I am struggling with my emotions surrounding the Lance Armstrong interviews I watched last week.
I live in Austin; I used to compete in triathlon and running races; I know folks that currently or have worked at Livestrong; I am acquaintances with Kristen; I have biked on the Lance Armstrong bikeway and have two kids that are exactly the same ages as Lance’s eldest son and twin daughters.
I too had a health intervention about three years ago which really changed me, on several levels. It was not the big “C” but was severe enough to require emergency surgery to save my life. When I heard that my colon was about to burst and the toxicity could be fatal, I loosened the reigns on my personal agenda and gave into doing “whatever it took” to survive. Luckily, I had a successful surgery and am, three years later, in a much better place than I was going into it. Did I take that mantra of “whatever it takes” with me after the surgery? Positively!
It’s taken me this long to “digest” all that occurred. Watching Lance I see a human who is being forced to change patterns that he has expressed and believed for over ten years (and I thought my patterns were heard to break;-)!
I began to feel like the walls were closing in on me about a year or two before my surgery. I was using exercise as a vice. I had digestive problems which caused me to analyze every morsel of food I put in my mouth. Both of these turned into addictions without my realization on how far I was taking them. One fed the other. I was defined by who I was suppose to be to others, my performance, my appearance. I was and had always been an athlete, a competitor, an exercise instructor, a personal trainer. If I didn’t play the part, then I wasn’t credible. If I didn’t perform, I was a failure, at least to myself.
My physical body was giving me the signals to slow down and to eat animal protein. It took more effort to perform at the same level and my digestion and absorption were completely off (especially during intense exercise). I have always been “bigger” than my thoughts and feelings, able to squash them like a rotten tomato, believing that physically I can overcome whatever my mind was trying to communicate.
I started studying Ayurveda about a year or so before my surgery and learned all about my “Dosha” or constitution. I was very unbalanced, overly Vata, having a constant need to reman in motion. I was always involved in something: exercise, teaching, training, volunteering. I am also very stubborn, hardheaded and driven. These are typical qualities of the Pitta Dosha that can either be assets or detriments depending on how they are applied. I learned about the foods that I should be eating (cooked foods, warm foods) and that grounding exercises like yoga and meditation were going to help me more than running and biking. I was eating a mainly raw, cold, plant based diet and regarded any yoga/meditation type exercise that didn’t leave me doused in sweat as something I might consider on an “off day” as it didn’t count as “real” exercise to me.
I continue to compare myself with Lance when I hear some of what he is struggling with. While our stories have nothing in common, our brains do. I can relate to his phrases “I would do anything it took to survive”, “I wanted to win” and can also relate to the fact that the longer you engage in something (a habit), the harder it is to break. You are repatterning the neurotransmitters in the brain. The more you lie to yourself and others, the more you begin to believe that lie. I lied to myself (and others) about the amount of exercise I was doing. I wasn’t sure if I was denying myself food for the purpose of looking good or feeling good or both. I was being “accused” of eating disorders, anorexia, etc. I couldn’t admit my eating behaviors to others because the reasons were stemming from an inability to digest and absorb nutrients in my food which I later found to be related to a cacophony of other issues in my gut: candida overgrowth, parasites, giardia, and an overall need to heal what was compromised from the surgery. I get how “believable” lies can be when you repeat them to yourself and others on a daily basis……for years. There is no line between fact and fiction, it’s all a blur.
I see that Lance is now realizing some of the truths (or lies) that will determine his future. He can chose to be completely humbled or continue to “push” through this intervention as he did when he received the diagnosis. This is much more than an admission to an accusation. It goes much deeper than a confession to doping. It will take time, likely years, if Lance is willing, to actually “hit rock bottom”.
We, in a sense, are woven from the same cloth. I wanted to “rise again” proving to myself and others that “I could overcome anything”. Each time I tried and didn’t listen, I moved further from my destination. It was resistance to that unfamiliar territory that was my eventual demise. Once I began to read signs and signals from The Universe, I could steer myself on the eventual right path. I realized that when I followed that intuition without resistance, but more trepidation, that the outcome catapulted me to a better, healthier place for my body and psyche.
At some point, something clicked for me. That’s why I say its taken three years. I slowly returned to running after the surgery. In the hospital I wasn’t sure I would ever run a step again and “promised” myself that I would never “go back to that obsessive place”. Slowly, steadily it happened. If I would have just listened, slowed down, stopped “forcing” myself to run (both on pavement and away from the fear of the unknown), I would have been much healthier, MUCH sooner. Every time I “hit bottom”, I was certain that there was no further I could fall. I continued to push and the downward spiral continued.
Lance, I don’t believe, has visited the depths of his emotional Hell quite yet. He was stripped of his titles, he is banned from all competition, he was forced to resign from Livestrong, the list will continue, until……
He was not convincing enough to me either night to make me believe he is, genuinely, sorry for all the pain and strife that he has caused others. He’s still in shock and took the only action he could. This will be a process. A LONG process. The longer he resists, the harder it will be to overcome. I do believe that deep in his soul us a true, authentic man who wants to make amends. He wants to be the “light” for people experiencing suffering and pain either from cancer or athletic competition or both. He has had tremendous experience in his life that he can share with others, helping them to overcome their deepest fears. Lance, let it go. Let it all go: the ego, the defensiveness, the anger, the emotion. Just be. Sit with this. Retreat, journal, seek therapy. I did. I tried meditation, yoga, reading, listening to podcasts, self-help lectures, I studied the chemistry behind the neurotransmitters in the brain and the gut, the list goes on…..
I learned that it is all about being, not doing. Listening to the body without the intervention of the mind and visa-versa. Breaking the monotony of old habits and exploring uncharted territory. Resting, reflecting, crying. Being at peace with life as it is and learning to accept life, in that moment. Expressing your true, authentic self.
Hopefully Nike will continue to sponsor Lance. They can maintain Livestrong’s brand image which is so meaningful to so many survivors and their families. They could also develop a new slogan for Lance in his new phase of life: instead of Just Do It…..Just Be It.