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Rehab gave a reality TV producer tools that saved his life. Now he’s giving back


Joel Relampagos began studying the way to field earlier this yr when he turned 40. He wished to enter a brand new decade in the perfect form of his life, but in addition discovered that high-intensity circuit coaching helped along with his psychological well being.

Whether or not he’s throwing hooks right into a punching bag, pushing a weighted sled or doing drum rolls with battle ropes, he’s pressured to deal with the current second. By the point he’s accomplished, he’s dripping with sweat — however much less anxious, extra at peace.

For Relampagos, it’s an essential reminder that it’s OK, even needed, to let your self be uncomfortable — to really feel the ache and learn to transfer ahead. That has additionally been essential in his restoration from alcohol habit and the way he’s giving again and serving to others.

Sept. 22, 2022, marks three years of sobriety for Relampagos, an govt producer of “The Largest Loser” who has labored on “Hell’s Kitchen,” “Going From Broke” and “Pimp My Journey.”

Earlier than Relampagos went to rehab in 2019 at age 37, he’d been ingesting for 17 years. For the 5 years earlier than he bought assist, he was ingesting two bottles of wine an evening at dwelling by himself.

“I’d see folks at dinner cease at one glass of crimson wine,” he mentioned. “And I bear in mind pondering, ‘There’s no method I might cease at one glass.’”

His habit was straightforward to cover as a result of he’d get up the subsequent morning, go to set and nonetheless run a TV present. At household occasions, he’d play the position of a great Filipino American son and never contact the alcohol. However after he left, he’d head to the liquor retailer.

“I didn’t know the way to have a stability,” he mentioned. “It’s like an abusive relationship you’re not happy with. However on the identical time, you find it irresistible, since you really feel such as you’re not ok to get anything in life.”

Joel Relampagos squatting while holding a heavy weight

Joel Relampagos works out at a Trinity Boxing Membership in Los Angeles.

(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Instances)

Relampagos was born in Quezon Metropolis within the Philippines. He moved to California on his sixth birthday.

“I bear in mind my mother taking a look at me on the airplane and being like, ‘America is your present. Blissful birthday,’” he mentioned.

He was ecstatic. However trying again, it was additionally “the start of understanding what it was wish to really feel completely different.” He had a thick accent. He struggled to make pals. His mother and father had been going by way of a divorce. He felt alone.

At dwelling, there have been express expectations. He has 4 sisters, and he joked that “as a Filipino son, you’re the physician, and your sisters will develop into nurses.” His mother and father had given up their banking careers to come back to America and work as a used automotive salesman and cashier.

He had an intense concern of disappointing them. There was at all times an underlying expectation, he mentioned, that “your mother and father had been making the sacrifice for you, so finally, whenever you grow old, it’s important to make sacrifices for us.”

It made him really feel anxious, depressed and unworthy.

“What occurs as a child is that you simply begin to create these beliefs,” he mentioned. “And my high perception as a baby was that I wasn’t ok.”

Joel Relampagos throwing a punch during his workout.

Boxing helps Joel Relampagos handle his anxiousness — he’s pressured to focus on the current second.

(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Instances)

From a younger age, he additionally understood that he had secrets and techniques.

The primary secret was that he’s homosexual. Whereas in faculty at UCLA, he got here out within the splashiest, most Hollywood method.

After his father survived a coronary heart assault, he realized it was essential to him that his father knew who he actually was. He noticed MTV was casting for a documentary referred to as “True Life” and on the lookout for popping out tales.

He wrote to MTV about how he grew up in a strict Catholic dwelling, and he wished to come back out of the closet to point out different youngsters, particularly Filipino American youngsters, that there was nothing flawed with them. Two weeks later, MTV got here to movie him for a month, and he got here out to his household on nationwide tv.

“When the present got here out, I spotted the ability of storytelling, as a result of there have been different youngsters that had been coming as much as me saying, ‘You modified my life’ and ‘You saved my life.’”

This revelation led to the second fact he wanted to confess to his mother and father: that he didn’t wish to be a health care provider. He dropped out of faculty to develop into an assistant at MTV.

“An enormous cause why I bought into actuality TV was to assist different folks inform their tales, the identical method {that a} producer from MTV helped inform my story about popping out,” he mentioned. “I feel the opposite cause why I bought into tv was that it actually was about validation — and scores. And that was one thing I didn’t obtain rising up, feeling validated.”

As a younger grownup, he threw himself into work, earning profits and bringing in scores for his exhibits.

“Rising up in a family the place you don’t discuss psychological well being, you don’t know what coping expertise to have as an grownup,” he mentioned. “So my first coping ability as an grownup was to simply deal with work and develop into profitable. My different coping ability was alcohol.”

