May 23, 2023

Healing After Grief and Learning to Love Yourself Again with Gina Perin

In today’s episode, we dive into the world of holistic wellness with guest speaker Gina Perin, a passionate Lifestyle Coach dedicated to helping individuals become the best versions of themselves.... See show notes at:

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In today’s episode, we dive into the world of holistic wellness with guest speaker Gina Perin, a passionate Lifestyle Coach dedicated to helping individuals become the best versions of themselves. Join us as Gina shares her profound wisdom and personal insights on navigating the healing process and rediscovering self-love.

Gina Perin delves into the depths of grief, offering practical strategies and heartfelt advice for healing after loss. Through intimate conversations and expert discussions, she explores the transformative journey towards self-compassion and teaches invaluable tools to rebuild your life with love and resilience.

If you're seeking solace and guidance in the face of grief, this podcast is your beacon of hope. Tune in to hear Gina's compassionate voice as she shares her own experiences and illuminates the path to healing. Gain inspiration from her empowering stories and learn how to honor your emotions, embrace self-care, and foster a deep love for yourself once more!

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Michael: Hey! What's up, Unbroken Nation! Hope you're doing well. Today I'm joined by Gina Perin, who is a certified health and wellness coach. My friend, how are you today? Welcome to the studio!

Gina: I'm great. Thank you, Michael. Great to be here.

Michael: Yeah. I'm super excited to have you here. I've been looking forward to having this conversation for a lot of different reasons, but predominantly because I think your journey is just a stellar journey, it's one that I think a lot of people will relate to the hardships and more so, I think about this idea that each of us have opportunities laid in front of us, that in one way or another shape our lives, and sometimes we go down the dark path and sometimes we step into the light. And before we get into all that, so I can understand you a little bit more and the audience of course. What is one thing that I need to know about Gina to know who you are?

Gina: I'm passionate about health and wellness, but I have shifted what I was pursuing with health and wellness was very much just the physical for most of my life, and that has very much shifted to now the emotional and the mental health component that I was missing. So basically, the holistic approach to health and wellness, the whole person.

Michael: Yeah. It's fascinating how often we think that when we look at people who are very physically fit, that their sh*t is together and a lot of times you find that's actually not true. And the opposite too when you see people who are really unhealthy and just physically from the outside, you would assume that maybe their mental health is really bad, and sometimes that is true. And so, I think that's just kind of the dichotomy of life and we're gonna explore and dive into how you've gotten into this holistic approach on both sides. Tell me about your earliest childhood memory and what are the things that drive you?

Gina: My earliest childhood memory definitely was around the age of seven. So, I grew up on a farm that's very important to know, a farm in the middle of nowhere in Pennsylvania, oldest of four. So, all of my siblings were also my friends, that's we only had each other to play outside. And the neighboring farms, we had our cousins that lived near us, so that was great too. My cousin Tommy was quite a bit older than me, about 14, and I looked up to him. So, I thought he was like Evel Knievel I mean, wheelie is on his dirt bike, the whole thing and I just, I wanted to be him, I wanted to be him when I got older. And at the age of 14, when he was 14, he killed himself, shot himself in the head. And it hasn't been determined either accident or on purpose but either way, he had died. My parents took me to the funeral, so that was a very impactful moment in my life, it was the first time that I've ever seen adults cry, it was the first time I saw my dad cry. I don't know that I fully understood what was going on but I knew it was very, very big and that was definitely the first experience that is seared into my brain. Like I can smell that the funeral parlor, I can literally smell it. I remember sitting there on my dad's lap, so, that would be the first event that really started to shape my life.

Michael: I don't think most children understand what is happening in that moment. When my uncle was drinking and driving and it was New Year's Eve ‘93 and drove his car off the side of a on-ramp, closed casket, the whole nine. And so, I was a little bit past eight years old and I remember all of the grownups being sad and that's something I think as a child you don't understand, you don't process. And in those moments, and like you, it's actually seared in my mind because I remember being like, well, where is he at? Why is everyone here and he is not here and so on and so forth. But they often say one of the hardest things people go through as family is like losing children. When you look back at that moment, did you at all understand it? Did anyone explain it to you? And especially under the circumstances, or what was that like?

Gina: They explained it to me. However, when we're in the funeral parlor and sitting up front, I remember my dad taking me up to the front and you got to say goodbye to 'em, it was an open casket and he literally just looked like he was sleeping, laying there. So, in a seven-year-old mind just thought he was sleeping and he was going to wake up and come play with me the next day so, that was really hard to understand, I don't think I understood it like at that very moment, but as time went on and he didn't come the next day and all that. And this I remember very, very specifically is there was just a little band-aid, like on his neck, there was just a tiny little band-aid and other than the band-Aid, he literally just looked like he was sleeping. So, I definitely don't think I understood what was really happening, I was more fearful of seeing my uncle and my dad crying like these men in my life that I thought were very, very powerful, strong men I had never seen them cry and certainly not like that so that was impactful for sure.

Michael: Yeah. I would imagine that carries a lot of weight into relationships and family dynamics and this may be a bit of a strange question, but how did you start to reconcile that? One of those things, like even still, does it feel like part of childhood is missing?

