Flab to fit – how I dropped the syringe and lifted weights instead

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This is a story of my fitness journey, but also of my past. I used to be very sedentary. I didn’t believe in exercise and I was content living a sedentary lifestyle. I wasn’t fat by most people’s standards, but I was what fitness people would call “skinny fat” i.e. high body fat percentage, but mostly concealed. I have been, at various points in my life, been addicted to recreational substances and alcohol. I was probably the only drug blogger in Malaysia and I enjoyed flaunting my exploits with various delicious substances.

This chemical journey started when I went to New Zealand to study when I was 15. I was actually a scaredy cat when I was younger. Didn’t believe in touching alcohol, much less drugs, thanks to the PEMADAM propaganda (the anti-drugs club I was apart of). I thought one toke of weed will make me grow the juiciest man boobs and the slightest taste of LSD will result in nothing less than permanent insanity. I toed the line in the early stages of my life until I was exposed to more liberal and educational books in Christchurch. I voraciously devoured research papers on various substances and decided to embark on my first ever acid trip.

I totally enjoyed LSD and I started on cannabis after that, followed quickly by MDMA. This was during 1996 so Ecstasy was everywhere. It was the peak of the new summer of love and I was enjoying every weekend rave with my older university friends. I kept this up till uni in Melbourne, trying everything I could get my hands on – magic mushrooms, recreational chemicals, solvents, DXM cough syrup, ketamine, amphetamines, pharmaceuticals and even heroin. I dabbled and wrote and I thought myself intelligent, able to keep from getting dependent.

The first drug that gave me problems was dextroamphetamine, the stronger isomer of amphetamines. I faked narcolepsy and got a prescription for this tightly controlled scheduled drug in Australia and I loved it! I was using it to the detriment of my studies and social life but I did graduate, thanks to my intelligence. I came back to Malaysia to work and not long after, discovered methamphetamine.

That was my downfall. I fell into a pattern of injecting and smoking meth and even though I had a full-time job and was functional, my personal life was a mess. I’ll be awake for 3 days and crash for 1 night after. I was struggling with drug-induced psychosis due to my extreme usage pattern and it got to a point where I attempted suicide. I got addicted to opiates after that and that was another dramatic few years (though with a lot less psychosis involved) before I got on the government Suboxone program to get clean.

People always ask me, how did you get clean? Was it because you hit rock bottom? Did you get arrested? Did you nearly die? I’ve experienced all of those but that was not why I quit. I almost kicked the bucket a few times and once had to go for emergency dialysis coz I was injecting methamphetamine crystals unfiltered using the cold shake method straight into my veins. I have been arrested for drug possession and drug use and sent to drug rehabilitation three times. But I still kept on using after.

Harian Metro

The onus for me to quit wasn’t anything dramatic. I just felt like I had enough. One day, I just didn’t want to be in that lifestyle anymore so I quit everything cold turkey. I was just on benzodiazepines and Suboxone at the time but it was really tough. These two are some of the hardest things I’ve had to quit. I had convulsions alone at home from benzo withdrawal and couldn’t sleep for 2 weeks after quitting buprenorphine. I was on such a high dose (16 mg daily) that I didn’t even feel the worst of the withdrawals until the 5th day!

However, I was determined to get through it and I slogged through the worst depression and aches and restless legs and insomnia ever. But I emerged feeling better. It wasn’t a sudden process, rather I just felt slightly better each day after the 3rd month clean and soon I started working out and getting into the fitness lifestyle. I loved the routine, the meal prepping and going hard every day at the gym. I liked looking better every day and getting stronger.

So maybe this isn’t so much a fitness story. I have been asked to write my story by a good friend and I thought a long time about it. This drug life is a life I’ve left behind and I don’t even blog or talk about it anymore. I hesitate to bring attention to this again since my past doesn’t define me and I also worry about how some people might look at me. There is such a stigma with drugs, even if you’re an intelligent and knowledgeable user like I was.

My advice to people wanting to quit is that you’re stronger than you think. You just need to set your mind to it and get it done.

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