If any of you have noticed my absence, either physically or emotionally these last few weeks I apologize. I have been in a daze. I have spent a long time punishing myself and as a result I spent the last week in New Jersey at a center for alcohol detox.
Honesty has been a word that has been weighing heavy on me these last few months. My life has been going so well. Business is growing faster than I could have imagined, Sarah and I have spent some amazing weekends together, I am watching my clients thrive in training and in life, and I keep meeting more amazing people each day.
I write a lot about accountability and honesty and how to be the best version of yourself. Yet I am a liar. I have been lying to myself for as long as I can remember.
You see, as much as I have been preaching to eat right and train hard and live well I have been hiding a secret. I have been hiding from the overwhelming aspects of life; the money issues, relationship difficulties, feelings of loneliness and fear of failure. I talk to others about standing up and facing these issues head on yet I dealt with them the only way I knew how. In a bottle.
Alcohol and I have a long and complicated relationship.
I grew up in a tense household where heavy drinking was a daily occurrence. We moved every couple of years so I never got to have long term friends or to have a “home”. I learned to find friends in books and stories and to live inside my own head. Being the new kid meant being different. And being different wasn’t cool in the 80s.
I soon learned that it was easier to not have friends than it was to risk rejection. Nothing hurt more than someone not wanting me. It was like they were rejecting my entire being. This feeling soon spilled over into my school work. I would rather not do it than risk imperfection. My entire life became all or nothing.
So I did poorly in school. Luckily, or unluckily, I excelled on any test I took so I was always given a pass. I was never held accountable. This would come back to haunt me.
As I got older this fear translated into girls. I loved them all yet was so afraid to even talk to them. What if they laughed at me? What if they ignored me? Fear of rejection grew in me like a cancer. It spread to every nerve and emotion.
Then, in 8th grade I sang at a talent show. All of a sudden I didn’t have to talk to girls, they started talking to me. I learned to express myself through the words of others. Through song. Through poetry and short stories.
Many of my poems were very dark. I loved horror stories and fantasy books. Looking back, if I wrote any of that stuff today I probably would’ve been profiled as a school shooter. But times were different then.
My homelife was a scary place, but we didn’t talk about feelings in my house. I soon found, though, that I could express the chaos I lived through characters in a story rather than give away the secrets that home held. I was doing what all writers are taught early on. Write about what you know.
I was also a decent athlete. Not great but I didn’t have to try hard to start in sports. I just showed up. After being humiliated by a Coach for tackling like a pansy I asked to be moved to outside linebacker. I was always afraid to hurt someone so I never hit them hard. I forced myself to stop caring about hurting people. Instead I learned to hit. I fell in love with football. I fell in love with the idea of not caring who I hurt.
Football gave me an outlet for aggression. Gave me a place where it was not only acceptable, but encouraged to try to knock the snot out of someone’s face. Taught me camaraderie. Taught me what discipline meant. And taught me that I will always hate cardio.
After games in high school meant field parties. And beer. That’s where I found my true calling. I stopped caring about football. Or at least the work part. I was in it for the reward.
I still was involved in theater and music because they were my true loves. If I could have lived my life on stage I would never have needed a drink or a drug. On stage I was accepted, sometimes adored. Once I left stage that feeling was gone. I felt awkward and weird again. I needed to find that feeling of belonging somewhere else. Booze was always there. It never rejected me. It always made me feel like I belonged.
My 20s were a blur of bartending, partying, and womanizing. You see, sober I could barely look a pretty woman in the eye. But drunk, drunk I was fearless. Alcohol worked for me. It gave me all the things I wanted growing up. I felt like a rock star. Until it turned on me.
By 25, I was a fall down drunk. I never missed work but I was usually snookered behind the bar often using “supplements” to get me through the night. I would party from Thursday night straight through to Monday. I fought at the drop of a hat. Wound up in Baltimore City Jail more than once. My best friend, the thing that made me who I had always wanted to be, was now trying to kill me. Yet we were inseparable.
My friends were concerned. My family was afraid. Shit, even my coke dealer told me I was out of control. My best friend and roommate finally called my mom and they took me to a detox center. I got sober and stayed that way for quite a while.
Over the years the cycle would continue. Things would be good, I would be able to drink socially, life was grand and then the bottom would fall out.
