His biggest problem, however, is something he shares with millions of recovering alcoholics and addicts: Once you give up your addiction, you often give up your social group, too. In Brian's case, it meant all his "swole" gym buddies, who by this point were also some of his only buddies. "After I told them I was stopping because I had a problem, they told me I really was weak. When I canceled, the bodybuilder who ran the gym said to me, 'You're turning your back on your physique, bro. You'll lose all your muscle.' I told him again it was for my mental health, since I would feel bad about my body no matter what, but he and a few others who passed me by just called me a quitter, as if this was personal." Of course, it is personal, in a way -- this is still all about validation, and tearing down quitters reinforces their group as the dedicated elite.
"Come on, let's go do shoulder shrugs until we can shrug off all our feelings."
This is not to say that all bodybuilders are addicts, of course. Millions of people can pursue it as a hobby without getting sucked into a pit of obsession that ruins every other aspect of their life. Maybe the difference for someone like Brian is just a matter of getting started for all the wrong reasons -- insecurity is a beast that only gets hungrier as you feed it.
As for Brian, well, his muscles are back down to a somewhat normal size these days, and he no longer resembles a giant bunch of grapes. The downside is he's not getting that continuous stream of compliments from his bros, but the upside is he'll never have to use the word "swole" ever again.
Evan V. Symon is a writer interviewer and interview finder for the Personal Experience team here at Cracked. Have a job/experience that you would like to contribute to? Hit us up at email@example.com today!
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