David Mitchley Was Rock Bottom & Then He Turned His Life Around (& Lost 22KG In The Process)
A year ago, David Mitchley overdosed on prescription drugs and alcohol. Today, he’s turned his life around: he’s clean, 22kg lighter and making sure his life isn’t just a walk in the park, but a run. A 180 transformation. This is his story.
Occupation: Finance Manager
Weight Before: 92KG
Weight After: 70KG
Time To Goal: 1 year
At every party, there’s that one guy. You know the one: he’s calling for more tequila shots and making sure everyone’s drinks are topped up. He’s a bit too loud and can get unruly, but the vibe wouldn’t be the same without him. For the longest time, David Mitchley was that guy: the life of the party. With a drink in one hand and a joint in the other, the man from Amanzimtoti was living the high life.
As he got older, recreational drugs and alcohol became a way to escape the stress of the real world. Painkillers and sleeping pills joined the rotation. David was self-medicating, but each high felt a little lower than the last. He kept upping the dosage. He was going to crash. Then, in November 2018, he finally did.
“I woke up in my house – my father, ex-girlfriend and my son around me – with no idea how I got there,” says the now 38-year-old finance manager.
“My son had found me passed out with my head bleeding in the living room. He made the calls to get help. He was only sixteen at the time.
“Luckily the knock on my head wasn’t that serious. That whole day is still a blur to me, but it changed my life,” he adds.
The incident was the culmination of years of substance abuse: “It was a gradual thing. [Taking drugs and drinking] started out as a way to avoid everyday situations. And towards the end of 2018, I was kind of addicted to anything I could get my hands on,” he recalls.
“It was a combination of the strongest pain pills I could find, sleeping tablets, alcohol and weed. At one stage, I had three doctors prescribing me medicine. My monthly packet of 30 sleeping pills would last me about a week. I ended up bullshitting my way to get these meds. And I got good at it.”
Eventually, his habits started creeping into his work life, too, and the long office hours exacerbated his issues. “I’d go sneak away from my desk some days and go have a couple of dops. I always had a story ready to tell my boss over the phone.”
But when his son found him bloody and unconscious on the couch, it was a wake-up call. David knew he had to change.
“The weed was all over the house. The alcohol bottles were everywhere. I decided then and there that this was enough,” he says.
The Life Overhaul
Guilt-ridden and ashamed, David took a look at his life. It needed a complete overhaul and transformation. After flushing his drugs, and emptying bottles in the sink, he got to work: “I had to get rid of the social circle I was in. Find new friends and avoid the usual places that would influence me daily.”
He also felt pressure to start taking care of himself. Instead of waking up and lighting a spliff, he started running.
“I used to wake up in the morning depressed and angry. I would pop a few pills and smoke a joint before work,” he says. “But then I started taking 2km morning walks instead. It started from there. Over time I started doing morning runs.
The first few days of running were tough,” he adds. “I was out of breath, my calves were on fire and I’d be in pain for a few days after. But the more I did it, the easier it got.”
David made some major adjustments to his diet as well. He used to love takeaways and gorging on greasy food (between pints) at the pub. “I used to skip breakfast completely. Now I have to eat properly every couple of hours.”
After he got into running, he had fitness fever and was willing to put his body to the test. “I started tennis. Trail running. I did some cycling for a while. I started doing MMA for a bit. I was in the mood to try anything. But my base is running.”
A year later, and 22kg lighter, David’s got a brighter outlook on life. However, weight loss was never his main goal: “I don’t want to be the world’s top bodybuilder, or the fastest sprinter. All of this was for me to get to a better place. I never thought I’d end up losing over 20 kilos and start eating apples for breakfast. Now I wake up at five in the morning and run or work out on the rugby field nearby,” he says.
His transformation has been a complete 180, and it’s something he did completely on his own. “I flipped the switch in my own brain. I didn’t see any professionals, it was my own decision and something I had to do. Now, after a full year since the incident, I’d probably be sick if I even reached for a beer. It’s been a great year.”
The guy who overdosed in his living room is gone. In his place stands a man who is not only physically stronger, but has real mental grit. He’s given the people closest to him something to be proud of, especially his son.
“He’s been through a lot with me. He’s stuck with me and he’s given me a lot of chances. I used the last one to make a difference and make him proud.
“I’m not a big extrovert, so I’ll deal with a lot of things by myself. But I’m very grateful for the support I’ve had from my father, my brother and absolutely, my son.”
And while David’s new outlook is a gift to his family, it’s also a gift to himself. The guy who used to be the life of the party has discovered that life is the party. “I was this ‘fun’, outgoing, drunk guy who was angry on the inside. Now, I’m both internally and externally happy. I sleep better. I eat better. I run better… I can’t find a negative. I could never go back.”
He now has his sights set on the Comrades Marathon and, hopefully, an Ironman race. But he’s in no rush. David has learnt to take his time with whatever comes his way and do anything he can to avoid old habits.
“I’m a lot more patient – with others and myself. I’ve gained a lot of patience, love and understanding from this journey – along with a healthier set of lungs and kidneys,” he says.