St. Lawrence University – When Life Became Dark

The following excerpt is from my memoir describing what St. Lawrence was like after I had quit the ski team in the middle of my Junior year.  Apologies in advance if this too dark for some folks, it’s my story and it’s the truth.   Enjoy the preview!  

Note:  this is largely un-edited.  My new editor is helping me in tighten it all up.  

After having quit the ski team I felt liberated.  The pressure that I had put onto myself to be a competitive athlete since the age of 12 seemed to lift the instant I walked away from the sport.  At first it was a significant event in life to celebrate.  I no longer had the responsibility to show up for Sunday morning long runs with the team.  6AM strength/gym sessions became a thing of the past.  In a matter of just a few days I changed every habit in my life that I had maintained for the last several years.  I began to replace the old habits with new ones such as Monday UBU-IPA nights at the Glass Onion, Tuesday Labatt Blue nights at the Hoot Owl, Wednesday night Flip Cup nights at the Tick Tock, Thursday night party nights wherever the party was at, and Friday and Saturday frat parties, mixers, and all out ragers.  To cap it off I would typically spend Sunday nights in the library pretending to study with friends;  studying had taken on a new form: blowing Adderall and drinking cocktails while reading books about the history of Economics and Rocks for Jocks, also known as Geology 101.

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Celebrating  my new freedom after  quitting the St. Lawrence Ski Team.  My skis boots were replaced by a new set of kicks…my drinking shoes.

As the debauchery and transgressive behavior progressed for the remainder of my Junior year I felt a slight change occurring in my mind and body.  The more substances I put into myself the less better that I felt.  Perhaps my body was really starting to recognize the profound shift that I had put myself through since quitting the ski team.  In the place of the natural endorphins that I was accustomed to receiving on a daily basis as an athlete I was manufacturing a new type of endorphin, paying no respect to what it could do to me in the long run.  Until I graduated in 2002 my life became darker and darker each day.

My senior year at St. Lawrence got even more sinister.  It was during my first semester that a buddy of mine introduced me to a new sensation.  There was no doubt that I had spent the last year indulging in excessive behavior.  However, the ante was about to be raised.  One evening in the fall of 2001 when our semesters’ pledges were inducted into Phi Kap my buddy Chris pulled me aside and asked if I wanted a bump.  Of Adderall?  Sure, I was always down for some addy’s.  “Nah” he responded. “Ive got something better.”  Enter cocaine.  The second that shit found its way into my system I was in love.  At the time excessive  drinking was still fun but it was losing it’s overall spark and glamour.  Once coke entered the picture I had successfully re-lit the fire and my enthusiasm for a good party.  Having not thought it was possible that I could sustain my current destructive tendencies through graduation I quickly latched on to my new solution.

Restocked with a new weapon I was convinced that the  debauchery could now continue with relative ease for the remainder of the year.   With my new-found partner in crime I thrived until the day I graduated.  I had a new  trick in my toolbox to keep the party going.  Interestingly enough when I got more into speed all of the work that I had done around campus since freshmen year, in terms of my social exploits, started to wane. Don’t get me wrong, I still loved the fact that I knew everyone and that I was “known” around campus.  However, the energy that I had put into achieving that status was no longer as important  to me as was getting fucked up.  I cannot remember even a two-day stretch where I wasn’t hammered.  Much of my senior year I did my best Nikki Sixx impression of his dark days in the mid to late 1980’s.  I even had the leather pants to prove it.

One Saturday in the spring of 2002, during the final countdown to graduation day, I took the emulation of my 80’s rock star hero as far as I could go without going into full-on junky mode.  It was just another typical day for me.  Buffy and I had started the party early at the Phi Kap house by sipping mimosas (substituting the champagne for warm Natty Ice).  Fortunately for us one of the sororities, Kappa Kappa Gamma, was throwing their annual Kegs and Eggs event at the Tick Tock, potentially the dirtiest bar in all of the north country of New York state.  After getting good and fueled up off of our brilliant poor-as-fuck senior concoction we made our way down to start the real party.  It was 11AM.  As Buffy and I sat around the bar pounding Coors Lights (at this point we were the only ones at the party) I had the sensation that I could possibly black-out 3 times within a 24 hour span.  With having  already completed a third of that accomplishment just hours ago, after a full-on rager at Phi Kap’s off campus house, I paid no attention to the potential consequences.  After that fleeting thought I snapped out of it and chugged another Coors Light.  After a few hours of getting fucked up with Buffy and the Kappa girls I once again slipped into a blackout.  Two down, one to go!  The next several hours are lost from my memory.

