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You can always recover regardless of how far down you go: A journey from insanity and addiction to Spirituality and Well Being

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Chris ColeIf you read the Amazon description for author and life coach Chris Cole’s book, The Body of Chris, you will think you know his story:

Struggling with lifelong disordered eating and adolescent addiction, Chris Cole had his first psychotic episode at the age of 18, suddenly believing he was the Second Coming of Christ. He lost his identity and tried to perform miracles and was ultimately arrested in the lobby of his college dormitory―all while convinced he was being taken to his crucifixion.

Yes, when anyone uses the word mental illness this is what the media tells us it looks like. As Chris Cole proves, nothing could be further from the truth. As a matter of fact, if you spend a few moments talking to him, you would be alarmed to learn that the true illness lies in our lack of awareness of what mental health vs. mental illness really is.

Have you ever went to the doctor and were advised to make certain changes to improve your health?  Ever struggle to make those changes and just give up? According to Chris, oftentimes when someone resists recommended advice to get healthy, there is a mental health issue present. Sometimes there is a mental block or some sort of emotional connection to resisting the change. This facet is often ignored by your typical doctor. The cost to you? Quality of life, money, relationships, overall well-being . . . the list goes on.

Food for thought? Add this to the list: when asked how did he get to the point of believing he was the Second Coming of Christ at age 18, Chris Cole said that he there was no unique childhood trauma or event that triggered his illness. He did provide some cries for help that went unrecognized. See if you have made these mistakes, suffered from or observed any of these signs in your family, friends or loved ones:

  1. Being told that he needed to diet & lose weight: he went to a program to combat obesity as a child. To him as a little boy these classes for healthy eating and exercise told him that his body was wrong and he wasn’t okay. This caused an over obsession with being accepted by others and feeling that no one understood or appreciated who he was on the inside.
  2. Being teased as the fat kid at school: school served as an additional place where he felt bombarded by the  message that he wasn’t good–school, his parents (who took him to the doctors) and in other social environments.
  3. The need for additional discussions about sexuality and attractiveness: he needed someone to explain to him that there was more to being attractive than just your outward appearance. As a child, he believed that he would never find love unless he looked like a male model. Chris notes that although women commonly receive this message, there is a societal shift where men are being influenced by this as well.
  4. Substance abuse or constantly getting into trouble: when kids start abusing substances and or are frequently getting into trouble, these are cries for help. The focus should not be I’m going to discipline them and they are going to grow out of it.
  5. Demand for liposuction at age 17: Chris had gotten down to the weight where he thought all his problems would be solved. (Since he was continually told that he needed to diet and exercise, he believed that his weight was the only real issue and fixing that would fix everything.) He convinced his parents to allow him to get liposuction at 17. Although his parents permitted the procedure with good intentions, Chris believed the surgeon should have required a psychological examination before proceeding.

Chris Cole points out that parents, educators and doctors need to understand how easy it is for children to mix messages. He cautions all to promote body appreciation versus body acceptance: convey a deep appreciation for the opportunity to be alive, the gift of having a functioning body and emphasize that the body’s purpose is not to be accepted or rejected by society. The more health messages that have to enter the psyche of a child, the more additional messages need to be implanted about their self-worth and identity. He also points out that for caregivers and parents of children with special needs or challenges: every time a child is told they need to change, they need to be told that they are made perfectly–perfectly in the eyes of God, perfectly produced as a product of nature/a family/the love of two parents–there is something about them that never needs to change and will never be wrong.

As dramatic as his experience with mental illness might appear, he makes valid points that need to be considered by all in his book, The Body of Chris. With mental health, no one talks about it until it is too late and then everyone scrambles to get that information; the building is already on fire and people are just trying to find the exit. We need to be educated [on mental health] before things go south. We have to cultivate resiliency and resolve in every step of our lives. Even if things are going well, having the perspective that there is no guarantee in life, that things can go wrong but trusting that we have the ability to bounce back regardless of what the adversity is . You can always recover no matter how far down you go.

What has Chris Cole done to recover from his once downward spiral? He became a life coach. The transition was much more natural than you think; the second he had some type of clarity and health, he had to “give it away”.  This came from a deep connection to his past–he didn’t know anyone around him that was going through what he was going through. He needed life coaching and he didn’t have it; now he offers services in the hope that the sufferer will get them.

imageWhy did he feel compelled to write his story versus just putting the most painful moments of his life behind him? A lot of people are going through the same thing and the stigma or lack of education in our society, lack of willingness to address mental health is what makes sufferers feel so alone. Chris remembered his feelings of isolation and hopelessness and believing that he had to reinvent the wheel in order to heal. If he could share his, although brutally honest and extremely revealing, perhaps he could prevent others from going through his struggles and alleviate the suffering.

Noteworthy: the biggest obstacle men have to their health and wellness is their macho/ego complex. As men we don’t want to be wrong, vulnerable or admit mistakes; too often we must be broken in order to have a healthy life. I could have gotten help much younger if I wasn’t so defiant and stubborn, determined to ignore my emotional sensitivity. As a man, I saw all sensitivity as weakness and would never admit I was struggling until after a second hospitalization and multiple addiction struggles.

The key to recovery regardless of how far you’ve gone: Is there any area of your life where you’ve uttered the following?

  • I cannot go on any longer
  • I’m not worthy
  • I’m not capable
  • I’m totally confused/totally lost
  • I’m willing to do anything it takes to . . .

If any of the above resonate with you, your first step is to do what Chris Cole did: surrender to God. Be determined to seek help, admit your emotions (including denial), take advantage of available resources and learn to honor and nurture the precious gift of life.

I would also recommend that you take the time to read The Body of Chris: A Memoir of Obsession, Addiction The Body of Chrisand Madness (available on Amazon). Caution: this is not a mental health book but a book for anyone that wonders: Why is God doing this to me and why do i have to go through this? From beginning to end, Chris demonstrates his struggle with these questions coupled with the need to change his perspective in life through his journey. “In the end, it is (and it always was) about more love: what we have, what we don’t have and what we desire.”

To learn  and read more about Chris Cole, please click on the link below:



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