The Year I Hit Rock Bottom

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“When in doubt, choose change.” – Lily Leung

It was the year everything changed. I gained over 30 pounds of fat. Crashed my first car. Got kicked out of college.

Growing up, I was always athletic. Losing weight was never a problem. That changed my first year of college. You’ve heard of the freshmen 15? Many college freshmen gain 15 pounds with less exercise, more junk food, more stress. I doubled that. I put on over 30 pounds and it was NOT muscle.

How did a kid who was tall and skinny his whole life suddenly have a pot belly? I stopped playing any sports. I ate pizza, subs, wings. I drank too much beer and pop. Up until then I never had to worry about gaining weight. The challenge I had was being too skinny. I just burned off anything I ate with plenty of sports and activity.

I Hit Rock Bottom

Not only did I put on over 30 pounds, I crashed my first car (an old 87 Chevy that was a gift from my Grandfather) and got kicked out of college. Quite the first year of college I had! Something had to change or else I was going to end up dead before I got close to graduating college.

Time for Changes

My dad was angry and disappointed, as you can expect. I promised him that I would do whatever it takes to get my life back on track. He agreed to help me get another car. I enrolled in community college and joined my first gym. Dad showed me some basics at the gym. I didn’t know what I was doing. There were no internet programs back then (hard to believe, I know). All I tried to do was show up three days a week, do some running and weight training.

It was far from perfect, but it was a start. Those 30 pounds started to burn off. I was feeling more optimistic about my future. I still had some bad habits to clean up. Smoking. Drinking. Staying out too late. Not sleeping enough. But it was a start. I had a long way to go before I would transform myself into the man I was capable of becoming. We all have to start somewhere. I didn’t know at the time, but this was a huge turning point in my life.

Learning Valuable Lessons

My freshmen year of college taught me valuable lessons:

  • I had to work much harder. In high school, I coasted by without doing much work. I could pass easily and get B’s with a little effort. This wouldn’t work in college or the “real world”.
  • If I drank too many beers I would sleep on a couch, instead of driving home. The risk was not worth it.
  • The body needs regular exercise and solid nutrition (I was still working on the diet part).

Like I said, I wasn’t perfect but I was improving. It would be a few more years until I quit smoking. I still drank too much. Sleep wasn’t a priority (I was young and thought I could get away with it). During this time I got my grades up, lost most of that freshmen 30+ and I proved to be more responsible. Here are what I consider to be the keys to my life-change:

  • The car crash I survived was a wake-up call. I walked away with only a concussion and staples in my head. I was grateful and learned my lesson.
  • I didn’t like the way I looked. There was a photo of me shirtless on vacation. I was surprised to see how much my belly stuck out.
  • The influence of my dad. His disappointment was a big factor in my desire to change. I wanted to prove that I could change and make him proud.

How did I go about changing my habits? I took simple steps:

  • Paying for a gym membership/ scheduling 3 workouts per week.
  • Picking up a second job and taking on a new car loan- added responsibility.
  • Drinking less frequently- from almost-daily to 1-2 days per week.
  • No driving after having any drinks at all. Call for a ride, sleep on a couch.

From Dark Days to Hope

From the outside, you may have thought I was just a college kid having fun. It’s normal to screw around and not know what you want to do with your life. But honestly, I was not happy. I had no interest in college, all I wanted to do was party and I did not care about my health.

The combination of totaling my car, gaining over 30 pounds of fat, and getting booted out of school was the wake-up call that I needed. Something had to change. It started with taking a look in the mirror. I still didn’t know my life purpose, but I was taking steps to find out. I had a new car, new school, and new body. There was hope.

Even if there was no clear path, I felt like I was making changes for the better. Often, that’s all you can do. Make changes to improve yourself. Look in the mirror and realize you can be better. Make small changes that will add up over time. If you find yourself at rock bottom, remember you can change. Start with yourself. If you don’t like what you see, then you know it’s time to shift your course. Sometimes we need a smack to the head to realize we need to alter our habits. I sure did!