Irish fitness professional Derek Rowe’s personal story and private journey from a seriously off-the-rails Bad Boy to successful, inspiring and much admired fitness professional could be the stuff of a Hollywood script. But there is no fantasy here, it is all true and the remarkable Irishman shared it with Guy Holland.

1 ) My life was a mess and totally out of control from as early as I can remember Guy.

From as young as 3, I felt worthless and very low on confidence and self esteem.


This came from growing up in a drinking environment, which meant that I witnessed a lot of stuff a child should not have to see, and that led to having weird behaviours as a child.

I use to pray to the statue of Jesus from 3 years of age that my Mam would come home safe after a night out; I was always worrying about everything a child should not have to worry about at such an early stage of life.

Eventually, my mother left my father and I was told by my Aunty  in a very bad way that I should not live with my Dad anymore as he had issues. I went to live anyway, feeling miserable and unwanted in life. This left me lonely, depressed and wondering what my life had become at only 10 years old.

There as absolutely no ‘joy of childhood’ or anything like that.

I was sent to a boarding school, which in my opinion was to get rid of me as no one could handle me and my family was in a bad state. As you can imagine, I had a terrible time there: I was verbally bullied and developed bad OCD so you can imagine the slagging I got as I was constantly cleaning.

Fast forward to secondary school by which time I really hated who Derek Rowe was and created an alter ego, a tough guy, a drug dealer. I imagined this would make me happy. I attended many different schools (5) and was expelled from all of them for fighting and other stupid stuff; I ended up living with my Nanny, but only stayed for three months.

I grew up on a farm where we knew what hard work was, and always had a job to fall back on to earn money; but I still went after the life of drug dealing, though I was not a very good one at the start!

At 16, I moved to London for a year, and again my life was out of control: drinking and drugging to numb my pain and fell in with all the wrong people of course.

Full time drug dealing…

Upon my return, I moved to Dublin and took up drug dealing full-time; going out of my way to meet the top people in the game. Along the way, I also got into trouble with the police : being an angry young man, violence was never far away from me. The thing is I knew I was not this type of person and it really got to me how my life was.

Through the drug dealing I went on to make a lot of money, buying a house and nice cars. Looking at me, you would think I was so happy from being able to travel and do as I pleased as a 23 year old. However inside I was the most unhappy you could be; always looking over my shoulder, always drama in my life and could never hold down a relationship due to my childhood.

Derek Rowe_2One of my good friend was murdered…

And to my shock, it happened in a house I should have been in. It would have been unlucky, but to me some things were now normality: my drug abuse of cocaine and drink made me high everyday. You can imagine that as I was selling a lot of drugs, dealing with so much paranoia, I was going crazy; but it also showed me that my family didn’t want much to do with me as I was destroying myself and many around me. I felt I had no way out in life. 

Roll onto 26, I took a break and went to see my sister in New Zealand, where I found a casino and a whole new addiction. As funny as it may sounds now, it turned out to save my life!

Just two years later, I had lost everything from gambling mainly in casinos. But you see it was fate, I had to sabotage everything, including the money I had amassed. In the end, I went back to living in my mother’s house, bed bound for days, waking up with tears in my eyes and contemplating life itself from when I had to rob to keep my gambling going. I was a mess inside.

Finding salvation in rock bottom

One Christmas, four years ago, I lost all my Christmas money, got drunk and attacked my brother in a way I could have really damaged him without even knowing. I was in big trouble and needed help, so I got myself into a treatment centre – paid by the probation services, thank god.

I found it hard as I was a closed book and opening up meant getting my demons out. However, a month was not enough, and I had nowhere to go or live, so I went to a half-way house for men, which helps in integrating us back into normal living.

As you can imagine, it was really difficult to live in a small house with 10 guys you don’t know. I had my PT qualifications and I put them to use, teaching these guys and leading by example; and it turned out to be one of the happiest times of my life. We had no money, but what we had was honesty to ourselves. I really developed my leadership skills here.

2) My advice is to always open up. As humans, and from my experience, when we hold onto our issues, it destroys our lives in many different ways. For  me, it was anger and jealously amongst a lot of other stuff.

By talking about it, and by being 100% honest, you will see a massive change; but it must be consistent. Indeed, simply look how many years it took me to seek change as I was never consistent when help was there as I felt scared to talk and worried about what people would think.

Come back tomorrow for the Part 2 of the Q&A with Derek Rowe!

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