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Recently, I wrote a post about steroids, and the fact that I never did any. I wish that I could also say I never took anything to assist me in training. However, as a former bodybuilder, it was almost a given that I would eventually try something. This eventually led to my addiction to legal weight loss drugs.
So back in my 20s I did experiment with quite a few over the counter food and nutritional supplements. One of those items was a testosterone precursor called Androstenediol, aka Andro. Of all the supplements that I have put in my body over the years, this was probably one of the more dangerous.
Those of you that are familiar with steroids, and their side effects know that one of the not very cool potential problems is this thing called gynecomastia. Basically, these are what are commonly referred to as man boobs. I won’t get into the technical reasons behind it. You can look that up on your own. However, I will tell you that after a short time taking Andro, my nipples started to hurt a lot. They became sore and raw. This was definitely not a good thing. So I immediately stopped taking the product. Thankfully, the soreness went away, and I stopped before I developed a nice, sexy pair of man boobs. Whew!
Unfortunately, not all over the counter supplements provided such clear, undeniable messages in regard to the danger that they presented.
Next up on the list of dangerous supplements I played with, comes ephedra and all of its variations and chemical cousins. This “health” supplement is the one that did the most long-term damage to my body. I can’t even think of drinking a cup of coffee because of this type of drug. I don’t really like coffee anyway, but allow me to elaborate on what ephedra did to me.
Ephedra, like all of its derivatives, is a type of supplement called a thermogenic. These are supplements that claim to give you the added benefit of burning more energy, even when your body is at rest. This is allegedly achieved by putting your metabolic system into hyper overdrive. They are marketed as fat burners. I always felt I was tubby, (even when I had a six pack) so this was a natural marriage between a fool and gimmick product. Never mind that I knew when I ate clean, I stayed lean, and that I got fatter when I didn’t. Bottom line, I needed these pills to succeed. I needed them.
Oh, but there is more to these products than just ephedra. These fat burner pills also included the less offensive stimulant, caffeine. However, combined with ephedra and all the other garbage in these pills, you now have one hell of an addictive product. Not only was it psychologically addicting, but these products created a very strong physical dependency!
Let me give you a point of reference, according to my doctor, the chemicals I was putting into my body were cousins of the popular recreational drugs, ecstasy and speed. Inadvertently, I was ingesting a pretty strong concoction of chemicals! While trying to get healthy I was doing just the exact opposite.
The problem with this type of product is that it makes your heart work really hard. Combine that with preexisting high blood pressure and you have a recipe for disaster. This created a very dangerous situation that I barely came out of. What began happening to me was that my heart was beating so fast that it began to lose its step, that natural rhythm.
This is not a good thing, Cardiac Arrhythmia. In any case, many times I felt my heart beating like crazy, and it was cause for concern. My doctor at the time said that I was insane for insisting on taking these pills.
“Angel, if you don’t stop, you are going to have a heart attack. It’s as simple as that.”
Laying in that doctor’s office, hooked up to all these cables, practically naked and very vulnerable, with sexy abs to boot, is when I began one of the most difficult physical and mental battles of my life, quitting thermogenic supplements.
I didn’t realize it back then, but every time that I would go on a vacation and cut out the pills, during that time frame; I would become terribly ill for the first day or two. I just figured that it was the food, or the water from the foreign land that was doing me in. I was wrong, and I owe an apology to Mexico and the Dominican Republic for the many times I cursed these countries for my suffering.
It wasn’t until months, maybe even years later that I finally made the connection to being addicted to the pills. The moment that the light bulb finally went off in my head, I was taking Trimspa, one of my then favorite products. I was pretty lean at the time, and I decided to take a short break from the pills for a while. Then I got sick, really sick. That was peculiar. It is the exact thing that happened to me every time that I went away. Why?
Let me tell you guys what getting sick entailed for me. Have you ever seen a person withdrawing from heroine, or methamphetamine? They get cold shivers. They sweat. They vomit. They get excruciating headaches, and they even cry. Well, after months and months of ingesting the chemical cousins of ecstasy and speed, the legal versions become just as terrible. I experienced withdrawals that were just as awful as those people have. In fact, with my heart making its own music, and my high blood pressure one could say that I ended up worst in the long run.
To this day, I cannot ingest any form of caffeine or stimulant. To do so would mean becoming a prisoner to physical addiction once again. If I drink a Pepsi or Coke, then I must ingest another bottle within two to three hours. Failure to do so will result in withdrawals. Same applies to coffee, chocolate, or anything that contains trace amounts of caffeine. I have to be cautious with cold medications too as some contain a variant of ephedra. It’s crazy stuff.
It sucks because I actually like chocolate, coke and Pepsi, but I can’t ingest them. I shouldn’t be eating chocolate and drinking soda anyway, as its really no good for you. However, at least I can still drink Sprite, 7up, and any of the caffeine-free sodas.
To be completely honest, as I struggle to get my weight under control, and the exhaustion that comes with dieting and training, I find myself wishing that I could feel what I felt from those pills. The thermogenics gave me a feeling of endless energy. My workouts were ridiculously intense, and the chemicals helped control my hunger. Not only am I still psychologically struggling with letting go, but I also miss the physical feeling that came from all those stimulants. The feeling was intense. However, I recognize the problems that these drugs present. I also know that I would have to be insane in the membrane to combine meds that are supposed to raise my heart rate, with blood pressure pills, which, do the opposite.
My psychological struggle with accepting myself as I am, and returning to who I was still continues. Everyday I get dressed, my clothes fitting uncomfortably. Tormented by the excess body fat that imprisons my body, and I face the day. However, unlike the past, today I only depend on my own will power, and the passage of time to achieve my goals. There will be no chemical help coming.
Some individuals may find humor in my struggle, but unless you live a life of dependency, you cannot understand. No, I was not a heroine addict, but I am worst off in a sense. The person that I battle lives within me. The body I battle is my own. The one person that I cannot escape from, is myself. Everyday I rely on me, makes me stronger and is another small victory.
Growing Up Bronx