Just an Ordinary Guy. Kind of…

A story about how the iron straightened me out.

So, I’m just a normal English guy...really. I was very much into football at school (soccer as you would call it). I didn’t set the world alight whilst at school, went straight into work when I left school, and wasn’t particularly interested in going to a College or University.

As I’m now 37, I was a teenager during the late 80’s/early 90’s, so of course I enjoyed the films of Arnold et al. I collected all of Arnold's films and then began weight-training at age 18. I was too busy playing football with dreams of becoming a professional prior to that. I didn’t really know a great deal about training and used to use Muscle & Fitness as my main resource.

Around this time, I started going out with friends and this was my first experience of drinking. I started going out regularly; going to student nights two/three times a week. I had a number of friends that smoked and one stupid drunk night I decided to give it a go even despite my father dying of cancer when I was 5 (although is was not smoking related). I was from then on a social smoker, only smoking when I was out with friends.

The Gateway Drug

My brother is 14 years older than me and for as long as I can remember been a cannabis (marijuana) smoker. As a sufferer of Crohns disease, he insisted it gave him pain relief, at least that’s the official version. I decided to give it a go, after all, what harm can it do? Cue 15 minutes into the car journey to pick his daughter up from school and I’m mid “Whitey,” attempting to get my clothes off as I’m so hot!

From here, I began hanging around with a different group from my hometown. The rave scene in the UK was in full swing. Lots of illegal raves and parties going on everywhere. After the first experience in my brother's car, I started going through  LSD, amphetamines (speed) and “matured” to Ecstasy. I was never really into the rave music scene and to be honest I used to take Ecstasy, as I enjoyed the drug! I enjoyed getting completely wasted all the time, I don’t know if it was a part of having my father die when I was young, or the break up from my first major crush/love, or none of those things at all.

This transformation from a sports-loving teenager to a drug-obsessed 19-year-old happened rather quickly. I was now (with so-called "friends") consuming anything from 4-12 Ecstasy tabs a weekend. The “come down” was horrible on the Sunday. One Sunday, I made the fatal mistake of listening to one of my "so-called-friends" after he said his friend takes something that eases the comedown.

We went to this acquaintance's house. He was a bit of a dealer, etc. Out came the foil and a “tooter.” That was the first time I smoked Heroin.

From then, it went to Sundays and Wednesdays and then eventually...every day. Before I knew it, I was addicted. Now, you may well think, "What a stupid prick!"

...and you’d be right.

Looking back on it now, I was so stupid and made so many mistakes. I can’t say what I was thinking at the time, as it’s kind of like I’m looking at someone else when I look back.

I had to work at being an addict. I was kind of allergic to it and I used to vomit a lot of times from having it. In December of 1995, I stopped using without any real trouble, but began again in January. I had a scare one night after coming out of the local pub. I’d gone to get into my car and two men ran down the road and pinned me against the car. They were drug squad and had a tip off that I was a big time dealer. I was taken back to the cells and strip-searched. They found the personal stash I had and then let me go with a caution. I’d tried Methadone through health services, and that only increased my dependency. I’d go all week having taking Methadone and then reward myself for being so good by having some Heroin! I gave up my job, as it was too hard and then had a temporary job that paid quite well, but work was sporadic. I stole from my parents, ran up huge debts and was a horrible disgusting shell of my former self. I wouldn’t wash for days and had long, dank, greasy hair. I wouldn’t really eat and smoked cigarettes constantly. My life pretty much consisted of doing a little bit of work (my nickname was shit break, as I’d be in the toilets smoking heroin), going with other addicts to dealers to wait to get the next score. At this point (12 months in) I was taking it just to feel normal, to stave off the symptoms of withdrawal. Muscle and bone aches, shaking, chills, sleeplessness, sweating, cramps etc.

The Road to Help

I was 21 and it was December, 1996. My parents found out what I’d become (they had their suspicions), and that I was stealing from them, plus the debts I’d accrued. I’ve never seen my mother so upset, but I still didn’t care. That’s what it does to you. I decided the best thing to do was to move out. I moved into my friend's house (the guy I first tried Heroin with) and smoked what was to be my last hit. As I sat there in my drowsy state, I remembered how much I enjoyed training and playing football. I thought I’d like to have a girlfriend again, train and do something with my life.

