Pushed by Pain

TAGS: buckeye barbelles, domestic violence, story, volleyball athlete, overweight, parental influence, childhood, abuse, personal growth, journey, Alycia Israel, genetics, growth, bodybuilding, personal training, athlete, powerlifting

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After five years of writing for elitefts, I realized I never actually told my story. To be honest, I probably have only told one to two people. When I really sit down and think about why I do what I do, it absolutely stems from my childhood through my early college years. For the few people who have heard my story, it surprised them. Mainly because somehow, I didn’t come out the other end fucked up — at least not entirely. Before I get into the beginning, I want to give a short introduction about myself and where I am at now.

Today, I am almost eight weeks out from my first bikini competition (I’ve competed in figure in the past since 2011), so energy is dwindling, but I’m feeling reasonably great considering. But today I am also extremely grateful for where my life has taken me and for the people in my life.


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I have worked full time at The Ohio State University since 2012, where I oversee the fitness programs, the personal training staff and services, and 60 personal trainers at one of the largest collegiate rec centers in the country. I also created OSU’s first women-only powerlifting-based program, the Buckeye BarBELLES, which has since been adopted by various universities in the Midwest.

I own and operate my online personal training business, Alycia’s Barbell, where I serve clients with fat loss and physique goals, ranging from the busy professional to the competitive physique athlete.

alycia barbell branding

I also started writing for elitefts in 2014 and became their event coordinator sometime in 2016. I handle all the behind-the-scenes planning, such as event schedules, budgets, and assisting Dave with speaker selection. Long story short, I do a lot of shit in the industry. This workaholic drive for perfect behavior didn’t come out of nowhere. It came from my past. So let’s get to it then.

There are two pieces in this part of my past that drive what I do now: my family life and my genetics. Let’s dive into genetics first. My family comes from a nice long line of obesity, diabetes, and a bunch of shit they could have controlled with a healthy lifestyle but nevertheless passed the nice old “fat gene” through the lineage onto me. (Note: If you don’t think the way your parents and their parents took care of themselves won’t affect you as their offspring, you are in for a treat because it most definitely does.)

I remember being five years old and wondering why I would eat the same and do the same thing as everyone else, but I was getting bigger. And to make matters worse, I had a twin sister who didn’t get bigger. I quickly adopted the nickname “the fat twin” through middle school and early high school. I was obsessed with my weight as a kid and constantly sucked in my stomach, which has definitely caused some rib flaring issues that I still deal with now, but with some core muscular development, it has much subsided.

I was extremely self-conscious. I chronically wished to be skinnier like the other girls. Sadly, this is probably the story of 90 percent of young girls today, regardless of their body fat percentage. When it came to body image issues, trust me, I’ve been there. So now you have that context.

Let’s take it to my family life. This is where it gets fun. I grew up pretty “wealthy.” And I use wealthy in quotes for a reason, which we will get into later.

We lived in a large house on 10 acres of land, with a spiral staircase and jacuzzi inside the house. We had the largest above ground pool you could get for a home at the time, and a true to size professional volleyball court in the yard. It was extra, to say the least. My sister and I played volleyball all through high school, which later led to us getting roughly a full ride, give or take $1,000, to a Division II school, but because of my focus on volleyball, my parents didn’t “let me” get a job. I had the nicest clothes and drove a fully loaded Jeep Grand Cherokee as my first car when I was 16.


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From the outside, I was a spoiled brat and had everything. And to a degree, I was. But what my family life actually was like behind the scenes was an absolute nightmare. My dad was a 300-pound abusive sociopath. He was like the walking Hulk, except he only turned into Dr. Banner around other people. He was extremely abusive to my mother especially, but also to my sister and me. He got so mad at me one day for something dumb (probably for forgetting to clean the dishes), he threw me onto a glass table and almost broke my arm. I had to wear long sleeves for over a month so no one would see the bruises.

alycia school

At home, it was like walking on eggshells. His tantrums would get so bad I started developing panic attacks from any type of confrontation. Even if I got into a small argument with a friend at school, I would spiral into a panic attack. I never spoke up in my romantic relationships because I was terrified of confrontation. It was easier to ignore their fuckboy behavior than it was to speak up for myself because I knew I would have a panic attack.

It wasn’t until the current relationship that I am in that I haven’t had a panic attack during a disagreement. It only took 20 years. Who would have thought people can disagree and not scream and throw shit? But that was my normal. My father had punched more holes in our walls than I could remember. He was terrifying.

As shitty as my dad was, I developed a hell of a thick skin from living with him. When I was nine, I was playing softball and dived for a ball only to hit a rock with my glove and break my arm. I pulled my hand out of the glove, and my wrist looked like a slithering snake. I grabbed my wrist with my other hand and snapped it back together. It wasn’t until the next day that my mom (a nurse) realized it was broken and took me to the doctor. Pain didn’t really faze me back then.

While I didn’t like confrontation, I had a hell of a temper, specifically against men (shocker). When I was 15, a kid in our gymnasium during free time grabbed my ass. I punched him in the face so hard I broke his nose and his braces. He ended up telling a teacher he got hit in the face with a basketball because he was so embarrassed. Good riddance. But it was moments like these, these “Hulk out” zero-pain moments, that reminded me I definitely got the Hulk gene from my dad. But instead, I like to think I use my Hulk power for good. More on that later and in Part 2.