Gina: Well, I can tell you that I definitely didn't reconcile anything for a very, very long time. I think I just suppressed that, nobody ever talked about it after that. I don't wanna say swept under the rug or anything like that not like he was forgotten, but I don't have any memories of him ever being like, really talked about after that. So, it kind of like, just kind of went away.

Michael: Did that change who you were?

Gina: I'm absolutely sure that it has for sure. You know, around the age that he was, you know, I'm 14, 15, I just started getting into a lot of trouble. By the time I hit high school, I was just not going to classes and just not doing what I was supposed to do started experimenting with drugs, started experimenting with alcohol very young. I can't say for sure that that's what I mean, it wasn't just that what happened there.  But those are like my next memories that happened of just going down like this really bad path. And then, going to college, dropping outta college, just didn't want to go, just had a lot of unresolved things going on and got married really young. So that's coming from a small town, you get married, you have kids, it's what you do never even questioned that there'd be anything else to do in life. So, luckily, stop doing drugs and stop drinking, got married, had kids, shortly thereafter divorced. I mean, just catastrophe, as you can imagine, wasn't a great partner, just very selfish, I would definitely say that I was very selfish, really didn't have a direction of where I was going what was happening.

Michael: Yeah. My thought when, as you were saying that I was, people who get married young, I feel for them in a lot of ways because I'm like, you don't even know the right questions to ask yet.

Gina: Zero idea. I had zero idea. I mean, it's funny, looking back at it now, I'm like, it's almost cringey. I believe even look at photos and I look like a baby.

Michael: Yeah, because you probably were. Well, and of course now we live in a different world where most people aren't getting married till their thirties and forties at this point, we live in a very different society, but even when I was in my late teens, early twenties, the people around me were getting married and I was always the outsider, you know, and even today, I'm probably still the outsider in a lot of ways, because like I go and I look at those experiences of high school and the drugs, the alcohol, the partying, the breaking the law in ways that I still don't even really talk about, it was like, that felt way more normative to me than whatever was happening in the world for some odd reason. Like I felt this really interesting call, part of it was survival like, go make money, do whatever it takes and part of it was there's a thrill in this chaos. Right? If you chase chaos and you're used to chaos in your home, your parents, your community, and you see this so often, more per capita, more people do methamphetamine in small towns than they do in big cities. There's like something, I didn't grow up in a small town nor farm, but y'all have nothing to do. What was it that at such a young age had driven you into drugs and alcohol?

Gina: It's what everybody was doing around me. There isn't even a great experience there's nothing to do, it's going to the woods and get somebody to get you alcohol, a lot of alcohol and just drink and quarry jump and do stupid sh*t, you know? And that's what you did. And I literally looking back by 21, I was like, I can't keep doing this, this party in life and college wasn't working out for me. And it was like, I know I'll get married because that'll fix everything, that'll get me to stop.

Michael: That was a cognizant idea that you had?

Gina: I believe it was. Yeah. Like maybe, I stop doing drugs and drinking and I'll get married and straighten up and everything will be just, it's insane when I say it out loud when I say it out loud now, today, decades later, it's like, where was the thought process and all of this. People around me were starting to get married again, they get married kind of young, that's just a, maybe a small-town thing I don't know or even back then, so we're talking 25 years ago, so it was a different time. And you get married and you start having babies, like that's just what you do.

Michael: Did it seem like that was for you a way to escape your possible fate based on the path that you were down?

Gina: A hundred percent, just seemed like a better option or I was gonna kill myself with drugs or who knows, like, who knows what happened. It was like I needed to change something and I literally had no tools to deal with whatever I was suppressing by doing all the drugs and alcohol and those kinds of things. I had no tools. I didn't even know anything about mental awareness or mental health like back then n none of that. I was just reacting to my life very reactionary and just do what everybody else was doing. I will say this, there is a piece of this that I had left out. My dad was a competitive bodybuilder when he was younger. And like, even though we lived on this farm in the middle of nowhere, and when we had a very large gym in our house. So, from the time I was very, very little, I lived in that gym just watching my dad take care of himself physically, and, and his body building friends had come over. And so, I basically grew up in a gym, so I knew all like how to physically take care of yourself. So, let's take out the years that I ingested drugs and everything else, even while I was doing that, I would still run, I would be running races, like taking care of myself physically, but then putting bad stuff in my body. Right. And it doesn't make a lot of sense, but back to what you were saying, if you would see me just out in public, ‘oh, she's very fit, she must take really good care of herself, you know, she's got it going on mentally and physically, when really all I had going on was the physical.

Michael: Yeah and it can be like that, right? There's a beautiful escapism in the drugs and alcohol especially when you don't know what's happening. I mean, I recall like the first time I got high, I was 12 years old, and I just remember vividly filling peace, it was the only time it'd ever, like, it was like the sun was shining, the sky was blue, the birds were chirping there was nothing in the world that could take away that singular moment of peace until it started to spiral. Right. And you often hear this notion of chasing the dragon. And luckily for me, I watched my mother go down this path of prescription drug abuse that destroyed our entire family, I kind of quelled a lot of it, but I put it into other things which I think a lot of people do. And to your point, I was just doing what everyone else did, it was not outside the norm for us to go and get trashed till two, three in the morning, wake up at six or seven, go to work, crush it at work, and then go home and do it again. And what I think is really interesting there's some cogent thought for you about this idea, get married, have kids, maybe this becomes the solution whereas the only thing I was thinking was, let's go get trashed again. And so now you're in your twenties, you're having this moment of change, right? You're stepping into marriage and motherhood were there moments where you're like, I feel like this is the thing I'm supposed to be doing?