The next morning, December 21, 1996, I called my mother and said I’d go to my brother's to sort my life out. He offered to get me clean previously and I’d turned him down. I went to my brother's for three months to get my life back on track.

One the 22nd of December, I went to my brother's place and he laid down the law. I was to do this cold turkey. I was allowed cigarettes, but nothing else – no cannabis or any other drug. I’d had a few leaflets on overcoming Heroin and found that the physical pain (withdrawal side effects) would last up to around two weeks, with the first week being the worst. I literally took it day-by-day, counting down the days until the fortnight had ended. The physical pain I felt and constant shivering, cramps and coldness were the worst thing I’ve ever gone through. The mental side was also very challenging. I kept thinking I’d get clean, get everyone to trust me and then I could go and score...and it would be amazing, just like the first hit.

After the first week passed, things started to get easier. I kept a diary of what I was feeling both physically and emotionally. This was very useful for me on a day-to-day basis. My brother was keeping me busy, he kept me doing chores so that I wouldn’t think too much about things. I did so well that I was allowed out on New Year's Eve (with friends that the family trusted). I had an amazing night out and enjoyed myself so much that I knew I’d made the right choice and was looking forward to the future.

The two months at my brother's place turned to one month. I went back to my parents' house. I went through an IT course that was in the same city as where my parents worked, so I was essentially on curfew pretty much. But, this was for my own good. I was still tired all the time, but things were progressing well.

I was very fortunate in that I had two groups of friends. One that I went to school and worked with in the city, and the other in my hometown that were still doing drugs. I cut myself off from my hometown and instead socialized with my friends in the city.

I was 21 and having the best time of my life. It was like I just woke up and discovered girls and drinks. I was out a lot with my old friends getting drunk like I used to.

I finished the IT course and now had to find a job. It was February 1997 and it took me a while to find a job. My friend had finished Uni and we were pretty much at home most of the time, watching films or drinking. At the time, I didn’t realize it, but I replaced Heroin with alcohol. I drove to the pub, had around 5 pints of rough cider and then tried to drive home. I was pulled over by the police immediately. I was breathalyzed and taken to the police station in the city. I was over the limit and had to go to Court and face a potential ban.

That was it. After this, I looked at myself and saw that I’d replaced one for another. I needed to sort myself out, yet again.

In March, I began a new job and started going to the gym. My main focus was increasing muscle mass, I wanted to return to where I was before the drugs; when I played football and weight trained. When I went to my brother's place, I weighed 133 pounds at 5'9". When I began eating again, I managed to get to a healthier 154 pounds, but I was still quite thin compared to before I traveled the wrong path.

Timeline of training and other events!

