The Herren Project

I’m deeply honored and grateful that Pam Rickard and The Herren Project gave me the opportunity to be an ambassador for THP RUNS! This is a big deal for me. I’ve had so many positive things come into my world lately that I had to stagger this announcement so that it has its own space. Life is wonderfully strange in this regard. It’s a bit of a mystery how I wound up with my story and photo next to these outstanding people. One of them even wrote an inspiring book I read (ahem) Caleb Daniloff. A “few” years ago (I don’t calendar-mark dates), I was perpetually drunk and or altered, overweight, chain-smoking, depressed, and pessimistic about existence. Somehow, I dug up the determination to begin seeking who I really was underneath my own fear and pain. Choosing to walk from my old story lead me to some of the most magnetic and loving people I’ve ever met. In my heart, I feel that good things come simply from deciding to be available to others. It’s hard to stop the chattering inside that makes the world all about me. It’s hard to actually listen to someone else speak and not fixate on what I’m going to say next. It’s hard to unlearn a life of negative internal monologue. It was hard to see that my pessimism, narcissism, and misanthropy were weakness and not strength. I was only able to access any clarity on these matters after sobriety. I’m certainly not a Saint! My heart is rough-around-the-edges and often says crude $h!t in a New York accent. I’ll always be a work-in-progress, but I think the moment I started acknowledging these quirks is when a change occurred. I can say I’m as happy now as I’ve ever been. I look forward to continuing my work with THP and doing my best to be a useful human! So, if you’d like to get involved or ask questions about addiction, recovery, charity work, or charity runs please get in touch with THP (links below) or myself! If these matters interest you I highly recommend checking out Chris Herren’s story via google or better yet, his book “Basketball Junkie: A Memoir”. Finally, thanks to my amazing wife, partner and best friend Mary who has stood by my side since we were 17. Being a good person is her natural condition. She has gone through everything with me and has been a light in the darkness ever since I first saw her in Tyson’s Corner Mall circa February ’94. I did manage to mark that date on the calendar. I love you Baby

http://www.theherrenproject.org/thp-runs-ambassadors/

www.theherrenproject.org > THP RUNS > THP RUNS: AMBASSADORS

#thpruns #theherrenproject #changeispossible #soberwarrior

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The Great Epiphany

Great epiphanies follow sobriety. It is not the other way around. Most addicts don’t have singular life-altering epiphanies. Angels can sit down with us on the bus and talk our ears off and we’ll tune out their blathering. Most of us just wind up wanting to crawl out of the loathsome phantasmagoria we’ve created externally and internally. You normally cannot quantify the moment where things pivot for the better. Most of us aren’t even sure how it happened. I’m grateful that I went through darkness. Without the darkness, I may never have seen things from the perspective I now have. I don’t feel sorry for myself or want you to feel sorry for me. My hope is that some authenticity and availing myself may give hope.

1985

I had no epiphany that made me stop drinking. I had millions of moments that should have shaped me up. Cracking my head on the bottom of a pool at 3 a.m. wasn’t enough. Being holed up in jail in the middle of Texas without a phone call for days didn’t strike me as being “off”. Unintentional 180’s and wrong-ways down one-way streets didn’t do it for me. Jumping medians making my car go “Dukes of Hazzard” airborne didn’t impress me much. What didn’t kill me made me suicide-proof. Dropping acid at 13 and really grasping the visceral meaning behind the Pink Floyd lyric “There’s someone in my head but it’s not me” wasn’t a big problem for me after “The Real Scott” eventually crawled back home days later. Looking back on “my pivotal moment” is to peer into pandemonium: a flushing commode of orange vomit littered with the bobbing surfaced detritus of my past & future descending again into the abyss from whence it came in some mindless cycle. I’m prostrate with cold sweat propped against my bathroom wall glowering at the whirlpool and dehumanized by it. Each time my familiarity with the toilet’s cold porcelain surface was reinforced it took another part of my soul with it into the netherworlds with the previous night’s alcohol.