Gina: Oh, absolutely, until it wasn't and it wasn't very long. We were married maybe five years, you know, and I was miserable again still they're miserable, like sober but miserable, you are not making me happy, I'm not happy in this, maybe this isn't for me, you know, but what is still very lost, right? So, go through a divorce again all am I doing, me asking for the divorce, like, he didn't sign up for that, I still was just not okay, you know what I mean?

Michael: Where did the not okay come from?

Gina: I didn't know. I had no idea like what I was still missing like, there was something just missing. So, the kids are young, we're probably about four years into marriage, four and a half, I'm still not happy now I'm gonna start drinking wine again, I'm gonna go back to drinking. Now it's social, now it's with moms, you know, it's okay to be at mommy class and girls drinking wine and it's socially like, acceptable, whatever. And then I'd go home and I'd drink a little bit more, and it was always just like a little bit more and it was really starting to affect like, how I would feel like just being Saturn in my life, I didn't sign up for this. I didn't want to be where I was and I didn't know why. I was never content in my own skin at all, just not content. And so, I asked for the divorce, that's going to make me happy which of course that didn't work, meet a really nice guy, you know, because, well, you should be married, you have kids, it's just come from a different world than I'm used to now. Meet a guy, very successful, great guy. He's gonna make me happy. And we get engaged. I'm slated to move to New Jersey and move in with him and he's gonna take care of me successful enough. I won't even have to work. I can be home with my kids and my soon-to-be stepsons, that'll make me happy, right? And I'm so self-absorbed in my own life and we were the fitness couple. Again, if anybody saw us, we were fit and just, they have it all together, and there was something in my mind, I'm like, oh, great, I'm going from one relationship to another from the outside it looked great to everybody. And it's Christmas now to be married, you know, that next summer and it's Christmas, I'm like 33 years old.

Michael: I have a question for you. I know where you're going but I have a question for you before we go there. I think often people are seeking validation externally from everywhere except the mirror. And I know this from my own experience, all of the hookups, all of the random nights, all of the drugs and alcohol, I will do f*cking anything for you to like me for seven seconds. Right. All of the sacrificing of your own morals, integrity, character, values, boundaries, to have that thing, we seek that. If you like, reflect on that because there are people, I know right now who are in this moment, maybe not particularly the same but close where they're seeking that thing. Was there ever a moment for you where you were like, I need to fill myself up first, or did it just feel so, because to me, the reason I'm asking this question is it never, ever dawned on me. If you go look at my life from basically 15 to 25 this decade, not once did it dawn on me that I needed to love myself first. And I'm curious if you ever had any inkling of that kind of thought?

Gina: Great question. At this point, that's what I'm starting to feel. Before that, even through my divorce, never even thought of that, never thought of that at all. From the moment I got engaged, I had doubts and I knew this isn't the right thing that and I knew and I said yes anyway, and I've got this big ring on my finger, he was very successful. And from the outside, I'm getting all the accolades, all the what you want that, you know, chasing that, you know, look at me every, I'm doing great. Remember, I'm not that druggie teenager anymore, you know, people still wanna bring that up, whatever. But this time, ‘cuz now I'm like early thirties for some reason it's starting to dawn on me now, and I'm like, I am going to go from one marriage to another and I don't even like myself, so I don't know what's going to change there. But before that it wasn't even a thought. And I started, mean, I started praying on, I remember pray on it like, what do I do? I'll disappoint my parents again; I'll disappoint my friend. What do I tell people? What do I tell people I was so worried about telling everyone else, like, I don't know that I really want to marry this person. He was great, it was me that was struggling. And before I could even find out what would've happened with that scenario, if I would've even had the courage to call it off or do any of that tragedy struck it at Christmas and my brother took his own life. But leading up to his death, I knew I was going to be going in just through the same situation and I was still like this empty hole inside. There was just an empty, like but cared so much what everybody else thought of me.

Michael: We often do until we don't. And I say this often, I don't care what people think about me unless you're in my circle. Right. And even then, I'm very hesitant to decide whether or not I'm going to bring that energy in because the one thing I've discovered is everyone has an idea about what your life should be. And there is one of the things that I teach my clients often and really everyone, if you've ever listened to this podcast before is like you can turn tragedy into triumph and breakdowns into breakthroughs. Here's the hard part about that, tragedy and trauma and breakdowns have to happen. I don't know, and I've asked everyone that I've probably ever interviewed on this show about that moment, and it's like everyone is like, you have to have it. It sucks. It's unfortunate, it's unfair, it's not the thing that you want, but it's the thing you need. And sometimes it's the thing you need by proxy. You know, I look at my breakdown when I'm 25 heading into 26, thank God one of my little brothers said, never talk to me again, you're not my brother without that moment, I probably wouldn't be here finding out that my three childhood best friends have been murdered. Like, without that I probably wouldn't be here. Crippling debt and borrowing money from my girlfriend who f*cking lived with me to pay the rent, it's like, without that I probably wouldn't be here. And I wish that it weren't so many, but that tends to be the case for some of us and obviously with an impact in your life on a Christmas, that was the case. What was your relationship like with David?

