I turned my life around in the gym
Michaele Parfitt’s passion for exercise came after using fitness to turn her life around.
This month she will certify as a Level 1 trainer. Her practice, Hope Fitness, will focus on health and lifestyle coaching, specifically targeting women and the older generation.
Her own story is driven by addiction.
At 19, after her son was taken from her, she turned to drugs. By the time she was 26 she was homeless and unemployed.
In 2014 she stopped.
Her mother died of colon cancer; Wilbert Smith, then her boyfriend now her husband, was in and out of hospital with sickle cell.
“February 21 four years ago would be the last time that I picked up drugs,” said Ms Parfitt who had been using crack cocaine for 12 years.
“Something came over me and I thought this is not what my life is supposed to be.”
It is an emotional time of year for the 37-year-old, who celebrated her birthday in January.
Her estranged son turned 19 last month; she celebrated four years clean from “active addiction”.
“My mom made me promise that I would stay on the straightened path,” she said.
“Almost as soon as she found out she had cancer it took over. That really opened my eyes to health — what we do early in our lives and how that contributes to how we age.
“She went from this really healthy, vibrant woman to being really sick and passed away in four months.”
She said her husband’s health was an early catalyst for change.
Attempts to get clean would work for 30 days, then 60 days.
“I even made it 90 days and then I would go right back,” she said. “That’s the character of an addict.”
Ms Parfitt committed to a healthier lifestyle, and pushed her husband to do the same.
“When you have sickle cell, there’s blood transfusions, weeks in the hospital — it can all be prevented,” she said.
“I hope to help change people’s lives through fitness like I have for myself and my family.”
She and her husband have two children together. Ms Parfitt had her first at 17, but lost him in a custody battle.
“I had him at a young age but I was determined,” she said. “I went back to school, I was working 60 hours a week. My aunt said she could help me and then one day I received an order for adoption in the mail.
“Being taken to court at 19 years old with no support, trying to understand. I felt that I was really shafted by the system.
“I’m grateful for the opportunities my aunt provided for him, I just wish I could be a part of that.
“At the end of that whole process, I started to get into the drugs. As any addict knows, addiction is a progressive thing. Over time it only got worse and worse. I found myself homeless; without food and the bare necessities.”
The one good thing about the experience — it led her to her husband.
“My husband has been my rock since day one. He has never judged me. He has never put me down. He always encourages me. I guess he just loved me until I loved myself. He took me in. He was a single father raising two boys on his own.
“We just grew closer and closer. I really started feeling like it was time for me to have a normal life.” She said that Narcotics Anonymous saved her life.
“That programme prepared me to deal with life situations such as when I’m in the hospital wondering whether my husband’s going to come home with me, or through my mother’s cancer, or being pregnant and being a newly recovering addict. That’s given me the foundations for everyday life that I still carry through today.”
She found fitness through a fellow addict at NA. During her first year, she lost 40lbs and gained confidence.
“By keeping myself active I keep myself at a lower risk for any chronic diseases. I have diabetes very bad on both sides of my family. It’s about making sure I don’t fall into that.”
Ms Parfitt is now pursuing an associate’s degree at the Bermuda College alongside her personal training certificate. Chanika Jones and Cervio Cox of Beast Gym push her every morning, starting at 6.00.
“That was my outlet. I loved it. I loved how I felt when I finished working out. I loved how I looked to myself,” she said.
“My passion, what makes me happy every day, is getting up and going to the gym, being with my clients and working with them on how to change their lives.”
Her right wrist bears a small tattoo that reads Hope.
“It means holding on to positive expectations,” she said.
“My story is based around hope. The hope that one day I would have a normal life; the hope that one day I would be a mother; the hope that one day I would be reunited with my son. Now a lot of that hope is replaced with faith.”
She hopes her experience will help someone else who is struggling.
“Throughout my recovery I didn’t have faith. I kind of felt like God had forsaken me. He let me go through all this stuff. But one thing I always had was hope.”
• Contact Michaele Parfitt at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 518-6219