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Spring of my junior year at St. Lawrence.  At this point the partying was still innocent to a degree as I had not yet made the jump to speed.

Somehow that afternoon I had found my way back to campus.  Not sure where Buffy went, I wondered if he had passed out in a ditch somewhere, much like I had done during the previous weekend.  On that  particular occasion I was so fucked up that Jamal, the captain of the SLU soccer team, pulled me off the sidewalk in the early afternoon after having passed out in broad daylight. It’s probably fair to say that he saved my ass in a big way that day.  Thanks Jamal.

Coming back to the afternoon at hand, in a complete blackout mind you, I had made my way with a bunch of my boys to the Pub, one of main dining halls on campus.  Apparently there was a concert being played there later in the evening.  Luckily, after getting some food in my system to help appease and counteract the drinking I had been doing since 7AM, I began to crawl out of my blackout.  The next thing I remember is being on stage, with an electric guitar strapped around my neck and the microphones/amps turned on, belting out a despicable version of the Poison anthem “Every Rose has it’s Thorn.”  It was fucking epic.  I had an audience of about 100 holding lighters in the air singing along to every note.  “God-damn” I thought, I have become Nikki fucking Sixx.  The story goes that I had summoned up the liquid courage while eating to think that it was a good idea to serenade the entire dining hall.  I had the stage, the lights, the guitar, and the look to be what I had always wanted to be over the last year.  A motherfuckin’ rock star.  After my 15 minutes of fame were up I re-grouped with the boys and made my way back to the Tick Tock for another Saturday evening of chaos.  And yes, once again, I blacked out.  With flying colors I actualized the sensation that I had earlier that morning.  In the last 24 hours I had been to the Tick Tock 3 times and I had blacked out 3 times.  My justification for all the destruction that I was doing to my body was that for once I got the chance to be a rockstar.  I had successfully completed the perfect day. I was overcome by an eery sense of pride.

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Humility Through Injury For This Alcoholic

Humility: a modest or low view of one’s own importance; humbleness.

I pissed off my Achilles tendon last week while finishing up a training camp on Orcas Island, WA.  At first I assumed that I’d be back up and running in a few days.  8 days later I’m still patiently waiting for the tightness to subside.  The cause?  Who really knows for sure.  I’m done speculating.  Today I’m just continuing to rest.

When I first got sober I was pretty convinced that I was one of the most humble people who I knew of.  Many of my friends mentioned that they viewed me this way so I therefore assumed that as an identity and hence prided myself off of being humble.  For me and my ego pretending to be humble was just one of the ways that I masked my true being.

Lately I’ve had several conversations with friends about what humility means.  As defined, humility is a modest or low view of one’s own importance.  The more I talk about the subject and the more I get honest with myself the more that I understand that humility is something that I don’t necessarily understand.  I don’t believe I’m being too hard on myself in saying this.  Here’s why:

Over the last week or so of being injured I’ve had bouts of being the victim, not being able to complete the “perfect” training cycle leading up to Orcas 100.  What is “perfect” anyways?  Intermittently I’ve felt sorry for myself and down on myself.  Luckily I’ve been open enough to listen to other friends who describe their own physical struggles to be reminded that I’m not necessarily the only one who is dealing with a physical ailment.  Hell, one of my best friends hasn’t been able to run in 4 + years because of an injury he sustained at TransRockies in 2012.  Running ailments aside I have also come to learn that a few friends are dealing with so much more. Cancer, Diabetes, Heart Disease, to name just a few.  We’re talking life or death here, not just a 2 week lay off because of a tight muscle.  After I started hearing more and more of these stories I began to feel a little down on myself, I was trapped in the notion that my ailment was the most important thing in the world. Hello, ego.   Right or wrong in this thinking it was a quick reminder that I needed a daily reprieve from myself.  I needed some perspective and in doing so was again reminded that I’m not the center of the universe.

Going back to my early days in sobriety I found myself surrounded, luckily, by folks that were indeed humble.  I wanted what they had.  Having been successful in the ability to portray myself in a different light in the past I immediately started to act as if I were humble.  “Act as if,” right?  I’d heard that saying quite a bit in my life as a corporate hustler.  After a few months of pretending to be humble a guy came up to me and said that he was impressed that I had adopted a sense of humility.  My response?  Yes I HAVE!  I had reached my goal of being labelled as a humble individual.  Hello again, ego.