Gina: It was great. He was such a kind person. I was the oldest, like I said, on this farm and then was David, and then we have identical twin sisters. So, it was always teams, it was David and I against the twins ‘cuz the twins they were their own team. So, he was my team member, so definitely lost my team member my sisters have each other but he was very sad and I was so self-absorbed in my own life that I didn't notice how sad he was. I didn't take that time to really check in on him and see how he was doing in a real way. Right. I would drop off my daughter once a week at his house ‘cuz he would tutor her and drop off, Hey, how you doing? And leave again, just very self-absorbed and not like, how are you doing? What's going on? We just kinda get together for holidays and text on birthdays and he lived 20 minutes from me. He lived so close and it's like, I didn’t catch the signs. I didn't see 'em. I didn't see him coming until it was too late, of course, not to say that I could have changed, that I don't beat myself up as to whether or not I could have changed the outcome. But I was living a very, very selfish life. No plan, no direction, just okay, I'll get married again, and then that'll be all good and that'll fix it and just un really unaware of what was going on around me.

So, that morning, my dad and I found him. This was Christmas morning; he didn't show up to Christmas Eve again so Christmas Eve is a big event at my parents' house every year. And for me, it was like, this year, it was 2010 was, it was even bigger because I'm bringing my new fiancé and soon to be stepsons to Christmas Eve. So, it's the first time I'm bringing them there so I'm just focused on me and look at, you know, this is gonna be my new family. And I mean, it was like halfway through the night, or the night was more than halfway through the night, the night was almost over before I realized that like, he wasn't even there, he hadn't showed up. And I look at my dad and it's like, where's David? You know, he's like, I don't know, they had tried to call him, but he didn't come. So, even at that point I was just very into whatever was going on in my world. The next morning after the kids open their gifts take them to be with their dad, and I text David Merry Christmas and no response. So that's when I knew right away that something was really wrong but not until it was definitely too late. So, I decided to drive to his house and my dad met me there because they had been trying to call him as well and no response. And that was again, so how many years between seven years old to now 33, open casket, see my brother laying there. Band-aid under his chin. Same thing. Almost identical, and that was obviously a major thing that happened with our family within six months I called off the engagement. It was kind of my out which was better for all parties involved, certainly and that was the start of going right down that same bad path, repeating the same pattern from back 14, 15 years old. It literally just repeated itself, it started all over. So, I'll move across the country that'll fix everything, let me move away from all the sadness, took a couple years to actually get enough courage to just start over and move out here. But still unresolved in everything that had happened from back childhood. So, I could have moved to Australia and the same thing was going to happen if I didn't actively go to fix it. And so the breakdown, Michael, to your point, it was slow, meaning it just progressively got worse but it's like the frog in the water that the water's warming up and you don't realize it's going to come to a boil until it comes to a boil. And it took a few years after his death, more than a few years after I moved to LA for it to come to a boil.

Michael: It does that. I often think of the old proverb, wherever you go, there you are and you cannot escape yourself. The things that we do that are often just these normative autonomic biological responses for creating safety in our life are the very things that destroy our lives, the drugs, the alcohol, the hooking up, the debt, the whatever it might be, we chase those things so that in those things, at least we feel better than when we're not in them. You know, and you come to find on a long enough timeline, and you see this all the time in people who are addicts in some capacity, it's like they would much rather be in the destruction of that than the discomfort of their reality. I witnessed it and my mother, my grandmother, family members, myself even, especially in my twenties, but there's so many lessons to be learned in that if you're like willing to honestly be f*cking real with yourself and look at your life and going, this is my fault. And that's what's so difficult about it because the circumstances in which often lead to that moment may not actually be on you. Their death and loss and maybe dead or losing a job, a breakup even but it's like every single time you make that decision to do that thing, even though it's in your head and you're like, dude, stop f*ucking doing this and you do it and you're like, tomorrow I'll stop. It's like, none of us are free of the addiction, of the opposite of what we feel in reality and so, we chase it. And I want to go in, I want to talk about this boiling with you ‘cuz I think it's really important. But before we do that, there's a question I was thinking about leading up to this that I really, really wanted to ask you. What did you learn from David?

Gina: Oh, so much in retrospect. He always paused. He actively listened to you when you would talk and no matter what was going on around him, when something bad would happen within the family or whatever was going on, he'd take a pause, he'd digest it before any reaction and it was usually very calm, where I was very reactionary just to like my life and just causing more chaos. I would cause more chaos and was like, I wasn't comfortable unless I was causing more chaos and say, you know, whatever it was that was happening, I'd make it even worse. And it was like, I was good with that, where he was very good at staying out of the chaos and kind of taken a step back, that is the biggest thing that I learned from but I didn't learn that until much later after his death. And I was like, oh, he was just a much calmer person, now clearly, I don't know what was going on up in his mind, but just to sit and be with him was a very calming presence where I was more like, what's the next big drama that I can either cause or make worse of whatever was going on around me? It's like I wasn't comfortable just being me. I can honestly say that is the best thing I've ever learned from him. I just wish he would be around right now for him to experience the other different side of me.

