Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Tragedy to Triumph

As a newbie to blogging, I figure I could start off with a little history behind me and what has shaped me into the life that I now lead today. Everyone has their reasons for doing what they do, falling into the positions they have and in my case, choosing to compete and live a fit lifestyle. I have not exactly always followed the 'trend' of going through life in the typical sequence most expect or lead themselves. My childhood growing up is only filled with happy, positive memories with family. It was when I hit my teenage years where events took a slight turn and decided to go on its own path.

By the time I was 18, I had been in and out of 3 different drug rehabs, battling drug addiction that was leading me into a life of destruction and possible death. I suppose you can call me an extremist, in that anything I do that may give me the slightest bit of satisfaction, would become my mental fixation and obsession. Thinking back to 2003, entering my first rehab in Minnesota at 16 years old, I was scared, dazed and intimidated by those around me who seemed to be a lot older and lost than I was at that time. I did not know what to do with myself in this situation because of the fact that I was so unsure of what would happen to me from this point. It was at this initial facility where I discovered the weight room. Every week I looked forward to our group trips to the local YMCA where we had an hour to either workout or sit around and talk. Being the only girl to actually hit up the gym and start working out, set me apart from the rest. I didn't care, I had found my escape. I can definitely say that I did Not know what I was doing and can only imagine what I looked like working out on my own...had to start somewhere. Working out became my mental escape from wanting to get high and from the rehab itself. After completing 28 days and thinking I would be going back home and my parents would think I was 'cured', I was told that the facility recommended sending me to an extended care program for an additional 3 months. After an emotional breakdown and screaming match between me and my parents, they made the decision to follow through with the recommendation and from St. Paul, MN, I moved onto Rochester, MN where I would be living with 30 other women ranging from 16 (me being the youngest) to women in their 50's. This was the real deal. Here, I was living with women who had serious problems, much more extreme than my own. Crackheads, prostitutes, heroin and meth addicts and stay at home drunken, pill-popping wives. One of my closest friends I made there was a nurse who abused the drugs she would give to her patients, telling me stories of walking around the hospital with an IV drip. This same friend would later be the one to teach me more in-depth workouts, and again, the gym remained my weekly escape. I would never miss a chance to catch the ride over to the gym and would be training until the very last call.
Throughout my stay at this facility, I gravitated toward the 'bad' crowd, learning more about the world of drugs and getting into trouble. I had officially dropped out of high school and completed my GED. Once out, I wasted no time in getting back into trouble; this time turning to more serious substances that would then lead me into a life of haze and destruction. I had become a different person than I had known myself to be. I was jumping from job to job, lost good friends and trust of my family. Most of all, I had lost myself and everything I had been raised to be. Being sucked into the world of drug addiction became a terror and daily living nightmare, getting to a point where I had no escape. At 17, my parents intervened once again. After meeting my mom for dinner one night, I was met in the parking lot by two 'intervention' escorts, taken by the arm and thrown into a car where I would be driven from Boca Raton, FL to Due West, South Carolina. To the world that had known me back home, I became a disappearance case, when no one had heard from me since that night for almost 2 years.
It was at this program where I found myself, once again. I was literally pulled out of one life and forced to begin living another. It was in this facility where I was cut off from the outside world (family included), stripped of every "privilege" that you would never even look at as a privilege. Anything from no makeup, shaving and crossing your legs, to talking and walking around. Going into detail about this lock-down program would take a whole other blog to tell about. I can tell you that making it out of there after 15 months and going through the struggles that I did while inside, has shaped me into a person I could never imagine would exist if I had not experienced it. Staying there 6 months after I turned 18, where I would legally be allowed to leave, was the hardest decision I ever had to make for myself. With no support from my family if I left before completion, I knew in my heart what the right decision would have to be for myself. The lessons I've learned from those last 6 months created a strength within me that would otherwise not have existed. While there, I went from an underweight 92 lbs to an overweight 155 lb. In July of 2005, exiting and graduating the program, I again began my journey into the weight room. It was from here that it began to escalate more and more, year after year. I had made the decision from the moment I arrived to South Carolina that I needed to live a sober life and that is just what I intended to do once I was home again. Working out became my extreme cross-addiction. I no longer desired to use and get high, but I wanted to weight-train. I loved the feeling it gave me to feel a natural high and this time there was no "crashing" feeling, only the desire to go workout again.

