Is there a time in my life when I need to consider taking myself more seriously? Am I really doing my best? Can I drink 2 beers and go home for the rest of my life? Have we grown up in an environment that champions binge drinking? Is pop culture a little too accepting of substance abuse, and a little too quick to abandon those who can’t hack it? The following is going to sound colorfully judgemental but bear with me because there could be an eater egg or two hidden therein for those willing to jump into this dark well with me. We’re standing at the edge of blackness. Hand in hand we’ll jump into the horrors of my retarded mind (it’s not an epithet if it’s mine). Below is my swirling madness…and jump.
What criteria makes one a “bona fide” recovering alcoholic or addict? An old shoe box full of Mardis Gras coins under the bed juxtapose to a newer one with a few AA sobriety coins? Your own proverbial “Trail of Tears” dotted with sworn eternal enemies and crestfallen Al-Anon Members? A self-titled memoir with “A Precautionary Tale of Desperation Fellatio” in parenthesis following your name? I’m not making light of the terrible things addicts do to feed their demons, so much as I’m pointing out the often high thresholds others have as to what categorizes one as an addict. Can’t we reel back our definition of addiction before its victims’ woes metastasize into a veritable pornography of symptoms? Can’t the addict just pick up life’s remote control (or Wii U controller, whatever – I’m a decrepit old motherfucker) and change the channel before it comes to all this? I think so. After all, you don’t have to keep binging on your own private “COPS on Location – Greensboro”, even when the remote’s across the room or out of batteries.
Some question your sobriety should even be called “sobriety” if you don’t amass the obligatory “RAP sheet” some insist on checking off before you’re deemed a true “fuck up”. No twelve steps, estrangements, or arrests? Some (naysayers) will say you quit drinking because you’re a control freak. It’s not true. We Fuck-Ups come in all forms & degrees – and as I’ve heard others say, “It’s best to get off the elevator before it hits the basement”. I was aware that my situation was on the fray and I’d estimate that I got off on about the fourth floor of a rather tall 27-year old skyscraper. It was when the elevator still contained a few other socially inept party-goers overstaying their welcome. Even my drunkard cohorts had the clarity to alert me to my habitual breach of party etiquette – such as a slovenly piss fail – resplendent with gaping zipper and peekaboo dick. Despite a myriad of hints The Universe provided for me to change course, I hid my alcoholism “pretty okay”, and for the most part was possessed of some seemingly supernatural power to evade Cops.
I’ve been fortunate to escape the throes of addiction & depression without the aforementioned “credentials” of the self-imagined bona fide user – all-the-more reason I should see it fit to help others who are in worse scenarios than I ever was (but we’ll get to that in a minute). I suspect that folks like me who drink excessively all the way through our 30’s, tend to internalize and deny the true scope and magnitude of our ever-deteriorating condition with serial behavioral patterns we weather throughout adulthood. We surround ourselves with like-minded accomplices so that Budweiser Weekends and impromptu weeknight “dinner parties” are the comfy, cozy, coping mechanisms of the nagging arduousness (making money, boring jobs, home repairs) which is obligatory to proper modern “adulting”. What do we get to do after a week of hard work we hate? We reward ourselves by escaping into a booze fueled-fantasy world which our imaginations manipulate into a reality way cooler than it is in actual reality. Yes – Jolly as an old ass-groove in a recliner, is the 45-year-old Dad in an Atari T-shirt air-guitaring to “Cheeseburger in Paradise” during his multi-family vacation at Myrtle Beach. In his mind he just lived out an MTV video from ’84. Adoring onlookers will talk about his performance for years to come. In reality he was wriggling about like a freshly beached whale while people frowned at him. He’ll catch wind of the National Institute of Health saying 14 drinks per week is excessive but will still manage the ‘ol, “Oh that can’t be right” with a dumb dismissive grin. If you’re getting pissed off at me because I’ve just described you – I’ve just described a version of myself as well. As a 40-something, I grew up with the “Revenge of The Nerds” party culture. I waited until my Dad was asleep to switch on the TV and see Betty Childs’ boobs and hear Booger’s epic beer belch which was integral in The Nerds’ triumph over The Alpha Betas. I see a world where Gen-Xr’s like me long ago used a memorandum entitled “The Party’s Over After Your Romantic & Experimental Early 20’s”, folded it in half, and used it to slide shake into their bongs. I’ve found that my old 90’s friends “Weedfog” and “Bingey Beer” are still normalized in suburban America from Backyard BBQ’s, Beach Culture, and Christmas Parties as a mainstay carried over from a youth culture. It’s the “Oh everyone does it now” mentality which pervasively lingers among us “Man Babies”. Did I attract like-minded energy? Maybe my ponytail was the beacon device. No matter, as the fact is that I woke up to find myself morbidly overweight, resenting my soul-leaching and bleak career path to which I felt obligated to by an antiquated narrative, and ultimately wondering what my point & purpose here on Earth is, and moreover – exactly when my life stopped imitating some lesser-known yet awesomely quintessential 80’s movie? When you’re in the heat of the party action, and everyone expects you to be Mr. Good Times, the last thing you want to bear is the shameful lowly exposure of being a confirmed alcoholic – especially when you know in the back of your mind that you are one. We celebrate drinking here and now. If you can’t handle your drink and need to submit that you’ve got to call it quits, you’re forever cursed to have the “bummer cloud” loom over your head. You committed a party foul, so your Carnival Cruise mates marooned you – forcing you out upon a sea of antipathetic faces whilst wearing the “game over – shit got real” stigmata carved into your forehead. You’ll be the ugly example of who not to be. You’ll be the loser who got smacked by the big-red-rubber-don’t-serve-him dodge ball and has to sit on the puke green gym floor and watch their peers frolic. You’ll be the lame, party-pooping fuck-o who couldn’t get his drink right.
