Mike Tyson, if nothing else, has led a pretty dramatic life.
Growing up an unruly kid on the mean streets of Brooklyn. Becoming boxing’s youngest undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. Getting shockingly knocked out near the peak of his career. Serving time in prison for rape. Biting off a piece of someone’s ear in a match. Filing for bankruptcy. Writing a book. Taking a one-man show to Broadway. And struggling with drugs and alcohol throughout.
If there’s anybody who could write from personal experience on addiction, it would be Iron Mike. And he has, in a thoughtful recent op-ed piece in the New York Times.
What insights could he provide on how to be more conscious with our health? Plenty.
‘Tis the season to be resolving. Tyson acknowledges that for an addict like him, a resolution isn’t just the new year’s opening act but a pledge to be made in every moment.
In a sense, we are all addicts to something. Especially in the context of poor health choices. We may be addicted to sugar, for example, or fast food. We may be addicted to our sedentary lifestyles or creature comforts. We may be addicted to a support system that fuels our highs, only to serve up our lows. Or we may be addicted to a shadow we’ve unconsciously cast of ourselves, a shadow that denies us the healthy life that is our birthright.
Tyson says that in order to tame his addictions, he’s had to channel his cravings for drugs and alcohol into the desire to be a better person:
I’ve learned that being sober is more than just avoiding drugs or alcohol. It’s a lifestyle focused on making moral choices and elevating the things that make life worth living to the forefront. Don’t get me wrong. If I craved drugs or alcohol, I’d still give in. I could never fight those cravings. But when I am focused on doing good and being good, and practice the day-to-day mechanics of a sober, healthy life, I don’t get those urges to do bad things to myself.
Tyson, in effect, is looking to play a bigger game. A game, he recognizes, that requires him to develop a conscience. A conscience that entails getting outside of himself, so as to observe more clearly his own moves in the ring with the eyes of someone outside the ring.
It’s a powerful move to sublimate the energies of addiction toward a higher purpose. And it often involves a pain point intense enough to initiate the process.
But it’s often not enough. Tyson writes that he vowed to become sober after his young daughter died, only to go back on drugs because he couldn’t endure the pain. His self-image was so negative that he was punching himself out.
What’s allowed Tyson to persevere through this fight? A support system in his corner he could trust. Opening up honestly with his loved ones. And realizing that rather than beating up on himself for a relapse, he could recover by just getting back on the path.
Your situation, as it relates to a health challenge, may not be as dire as Tyson’s. But the themes are the same:
What are your addictions? Have you reached your threshold of pain stemming from those addictions, such that you’re ready to be accountable for them? Can you see yourself as you truly are, warts and all? Have you learned to stop beating up yourself when you fail, so that you can succeed again? Have you surrounded yourself with supporters who keep you earnest on your path, encourage you when you falter, and help you play a higher game?
Will you resolve to take care of yourself more consciously, not just to begin the new year but moment to moment to moment?
Tyson ends his insightful piece as follows:
This is the best I’ve ever felt. I’m on the pathway to humility, fully aware that you can’t rule until you’ve served. I’m looking forward to a glorious 2014, when all of our best-intentioned resolutions become realities.
Here’s to your best-intentioned resolutions becoming realities.