Michael: Yeah. We never understand why people do these things, and you can't. And we can drag ourselves through glass trying to understand it. And for me, in some capacity, I do, I mean, I've obviously shared publicly my own battles with suicide attempts and ideations and plans. And even now I look back at it, I'm like, I don't know why. I just knew that I was in pain and everything except this existence felt easier.

Gina: Yeah. And this was a man who we used to work out together. So, my brother and I were the two that really caught the fitness bug from my dad. So, we were always in the gym together. This man wouldn't eat a french fry, he was like he was so disciplined, so disciplined, physically just you look at him and go, wow. I mean, dedication to took such good care of his body and mentally was obviously suffering, right? Where you looked at me and it was kind of the same thing physically, but mine came out in a different way. You know, started drinking again and I was always looking for another outlet or somebody else to make me happy, some other source to make me happy or some location will make me happier, or buying this new car will make me happier. And it was always just chasing that it never satisfied of course, ‘cuz that's an endless pit. But he must have had just a different way of dealing with whatever demons he was dealing with.

Michael: Yeah. And I've just come to discover we can't try to understand it no matter how much we want to, because it'll in our heads, we think that it'll create closure. It'll make us feel better. It'll may even for some of us who feel shame around not being there enough, give us permission to let go, but you're never going to know. We can never understand. If you could say one thing, assuming that somehow through the grace of the magic of the universe that we live in, and David could hear it, what would you say to him?

Gina: I would say, I'm sorry. That's gonna choke me up. I'm sorry, I was a selfish sister back then and I wish I would've been there for him in a different way.

Michael: Yeah, and resonate with that. I feel that unfortunately we are all selfish, that is just the nature of the human experience. But obviously you've had to find that that is not serving, like, it's not going to be the thing that takes you to who or where you want to be in your life. And you made a decision to go to L.A. And L.A., just despite whatever might have been in your head initially was not salvation. What was L.A.?

Gina: You know, I had friends here and in this ended up being so crazy, but my daughter's married now and doesn't even live in the state and I'm still here because I've made family here. And I feel like, L.A. for me was where I had to have that breakdown and breakthrough. I met people here or in L.A. that I would've met staying in my small town, who knows I would've gotten married and lived in New Jersey and life would've went in a different path but I really feel that I was meant to be here. From the company that I work for when I walked in there, they immediately became family, it took a long time, but it's like, I feel like I was positioned there, like, this is where you're gonna end up healing. But I didn't know that initially, I didn't know that but this is where your life really is going to change. So, initially I was on that, still on that downward spiral doing everything I had done before, just in a new location and started teaching in local gyms. And again, the physical fitness, ‘cuz it was the only thing I knew how to fix but mentally I was just going straight down. And I'd spend many, many nights over drinking by myself in my apartment until I got to a point where I understood how David maybe got to the conclusion that he did. I can't say that I know exactly what, of course, what was going through his mind, but I could see that if I were in his mind, in the position that he was in, it would've felt like the right thing to do and I started to scare myself. You know, I was going down a really, really dark path, worse than I had ever been before so, it had slowly gotten worse that slow boil where I was like, something needs to change.

Michael: What was the moment where you realized that?

Gina: I would love to tell you that there was like some magical moment that something happened to me and everything changed around, but there wasn't. For me, I read these like, amazing stories about people and it's, like I got struck by lightning and everything changed, it didn't happen like that for me. For me it was an opportunity opened up where a gym poached me out of another gym and then put me in front of new people, one ended up becoming my mentor, all of a sudden people started to come into my life where I wanted to be like them and things started to happen, I said, how about you read this book or you read this book, or you listen to this podcast? I'm starting to change some of my behaviors just from all those things that are going on. So, for me it was, it was more of like a slow, a slow change.

Michael: I think most of the changes that are the most impactful are like adding up every single one of the straws on the back of the camel. And then you're like, oh, f*ck, something changes now or it never changes ever and that’s when I was 26, that's what it was. I was just like, I don't know. Here's what's interesting too, even now, I think that holds true, it's just faster. Right? The looking at life, the dissecting it and going, this is not the thing that I'm supposed to have, be whatever change, do something different right now. I had this amazing, amazing therapist, when I was in my early thirties. He said something to me that radically shifted my life because you talk about accountability, about responsibility, about trying to take control over your own life and I never did that. I blamed everyone all the time, constantly. It literally could not be, it was impossible that it could ever be my fault. I don't care why I could crash my car through a f*cking house and it would be like, you shouldn't put your house there? I don't know why your house is there, this has nothing to do and it was like, that was my life. And I'm sitting here with this therapist and he helped me understand why, right? So much of that was about survival, so much of that was about watching how my mother operated in the world and her lack of responsibility and so you start to connect these dots. And he says to me, you know, change only happens when you make change happen. And for whatever, that was singularly one of the biggest light bulbs in my life because I finally understood like, wait a second, I can do something different because here's what's interesting about your story. You moved to L.A., you're going through you're at the 5:00 AM workouts, the 6:00 AM workout to pushing yourself, getting in shape, losing weight, like and yet going home at night and it's like back in the darkness. You know, it's funny when you walk through your front door, how dark it can be?

