Photos by Arden Upton
As a leader in the emotional wellness movement, Miles Adcox is a thriving entrepreneur, world-class speaker, successful podcast host, and a highly-pursued coach in the arts, entertainment, and business leadership sectors. Publicly and privately, he is known as one of the most plugged-in figures on the human condition that there is today.
Miles is the CEO and Owner of Onsite, an internationally known emotional wellness center, located on a beautiful ranch just outside Nashville, Tennessee. He also is the Co-founder and Owner of The Oaks Retreat Center in Southern California. Onsite has become one of the most trusted and recognizable brands in mental wellness, reaching over one hundred thousand people since its inception. His realm of influence has taken him to over a dozen countries, reaching an audience of over a half a million per year. He has a unique ability to explore difficult topics with tremendous honesty, warmth, and humor and has worked with some of the top leaders, entertainers, and political figures in the world.
Miles shares his story and Onsite’s story with us here:
I first began to realize in my late teens that, despite everything looking really well on the outside, internally something felt off. I had no language or understanding of what it was, but instinctively, I knew that in order to be liked and successful, I needed to cover it up at all costs. I had grown up in somewhat of an emotionally illiterate culture and system that left me without language to describe what I was feeling. I learned very young to mask my emotions in a variety of socially acceptable ways, along with a few others that weren't so acceptable. In my small hometown, excelling in sports, going to church, and being an all around “good guy” was my initial introduction into something I would later learn to perfect: The art of numbing feelings. At the early age of thirteen, I was prematurely exposed to alcohol and sex. This was not acceptable behavior, especially in my family and Christian faith. Although it was a wounding imprint, it would later evolve into a clever escape that connected me to a different group of people. Ironically, a group that lived on the wild side but accepted me in some ways more than my youth group. They had something I was missing and hungry for: a sense of authenticity. However, living between these two very different public and private personas felt exhilarating, polarizing, and fortunately came with a hard expiration date.
It was all a slow evolution into becoming a person I wasn’t proud of.
Becoming who everyone else wants you to be is exhausting, but temporarily effective.
I was successful, well-liked, and had plenty of friends. But inside, I was unhappy with the life I was creating for myself, yet assumed if I just did the next right thing, I would start to feel better.
I continued to build what looked like a picture-perfect life. I grew up in a good family, received a great education, landed a dream job in the sports industry, and yet internally, I continued to feel things that weren’t matching up with the success I was presenting on the outside. I felt the need to be ‘on’ all of the time, and the culture that came with the dream job delivered all the classic opportunities to numb out and continue hiding from myself. It was a lot of fun until it wasn’t fun anymore.
It was on that same day when I stared into the mirror, looking at a shadow of myself that I realized, “None of this is what I wanted.” I was tired of protecting myself by wearing masks to cover up any hint of vulnerability. It was all catching up with me.
My emotional manifestation turned physical. I lost my appetite, was losing weight, wasn’t sleeping, and it was obvious that things needed to change. Most of us know when something is wrong. There’s a feeling or a small nudge inside trying to tell us something isn’t right.
I could feel it. I knew it was getting worse, but I didn’t have the tools to do anything about it. Thankfully, I wasn’t the only one who noticed. Family and friends started to ask, “Are you okay?” I quickly blew off their concern; “I’m fine.” Deep down, I knew exactly why they were asking.
It was eventually the collision between their concern and my own deep desire for change that led me to finally own three simple words that would change the course of my life forever: I need help. That was the tipping point where my own pride and shame were outweighed by the reality that maybe things really could get better.
I used to refer to this moment in my life as rock bottom, but now I refer to it as my wake up call. It’s not exactly the rock bottom you see in the movies. I was well on the way to making a mess of my life, but no one found me in a ditch next to empty bottles and needles while I barely clung to life. Instead, I was in my living room, employed, successful, thin, exhausted, and depressed.
In reality, I think a lot of rock bottoms are like this. We compromise, bottle up, and eventually, wake up realizing that this is not where we wanted to be.
When I agreed to get help, it was suggested that I see a counselor. I went through a few before I found the right fit, which is normal when you’re about to unravel the last 20 years of your life. The counselor I ended up with was an amazing older man on the back end of his career. The way he talked to me and invited me to talk about my life felt different than anything I had experienced before. He could see I had a mountain of shame when it came to telling my story, so he wasn’t over-enthusiastic or pushing me too far; he simply held the space for me to share what I needed.
The way he connected with me was first and foremost as a human, secondly as a professional. This concept would later shape much of how I would build my philosophy around treating people. We are not problems to be solved but humans to be connected to.
After a few sessions, he gave me an option that would change my life.
He said, “You can continue seeing me once a month for the next several years, or you could consider an advanced track that would allow you to take a break from life and do some intense work.” That wasn’t initially what I wanted to hear. “Is it rehab?” I ask. He explained, “Consider it more like graduate school, except you will be getting a Ph.D. in yourself. No one really gets a blueprint on how to unleash their full potential or how to effectively navigate emotions and stress. This would be a place where you get to learn how.” He then said, “I’ve been doing this a long time, and we often find that those who seek help and work on themselves are usually more enlightened and ahead of the curve than the rest.” I said, “If there was such a thing, it sounds like you are describing a kind of Human School.” And he replied, “Exactly.” There I sat at what felt like one of the worst moments of my life, and the person in front of me was saying I was enlightened, advanced, and ahead of the curve. I couldn't believe what I was hearing and had no idea what it all meant at the time, but I do now.