As a rival addiction to drinking, bodybuilding makes an excellent choice because, when done right, it cannot coexist with even a moderate amount of alcohol intake. It is one or the other, at least for me.
In his book, Addiction and Virtue: Beyond the Models of Disease and Choice, Kent Dunnington explains how addictions are "totalizing" entities in the addict's life. One plans the events of one's day around the "next cigarette" or the "next drink". Or, in my case, the next cardio workout, the next weight workout, or the next 50 grams of protein. As with any addiction, healthy or unhealthy, rival pursuits get shoved aside to support the addictive behavior.
How did I become addicted to bodybuilding? It would be a long story to tell in its entirety, but I can trace it back at least as far as a Captain America coloring book which I owned in elementary school.
But, as I say, the thing was in a long dormancy, until I happened to notice a photograph of Kay Baxter, around 1983 or 1984. Her shoulders looked inhumanly large; I loved them!
So, in 1984, I joined a gym and began my own bodybuilding journey. I muddled along, probably spending more time reading the various bodybuilding magazines than I spent actually in the gym.
In 1988, my wife and I moved to Southern California, where I joined a Gold's Gym. It was a much more serious gym than I'd belonged to before. And I met my first training partner, Steve. I credit Steve with demonstrating to me the intensity necessary to actually make muscles grow. It was a lot more than I thought!
In 1993, at the age of 35, I entered my first bodybuilding contest. It was sanctioned by NGA, a natural bodybuilding federation. I placed 5th out of 6 competitors in the lightweight class. My contest prep was completely misguided! I starved myself, did no cardio, and lost a lot of muscle along with the fat to get down under 152 pounds.
Then, the addiction went dormant (or semi-dormant) again for a while. I worked out lackadaisically, never making progress or building muscle, simply "managing the decline" in the same way I see so many in the gym still doing it.
But then, about seven months before my 50th birthday, I suddenly got the inspiration to compete again. This time, I did it right! I hired a coach for training, and then coaches for the contest prep. I figured out how to get spray tanned correctly, so that my skin did not have a sickly, pale green tint as it did in my first contest. That was in July, 2008.
After two more contests, in 2009 and 2010, I again tried to forget about the addiction. But my life took some directions I did not like, including occasional binge drinking. So, I have thrown that drinking addiction over for the bodybuilding addiction once again.
I'm currently 7 weeks out from the first of three contests I plan to do this fall. Watch this space for further details!