Every one of us has a story of why we started lifting. Some of us wanted to look better, some of us wanted to be stronger, some of us wanted to train for a sport and some of us used it as a means of self-improvement from the inside out.
Here is Taryn Rooney’s story.
I asked her to write this for me because many people struggle with addiction. Many people struggle with the demons that result from destructive addictive behaviors and often feel alone in those struggles.
You don’t have to feel alone, there are others who have shared your pain and others who currently do.
This is one story about overcoming it and I am proud to print this.
Pardon the next few sentences as I do not intend to brag but rather paint a picture: I grew up in an upper middle class family in Cincinnati, Ohio with married parents and a younger brother and sister. I graduated high school with a 3.9 GPA; in addition, was the captain of our lacrosse team for 3 years, worked part time at a health food store, aided in the special education classroom, was an editor for our school newspaper and yearbook, was on Winter formal court and was voted “Most Spirited” my senior year. I went to The Ohio State University where I was accepted into the Communication and Technology Scholars program and majored in Consumer Affairs. I joined the Water Ski and Wakeboard team and became a very active member of the Pi Beta Phi Sorority. I also held a part-time job serving/bartending the last 3.5 years of school. I did a professional internship with Target the summer of my senior year and was offered a full time job upon graduation where I took a position as an Executive Team Leader. I had a lot of friends, had a busy social calendar, and traveled a lot. On paper I had it all going for me; I seemed happy, successful, and I was doing well.
But I was sick…with an incurable, dark, and malicious disease. I was an alcoholic.
Looking back I can say I was from the first time I took a drink when I was 15 years old. I could drink more than my counterparts and I also could rarely stop/control it when I started. Blacking out wasn’t out of the ordinary for me and neither was reckless behavior. In college things got increasingly worse. But in an environment where binge drinking was “normal” or “celebrated” I was able to slide by and get away with things. Yes, some people expressed concern but no one knew what to do or what was really going on; so I got little help and had minimal consequences. After all, a majority of the population has no education or understanding of addiction. After college I continued to function at a decently high level (for an alcoholic). I faked it so well I convinced even myself that everything was “fine.” At work I operated on minimal sleep and hungover yet still received excellent reviews.
During those years I experienced states of mania and states of depression with constant anxiety. I used drinking to self-medicate all of those issues. I never said a word about a thing I was feeling to anyone nor did I do anything productive to help myself. I just drank to avoid feeling anything.
In the spring of 2012 I joined a private, small-group personal training gym with a few friends as the result of a break-up (he told me that I “didn’t take care of myself”) and wanting to get ready for boating season. I had never applied myself in the gym before (I really hadn’t fully applied myself anyway since I gave up horseback riding as a teenager) and this was my first time fully committing to a workout and diet program. I saw great results quickly and looked great in a swimsuit by Memorial Day. I also began to experience the natural high that weight lifting and high intense interval training gave me. I fell in love with getting stronger and pushing my limits. Despite these “feel good vibes” happening I still didn’t give up the booze. At the time I was starting to experience more frequent feelings of being “out of control” but I also didn’t consider my drinking to be THE problem…plus I only drank in social settings and I didn’t use drugs so I wasn’t “that bad”…right. ?
On July 27, 2012 things changed. At approximately 1AM on a Friday morning I was driving home from spending the evening out in downtown Cincinnati. I rear ended a sedan on 71N going 60-65 MPH. Their car went one way into the trees lining the highway and mine went another. Both cars were totaled but miraculously both the other driver and myself walked out of the cars unharmed. I faintly remember finding my phone and dialing 911. I stood on the side of the road wearing stilettos and a tu-tu skirt with a sheer tank (classy) and failed every test. They took me to the police station where I blew a .214. Yes….I was almost 3x the legal limit and walking, talking, and able to remember most of what happened. The police looked at me concerned and released me to my parents….who I scared the living shit out of when I called them at 2AM; especially because my family had been exposed to scary calls at odd hours because my younger sister was battling a 3-year running opiate and alcohol addiction of her own.
I wish I could say it ended right then and there but it took me 2 more weeks and another bad drinking episode before I decide to change my life forever. The day after a Jason Aldean concert, at which I lost my phone, I got into a fight with my mom. During which I screamed at her “I HAVE A PROBLEM…I’M AN ALCOHOLIC!” She stared at me wide-eyed and I whimpered “I need help.”
I was done feeling the way I had been feeling for years. I was done feeling trapped and like I was wasting my true potential. I was done abusing my body and mind with unhealthy decisions. I was done being a horrible friend, sister, and daughter (I still have nightmares about some of the things I did when I was drunk). I wanted freedom and I really wanted peace. I compare my accident to God “hitting me with a 2×4 and telling me ‘change now or never sister’”. So that’s what I did.