Gina: Huh? Extremely. And so, I moved to LA and that's when I started over-drinking, overeating. Now I like gain a bunch of weight I had never been overweight in my life. Right? I'm always like this super healthy person and I'm starting to spiral down to the point where I start to, I get a little scared. I'm like, what is happening to me? Like, I don't recognize myself in the mirror.

Michael: What were you scared of?

Gina: I was seeing the progression of the downward spiral. I took a look back, like this is what I was five years ago, and look at me now, I'm starting and it was seeing some photos, to be honest like I'm seeing the photos and I'm like, what has happened to me? Like I'm starting to, and I just felt terrible mentally. And Michael, for me, everything was always like physical and it was the only thing I knew how to fix. So, I get so disgusted one day from seeing a photo and I'm like, that's it, I'm changing my life, I walked into the local gym and I got myself back in the shape. And when I say this, for people out there struggling to lose weight, for me, and I'm so sorry I'm going to say this, but for me, physically losing weight and getting back in the shape, that was easy because that was the only thing I knew how to do. And that comes from I mean fitness from childhood, you know? So that was the only thing I knew how to do but I could not clean up my mental fitness. I couldn't clean it. I didn't know what to do. And it became blaringly obvious now at that point. Okay, I'm listening to, I stopped listening to the radio, that was the first major thing that I did. I'm in sales, I was a sales rep. So, I'm constantly driving in the car, I'm like, what do I do every single day? Listen to the same radio stations music. Instead of that, I don't know, I'd read somewhere, listen to audio books instead and learn something while you're in the car. So, that was one of the biggest changes I started there and hearing about, you know, excusitis case, I believe it, I don't know Brian Tracy or somebody who said it. I say, oh my gosh, that's me. I'm sitting in the car for all these hours going, that's me. And I was the common denominator in all of this, like in everything and I start listening to what they're saying, Michael, I was literally your twin on that, I couldn't do no wrong, it was everybody else's fault, my ex-husband's fault, parents fault, whatever it was, I had zero accountability in my life. Zero. And expected everybody else to make me happy.

So, I start with the audiobooks and, you know, by no one's fault, but I think I grew up in my parents are a little bit old school, you just don't reach out for help, you don't go talk to therapists, that's maybe like a big no-no, you know? So, they don't really help, or at least that was my idea of therapy, there's a waste of time and nobody could really help you and I thought, well, maybe that's wrong my idea of that. So then, I reach out and find therapists. Now I have to tell you, I went through a couple therapists till I find somebody that really is my fit. So, I didn't want to give up on myself, I was like, I didn't wanna give up on myself. I start talking to somebody and I just kind of went all in, why am I the way that I am? Why am I this major people pleaser? How can I be so on top of my game, like working these crazy hours, doing well at work and then walk through that door and falling apart? What is going on? Like, I wanted to know, like all those things that were happening with me because I could not wake up another time, like pass out on my couch, nothing was changing. I was going to kill myself through drinking or some other stupid way, you know, not on purpose, but I was basically killing myself. So, it started off small, but then it started to snowball.

Michael: Yeah, that's how it always does.  I guess it starts off a little brush fire and then you're burning down the rainforest.

Gina: I was burning it, I mean, then down to I ended up years ago now, but I canceled cable because I would watch the news first thing when I get up. Grab the phone, watch the news, taking in negative things and the negative talk. So, I really had to change every little aspect but it did take time, it took time.

Michael: And that's the thing people don't understand, it's like you're never gonna listen to one podcast, you're never going to read one book. I mean, and more so you should probably re-listen or reread a lot of this again and again and again until it like sinks into your brain. Like when I wrote my first book a few years ago, soon as you start, it says, you're going to need to read this again. Right. This is not a one-time deal. And I don't think anything is because our habitually, our brains want to go back to comfort the second we find discomfort. And what's so interesting about discomfort, it could be not being co-dependent, it could be having accountability, it could be saying no to the extra hours of work and the date you probably shouldn't be on anyway, ‘cuz that person has bad energy and you can fill it and all of the things. And so, the escapism once you can control that, like I really think that's where healing begins. And it's not that there aren't moments where you fall back ‘cuz we all do, assuredly I can promise you I'm gonna f*ck up 100%, but if I can link them, the space in which those fuckups occur like that to me is where the win is ‘cuz it's in the middles, right?It's not at the finish line. Nobody really wins a marathon by crossing the finish line, they win the marathon by f*cking running the marathon. And I think people forget that, especially in mental health and in this journey. This is a rest of your life game like, I don't know about you, but I don't ever wake up every single morning and I'm like, yay. Life. Most mornings I wake up and I'm like, f*ck man. All right, let's go. What do we have to do today? You mentioned something like you joined that gym or you started working there and you had your first mentor, who was this?

Gina: Oh, so, this is very interesting. So, the woman that hired me at Equinox ends up going back to school in positive psychology health and wellness. And so, I reach out, I'm like, what is positive psychology with health and wellness? Like, I don't even know what that is. Her name is Patricia and she now lives in Switzerland. So, she got transferred out there, but she's the one who really encouraged me. She started telling me all about it, and I went back to school in the same place that she did. And so, she kind of turned started that ball rolling of, but then my therapist was really, who started getting into the actual work of like, you know, what is the stuff in the past that I carry with me and how has that shaped me into my reactions and my behaviors and all of that? I didn't know any of those things, but Patricia really started the ball rolling of like, oh, I can help myself and then I can also help people in a different way to get fit as opposed to just going in and teaching a class. She got me more involved in like the emotional and the mental fitness, and so I give her all the credit.