During the end of our senior year, my mom took my sister and me to dinner. I could tell from the beginning of dinner something was going on. She eventually told us that she was planning to divorce our dad. I can’t even tell you the amount of relief and joy I felt in that moment. I will never forget how internally excited I was to be rid of that motherfucker forever and that my mom could finally be at peace and maybe find someone new. But there was more.

I thought my mom was divorcing him because of his abusive behavior. And while that was most definitely part of it, there was another piece. My mom told us she had hired an investigator to watch our dad for the past year and a half or so to build a case. In a year or two prior, my mom started questioning our wealth and where his money was coming from, so she dug into it. She essentially found that he had been stealing within the car industry, real estate, identity theft, you name it. And she was giving intel to her investigator, who eventually turned it over to our township police in full.


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She didn’t go to the police directly because he was buddies with all of them. Could you imagine how that would have turned out if she provided them with inconclusive evidence? They absolutely would have told him and my mom would have been found dead in a ditch somewhere, no doubt. She had to build an undeniable case, and she did.

As she told us this, I could not believe my mom was keeping this to herself for over a year. I honestly don’t know how she did it. The investigation was ongoing at this time so we, too, had to keep our mouths shut. Around this time, we were leaving for college that was over an hour away from home, so that was a Godsend.

But all the while, I was scared to death for my mom. What if he found out while she was still living with him? Every night I was sick to my stomach for her. A few weeks went by, and the investigator had everything he needed to put my dad’s ass in prison. So at that point my mom had planned to dip out without him realizing it. Remember, my dad is a fucking psycho, she couldn’t ask for a divorce or he would kill her. If you think I am exaggerating, you don’t know my dad. She had to run away.

For months, she had been planning her escape like a well-oiled plan out of Alcatraz. She planned to do it on a night we had a home game for volleyball, which my dad would be attending. She faked being sick so she had to stay home. While my dad was at our volleyball game (which we were both playing… worst game of my life, if you could imagine), she had U-Haul movers come to the house to essentially gut it.

My older sister flew down from Boston to help her at this time and was staying at a hotel nearby. They literally gutted the house in one hour. Our job was to let my mom know when my dad left the game, so she could get the fuck out before he got back home. So that is what we did.

She rented a house in Akron, Ohio, and moved everything she could fit in those trucks along with the dog. She left the divorce papers on the kitchen counter in what was probably one of the happiest moments of her life. I remember watching my dad drive out of the parking lot that night after our game, and thinking to myself, “Good riddance, you piece of shit.” I’m pretty sure I said it out loud. To no surprise, about an hour later, our phones were ringing off the hook, and I can’t tell you how great of a feeling it was to hit ignore.

A few months later, my dad was officially arrested and sent to prison. He had felony charges against him in every county in Ohio and some counties in other states. He was going away for a long time. When we found out he officially went to prison, we decided to go to our old house and get the rest of our stuff, assuming it was still there. We drove there late one night, and my mom dropped us off down the road. She didn’t want her car on the property because he would probably have people watching the house. And he did, because the police showed up, but I digress, he was seriously crazy.

We tried to get in, but he changed the locks. Petty move. So I just got pissed. Again, another Hulk moment that came into good use. I got so mad I bent the back door, which was metal. The door was locked with a deadbolt, but when I yanked on it, it loosened it from the frame, and I grabbed the corners and pulled. The door looked like a C by the time I was done. The gaps still weren’t big enough for us to crawl in, but fuck it, it felt good, and the fact that I bent a door is pretty sweet.

I remembered I might have left a window open in the front of the house (I would use this window to sneak people/guys into the house all the time), so we tried it, and it was unlocked. We got the rest of our shit, and then the cops showed up. Luckily they knew what was going on, and since the divorce had not gone through yet, my mom was still an owner of the house, so we weren’t breaking in or trespassing. So they laughed a bit and let us do our thing.

I haven’t seen or spoken to my dad since this all happened. Because of all this, my mom had to file for bankruptcy and had no money and a credit card with a $500 limit when she moved to Akron. My dad stole everything from us. Our savings, college funds, everything. Everything was gone.

One thing this experience and my mom taught me was to take care of yourself. I will never depend on anyone financially as long as I live. Call me a workaholic, but I call it safety. Had my mom not had her own great job (she is a director of a long-term care facility), the situation may not have ended so great. Yes, she had to file for bankruptcy initially because they had a joint bank account, but she was right back on her feet in a few years. There are two things I learned from that:

  1.  Make your own money.
  2. Have your own bank account.

End of story.

Strength and independence. Those are the things I learned from this, and they have carried with me to today.

Sadly, the story isn’t over yet. The worst happens a few months later. Stay tuned for Part 2.


If you or a loved one is dealing with domestic violence, reach out to these resources.  All hotlines listed below are available 24/7 and are confidential unless otherwise noted. If possible, call your local authorities.

Part 2: The College Blur

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