times per week and had no relationship with, and most importantly…I wasn’t entirely convinced I truly needed to follow the 12 steps, or that I was a real drug addict alcoholic. No, things only had gotten so bad because events X, Y, and Z happened all at once and most people wouldn’t have been able to handle a single one of those events, let alone all 3 at the same time. Or that’s the self-pity story I told myself. Once again I was that dry drunk and static addict, and what do we do in that situation? We resort to our old behaviors and solutions.
So there I was…claiming to be “Mr. Recovery” as I sat in these meetings living a lie, taking dirty tokens, and still identifying, AGAIN, as a liar, cheat, and thief. I did for this for 5 ½ months, and let me tell you this, from personal experience, and this will be my only “you statement” of my whole story….if YOU ever have a chance to drink or use (or gamble, sex, shop, binge eat, purge…whatever your addiction is) and think no one will be the wiser and that YOU can get away with it, I beg YOU not to do it. Doing so will absolutely throw fuel on the fire for that voice of addiction in YOUR head telling YOU that YOU are worthless and a fraud.
I would love to tell you at the end of that time I came to my senses and “came clean.” But I’m that smart guy who thinks he can figure this out on his own…that it’s not a simple 1+1=2 scenario, but instead E=mc² and I just know I can crack the code, so I repeated this pattern for well over a year (meaning I was relapsing “in secret” for the majority of the next year).
Finally….I had enough. Finally….I put down the shovel. On June 22, 2013, I found my GOD, the Gift Of Desperation. I didn’t know it then, but on that day I finally surrendered to the fact that I was going to die from my addiction as the drugs and booze were no longer working and the only place I had left to turn was IV drug use. On June 28, 2013, after moving out of my house, quitting my job, and putting all of my possessions in storage, I entered the most difficult intensive short-term behavior modification program I could find.
I stayed there a total of 118 days, inpatient, and then completed 6 months of aftercare. Graduating from that program meant more for my life success than earning that Bachelor’s degree previously. In that program I learned that I had played the victim to feel entitled with my behaviors, I learned that I was a self-loathing narcissist, that honesty was my single greatest character defect, that I had previously hated women, that I was afraid of success rather than failure, that I had self-sabotaged everything positive in my life because I didn’t believe I deserved anything positive due to do having no self-esteem, I was a master manipulator and straight up predator and many more hard truths.
Most importantly, I learned the tools that allowed me to thoroughly and quickly work the 12 steps of 2 fellowships I attend today. Doing so resulted in the single greatest gift of my Recovery – the gift of self-worth. Finding that for the first time in my entire life changed every single aspect of my life and it is something I will be forever grateful for.
That is not to say that I was “restored to sanity” overnight, or that all of my insecurities and character defects vanished on day one. I was not handed life on a silver platter nor given the winning lottery numbers just because I decided to get clean and sober. In fact, many aspects got tougher in the beginning.
Well, drugs and alcohol had not been my #1 problem…they had been my #1 solution. Yes, that age-old joke of “SOBER”, standing for “Son Of a Bitch Everything is Real”, rang true for a bit of time; but the more work I did on myself, the more I practiced acceptance and humility by asking for help, the better things got.
I have faced some difficult and trying situations in my Recovery process. The key word is that I faced them with something resembling dignity and grace, with which I held my head up high and am proud of how I walked through those situations that would have previously baffled me.
My girlfriend, who I had met in that first sober living facility in 2011 (she stuck by me and stayed sober while I was relapsing), was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer and I didn’t bail on her, use it to gain favor from others, or a variety of other scenarios I would have done previously (she is now in remission after almost 2 years of intense treatments).
I lost my mother from an 11-year battle with Lyme Disease in the beginning of last year. That had been one of my reservations previously, and instead of using it as an excuse to drink or use, I was able to be there for my family and actually be a resource for them to lean on.
Just last July I found the courage to quit my day job and start my own company, aptly named, One Rep at a Time – get it, like One DAY at a Time? My whole mission is to show the Recovery community just how important fitness is in our Recovery process (I work with people outside of Recovery as well). Why is fitness so important? Since addiction affects us mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and PHYSICALLY; our PHYSICAL health needs to be addressed in our Recovery process. Not only that, getting and staying in shape can and should be a direct amends to ourselves for all the pain and suffering we put ourselves through over the years. Exercise has become my favorite form of meditation and I know it can with you too.
Now, if you recall, I was heavily into being a wanna-be bodybuilder, and I was obsessed with all things fitness as a way to fill the void inside me during my college years and beyond, including running a local YMCA. What should have been a very positive hobby was actually quite the opposite. During that time, one of the things I used to define myself was my body so I assigned my morality of whether I was “good” or “bad” based on how my physique looked, how my workouts went, and how well I was following my diet. I was a perfectionist so I never met my expectations and would mercilessly beat myself up. I battled with extreme body image issues and in particular muscle dysmorphia for about a 6 year stretch in my early to mid-20’s.
Well, wouldn’t you know that after I worked on my insides for the first time ever those issues went away? After 10 months of treatment, self-care, therapy, and step work, I allowed myself to return to working on my outsides. I did have several safeguards in place, including not “dieting” hard for well over 2 years off and I even took some time easing my way back into working out. Today, if body image issues resurface, it’s one of my first tell-tale signs that my spiritual condition is lacking and that I’ve been neglecting my Recovery. Recently, even though I was heavily involved with my Recovery, those issues still came back. I decided to quit “dieting” about 2 months ago and have found great mental relief in doing so. Yes, it’s about to be beach season in Southern California, but I cannot risk my sanity or mental health just because I want to keep my abs! I would never have had the courage to do so just a few short years ago -- which I attribute to having my own internal identity and self-worth that I lacked previously.
In closing, I just want to let everyone out there know that I am nothing special – I’m just a guy who found his bottom, did something about it, worked some steps, let go of his ego, and found true Recovery. There’s no reason why you can’t be in my shoes. You DESERVE to be in my shoes! Hell, why CAN’T you be in my shoes?!?
For our brothers and sisters out there still suffering with active addiction - I want to let you know you are not an evil person needing to get righteous; you are a sick person needing to get better, and if nobody’s told you this today than I am now…. "I LOVE YOU!"
We can do this deal, we really can – with Recovery, first and foremost, as well as fitness.
Just One Day at a Time.
One Meal at a Time.
One Set at a Time.
One Rep at a Time.
What isn't there to say about Marv? I had the pleasure of crossing paths with this beautiful soul through my dear friend, Alicia Cook. It was because of her book, Heroin is the Worst Thing to Ever Happen to Me, that I read Marv's story for the first time, and it was because of this book, that he reached out to me in hopes of helping me change the world, one story at a time.
People like Marv are so important for those of us not only in recovery, but just life in general. He is truly doing the work that needs to be done for him to remain sober, present, and self-aware! He is someone that knows struggle all too well, but he is someone who is doing something about it!
We need more people like Marv, and I hope you will help support his purpose. You can contact him through many different social media platforms, as well as directly via email. Please see below for links that will direct you straight to Marv! He is here to help you with your fitness goals, life goals, recovery goals, and he is someone YOU want in your support group! Whether or not you are in recovery from drugs and alcohol, Marv is still someone you should get to know! I am so happy that I have the opportunity to say that he is a part of my support group!
If you use the code "HealingHopefuls" on Marv's Website to purchase APPAREL, you will get 10% off of your order at checkout!
FREE FB SUPPORT GROUP: "Recovery Strong"
SO much love for you, Marv! Thank you for your truth, and thank you for making this world a better place!