It all kicked off when I was just four years old. My parents enrolled me in gymnastics to burn off some energy, but those hours of jumping and running didn't tire me out at all. By the age of five, I was swimming, although it wasn't really my thing—it was more for the growth benefits. My heart, however, belonged to basketball, my dad's sport. From the tender age of four, he had me dribbling and shooting on the court. Formal basketball classes weren't an option until I turned seven, and once I joined, I was attending practices three times a week. Hungry for more, I even asked to join the older group, bumping my practices up to six times a week. The dream of becoming a stellar player was alive, and, no bragging, but looking back, I realize I had a talent that I inherited from my dad. I stood out as the best in the class, effortlessly practicing with kids two years my senior. Soon, tournaments became a thrill, where I'd dominate entire teams solo.
Fast forward a few years, and the opportunity to move to the United States arose. At 12, my mother and I landed in California, settling in Redding. Spring brought tryouts, and I joined a team for upcoming tournaments. I emerged as the best kid on the team and was awarded with merchandise. Ecstatic, I thought, "This is it!" As the school year neared its end, I visited Russia for my 13th birthday. Despite plans to return to the States, I opted to stay, finding Redding challenging as the only Russian kid. Despite improving my English, the distance from school friends made visits infrequent, in stark contrast to the supportive community back in Russia.
Continuing with basketball in Russia brought joy. However, a few years later, a shift occurred. From a young age, I was drawn to forbidden experiences like cigarettes, alcohol, weed, and parties. I fell into the second group of kids—those who didn't listen. Despite my parents' advice, I indulged in these activities, spending more time on drinking, smoking, and partying.
By 15, my passion for basketball waned. The dynamics changed, and as others caught up, I faded from the spotlight. I continued playing but dropped off the regional team. Around 16-17, I only played locally. Realizing my stature as a small kid, I turned to the gym and bought my first supplements—creatine and nitric oxide booster. Workouts focused on bench press, shoulders, and biceps, neglecting legs and back. Two, three months in, newbie gains showed crazy results, leading to jokes and steroid accusations. Yet, none of it stuck due to my inconsistent lifestyle—parties and two surgeries in three months, first for appendix removal and later an abdominal hernia. Despite recovering from the surgeries, my gym routine lacked consistency due to the pull of a party-centric lifestyle.
Entering law university after finishing high school in Russia brought a new chapter. Deciding to return to the United States turned out to be a pivotal decision. I quickly found my way back to the gym, this time with more seriousness and consistency. However, the allure of nightlife still held a strong grip, occupying 85-90% of my weekends.
My physique improved over the years. At 23, I contemplated elevating it further with a fitness page, but my lifestyle hindered progress. By 2022, frustration peaked. My shortcomings extended beyond fitness pursuits—failed attempts at various businesses. Why? Lack of perseverance during challenges; I struggled with laziness, motivation, and lacked the necessary fire and discipline. I wondered, "What's wrong with me?"
In 2022, after a particularly rough weekend, I reached a breaking point. A morning after two days of partying left me praying not to die. It was then that I decided to make a profound change, cutting ties with the nightlife entirely. The initial adjustment was tough, but I redirected my energy towards consistent gym sessions and a mindful diet.
Around the same time, my professional life took a positive turn. Six months before my lifestyle overhaul, I secured a significant position at a commercial construction company. The responsibility that came with the job contributed to my commitment to a healthier lifestyle.
The transformation was palpable. Sobriety and a renewed focus on health brought about discipline and a rediscovery of the fire within me. A new sense of purpose emerged. Six months into this positive shift, I set my sights on a fitness competition. Initially, I planned to go solo in my preparation, but a month in, I decided to enlist the guidance of a coach.
The ten-week lead-up to the show was challenging, especially on the dietary front. While training remained enjoyable, the mental battle of adhering to a strict diet tested my resolve. Though not without a few cheats, I managed to stay on track, winning 98 out of 100 internal struggles.
The show itself presented a new challenge—posing. Despite not feeling overly confident, I embraced it as a learning experience, ready for any outcome. To my surprise, the final placements exceeded my expectations. The victory added a ton of coal to the fire within me, affirming that the changes I'd made were worth it.
The takeaway isn't just about fitness; it's a testament to how life can transform when you let go of destructive habits. A year of sobriety has brought more growth than the past 12 years combined. My advice to the younger generation: chase your dreams relentlessly. Find purpose if you haven't, but don't squander your youth on parties. I'm the living proof that success and a party lifestyle don't align well. While balance is talked about, truthfully, steer clear of nightlife until you've made something of yourself. If I could wish for one thing, it would be to rewrite my past, but since that's impossible, extract lessons, follow your dreams, and let nothing hinder your path.