1990

I was never an angry drunk or got a DUI so I figured the alcoholism that runs through my family wasn’t going to sink its claws into me. In my late 30’s that started to change but for some reason I was ignoring the signs. Every time I cracked a beer open while driving I had this peripheral inner monologue, “You keep doing this man. You do it all the time dumbass. You think you’re going to do this the rest of your life?” I indeed kept doing it and every time I was a little more freaked-out by my behavior. I was anxious because I wanted so badly to chug the cold numbing-bubbles down and have that “oh-so- pleasant carefree-glaze” fall over me while I’d crank tunes and smoke cigarettes with the windows down. That carefree abandon was tainted – almost negated, by the looming inevitability of being caught. I was pushing 40 and I’d been driving drunk or getting drunk for way more than half my life – since 13 to be exact. My number was up soon and I was upping the ante all the time. Finally, on a Wednesday evening after band practice the darkness in my Tahoe’s cabin was illuminated by the dreaded frenetic strobes of neon blue angrily ping-ponging off my side and rearview mirrors. I immediately accepted my fate. I drank 13 beers. I polished off a 12 pack and bummed a beer at practice. I was screwed.

“How much you had to drink”, it didn’t take the officer long to ask. The equation for such a contingency was second nature to me as I now realize that every time I completed a drink (normally counted in wholesale denominations of six packs or twelve packs with side orders of gas station malt liquors) and looked at the clock, I was calculating a web of complexities involving hours, drinks and meals which might satisfy the question as to whether I was legally impaired. Of course, the numbers would always need to be drastically “fudged” and “rounded” to the point of being an egregious and borderline sociopathic lie.

“Well I left the house around seven, had four beers and dinner, so it’s now 11 and I feel totally sober”, I fibbed to the officer. Four beers were the magic number – a bit too much but honest-sounding and justification for why my sour Budweiser breath clam-baked the entire cabin of my SUV as undoubtedly when I rolled the window down to greet the officer the tell-tale miasma rolled out like cartoon sewer fog.

“Why were you going so fast”, the cop asked secondly.

I replied, “I guess it’s just been a long day and I was just thinking about eating my food and go to bed.” I gestured to my passenger – the jumbo Taco Bell bag sitting shotgun which contained a sumptuous variety of that novelty slop which is so gratifying for the drunkard to ghoulishly gorge upon lonesome in front of the television.

The officer bought this utter crap spewing from my mouth and sent me home with a speeding ticket. I could not believe it. It was surreal that I circumnavigated my near-nightmare-come-true. I fully deserved jail. This experience didn’t curtail my drinking. It did (however) in the future, become one of several dots I connected to reveal the “you’re an alcoholic” picture. If I look back and concentrate on what that special “pivotal” moment was which initiated the start of my recovery, the aforementioned scene comes up to the surface as part of a montage but it’s not “the” singular epiphany – there was none. When I look backwards into that fog which was my depression and alcoholism and I peer around for profound moments of clarity, I only see some shaky cryptic footage – an amateur compilation of aesthetically disparate shots on some off-brand camera. Still, it is from the perspective seen through my own eyes at the time. I see those crackling blue lights shatter the serenity of my black “dream drives”. I see myself kneeling on the rocky dry red Carolina clay under the gas lamp in my front yard. I’m weeping with hands clasped beseeching the sickly pale moonlight cloud-painted sky through the menacing silhouette of towering pine branches. Their scrawled and evil outlines are consigned to memory resembling desiccated-balled-up-dead spiders and clawed skeletal hands clutching down at me in want. There I weep and pray to some unknown force I’m certain of. I beg to regain my bearings. I beg to return to the before-time when I was a child. I want to default my settings back to a time when wondrous love and possibility fueled excitement and empowered me with forgotten wherewithal. There was a remote past before alcohol hexed me into suspended animation in which I’d negotiate the entirety of adulthood hobbled by its trance. The next scene materializes into some vision where I’m now out-of-the-body being escorted through recent events by a black figure. I’ve managed to bypass the benevolent “Ghost of Christmas Past” and am side by side with The Reaper. We watch me howl “Pancho and Lefty” on an out-of-tune guitar to our captive guests and my wife. I’ve spent the whole afternoon learning it while drinking whisky so I can reveal it later just one time to 3 people. Way to spend your day Scott! I can’t get through the “performance” without crying. It reminds me of burring my dead dog. I’m pouring all my heart into it but it’s just terrible and I’m out-of-my-league. I’m an imposter human. It’s 7 pm. The guests have just arrived. I’ll soon pass out. My wife thinks I’m pathetic and rightfully so. This is normal now – blacking out around 8 pm. Then the scenes flicker in a warp-speed hypnosis like the intro to an apocalypse-themed b-movie: I’m by myself in my truck in a large parking lot in a derelict industrial district downing an entire blackberry sparks (a malt liquor energy drink) in one gulp. Next, I’m screaming at my wife while our little boy watches from next room with tears streaming down his beautiful perfect little face – he too is screaming, his face is red and contorted weeping violently while wailing, “Stoooop!” This is what it looks like when I think back on the moment that made me “quit drinking”. So, am I coloring this with mellow drama? Yes. But, when I look back at my life it seemed like I was in a waking nightmare when I think of my latter day drunkenness. Of course, there were good times and I functioned but if I recall the final days of my drinking I think of these dark scenes. If I think of my youth and alcohol I have very different memories. I had great times drinking. I wouldn’t have drank otherwise. Alcohol gave me courage in the beginning and turned on me in the end. I never thought it would.

