I don't know of anything that can change you from the inside out like bodybuilding does. It starts out as a chore, a chore that you hate. It's the one you know your mom will yell at you for even though you're in the next room: "Jimmy, take the trash out!" And you're kicking and screaming while simultaneously mumbling under your breath as you make your way to the kitchen and then outside.

Eventually, it grows into something that you can't go a day without. You look forward to the pains, the sweat and the soreness that follows the next day. You look forward to eating and weighing your food and you really look forward to seeing the abs and muscles that you never knew you had. You see, that is the beauty of bodybuilding. You get out of it what you put in to it. If you truly want to be great, nothing will stop you. You can be all you want to be.

How It Started

It was May 2012. I had been clean for maybe a few weeks at this point. I needed a new hobby, something that would occupy my time, something that would make me grow, a new addiction. I walked into a store called Beyond Your Nutrition. Inside Beyond Your Nutrition, a guy named Christian Spencer greeted me. Christian stood about six feet, one inch tall and had short brown hair and a very sharp jaw line. You could sharpen a blade on that thing!

"What's up, dude?!" he said in a California surfer's voice.

I told him that I wanted to get some supplements and I wanted to get into bodybuilding. He looked back at me, his eyes wide with a smug grin on his face, and said in the same enthusiastic Californian voice, "Yeah, dude! That would be awesome!"

After that, another guy walked in. His name was Ozzy Gallegos. Ozzy stood about six feet tall and had black hair. He had possibly the biggest arms I have ever seen on anyone. These things looked like actual pythons. He told Christian and me that he was four weeks out from a show. Then he took off his shirt. My initial thought was, "White people don't care. How are you going to take your shirt off in a store?"

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Then I saw how dense his muscle mass was and how defined and dry he looked. It was in that moment that I realized this was what I wanted to look like. I turned back to Christian. He told me that he was two weeks out and he proceeded to show me his abs. I have never seen a human being with fish gills on the side of his body. I was amazed. I wanted that and became determined to get it. I asked Christian if he had a trainer, and he said, still in the same California surfer voice, "Yeah! I can give you his number, bro! I love him."

I got Tommy Brown's info and texted him the very moment I got his number. My journey began the next week on a Friday.

What I Lacked

I was trekking into a world that I knew nothing about. I had always trained for football—Olympic lifts, compound lifts, very little isolation work and sprints. The reps were low. Some were as high as 12 while others were as low as two.

I lacked endurance. When Tommy told me to do 15 reps, it sounded easy, but when you go up in weight with each set and you have to slowly move the weight up and down, it's like someone pushing down on your pressure points and telling you to breathe. I lacked discipline. I would often cheat on my diet. I would eat some of my meals and then go get a burger late at night because I was still hungry. I lacked drive. I would show up to my training sessions but would go through the motions. I wouldn't push myself the way I should have. The only time I pushed myself was when Tommy was over me. I lacked vision. I didn't visualize myself being great. I was lifting just to lift, not fully buying into the greatness that I had the potential of reaching. I didn't see myself winning. I wanted the "experience" of changing my body composition. I lacked charisma. Being clean for only a few weeks left me numb. I didn't feel anything. I didn't like being around people, and my cravings and night terrors were a constant battle day in and day out. Oftentimes, I didn't want to get up, but I did anyway. I lacked some crucial things that make a complete bodybuilder, but my fighting spirit makes me strive for more.

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Only halfway buying in, I still lost 16 pounds over a span of two months. Imagine what would happen if you fully bought into something?

The Process

Over the next four months, I pushed myself harder than I have in previous years. I lost weight. I became stronger, and apparently to my dad, I looked sick. He wasn't completely wrong though. Cutting out a majority of my favorite foods—Freddie's Hamburgers, In-n-Out Burger, Philly cheese steaks and brownies—had me feigning. I often thought about standing out on 23rd Street with a sign that read, "Will dance for a hamburger."

Over that span of sacrifice, I was slowly unlocking my potential. I was starting to see the world with different eyes. I was starting to see results, and at the same time, I was gaining some feeling back. The process taught me a lot about myself. I learned that nothing worth having comes easy, and since that day, I used that in my everyday life and for my fight for sobriety. I started buying in. I started believing and trusting the process, and the results came pouring in.

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 I started buying in. I started believing and trusting in the process. The results came pouring in. 

What I Gained

During this time, I learned about bodybuilding and dove in head first. I gained so much more than what I lacked. I gained passion. I found something that made me feel great. I found something that made me look great, and I found something that made me feel the same high I felt when I was using. I love it and I can't get enough of it.

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I gained ambition. This was the biggest thing that I gained. I knew what it took to be great. I knew what it took to stand out, and I did it day in and day out without the aid of an alarm clock. I took the quote, "If you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe, that is when you will be successful" to heart. It became my motto. I gave my whole being to my training and cardio. I put my heart on my sleeve and outworked yesterday's work in order to be the best me that I could be.

I gained confidence. For so long, I turned to bullying people and drugs to mask my lack of confidence. I never truly knew what confidence was until I found the consistency that bodybuilding demands. I wouldn't have learned how to push through pain without the guidance of Tommy and the motivation inspired by Christian and Ozzy. From that point, I gained the confidence that I so desperately wanted.

Although ambition was the biggest gain, God was the most important gain. You have to sacrifice many things when seeking God to fully inherit the kingdom, the same way you sacrifice many things to achieve low levels of body fat. You have to be disciplined in your pursuit of the Lord. You have to grow in him. The same goes for bodybuilding. You have to be disciplined in pursuit of the perfect body. Bodybuilding is what God gave me, and when God gives you something, you take it and run with it.

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I made it, I bought in, and I became the best version of me that I could have been. I had a big head filled with big dreams that I'm still chasing.

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What's Next

I've done one show in the men's physique division. I went in confident, something I've never done. I placed decent for my first show, and soon afterward, my hunger for bodybuilding continued to grow. My love for getting better continued to grow.

I'm not sure if I will compete again anytime soon. My next goal is to get back in shape. A freak car accident, four surgeries, disorder flare ups, a huge lifestyle change and the surgeries causing me to be inactive for 10 months took a toll on me, and now I'm ready to get back where I left off. Bodybuilding saved my life. It gave me the confidence to fight for my sobriety and stay clean and it also gave me something that I can look forward to the next day when I wake up.

Bodybuilding gave me the idea that I can do anything I set my mind to. Bodybuilding gave me the want to be great and to inspire. You may never step on a stage or love bodybuilding the way that I do, but I hope you find a hobby that will change your life the same way bodybuilding changed me.

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It isn't right to dwell. It's right to get back to who you once were and surpass! I'm coming for my old self and I will get better than I was.

Ezekiel Wariboko, better known as "Zeke," is a native to Nigeria and studies exercise science at Oklahoma State University. His passions for bodybuilding, nutrition and strength and conditioning are unparalleled. He has a giant and intimidating build, but he has a heart of gold with a calling to impact, touch and motivate people. Zeke is a rare human with a smile and personality that can melt even the hardest and coldest of hearts. He is a blessing to everyone he encounters.