Again, I am reminded that this is a process.  Having been ego-driven for so long I cannot expect to wake up one day having adopted a sense of humility, it doesn’t seem to work that way for this alcoholic.  Among the many things that I am grateful for is having some wonderfully influential friends and role models that help me see there is an easier way to go about life.  The more I strive for humility the more goal oriented I get; hence, the more my ego comes into play.  For me it will continue to be important to try to detach from the achievement of attaining humility.  Don’t get me wrong, goals are important.  I have plenty of them.  However, for me, achieving humility is not something that I need get as soon as possible. For me this journey is still very much a day-to-day process.

As for my Achilles it’ll be fine if I take the time to rest.  I know this.  My ego hates to admit it  but maybe this break came at a good time.  Perhaps it was gut check time, an opportunity to re-gain a bit of perspective.  Although it bugs the hell out of me that I can’t get after it on the trails I have found myself getting back in touch with some of life’s simpler pleasures like reading, meditating, and playing acoustic versions of several Metallica songs on my guitar.

That’s all I’ve got today, time to go fetch some more ice!

 

 

 

 

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You’re All I Ever Wanted

I’ve been lucky to be in some tremendous relationships over my life.  To this day I remain close with many of the women that I’ve dated throughout my time.  In fact someone I dated during my first years at St. Lawrence University continues to be one of my best friends, even though we don’t see each other very often.  For me,  the relationships I’ve had, for the most part, have been very important and meaningful.  Even though the relationship part of the equation didn’t work out I still value the bond of the friendships that were developed over the time that I’d spent with each.  I wish I could say that were true for all of my past relationships, unfortunately I cannot.  Today I accept that.

I’ve also been lucky to go through some less than ideal relationships. I say lucky because through those relationships I learned an awful lot about myself and what the opposite sex means to me.  As many of you know I was engaged to be married at one time in my life.  For the better, for both parties, it didn’t end up working out.  In fact it was brought to my attention that just 9 months before I was to be married I caught wind that most of my friends were planning to boycott the wedding.  Needless to say it was a dark period in my life but today I am all the better for having experienced that time.

In recovery they say that it’s best not to date anyone during the first year.  Looking back on this advice, almost 3 years in to this journey of sobriety, I see that is indeed very sound advice.  During the last couple of years of my partying days I was drawn to women that I knew would help feed my addiction to alcohol.  I felt safe around them because I knew that I would not be judged for all of the destruction that I was doing to myself.  It got so bad that I used to daydream, with one person in particular, that she and I would lock ourselves into my apartment for a weekend and have an all out drug and alcohol induced bender.  It was dark but at the time I didn’t know any better.  “Lucky” for me, towards the end of my drinking streak, my daydream came true with that person, and one weekend we did exactly what I had wanted.  It was a true act of selfishness.

When I got sober I more or less took two years off from truly pursuing any relationships.  At that point I did not trust myself to make the right decision about who I should spend time with.  I had become trapped in thinking that a certain kind of woman was right for me.  Clearly, based on my recent track record during the last few years of partying, I was headed down the same road that I had found myself in back in 2006 when I made the decision to propose to someone.  I needed those first two years in recovery to take a good hard look at the women that I surrounded myself with and to feel comfortable with myself.  Luckily I once again began to start trusting myself and finally encouraged myself to once again be open to the idea of letting someone in.

My first relationship in sobriety was great. To this day I still consider her a good friend. Even though the relationship didn’t work out we still share many of the same passions and interests.  I see her at races from time to time and we both enjoy catching up with each other.  There are no hard feelings, we had said what was on our minds and we moved forward as friends.  I know this can be a rare occurrence so I am grateful to still have this friendship

Today, now that I am gaining more and more clarity about what I would look for in a partner, everything seems more simple, much like it did when I first started dating back in middle school.  I remember the innocence of that relationship, her name was Sarah and we played trombone together in Jazz Band.  Holding hands at recess was a big deal for both of us back then.  Does that innocence have to be lost?

Even though I’m still guarded in some ways I feel like I have a better sense as to who that person might be.  Today, now I know that all I ever wanted was a partner, a lover, and a best friend looking to share the best of life experiences together.   Someone who is passionate about life, not about running necessarily, but about something that fills their heart to the fullest.  Passion is one of the sexiest things I can think of.

It’s taken a while to realize this but the difference this time around is that I don’t feel the need to push the issue.  I don’t feel the need to be in a relationship just for the sake of being in a relationship.  I’ve done that before and it wasn’t the best way to approach the issue. To me, when it happens, if it happens, I hope that it can come in a natural and organic way, just like it did with Sarah way back when at Gateway Middle School.

 

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