This was his third secret, one he held onto for a very long time.

Joel Relampagos working out with weights.

Joel Relampagos used to drink two bottles of wine a day by himself. He’s since discovered higher coping mechanisms to take care of his despair and anxiousness.

(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Instances)

Social ingesting in Hollywood, particularly as a younger grownup, is a norm, he mentioned. However he would journey for work, drink alone within the lodge and exit of his technique to conceal the empty bottles from the cleansing workers. Even when he began remedy for despair and anxiousness, he by no means advised his therapist about his ingesting.

He reached a breaking level the place he did what he thought he’d by no means do: He requested his Filipino American household for assist.

At that time, it was a selection between being seen as a failure or spiraling additional. He confessed to his father that he had an issue.

“Vulnerability was one thing that I wasn’t used to,” he mentioned. However “vulnerability actually is a energy. … It takes energy to really go, ‘I need assistance.’”

Boxing trainer Tyler Wood helps Joel Relampagos with an arm wrap

Joel Relampagos and coach Tyler Wooden take a break between high-intensity circuit repetitions.

(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Instances)

Relampagos mentioned he was fearful of rehab as a result of he didn’t know what to anticipate.

“I used to be such a management freak,” he mentioned. “Going into rehab, I felt like I used to be a contestant on certainly one of my very own actuality TV exhibits. As a result of I needed to flip in my keys and my automotive and go right into a facility the place I couldn’t depart. There have been surveillance cameras all over the place and a bunch of strangers, and right here I’m spending nevertheless many weeks with them.”

The primary half was bodily detox.

“As somebody who had been ingesting for 17 years, that first week, I used to be going by way of main withdrawals,” he mentioned. “Fortunately there was a medical crew and therapists who had been serving to me get by way of it — actually get it out of my system.”

However afterward, it grew to become extra of a psychological journey.

He needed to understand that his earlier methods of coping with his deeply-rooted perception that he wasn’t ok — working arduous to develop into profitable, ingesting to numb the ache, avoiding fascinated by his insecurities — weren’t working. He wanted new coping expertise.

Rehab supplied him with what he referred to as the “Avengers of therapists.” He discovered about mindfulness, cognitive behavioral remedy, emotional freedom approach and hypnotherapy.

“I used to be like Ariel in ‘Little Mermaid’ exploring every little thing [about being human], how she was so excited,” he mentioned.

When he left rehab after 50 days, he was grateful for his time there however conscious that he was coming from a place of privilege. He might afford to spend tens of hundreds of {dollars} out of pocket to avoid wasting his life.

Others, he is aware of, can not.

“I made it a mission to create some form of program the place I’d discover a crew of therapists to volunteer their time and companies to guide group lessons — the identical method I skilled group lessons in rehab,” he mentioned.

He referred to as this system Change Your Algorithm, as a result of “whenever you’re depressed and anxious, that sort of turns into your algorithm, like in social media,” he mentioned. “You sort of abide by it, pondering, ‘I’m at all times going to be unhappy. I’m at all times going to hate myself.’”

However he desires folks to know that’s not true.

When Change Your Algorithm launched in June 2020, solely three folks joined the digital class. However now the nonprofit gives a number of lessons every week for as much as 40 folks at a time.

“You present up, you possibly can have your digicam off, and also you don’t even have to speak,” he mentioned. “… However whenever you begin to really feel snug you possibly can ask questions, you possibly can work together with the opposite neighborhood members. And our primary rule is not any judgment. Change judgment with compassion.”

Relampagos desires folks to grasp that remedy exists in several types. He wanted hypnotherapy to decrease his partitions, and he cherished hypnotherapy a lot that he just lately grew to become an authorized hypnotherapist. For others, group remedy or artwork remedy might be simpler.

And he’s additionally discovering solace in his six-day-a-week boxing routine.

“In rehab, they are saying feeling is therapeutic,” he mentioned. “So after I’m understanding and suppose, ‘I simply wish to surrender. That is too arduous.’ I’m going, ‘That is truly making me stronger.’”

He transfers this philosophy to his emotional well-being as properly. When he’s feeling an uncomfortable emotion, he tries to determine the place it’s coming from, the place he’s feeling it in his physique and what it’s making an attempt to show him.

Whether or not you’re recovering from an habit or simply coping with life’s day by day stressors, that’s a lesson that may profit anybody.

Joel Relampagos works out with ropes.

Joel Relampagos mentioned he has a love-hate relationship with battle ropes. They depart him feeling each exhausted and stronger.

(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Instances)

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