Michael: What part of this self-discovery was most life changing for you? Like, what was the moment like, you're either therapy or you're sitting with Patricia and you're like, f*ck, I get it now, I have one of like seven.

Gina: I was going to say, I have a few of those, so I don't know. So, a couple things, did you ever read the book it didn't start with you?

Michael: No.

Gina: Okay. I do recommend that. But there are certain like genes that will get marks on them and they're actually passed down. So, some behaviors that could come out in me maybe really came from my grandmother or came from past traumas that could be, you know, a couple generations back, maybe not even like for that's kind of mind blowing. The other thing for me, this one just blew my mind, it's like, do not believe everything your brain tells you. I literally would believe everything that I think, everything that I think, I didn't even question it. And it's like, where did that come from? Where did that thought initially come from? I would just believe. And again, very reactionary to my life, I would just react to everything.

So, for example, if you write down like five things that you tell yourself all the time, you're telling yourself things every single day, thousands of things, right? But if you really think about your thoughts and jot them down, even for like a week, there's like top five that you repeat over and over again. You know, either I'm fat or I'm ugly, or I'm not good enough, whatever that is and I kind of trace back like, where did you first hear that? Like, where did that first come from? Did it come from a parent, like a sh*tty parent? Did it come from Susie, your classmate in middle school? My thoughts, like I believed them a hundred percent.

Michael: There was fool’s errand.

Gina: I mean, every thought. And so now I'm very, very, very, very aware of like the thoughts that I have and I'll tend to go negative first, which I guess most of us do, but I was, every thought in my mind was negative which is always negative. You'd give me good news and my brain would go to, well, yeah, but what if this happens? Well, what do you mean? What if this isn't what's happening something good is happening that you can change your brain chemistry, that you can start living in gratitude and changing the way that, it takes work. I wanted somebody to gimme a magic pill. I wanted a therapist to like fix me in a week. I wanted to be whoever this was on social media that I thought was like super happy, happy and living their best life like, I'm like, I want that life. But back to your point about the marathon, like you don't see all the middle and all the work that they do in between it, like all the work that it takes to change your life. If you are in a bad spot, if mentally, physically, it takes a ton of work and that work is what I wasn't seen. I just thought it, something's going to change me magically or someone was going to change me magically.

Michael: Yeah. And so much of the work too, is exponential and you don't understand that every single day like here's what I think about. It's not that it takes you 10 years to change your life, it's that it takes you all the efforts of the 10 years to change your life. And that's what I figured out one day where I was just like, wait a sec, I was standing in my kitchen and I had that same sense of peace that I had when I was 12 years old when I was high, except I was completely sober. There were no women, there were no drug, there was no alcohol, there was no debt, there was no, I need to drive 200 miles on the highway just so I feel alive for five seconds, it was just like, I was in the kitchen and the window was open. I could hear the birds chirping. I was having coffee and I was like, f*ck, this is the thing. But it took, at that point, that was probably like seven years of work, constant work, constant showing up, constant action, constant consumption of all of the things trying to learn and navigate who it is that I am. One of the things that came of that, it is my ability to help people and I never intended this, I say it all the time. I have no f*cking chance in h*ll I was doing this job if you asked me this 10 years ago. And now you're in a position where you're also helping people, talk about that.

Gina: Yeah. So back to like where I said about how I lived my life before, it was a life that was very, very selfish. It was all about how Gina can get ahead, whatever Gina can do to take care of Gina, all of that. And I've shifted now into more of a life of service like, how can I give back to anyone who's looking to better themselves physically of course, I can do that just from a coaching perspective. But how can we put it all together? How can I help people make that connection of the people that help me make the connection where Gina, you're never going to be fit if it's just physical and you don't have those other aspects. So, now when I work with clients, it's not just, hey, eat this and exercise this, and that'll take off the weight but there's a lot of work that goes into making sure that mentally they're okay. A lot of writing, reading, learning, I mean, it's constant, you know, to bring everything together. It just took me in a completely different direction that I never thought that I would go in. I don't know what I thought I really didn't have a plan for my life, it was just get up and I was on a rinse and repeat cycle of no planning and now it's like got one-year goals, five-year goals, ten year goals, but it's all those little things every day to add up.

So, when you were talking about how it all came together and it took like seven years, that's the compound effect. We live in a world of instant gratification and somebody could come to me and they're like, I want to lose 10 pounds and it's gotta be in three weeks. I'm like, how long did it take you to put on 10 pounds? How long did it take me to end up on the floor of my apartment passed out, wondering how the hell did I get here again? It took a long time. It took decades. So, it wasn't gonna fix itself in a couple weeks, it's not gonna just be fixed automatically. But it's all those little things you do in between they compound over time. Listen to the audio books in the car instead of listening to the radio. Getting up and writing in the morning or night I have switched when I do some journaling, but actively practicing gratitude, actively reaching out to people that are where you think you want to be, and asked them what did they do to get there? They didn't just wake up and be that person in one day. So, my goal is to literally just live in a life of service as opposed to, again, just living in the world of Gina.