  • 1997 – Begin training, followed Positions of Flexion program from Ironman magazine. Befriended a regional competing bodybuilder at the gym and start training with him. I was introduced to drop sets and rest pause. My bodyweight and strength improved and I stop playing football to focus entirely on training.
  • 1999 – Gave up smoking cigarettes.
  • 2000 – Discovered what is now t-nation.com. As a consequence, I changed my training and followed Ian King programs, Charles Poliquin, etc. My bodyweight was now 196 pounds and my bodyfat was around 12 percent. I began a new job (which I’m still at), got a new car, bought a house and got married (1st time).
  • 2002 – My first son is born. Due to having my son, I looked into having a home gym. Without a home gym, I go to work, go to the gym and my son is asleep when I get home. I acquired enough to train at home – a power rack, bench, Olympic and standard weight.
  • 2002 – 2004 – Trained with the Westside methodology and wanted to eventually compete in powerlifting. I befriended an English guy on T-Nation that spent time at Westside with Louie et al. He came back to England to start up his own Westside gym. I visited the Westside gym with another forum member. I trained all day on a Saturday with equipment I’d only seen in pictures! There was a monolift, reverse hyper, GHR, SSB, bands and chains. I worked on my box squat, improved my deadlift, squat and bench. I experienced training with bands and chains, sled work and the SSB. Overall, an amazing day!
  • 2004 – Push/Pull meet. I’d decided to do a push/pull meet as my first competition. At the time, I had a 330 pound benchpress and a 440 pound deadlift. I weighed in and was just under 220 pounds. There were two other people in my class. I was the only one that was unequipped. I warmed up on bench and my opening lift was 264 pounds. I made that easy. Next, was 308 pounds. Looking back now, my grip was very narrow. I had no idea why, but I failed with the 308 pounds, it never got more than halfway. I proceeded with my next lift at 341 pounds, and it got just off of my chest and I failed again. I was very disappointed with my performance. Still, on to the deadlift. I had to warm-up very quickly, as one of the other competitors pulled out. I did 220, 330 and 396 pounda, all went up easily. My first lift was 440 pounds and it went up easily. Next was 495 pounds, I grinded it out, but made it. I then went for 528 pounds. I got it halfway up my shins and that was it! I was more than happy with my deadlift performance, but a little disappointed with the bench. Even so, I got two trophies for my efforts!
  • 2005 – Daughter born and house move. I added to my home gym. Lat pull-down rack, vertical leg press and hyperextension. Also around this time, I started training MMA, which I continue to this day. I don’t have any intention to fight, but very much enjoy the tactical game of fighting.
  • 2008 – I was to be best man in January 2009, the bachelor party was in Las Vegas for a week in November 2008.
  • 2009 – Divorced.
  • 2010 – My third child is born and I got married in Las Vegas to my second wife.

Let’s review the past 15 years.

Children – I always wanted to have a son. My father died of cancer when I was 5, and I wanted to be around and make the most of all the time with my children. This is something I’ve always done. From the moment they’re awake, with the exception of work and school, I’ve been with them. I was always the one to do baths with them and take them to bed. It’s something I still do today with my 19 month old and I love it. I have a 9-year-old boy, 6-year-old girl and 19-month-old boy. The youngest lives with me and his mum (my second wife) and the oldest two live with their mother and we see them as often as we can, normally a few times a week and they stay with us.

First wife – I shouldn’t have married her. What she helped me with, after going through all of that rehab, is get my life back on track. What I should’ve done then really was to move on, but I didn’t. I just went along with getting married, as weird as it sounds, and then once the kids came along, that’s the main reason I was there. It was when I went to Vegas and had a hell of a time there, that I thought perhaps I shouldn’t be with my wife. I met someone, and the after a few months ,I did the hardest thing I’d ever done, even harder than giving up heroin – I walked away from my children. I wasn’t happy at all in the relationship and the only reason I was there was to be with the kids. It took a very long time for me to get the strength to leave. The kids were so upset and I was, too. Not being able to see my children was the worst thing ever, all whilst starting a new relationship with the woman I love. It was a time of very mixed emotions.

Throughout all of this, though, I continued to train. I know that training keeps me on the straight and narrow, it’s a positive influence on me, keeps me from doing anything stupid and maintains my focus. It gives me strength and helps me deal with things that are going on.

My relationship with my two older children now, is just as it was before. Everyone is happy that my ex-wife got another partner and another baby, so I’m no longer the focus of her anger! The children love their little brother and he loves them too, he gets so excited when they come to stay.

My older children often come with me to my gym when I train, which I very much enjoy. I believe it’s important to be a role model to my children and I hope that’s what I am. I still to this day occasionally have dreams that I’m a drug addict and during the dream I seem to have a moment of consciousness just to check! I’ve just celebrated 15 years of being clean. I haven’t had any drugs since. I’ve given up smoking for 13 years and I’ve been training for almost 15 years.

This year I’m hoping to compete at powerlifting and also a novice strongman event.

I’ve posted this under a pseudonym, as there’s still a stigma attached to what I’ve done and what I’ve been. Those closest to me know the truth. If you know anyone that’s going through this and they want to contact me, I’d be happy to help. Dave Tate knows how to contact me.