By Scott Robertson
Everyone has a limit, a point when the mind’s ability to keep pushing through level after level of endurance ends.
One night during the week of Father’s Day 2012, Jeff Goebel thought he had reached that limit.
He had just had a conversation with his ex-wife at the graveside of his son. Their talk had left him believing he was losing his connection with the rest of his family, including a daughter he loved dearly. Just days before, Jeff’s life-long mentor had died, deepening Jeff’s sense of isolation. And Jeff was facing spinal surgery for an injury that had eliminated the regimen of running he had come to depend on for both physical and mental wellbeing after his son’s death.
Jeff felt he was losing his family, his friends and his health – the things that had given his life meaning. With those things gone, he decided, gone too was any reason to keep enduring.
So he grabbed a handful of pain pills, bought a fifth of liquor, and took what he would later call, “a little boat ride.” He swallowed the pills, drank the liquor, and learned he had been wrong about everything.
Last week, Jeff competed in the 2015 Reebok Crossfit Games in Carson, Ca., an international competition featuring 20 of the fittest individuals in the world, televised on ESPN. Four thousand had entered the competition. Jeff had been one of the finalists, finishing fourth in his age group.
Upon his return home Sunday evening, he talked with News & Neighbor about how he went from suicidal depression and recommended spinal surgery to being one of the fittest 50 year olds on the planet.
Following the night of the little boat ride, Jeff said, he was in a coma for three days. But on that third day, he rose again to consciousness, and was amazed.
“When I woke up, one of the first people that I saw was my daughter Carly. And I saw many other faces of people who meant a lot to me, there in that room.”
Jeff’s wife Michelle was with him, as were aunts, uncles and friends. At that moment of awakening, Jeff said, the notion that his life was no longer worth living was revealed to be false, his attempt at suicide misguided. “The realization that I did matter was a huge turning point in my life.”
Jeff had already experimented with Crossfit as an alternative form of exercise, but once he was back on his feet, he threw himself into it with passion and drive. He began to strengthen his core muscles to take pressure off his spine. By doing so, he avoided the back surgery he had been dreading.
Crossfit also helped his mindset, he said. “It can strengthen your body in ways a traditional exercise program might not. I was able to overcome a lot of pain, which meant not taking the pills that may have contributed to my depression.”
Today, Jeff’s faith and renewed confidence guide his choices.
When asked what’s next, he immediately said he wants to participate in the 2016 Crossfit Games. “I want to give it another shot and try to win the whole thing next year. I want to change a few things in my training, get stronger in some areas where I’m weak, and hopefully win the whole thing.”
His Crossfit Games web page includes a brief autobiography in which Jeff quotes the verse in Philippians that says all things are possible through Christ who strengthens him. In that melding of Crossfit and the Cross, Jeff may have finally found the wellspring of strength his life cried out for.
Strength without limit.