Renaissance man Scott Cullens on recovery, gratitude and moments of clarity.
BY TOM PARDOE | PHOTO BY SIMON BARNES
Whoever said you can’t have it all and still look amazing at the age of 50 (!) apparently hasn’t met Scott Cullens.
Fitness model, general contractor, designer and all around business mogul (Palm Pacific Construction, LÜB Premium Lubricant, and CUT Barber) Palm Springs based Cullens defies stereotypes.
In an interview with THE FIGHT Cullens talks about his childhood, staying sober and how gratitude is the number one character strength of the happiest people in the world.
Where did you grow up? How would you describe your childhood?
I was born in Kansas and raised in the Ozarks of Missouri. My parents were in high school when I was conceived so we kind of grew up together. Obviously, not an ideal situation, money was tight and it was rough but that’s not what I choose to remember. As an adult, all I remember now and focus on is that my parents really loved me and I think that is the only thing that’s important. Because of that love, I’m going to say it was a happy childhood.
“If a new client doesn’t hire me because they saw a picture of my dick on the internet, then whatever. I can pose nude or model underwear and still be good at my job.”
Before your addiction was in full swing, what were your dreams or goals in life?
Before my addiction, I had already found success in business. In my early 30s, I owned several private fitness gyms which boasted mostly of a celebrity clientele like Brad Pitt, Herb Ritts, Monica Lewinsky, Ryan Seacrest, on and on. It was a great time. I was this kid in a Mercedes sedan running with a fast crowd in L.A. and thinking I was invincible. I was always a big drinker but when the drugs took hold, the spiral down was fast. I’d love to say that the bottom of the barrel came as quickly as the spiral down, but I was clever enough to figure out how to survive in a disgusting world of drugs and poverty for several more years. All of my dreams were gone.
When did you know the jig was up and how did you find recovery?
When the jig was up! On the last day of my addiction, I went to the casino to see if I could turn my last few dollars into more cash. I lost all of my money and had to walk home (or the home where I was crashing), out of money, out of booze and out drugs, but worse, out of hope. I went to the bathroom and was startled by my reflection. I went from a successful, young, buff, strong, determined man to a pathetic, drug- addicted disappointment. I started to brush my teeth and they started to crumble in my mouth. As I spit out the pieces of broken teeth due to my constant drug abuse, I began to sob. I suddenly had a brief moment of clarity, I didn’t feel high or drunk and I can’t remember if I actually heard a voice or it was merely a thought but it was clear “What do you want to do now?” I replied “I want to be happy.” I went to the computer and looked up rehab centers near me and called immediately for an intake appointment.
In early recovery, what factors were key in maintaining your sobriety?
In early recovery, the keys for me to stay sober were to lose my ego completely, surrender to everyone who was trying to help me, do as I was told, start to eat healthy, start to exercise daily, attend daily meetings with others that had similar experiences, meet or call my sponsor every day and volunteer to speak and share at meetings. I threw out my phone directory and built new relationships with my family and sober friends.. But number one was the commitment to not use alcohol or drugs for the rest of my life, one day at a time.
One of the most divine interventions was when I met my sponsor. He had the biggest smile on his face when I would see him at meetings and it seemed evident that he knew something I also needed to know. He taught me to begin looking at my character strengths instead of defects of character. He started teaching me about positive psychology and reminding me that I’m the one who said I wanted to be happy. I never said I wanted to be sober, I told God I wanted to be happy. For me, the path to happiness is through sobriety but anyone is entitled to the benefits of happiness whether sober or not. For anyone seeking sobriety, a sponsor is very important, a navigator to a destination. I wake each morning and recite everything I am grateful for and make a contract with The Universe that I will show up and be present if it brings me all of the resources to accomplish my dreams. Before I shut my eyes at night, I end each day with a complete list of everything for which I am grateful. Gratitude has been scientifically proven to be the number one character strength of the happiest people in the world.
Clearly, to get your body into this kind of shape takes a rigorous, physical discipline. Describe your routine.
I was in the fitness business before my addiction so I knew what to do to get into shape, however, this new found drive and zest made me want to see where I could go physically, spiritually and mentally. As a kid, my only “gay” outlet was to buy GQ magazine at the convenience store each month. I lived in this fantasy world where I could one day be a model like those guys in GQ. Truth is, that I always knew I did not have the face or looks to be a model but I knew that everyone has the capacity to have a good body and possibly be a fitness model with bold intense commitment and grueling training. I hired a trainer and nutrition coach and followed their advice as rigorously as I did my sober program. In sobriety at age 50, I have a better physique today than I did at 20, 30 or 40.
You have a very public persona. How do you maintain the “real” you?
I maintain the “real” me by not segregating a social media persona from who I really am. My social media is a celebration of my construction business, designs, fitness modeling, lube company, barber shop, family, friends, rainbows, ice cream and puppies! I don’t put the sexy side separate from my businesses. It’s all Scott Cullens and if a new client doesn’t hire me because they saw a picture of my dick on the internet, then whatever. I can pose nude or model underwear and still be good at my job, I promise.
How do you manage to handle all of your businesses at the same time?
When I wake up and feel the pressure of running Palm Pacific Construction, LÜB Premium Lubricant, and CUT Barber simultaneously, I remember that I asked for this and I’m never overwhelmed, just staying in sync with what I contracted with the Universe. I swear, if I got two extra minutes back to back, I’d probably start another company. Well, that’s already underway!
What would you imagine your life to look like without being in recovery?
I would be dead without recovery. There would have been no way to continue down the path of destruction I was on without it ending in death. In rehab, they had me write a list of everything I wanted from sobriety. I wrote that I wanted a relationship with my family, real friends, financial security, to be able to take care of my family, be respected, be good at a career, fall in love, get a dog, and have a good body. Because I stayed sober and grateful, I am enjoying all of the things on my list today.
What makes you smile more than anything else?
The thing that makes me smile the most is when my parents say that they are proud of me.