Growing up, I was always very athletic. I caught on to a lot of things very quickly. But I was always the smallest guy. So I held myself back from a lot of things because I felt I wasn't big enough, or strong enough.
In high school, I started wrestling. It was a sport that someone my size could excel in. I was 90lbs my freshman year, wrestling at 103's. That's when I started lifting weights with one of my good friends, with the goal of getting stronger. I thought having muscles was awesome but at that point I didn't care what I looked like. Gaining strength was the only thing I wanted.
Over the next few years I kind of lost sight of who I was. I started drinking a lot and started using drugs to numb myself. To everyone around me I seemed fine but for those who really knew me they knew something was wrong. I got into a bunch of legal trouble and at age 27 it all caught up to me. I was required to either get clean and sober and go to counseling, or go to prison. At that moment I knew that I needed to get my life together. 2/11/2012 is my sobriety date.
I was put on house arrest for the first 6 months of my probation, so I did two things: I told work that I needed more hours, and I borrowed a friend's bench press and curl bar! It was all I needed. And for 6 months, I worked out, ate, and went to work. No distractions. No drugs. No alcohol.
Sobriety has brought many challenges for me. Learning how to FEEL...everything, without having a crutch to lean on was not fun! Numbing myself was the only way I knew how to deal with emotions. Happiness, sadness, anger, stress...I had to learn how to deal with all that in a healthy sober way. The gym for me was/is my sanctuary. A place I can go and break myself down, push myself, shut out the world, and focus on ME.
Today I try everyday to make progress; physically, mentally, and emotionally. I have to constantly remind myself of my goals. Being a better person takes constant work. I started competing in Men's Physique so I had a goal to work for, an end date to gauge my progress. But at the end of the day, I push myself, for myself. I'm no longer a skinny little guy, but I'm also not the biggest or tallest. I'm right where I am, because of the choices I make. And whether I get first, or last place...I'm better than I was yesterday.
Fitness for me has become a lifestyle and a journey. It's a way to see what I can do, what I can overcome, and how far I can push my body and mind. It's not about a
constant comparison to others. To me it's all about personal growth. I hope that I'll
never lose my desire to want to be better.
- Paul Leon
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