CENTERVILLE — It was Aug. 31, 2009, and then 32-year-old Rob Eastman had a gun in his mouth, ready to pull the trigger and end his life. It was at that moment when a vision of his mom and infant daughter popped into his head.
He knew that his daughter would one day like to know him but thought that if he ended his life, she would never have to be embarrassed by him. The thought of his mother reminded him of the God that she believed in.
As one last plea, Eastman decided to pray to his mom’s God asking for a sign, and not the “still small voice” he had learned of as a child. He wanted something loud.
Nearly 10 years after this experience, Eastman now owns a successful fitness and wellness center focused on helping those who have or are suffering like he once was.
Wearing a mask
It was early on in Eastman’s life when he began to feel different from others. He recalled being made fun of in school because of his red hair and big ears and because he couldn’t sit still in class. He was diagnosed early on with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and began seeing doctors and taking medication.
“I thought all my friends had to go to the doctors like me, so when I asked them about it they looked at me funny and told me they didn’t need to go to the doctor, and at that’s when I felt weird inside," Eastman said. "I began being bullied on a daily basis and developed a lot of self-hatred, believing all the things that the boys would call me.”
Growing up in a religious household — his family are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — Eastman looked forward to the day he could be baptized. He believed that doing so would somehow make all the bullies go away and make him better in school. However, when he went to school the following Monday and none of that had changed, that is when Eastman said he waged his first war with God.
“I felt like all of the people that were telling me good things about church were liars,” Eastman said. “If there was a God, why was he letting all these people be so mean to me? Why did I feel all these awful things about myself?"
That's when he said that he started having thoughts of self-harm and suicide.
"I didn't know anything about death or suicide, I just knew that I hated the way I felt inside," he said.
He began to find ways around being bullied, which he called wearing a mask or pretending to be something he wasn't.
"I would do whatever it took to be friends with everyone so they wouldn't bully me or think I was weird," Eastman said. "I got really good at being fake and knew nothing about being me or what made me happy.”
As Eastman grew, he found he excelled in sports and even made it to a national level with his club soccer team and had college coaches look at him as a prospective player. Although soccer and playing sports was the one thing he said made him feel good about himself, he continued to mask his feelings of inadequacy and failure, but now he did it through the use of drugs.
“I was a great athlete, but that was about the only time that I ever felt good about myself,” he said. “I was not a good student, and I had anxiety when it came to school work or sitting still in class. I tried to live in the shadow of my father who was a successful car dealer, school board president and majority whip at the Utah state Senate. It made it almost impossible for me to live up to the standards that society put on me."
He didn't tell anyone of his drug use for fear of being judged and possibly losing his friends.
"I lived in survival mode from day-to-day just trying to fend off any demon that came my way," Eastman said. "If I wasn't high, I was depressed, and then I would get depressed because I was high and it was this vicious cycle that in the '90s nobody understood, or at least nobody was willing to talk about. I didn't know anything about AA (Alcohol Anonymous) or rehab or anything like that.”
Throughout the years of high school and his early 20s, Eastman yo-yoed between drugs and sobriety, trying to fit a mold he said he knew wasn’t his. When he felt he was doing well, something would happen that sunk him even deeper into depression and drug use.
Eastman recalled an incident during his senior year in high school involving alcohol that cost him college scholarships. Then came one of the worst times in his life, he said, when his best friend, Danny, succumbed to the same demons of bullying, self-doubt, drugs and suicidal thoughts.
“It was only 11 days after my 21st birthday when I got the worst phone call my life,” Eastman recalled. “I got a call from Danny's mom asking me if I'd seen him. I got another one from the sheriff's department asking me if I knew where Danny would go if he were to run away. I told him that if there were any mountains around, that's where I would start looking because the mountains were where we felt at peace."
They found his truck in Provo Canyon and three days later, his body was found.
"My best friend had committed suicide," Eastman said.
The incident put Eastman on a destructive spiral for the next several years, he said.
"I didn't want to go on living anymore. Danny was the kindest most loving person I'd ever met and he was gone," he said. "I wandered through the next 10 years of my life in and out of relationships, in and out of jail, pretending to be something I wasn't, disappointing my entire family and burning every relationship I ever had.”
Eastman continued his downward spiral with the occasional upturn, but eventually found himself divorced with an infant daughter, sitting in a parking lot with a gun in his mouth, praying to a God he didn’t believe in.
“I knelt down and I said a prayer,” Eastman said. “I told my mom’s God that I didn't know anything about a still small voice, so it needed to be a little bit louder than that. I told him that if I opened my eyes and didn’t get a sign, I was pulling the trigger.”
Just as he opened his eyes, he said, a firework display went off directly above him, and he heard a voice saying, “Is that loud enough?” It was then when Eastman said he broke down and was paralyzed for several minutes before he drove to his parent’s house to begin his road to recovery that now includes helping others like him.
Finding a fit
After spending time rehabilitating in treatment centers and furthering his education, including taking classes in psychology and fitness training, Eastman finally found where he fit.
“Once I saw what psychology and fitness had done for me, I wanted to share that with the rest of the world,” Eastman said. “I wanted to help take the pain away from anybody who would experience the struggles I had struggled (with), and this is where the idea for Eastman Fitness and Wellness was born.”
Eastman Fitness is an addiction recovery and rehabilitation center that combines physical health and fitness with life coaching for a whole mind-body approach to wellness.
For nearly 10 years, Eastman has run his gym, as well as a nonprofit organization called Eastman Family Recovery Foundation that works in the community helping families dealing with addiction, suicide, bullying and all other mental health issues.
He actively works with police and fire departments along with community and state leaders about such issues in the community.
“I want people to know that nobody is perfect," Eastman said. "I want them to know that there are lots of people who care, and I want them to know that everybody is deserving of love.
“I know how alone I felt, how dark my world was, and I'm here as proof that there is a light and that recovery is possible and well worth the effort," he said. "Please don't give up. Be brave enough to be real and vulnerable with those people around you who truly have your best interest in mind. If you don’t believe in a God like I once didn’t, find something to believe in, even if it’s yourself.”