1998

Any one of the scenes I mentioned should have catalyzed a polar shift in my thinking but addiction just doesn’t work that way. The walk out of the alcoholic wasteland was a long one. When you spend a lifetime drinking and finally wake up with your (hopefully) last hangover you tend to find yourself proverbially naked in one hell of a weird place. I was determined to make it home but I was far away and the road ran through lingering darkness wherefrom shadows leered in wait to yank me back into their brambles and waylay my journey. What the hell are you talking about Scott??!! Those “shadows” represent every time I attempted to “cut down” on my drinking only for it to come back stronger. Forgive me, I’ve spent the last 25 years writing heavy metal lyrics drunk and on drugs. This vernacular sure seems appropriate for the bad things you do and go through while using. The nature of this mental illness is that it habitually tricks you until you become perceptive of its presence. That’s why so many people refer to alcohol as a demon. That’s why you need to admit The dreaded “A” word to yourself & others to gain traction on the trail home. I never needed to learn moderation. I needed to banish my enemy.

2008

The grand epiphany that makes one stop drinking is a myth – more rare than a unicorn that one should seize upon a defining moment when they’re fumbling through their sickness and confusion. I know it happens. I know love at first sight happens. It’s just more often than not the opposite. My epiphany happened long after the alcohol dried up. It came to me with clarity. The Universe continuously gifts us with opening doors but we’re often too blind to see them in sobriety, much less when we’re in some chemically-addled swoon. Months into sobriety when my running had really started to shift from being a painful weight-loss tool into a fulfilling athletic pursuit, I was beating myself up over my own bad thoughts. Sometimes you have faint glimpses of wisdom that you know to be ultimate and profound truth but you don’t hold on to them or keep them with you for long. This one was different. This one stuck. That truth was and is that every time I had a bad thought I could acknowledge it and redirect it. And maybe, just maybe, one day I would be able to redress a life’s worth of habitual negativity. With (a lot of) trust in the process of this newfound insight, perhaps I could slowly redirect my inner mind to a peaceful state. This is my journey and it’s unending. It begs the questions: What is really important to you in life? What are you going to do with your time here? Are you enjoying yourself? Are you going to leave the world a better place when you leave, the same, or the opposite? We’re all dying right now. It’s a beautiful fact and proof that life is a gift. Glimpses of clarity leave me with more questions than answers but to seek purpose as opposed to hiding from it provides a degree of placidity we all yearn for. So, in my not-so-plain English: All that crap you’re afraid of dealing with, all that catching-up with a lifetime of wasted time that feels overwhelming to start out upon, all those emotions buried in your inner wreckage like gruesome decayed and dismembered body parts you fear to exhume and detangle, the truth about who you look like when the ugliness is wiped away – these fears are all worth facing. It’s the only way to find yourself again, and no matter who is on the other side is the person you are meant to be. Moreover, It’s the person you want to be.

Check out my charity at http://www.ultrarunvegan.com
Connect w/ me at ultrarunvegan@gmail.com (or) twitter, Instagram, fb handle @ultrarunvegan

 

It’s All Fun & Games Until Someone Gets Alcoholic

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…

blog

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

If this message resonates with you feel free to get in touch

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