Tuesday, February 21, 2012


"I weighed 340lbs and was one day away from living out of my car," my friend said, holding a glass of champagne. I paid little attention to the sixty other guests chatting and sipping drinks. We were standing at the bar of a beautiful Moroccan gazebo overlooking a stunning pool. I had just only met this person, but I already considered him a kindred spirit. I'm quite fond of people who leap over their shadow. People who, when pushed to the brink, rise above their weaknesses, conquer their demons and change their path for the better. This is his story.

My friend and his wife of eighteen years had been successful business partners before their lives began to unravel. In fact, they were doing so well, they decided to invest. Then, the real estate bubble burst. They found themselves pouring money into an upside down home, real estate investment mortgages and an unprofitable restaurant; in short, their fortune was being sucked into a proverbial black hole of unexpected debt. My friend became angry and frustrated because, not only were they loosing all their savings, but the writing jobs had dried up as well. Who better to take out your frustration on, than the person closest to you?

His wife wasn't going to put up with an ornery, grumpy and mean man who had lost all of their hard earned, seven-figure income, drained their savings account and lost their home. After eighteen years of marriage, she left him. So now, he had no wife, no money, no house, no car, no health insurance, no mood. First, he moved into the guesthouse of our party host. That was fine for a while, but my friend knew better than to abuse his benefactor's generosity.

My friend had one more asset to keep him afloat. He sold the liquor-license of his restaurant for a good amount of money. Half went to his ex-wife, half he kept. He rented a small one-bedroom apartment. He then lay down in bed, turned on the television, and didn't move...for one whole year. He wallowed in self-pity, protected his self-pity by adding 100lbs of fat to his strong build. There was nothing left for him to live for. He contemplated suicide. The 164 Lunesta pills he had accumulated before his health insurance ran out were still in his drawer. He could take them all at once...

His last penny spent, and suicide on his mind, he bumped into the contractor from his restaurant one day. My friend told him that he was desperate for work, any work. The contractor didn't have much himself these days, with real estate in the toilet and all, but he could use a man to do some "trash out" work. My friend would get paid $80 per house.

Trash out means going into foreclosed homes and removing all. This was anything but a pleasant job. Some homes were trashed beyond recognition, feces plastered on the walls; toilets and kitchen literally smashed to pieces. Other homes had been vacated just as the family was having breakfast. The table was set and food was still on the plates. Then there were the pristine homes; most likely the family knew that this day was coming and wanted their home to be at it's best.
During the year that he worked this job, my friend scraped enough money together to go visit his mother in the Bronx, New York. She was devastated, and this broke my friend's heart. His mother's tears said it all. He loved her more than anyone. Suicide wasn't the answer, but neither was his current condition. He had to change his life. He had to snap out of it and get a grip on things. He returned to Los Angeles with renewed determination. First things first: get rid of the weight. He began walking around one block...then two blocks...four...

They say, necessity is the mother of invention. The gym was six blocks away, but he couldn't afford the $30 monthly fee. He noticed, though, a back entrance to the gym, a way to get in without having to show a membership card. Every day, he snuck in the back way for a workout. The more weight he lost, the better he felt about himself; his confidence grew, and with it opportunity.

A producer friend of my friend referred him to a company out of Australia that was looking for someone to create content for their budding production company. It just so happened that the owner of the company loved a movie for which my friend had written the screenplay. My friend was immediately offered a year's contract.

My friend and I stood in the Moroccan gazebo sipping champagne (I'm faithful to my water). "I've lost 87lbs," he continued, "and I'm going for another 27lbs. The company has renewed my contract for another year because they're happy with my work, and I love working there. I've written more scripts than they've asks for!" He said enthusiastically. He stood upright in his suit, smiling. And so was I. At a time when so many suffer from similar scenarios, I was pleased to hear how one man fought his way back to health and success.

PS. And yes, he does pay for his gym membership now.

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