What if someone told you in a job interview that if you got the job you would make $500,000 in your first year. Would you take it if it were offered to you? Well, I did.
In 2005 I was living in Bend, OR, working happily as the Director of Group Sales for one of the biggest resorts in the area at the time. I was a single, unattached, healthy, 26-year-old with a solid job working on developing my cycling skills and kicking ass in life. At that time I was very much in the midst of developing an identity as an adult, making sound financial moves that would set me up for long-term success. Sure, there were hard times, but my “problems” at the time were relatively normal given my age. Then, in the late fall of 05 I got the call. “Spence, we’re looking at bringing on another real estate broker for our 2006 launch of new inventory. The brokers there each cleared over a half-million in one year in 2005. We want you to interview for the position.”
Back in those years the Central Oregon real estate market was booming, averaging up to 20% growth, year over year, since 2002, or so I was told and led to believe. I witnessed friends of mine who owned homes make $100k in one year due to appreciation in the market. Broker friends of mine were killing it, bringing home commission checks in one month that put my yearly salary to shame. It was a time of “funny money” in Bend and I wanted in for the fear of missing out. Everything fell into place when I got that call and in January of 2006, after I was offered the position to come on board with the property I interviewed with, I got in the game. I was hooked on the idea of earning a half-million a year before the age of 27. In order to make what had been promised my lifestyle was about to change, for the worse. I quit cycling, became sedentary except when showing property, and I drank. A lot.
Once I acquired my real estate license in February of 2007 I began to work, 6 days a week, from 8AM to 7PM. I was the youngest on the sales team at that point and I had developed a severe ego and chip on my shoulder. I transferred my competitive ambitions as a cyclist into being the guy who made the most phone calls, worked the most hours, did everything my bosses told me, I wanted to stand out among the rest. During those first few months, with the promise of big paychecks later that year, I started a reckless spending habit. I bought a new house, a brand new $30k Toyota 4Runner, big screens TV’s, an $800 dog for my then-fiancee, and loads of liquor, among other things, all under the assumption that I’d be able to pay it off once I made my big payday later that summer. Simply put, I lived beyond my means and then some. Hell, I even had the idea to buy a condo in Oakland so that I could stay there when I travelled to watch by beloved A’s play. Looking back it was utterly ridiculous, very much addictive, alcoholic thinking at work.
For motivation during those days my sales team members and I would sit around a TV, sipping Grey Goose, watching movies like Boileroom, Wall Street, and Glenn Gary Glen Ross. I still watch Boileroom on occasion just to be reminded about how silly and self-destructive I was back then. My alcoholism kicked into high gear as well. My daily routine consisted of: working til 6:45 PM, driving to the Alfalfa market store before they closed at 7, purchase 2 tall boys of CAMO XXX 10.5 malt, drink on the way home, hit Bend and pull over at Texaco, buy another tall boy of CAMO XXX, pound it in 5 minutes on the final leg home, throw the beer cans out the window around a curve on Brosterhous Road to hide the evidence, arrive home, convince my fiancee that we should get dinner and cocktails, go to bed, wake up, and repeat process. By the time I arrived home I had 60 oz’s of shitty malt liquor in my system, and it got to a point that even with that amount of alcohol in me, I could hide it. My partner didn’t have a clue. I had perfected closet drinking. That was my sport for 2 years.
Fast forward to August of 2007. At that time one of my best friends Brian Hetzel came to live with me in Bend as my fiancee had left for the east coast to pave the way for me to join her later in the fall. Brian was going to live and work for a few months and drive back east with me when I decided it was time. Looking back a year and half to when I started in real estate i began to take inventory about what I gained: In 2006 I cleared just a bit over $100k, nothing close to $500k. I refinanced my home (originally bought in early 2006 for 196k) for $280K and took the money to spend on, well nothing really, I pissed it all away. I gained 60lbs from all of the excessive drinking and eating, topped out at 230lbs. I became heavy, miserable, sedentary, hopeless, and just plain awful. This period in my life culminated with a scary evening in late August. That night I had once again done my normal intake of CAMO XXX on the way home. With Brian downstairs in my house I had got in a huge fight with my fiancee on the phone about when I was to return back east. It was an awful conversation. I was so angry and drunk that once the conversation ended I threw my phone against the wall, went to my bathroom to grab a bottle of Percoset, went to my night stand to grab a bottle of wine, kicked the wall, and sat in the stairwell ready to down the bottle of meds and the bottle of wine, to end my life. If Brian had not been there that evening there is no telling what would have happened. Before I had the chance to complete my mission he found me, screamed at me to get in the car, and drove me to the emergency room to have me checked in to the local psychiatric unit. That night, Brian Hetzel saved my life.
I realize that there are many holes and lapses of time in this particular story and I plan to address all of them when I put these words onto paper for my book about the process of recovery. The takeaway from these 2 years in my life is quite profound, and to this day when it comes to the ideas of money, wealth, luxury, I am very fortunate for having gone through this downfall early in life. Who knows what can happen down the road but with this experience in my back pocket I plan on not reliving the pain and anguish of leveraging all of my UNpaid assets into an idea of false hope, promises, and fortune. It was too painful and it took several years of hardly making enough to pay rent for me to finally end up in the black. As of this year I am able to save money again, just as I had done before I had got into the real estate market in 2006. Life is good and money is no longer my drug of choice. Today my drug of choice is living each minute, hour, day, week, month, to the fullest, whatever that may mean.
Thanks for listening!