Once living sober, attending AA meetings and finding my supportive friends once again, I began to take my life in a new direction. After some years of working out on my own, hiring a trainer and looking to other trainers in my gym for tips, I decided to take the next step and make it a career for myself. I became a certified personal trainer through NASM and NSCA; trained clients at the Florida State University gym and learned how to cook healthy meals for myself. The diet was the trickiest part for me and took me the longest to grasp an understanding on. At the end of 2009, I found myself reaching a plateau and losing my daily motivation in the gym.  I did Not want to lose my love for training, especially when it had taken me so far up until this point. It was then, where I started asking around for ideas of what to turn my focus to. After a long conversation with a friend, she told me about the NPC organization and competing. This was extremely intriguing right away. I did my research and decided I would train for a figure show at a national qualifier as my first show. I wanted to give it my all or nothing at all and I knew in order to keep progressing I would have to qualify to eventually do a national show. However, one month out from my show I looked BIKINI! I did Not want to switch to bikini. I will be honest here, I did not think that bikini was taken seriously and I was not sure how serious I took it. I knew I was 110% committed to training and dieting and I did not want to be perceived otherwise. After some time to think about it, I decided I would make the switch and see how I did. My show season took off from here and I competed in two more shows in 2010, qualifying in my last show. The feedback and responses I received from many people were overwhelming. I never in my wildest dreams saw myself getting to the point that I have gotten to today.

Today, I don't think about my addiction and what would make me want to use and get high. Instead, I think about the period in my life that helped me overcome those destructive feelings; turning negatives into positives and never forgetting the experiences I've been through to keep that same strength within me when I come to a day in my life where I feel like giving up and throwing in the towel. Whether it be with competing, a job or a relationship, there are always lessons to be learned in life and using previous experiences can be as beneficial as you make it. Looking for that "reasoning" or "silver lining" in every situation has helped Me live a positive and now productive life.

Me at 155 lb in my South Carolina was visiting:

This was the facility in Rochester,MN I lived in for 3 months

Me today, competition picture from Team Universe:

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Fitness Saved Me--Life as a Competitor: Embracing the Pain

Fitness Saved Me--Life as a Competitor: Embracing the Pain: "As I sit here two days out from my second biggest show of the year, Jr National's in Chicago, where I will be competing for my IFBB Bikini P..."

Embracing the Pain

As I sit here two days out from my second biggest show of the year, Jr National's in Chicago, where I will be competing for my IFBB Bikini Pro card, I somehow manage to come up with a blog to write on the thoughts swimming through my head right now! I have to admit, I love writing but the hardest part for me is getting started. Ironically, in what should be the most difficult time for me to express the things I want to share, the emotions have developed so much to 2 days out that I feel compelled to just, write. A thought passed through my mind yesterday as I was coming to the end of a 2 day no carb, water loading week. My body was numb, my head was spinning, words could no longer be put together without sounding like a drunken spaced-out fool..but I still had another client to train. The world still kept moving. The thought that came to me as I was anxiously waiting for my day to officially end is, this is what I've been training for. This right here is the reason I decided to become a competitor. I knew there was something that separated 'us' from the rest of the people that may live a healthy lifestyle, work out 3-4 days/week and consider a caesar salad a 'healthier option'.  The 'suffering' of those last few weeks, the mental strength (now physical strength) that I force myself through and being able to sit back and know that I see the light at the end of the tunnel, is a natural high and satisfaction for me. It's these last few days that are the epitome of 'bittersweet'. As much as I hate the feeling..god do I love it :) Knowing that I just had complete control over something within myself, to change.  Through the years of suffering in the locked-down rehab program I experienced for 15 months, I know the continued message from my father 'short term pain equals long term gains' still sticks with me until this day.
I know, many of you might be thinking, 'but Dari, you're a bikini competitor, how hard could your prep be?!' While a year ago, I may have agreed with you based off my first impression of the division before deciding to make the switch from 'Figure' being my goal, I have to say that it is all about the individual. Everyone is genetically made up differently and must work at different levels for different goals. Certainly a female bodybuilder would have a hard time competing in bikini and figure; and most likely would have to take drastic measures to take OFf muscle, is that not working hard? In my case, I'd kill to be able to compete among the best in Figure, but my body just has not gained that muscle maturity to be on that level. I still work my butt off 7 days/week, 15 hours/day, getting my respective rest! I diet hard, with minimal carbs, high protein for an extended period of time and at any point have been up to 4 workouts a day! Keep in mind this is while I'm cutting down for a show, obviously there will be no gains in muscle there with my caloric intake and exercise level. But I figure now, whats the rush! I'm still young in the sport and am having fun with bikini now! As long as I can still keep working my butt off, I'll take it ;)