The more it happened, the more ashamed of it I became. I started hiding it, drinking in secret. Telling the world I had everything under control while I was falling apart. Depression and anxiety were the mistresses that fueled the fire.
I tried to hold everything together. I took on everyone else’s problems. Tried to save the world. Tried to provide. Yet I couldn’t take care of myself.
Lately, as my life continued to get better, the pressure continued to mount. I could feel it bear down upon me like the image of Atlas carrying the Earth. I had built a new life, a new career, and a new persona based around being strong. So I had to hide this, my big weakness. I could never let anyone know. They would finally see me for what I felt like. A fraud.
I tried to quit on my own. I was done. But after about a day I would start to shake and sweat and get lightheaded. My blood pressure would skyrocket and my pulse would race. I was suffering withdrawal.
For those of you who don’t know anything about alcohol withdrawal it will kill you. Benzodiazepines are the only other drug that can kill you from quitting. As much as a heroin addict goes through in their withdrawal, they will always come out alive. Alcoholics aren’t so lucky.
So there I would find myself, standing outside the liquor store that opened at 9am waiting to get a bottle. I would buy only half pints because then I was controlling my master, even if only for that moment. I would place my $5 bill on the counter so the cashier couldn’t see the trembling in my hands. I couldn’t look her in the eye for fear that she would see the real me.
I would walk out the door, around the corner, and chug it down. 4 swallows without the bottle leaving my lips. I knew exactly how many it took because this was my ritual. I had it down to a science. Then I would have to inhale through my nose because the alcohol burned my esophagus so badly I couldn’t breathe through my mouth.
I knew I was good for a couple hours. I was safe for a bit. Maybe today I could make it just a little bit longer, drink a little bit less, get better on my own. But I never did. I just drank more. And more. Until all I was doing was drinking and sleeping. I got some work done here and there but the last 3 days were disgusting.
The irony was unreal. This thing that was killing me was the only thing that could keep me alive. My best friend had become my assassin. Both my poison and my medicine. I couldn’t do this anymore. I couldn’t do this alone. I needed medical intervention.
I went out to Jersey to a place called Serenity. I half expected to be roomed with Lloyd Braun but no such luck. They medically helped me safely recover from the withdrawal symptoms but it was still a pretty hellish experience. If you have ever seen Trainspotting, well, it wasn’t that bad. But, not far off. Sleepless nights with my body convulsing involuntarily. The plastic sheets creaking with every jerk. The sheets had to be plastic, because the night sweats were so bad it would ruin the mattresses. My days were spent in a medicated fog, either passing out or shuffling between snack times when everyone else would go out to smoke. I was never really asleep yet never really awake.
Eventually they would taper my meds down and I was somewhat functional.
The hardest part has been how weak the experience has left me. I had trouble getting out of a chair the other day without using my arms to help. I had just front squatted 335 2 weeks ago. Part of it is my body recovering, part is the medication. But I will never take my strength for granted again.
I’m home now. Surrounded by great supportive friends and taking steps to make sure I become the husband, son, brother, friend, and coach that you all deserve. I will get better, it just won’t happen overnight.
Oh, and I’m not writing this for you. This isn’t one of those “if I can help one person” letters. If it does help, cool. But I am writing this for me. I am being selfish and taking care of myself.
I write. That’s what I do. That’s what I have always done. And in order to make this all real I needed to write it down. I am sharing it because I need all of you to know the truth about who I really am. That is the only way I can think of to help me get better. No more pretending to be something I am not.
I hope this doesn’t make you uncomfortable. That is not my intent. Don’t be afraid to talk to me about it. If you have questions, ask. I’m no longer ashamed and I refuse to hide who I really am.
As I think about myself I wonder “what do I want to be known for?”
As I think about my business, what value is most important?
As I think about my relationships, what ideal shapes them most?
Brutal. Fucking. Honesty.
For me, at this point in my life, it all starts there.
This might cost me business. Might cost me friends. I don’t care. I’m tired of hiding and I am tired of compromising. I want to be 100% there for those of you who are there for me. And I can’t do that without being true to who/ what I am.
This is who you get. Take it or leave it.
For those of you who made it this far, thank you for reading this. And thank you for caring. I love you all. Here is to better days ahead.