I created a movement in my home town of Winnipeg called One Fit City. The goal is to return us to a health-minded generation. Not only do we need to talk about obesity, unhealthy eating and inactivity, we also need to talk about addiction, mental health, and everything that makes us healthy.
I do not suffer from mental illness, addiction and I am grateful those battles are not mine. Without judgment, I try to support anyone who does. With the public deaths of Robin Williams, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Heath Ledger, Whitney Houston, and others I'm sure we need to really open up the discussion.
This blog is going to be about addiction and mental health. It's going to be my opinion, and mine alone because I want it to start a conversation. I feel strongly that a lot of the population does not understand the reality of some people's lives. When a coworker or family member comes forward with depression or addiction, that brave step needs to come with zero stigma. Our media needs to emphasize this.
Here is where I think we have failed.
Right now in the UFC, their light heavy weight champion Jon Jones, tested positive pre-fight to having metabolites of cocaine in his system. It is not a banned substance pre-competition, which is when they found it, so there was no announcement and rightfully so. The information came out post-fight, and post-win. When it leaked to the press, the press wanted answers.
Jon Jones is heading to rehab. There is talk that he should lose his belt, he should face fines, and he should be punished in some way for this. There are even stories and news feeds suggesting it's a PR stunt. This is where I have a major problem.
This post isn't about the performance-enhancing drug issue that's been raised, and this isn't about what looks like a potential cover-up of bad testing procedures. This is about Jon Jones the man, and his need for support.
If one of my fellow men or women say they have a problem and need help, end of story, they get help. No discussion. Did Jones say he needed help because he got caught? Yes -- it appears that the thing that sparked his "moment of truth" about his addiction was facing the loss of his championship belt, money, and security.
Up until that moment Jon Jones thought he had it all under control and my understanding is that's what all addicts think until they hit rock bottom and something changes. Jon Jones is no different than any other person, and if he is ready to say this is an addiction and he needs help, he gets it. No talk of a PR stunt to make it go away, no talk about motivations. We cannot determine his motivations -- and do they even matter?
As soon as this got turned into the media calling it a PR stunt we send the wrong message to our youth who idolize sports figures and those who battle addiction daily. We have trivialized his addiction, and made it something other than support for a man reaching out for help.
Addictions counselling and the 12-step programs that are out there work. It ensures that people with addiction take control of their disease and have support when times are tough. Treatment for addiction is the same as a diabetic getting insulin, a cancer patient getting chemo, or any other lifesaving treatments for illnesses we have.
If Jones announced he had cancer and went in for chemo no one would say it's a PR stunt -- we would wish him well, and publicly tweet that our thoughts and prayers are with him. Why is it any different for rehab? My thoughts and prayers are with him, and his family. He needs to learn a new way of thinking, and living in order to enjoy his next years of life.
This program he is entering needs to take root so he can be the example to the young athletes who look up to him. Jones is about to embark on a total life change, and a lot of tough days battling with his thoughts and fears. He needs support and a place of zero judgment, both inside his 12-step meetings and outside of those walls. It's a shame that environment to those suffering with addiction only happens, in their eyes, during their meetings.
At the end of the day, this is a high profile workplace health and wellness issue. When I give seminars and work long-term to create a healthy culture amongst co-workers it is for the above reason. No matter what your battle is, you should feel supported and cared for by family and co-workers. It's creating a community that cares and we can use group exercise, pot luck lunches, and fun events to build the right relationships so that no matter what happens, everyone has a support system to get through a tough time. That's my dream with One Fit City, we build communities with access to experts and no judgment for anyone in need of help.
My focus in my career is on the physical side, and getting workplaces moving, active and eating healthy. Mental illness, physical illness, overweight, underweight, there is no reason for us to do anything other than to support one another. Our first thought should be how we can help, not if the person's problem is right or wrong, not if it's a cry for help or PR stunt. Kindness is the best first response and an open mind to realize everyone's life, feelings, and troubles are different then our own.
I do not suffer from addiction, I'll never understand it. I do understand the desire to simply be loved for me.
My thoughts and prayers are with Jon Jones. I've publicly ripped on him as a journalist in social media and on my radio show for previous bad decisions. He has chosen to enter rehab -- if he makes amends and recognizes where he has gone wrong, I'll never mention those wrong doings again. He made bad decisions due to addiction and trying to deal with personal problems poorly. I can't hold those over his head once he makes the first move to reclaim his life and take over against addiction.
I hope the UFC supports their champion -- they've set it up right so far. There is all the makings of a real comeback and the creation of a true role model in Jon Jones.
This is our reality, we all battle with something.
Go get 'em champ.
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