I enrolled in out-patient rehab which was 3 days/9 hours a week for 12 weeks then a weekly check-in session for an additional 12 weeks. I found a psychiatrist who did psychotherapy and specialized in family relationships so I could really dig into my core issues. I began to attend Crossroad Church on a regular basis and participated in the Journey Home series with a completely random group of people. Through Crossroads I discovered a strong spirituality and appreciation for God. I also attended various AA meetings 1-3 times a week. And lastly, because after all this is a fitness post, I committed to working out 4-5 times a week and maintaining a healthy diet because I had previously experienced how good it made me feel. **Because of my efforts towards recovery I received the minimum sentence for my DUI but due to the nature of the accident and my blood alcohol level I still had a suspended license for 6 months, which included an interlock system for 4 months, “party plates” for the other 2 months, $1,000 in fines (on top of lawyer fees), and spent 6 days at the Talbert house (which is rehab jail to put it simply), and a year and a half of probation**
Fitness has become a HUGE part of my recovery. The gym is where I can release my anxiety, it’s where if I’m feeling depressed the endorphins never fail to make me feel better. Similarly, if I’m feeling good I can celebrate by kicking ass. It also keeps me busy and productive; which is important. Over the past 2.5 years I have immersed myself into learning and experiencing new fitness things; I grew confidence and knowledge with a trainer, I realized how fun it is to be a “bad ass” doing “advanced athlete conditioning” lead by a strongman competitor alongside MMA fighters or making up challenging circuits with some amazing women, I discovered discipline I didn’t know I had with a 20-week figure prep, I lost weight, I gained weight, I cried, I celebrated, I got injured, I still rehab/struggle with said injury, saw abs (for a little bit, haha), I grew muscles, I lost motivation, I found motivation, I explored different gyms, I lost friends, I gained friends, I trained alongside some of the strongest people in powerlifting and crossfit during a stint at the Sweatt Shop which is where I also broke out of a really low cycle, I failed lifts, I hit PRs, and I have the opportunity to use lifting as a platform to give back to an amazing cause–Relentless MN which benefits HopeKids. The gym also gave me a “safe” place (no alcohol) to socialized or if I wanted just get lost in my headphones.
People have said to me “you have so much willpower” or assume that I stopped drinking because I started lifting. When in reality I just changed my priorities and it was lifting that has helped keep me sober. I found clarity, got comfortable with myself, and discovered pride. I still experience some highs and lows and lifting continuously helps me to balance that. It was actually discovering powerlifting that helped me get out of an extended state of depression during the winter of 2014.
Fitness, particularly weight lifting, is so important to me because it teaches me something about myself constantly. I will never be the fastest, the strongest lifter or have the most aesthetic build…but I’m not trying to be THE BEST either. I just want to be better than I was yesterday-I compete with myself. Weight-lifting has taught me patience, it has taught me hard work, it has taught me resilience, it has made me accountable with goals I set for myself, people within the community have inspired me and helped pick me up when I needed it or told me not to be a “sissy bitch” when I am slacking. I am the only one that is accountable for the changes I achieve….no one else…I have to do the work.
People ask me if I will ever drink again and I respond with “my plan is to never drink again.” This includes never having a glass of wine at dinner, taking a sip of a mixed drink, or toasting with champagne at my wedding. I know that seems difficult to grasp for some people….but what is more difficult is for me to imagine going back to the way life was “before”. Now that I have experienced serenity and gotten to know “the real me” I wouldn’t want to risk losing that.
Being an alcoholic I have to be accountable and very aware of my state of mind, my actions, and my health (physical, mental, financial, emotional, social, etc). I strongly believe that anyone who suffers from an addiction or mental illness needs the help and support of professionals but they will also greatly benefit from working out. The iron and sweat is always there to help keep you sane and remind you how strong you are…and NEVER under-estimate how strong you are and what you are capable of doing or over-coming. And remember, no matter what your journey is, it won’t always be easy but if you choose to do the right things then, damn, is it worth it.
I have been sober since August 17, 2012 and my sister has been sober since April 2012. *If you or someone you know is suffering from drug or alcohol abuse/addiction please get help. I can not stress enough the importance of the individual and also the entire family receiving professional assistance
This June I will begin taking classes at the community branch of Oklahoma State University towards an Associates Degree in Drug and Alcohol Abuse Counseling. After completion I plan to attend the University of Central Oklahoma to obtain my Masters in Substance Abuse Counseling.
To learn more about Relentless MN and donate to the HopeKids organization please click on the link in the sidebar or in the footer of this post.
I would like to thank the following people for playing important roles in my fitness and sobriety journey: Melissa Wilson, Jessie Deye, Lana Powers, Terry Bryan Walton, Patrick Dye, Marco Wall, Jason Theobald, Todd Seiple, Shane and Laura Sweatt and the entire Sweatt Shop Crew, Chris Thompson and the entire 405 Barbell family, Jay Ashman, Scott Nutter, my parents Kevin and Tammy Rooney, my sister Stacey and brother Kyle, and to my girlfriends from high school and college: Danielle, Danielle, Jocelyn, Lauren, Jessie, Shelby, Allison, Carolyn, Casey, and my Pi Phi sorority sisters…you all put up with a ton of shit and never stopped loving me and I will forever be grateful for that and for the good influences you had on me; there is no doubt in my mind that I wouldn’t be where I am now without each of you.-----
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