Michael: Yeah. Here's what's interesting is I'm sure the world of Gina's great, right? Because then you aren't bothered by the realities of your decisions. The world of Michael was f*cking awesome, right? If you like being in misery and being tortured and walking down the gates of hell and walk in crossing the river sticks on a daily basis, that's a great world to be. And it's shocking to me how different your life becomes when you sit and realize the truth that you're fucking selfish. And you look and there's a space, ‘cuz look, you do also have to be selfish. Especially when it comes to your time, your effort, your energy, this whole thing around being of service like, I can't help you if I don't help me first and I'm not going to sacrifice me for you. And when you look at lifeguard training, they teach you if someone is in chaos and sprawling out of control and going under in the water, you say, Hey, you need to calm down. And if they don't, you kick them away because both of you cannot drown. And that's what being selfish is, it's like you're drowning constantly. But when you're doing it with conscientiousness and the care for self, I mean that's where you thrive. And I'm never afraid to say no anymore and I'm not codependent and I'm not in this position where I'm like, I must always do all these things for everyone else. And that's the lesson that I hope people will learn for themselves is like, go be of service. Stop being a selfish f*cking asshole ‘cuz you are. And I know that's hard and you don't wanna hear it and the first things out of your mouth is I've bend over backwards for people. I'm like, okay, cool, that's awesome at, you're great at being codependent. Right? You're really, really good at that. So, how do you actually become really, really great at being of service and starting with yourself? If somebody has listened and they're feeling like they relate to a lot of this and they're hearing this story, and obviously everyone's journey is different, but they're something they resonate with and they're like, I want something different. I've tried the marriage, I've tried the kids, I've tried the working out all the time and maybe I tried the opposite. I tried being alone and blah like, where do they start? What was like the most pivotal tool that you used in your life that you think people can use if they want to start?

Gina: Never give up on trying what works for you. So, there are so many avenues they could go down. Start with books if you're comfortable with that, start with podcasts. If you're not comfortable going to talk to somebody professionally and we're hesitant about it, go seek someone out if that person doesn't work out, there's thousands of other therapists, find somebody else. Keep trying. You will know, you will be attracted to what resonates with you. You will feel like you're at home when something starts to make sense to you.

I mean, a great example is a girlfriend night. You know, she drags me to hot yoga and said, you know, this is the way that you're really gonna feel like centered and you're gonna feel amazing and it's gonna make you feel better, I didn't feel any of that. I wanted to run, it caused me more anxiety than anything, that worked for her. Okay. Start anywhere and throw everything at the wall until something sticks for you and you'll find your routine. You know, just because somebody says get up and meditate every morning, you may hate that and it's not going to work, but try it. You won't know until you try it. You know, once you start going down the path of listening to people that are where you would like to be, you are going to get something from everyone. I've gotten something from everyone that I've listened to, and doors will just start to open that you didn't even know were there before, but don't give up. Actively pursue your happiness or change.

Michael: And know that like, honestly, the journey's gonna suck a lot longer than you think it's going to suck, and then it's gonna suck less. And then one day you're having that moment where instead of being on the floor, waking up again, being like, how the f*ck did I get here, you're sitting in something beautiful. 

Gina: And know that it's not, there's no end point; there's no end point. The journey continues, you know, it will always continue where you're gonna learn more and you're gonna learn more about yourself, and you're gonna find new tools along the way. I have to actively pay attention to the thoughts that I have in my mind and know, okay, no, you're lying to me, sometimes if it's lying to me or going inward to know about yourself it can be scary, but it's so rewarding. It's very rewarding.

Michael: Yeah. But what scary thing isn't. You know, if we're constantly used to the normality of the chaos of our life, the scariest thing is peace, harmony, love, forgiveness, compassion, connection, community, family, being out of debt, being in shape, getting off of prescriptions you don't f*cking need. Right. The fear of the unknown often keeps us crippled, but it's also the very thing you should be moving towards every single day. Before I ask you my last question, tell everyone where they can find you, learn more about you and seek your guidance if they find it necessary?

Gina: Great. You can find me on all of the social media platforms, Gina Perin, just my full name. Or you can head to my website, and I'd like to see them there.

Michael: Yeah, and of course we'll put all of the links in the show notes. Go to Look up Gina Perin. You can search right there at We'll have all of her links and more, including the full transcript of this episode. My friend, my last question for you, what does it mean to you to be unbroken?

Gina: Making peace with your past and actively participating in finding your happiness.

Michael: Beautifully said. Thank you so much for being here.

Unbroken Nation, thank you for listening.

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And Until Next Time.

My Friend, Be Unbroken.

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Gina PerinProfile Photo

Gina Perin

Executive Lifestyle Coach l Intuitive Eating l Mindfulness & Negativity Detox

Hi, I’m Gina, and I am committed to helping people to be the best versions of themselves and to live their happiest and healthiest lives.
As a Lifestyle Coach, I am drawn to helping others achieve their wellness goals. I have found along the way there is so much more to wellness than just the physical. There is mental and spiritual fitness as well.

Michael UnbrokenProfile Photo

Michael Unbroken


Michael is an entrepreneur, best-selling author, speaker, coach, and advocate for adult survivors of childhood trauma.