Jonathan London is a fixture in Barry’s morning classes at the original West Hollywood studio. His personal story is an amazing and moving one, so we thought it best to have him tell it in his own words.
I was always a bit of a socially awkward child. I struggled with low self-esteem and the usual stuff that comes along with being a gay kid growing up in an anti-gay environment. Thinking back to my early days of school, I remember that constant feeling of “not fitting in.” I used to look around me at all the different cliques at school and wish I were in one of them. There were the guys that were into rap music and skateboarding/snowboarding, so I tried to be just like the guys who were into skateboarding/ snowboarding and rap music – buying a skateboard (even though I secretly hated it) and purposely listening to rap music on my walkman. I thought that would get their attention and they’d accept me. But they didn’t. So I tried to be like the drama kids – going to drama classes and acting workshops, even though I was riddled with such low self-worth that I’d never be able to act on stage properly. It was a disaster. But all the while, I secretly wished they’d accept me.
When I was 15, I snuck a bottle of whisky from my parents liquor cabinet to take to a birthday party where I knew others would be drinking. I lived in Scotland and drinking from a young age was the norm. From my first few sips, all my awkwardness disappeared. I became confident, I felt funny and wanted. I could strike up conversations with anyone. I felt happier than I had in a long time. And I finally felt part of a group. I felt like I’d finally found the answer to everything wrong within myself, and alcohol slowly became a regular aid for me to live a successful life.
The years that followed were often unpredictable and fairly unmanageable. I was living in London and fully embraced the party lifestyle. Things got crazy for several years. I was drinking not only to function in social situations, but as a means to not feel anything at all. It was the way I made friends, and as a result the friends I made were often not the friends you really want. There was nothing healthy about my life. I wouldn’t have any time to exercise and I used to think less of people who went to the gym. Why would you bother going to the gym when could use that time to drink?
Following a particularly bad breakup in July 2012, I left London to pursue a healthier life. At the time, I ran my own music talent management business, so I moved myself and the business to LA. My intentions were good but I quickly got back into old habits again, starting another downward spiral. On June 1st, 2013, I reached out to the only sober friend I knew and admitted everything I had been through over the last 12 years. He listened, and I made the decision to stop drinking that day. From that day forth, my life completely changed beyond my wildest imagination, starting a journey of self-discovery to become the person I was always meant to be.
In the past three years, my life has truly taken a 180º turn, setting up a series of goals built on health, well-being, and positivity. I went back to school, got my real estate license, and I’m now working as a Realtor in Beverly Hills/Hollywood Hills. But the biggest change came at Christmas 2013. A major dream of mine was to finally start exercising and building a healthy lifestyle. On my six month sober birthday, I walked into Barry’s in West Hollywood for my first ever serious workout. I was thin, with barely any muscle on my body, and Barry Jay taught my first class. That day truly changed my life for the better. It gave me a reason to wake up in the morning, establishing a routine for the first time, and it made me feel energized and upbeat for the rest of the day. It helped build a new sense of accountability for my life, and as a person who previously hated working out, it’s a constant pleasant surprise how enthusiastic I am to wake up at six A.M. for a class. But above all, it made me feel a part of a special group of people, without needing a drink to get there, for the first time ever. My ‘eight A.M. crew’ became close friends, and Barry himself has undoubtedly helped me become the man I am today. For that I am forever grateful.