There is a fear of further isolation by confronting your disease. Addiction is not unlike death in this sense. We don’t like to confront death, so we put Grandma in the cemetery, say a few kind words and drive back home. The world is for the living. Similarly, if you’re life’s a perpetual gallivant in “Alcoholic Fun Land” with Spuds McKenzie sitting shotgun, you’re not terribly interested in considering whether or not your current habits will cast ever-lasting shadows nor is the company you’re likely keeping thinking any deeper. Addiction is a manifestation of mental illness. We don’t know much about the brain. Is Addiction like Cancer? No, not really. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have mercy on the afflicted instead of making them the “Failure Pariahs” we whisper about and glower towards during Thanksgiving; The Banished Foes of The Mighty Spuds McKenzie himself! Mind you, it is admittedly all but my own mellow-dramatic and perhaps neurotic conjecture that I glean any insight into a cultural pattern among my age peers, but I think I’m on to somethin’ somethin’, hashtag urban dictionary. The moral is to check yourself before you wreck yourself. Quit while you’re still not a pathetic parody of yourself. It’s like Devo said:
“When a good time turns around
You must whip it
You will never live it down
Unless you whip it”
I don’t know what inspired this silver-tongued word-smithing but it’s sound advice to be sure – because, sometimes when you do some really fucked up shit at the party, you need to make it funny or waddle away before they find the evidence and you need to run; like shitting in a wok or pissing in a convertible corvette. Again, I don’t know exactly what party crimes Devo perpetrated, but their words will forever haunt me. They were weird nerdy dudes. It must have been a commensurately weird party foul. I digress…
Thus, out of my blathering convoluted web of superlatives & sophomoric metaphor, I’ll finally get to the point: Running pulled me out of my depression and boozing. The gratitude & happiness I felt after coming out of the fog is something worth sharing. It’s my obligation. I’m running The Leadville Trail 100 with The Herren Project Ultra Team to help others that are too deep in the hole to get out. Life is amazing and infinitely more vibrant through the lens of sobriety. You’d never believe it if you’re marinating in beer and whisky (among other things) as I was – but I promise you it’s true. I ran myself out of, and away from, despair. Soon I found myself running to something and not away. I brought my brain chemicals back up (I’d be feigning any commanding knowledge of neurotransmitters without some bullshit google search) and back to normal through running. I replaced smoking, drinking and general drug-doing with running. I was in a bad way and I was able to intellectually understand that my chemicals were off when I didn’t feel motivated or enjoy life anymore. I was leaving voicemails with Psychiatrists and they weren’t calling me back! Fuck! It was up to me – so I ran – pretty much like Forrest Gump. I knew alcohol was the surface cause of my present problems and that the onion layers would reveal themselves if I could work backwards by eliminating the immediate threat. I understand that not everyone has the “fuck this shit, I’m done” moment let alone can successfully act upon it. It’s hard. You feel sick. You kick people out of your lives that you love – knowing that the relationship is not serving you. People say you’re taking things too seriously. You’re trusting in some unknown force. It’s not a likely road to redemption. For those of us who need treatment (and most do) it is exorbitantly expensive. Most people who are ready for it have nothing left of monetary value with which to procure treatment. If they are lucky enough to have people that love them and still believe in them, a proper long-term recovery facility is still often an insurmountable financial hurtle. Some people are forced to mortgage their homes just to give someone they love a chance at redemption. It shouldn’t come to this. The Herren Project helps people get this treatment. This is why I’m running.
For those of you who enjoy getting yo drink on – I’m not hating on you. I don’t judge anyone for drinking. I think it can be done responsibly. The pictures I painted here are me judging myself. Alcohol isn’t everyone’s personal demon. It’s not The Total Devil – it just really wasn’t working for me at all.
For info on my campaign, my story, and to make donations, check out: http://www.ultrarunvegan.com
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