Memoir Sneak Peek: A Vignette from Appetite for Addiction

August, 2011

Towards the end of summer I was fresh off a total burnout from road cycling, having all but quit the sport after a rough and embarrassing incident at that year’s Cascade Cycling Classic (CCC), a popular race on the Oregon road cycling circuit. My obsession and addiction with cycling had reached an apex. To me, cycling was everything; my identity, my image, my self-confidence. Until it wasn’t.  Coincidentally this was also the summer that I had met Lisa and we had begun our strange relationship.

Please don’t get me wrong, I love the sport of road cycling, and I will buckle down to prep for races from time to time, strictly due to my passion for the sport. The accounts of what I was like back when I was racing have nothing to do with the sport, necessarily. Most of what happened to me as a cyclist was purely a result of my own doing due to my fragile mental state.  I lived and breathed shaved legs, tan lines, and tight spandex.  Plus, I was in Bend, which was quickly becoming a mecca for the cycling community.

Around the time that I permanently relocated to Central Oregon, Lance Armstrong was already firmly placed into the lore of being an american sporting legend.  By that point he had won 4 consecutive Tour De France titles and cycling fever had enveloped the US.  Not since the days of Greg LeMond, a legend himself, had there been such a heavy stateside interest in the sport.  Lance was inspiring all sorts of people to ride and race their bikes.  I was one of them.  Bend, because of its history in attracting endurance-minded athletes, became a hot-bed for road cycling and I was keen to place myself right in the middle of scene.  I wanted to be a part of something and cycling was it.

From 2008 to 2011, when I took cycling very seriously, as an amateur Category 3 racer, I was in the midst of rebuilding myself from the financial and emotional downfall that I suffered in 2006/07 during my involvement with the fast and furious game of selling real estate. I traded the addiction of chasing money to the addiction of sport, in this case having an affair with my road bike.

In most ways, sinking myself into the sport of cycling was a healthy activity that I used to keep me in physical shape. Over the years of my involvement and exposure to the sport, I forged countless friendships that I still hold dear to this day, even though I am not around the scene as much anymore. By being the Team Director for one of the top amateur teams in Oregon at the time, I was able to learn a little about people management, sponsorship solicitation, and managing egos. This positive education has benefited me as I move forward in my current career in work and athletics. But for every positive, there is a negative.

One moment stands out in particular. In July of 2011, I led our competitive Cat 3 team (we liked to call ourselves a PRO-CAT 3 Team, due to our over-inflated egos and a bit of humor from my friend TJ) into the Cascade Cycling Classic stage race, a well-known Pacific NW classic. As the team leader, I rallied my teammates to believe that we could do some damage in the overall standings. We had a fast group of guys that summer and I was poised to see myself or a teammate stick it to all the young California punks that would come up to Oregon and race, thinking they were the shit. They were in our neighborhood and it was time for them to get a beat-down. In those days I had a blast being the guy behind our strategic approach as a team unit. It contributed pride and self-confidence to my minuscule and flimsy arsenal of personal attributes. Sending guys off in breaks, bridging gaps, setting tempo, attacking other teams, and taking advantage of other riders weaknesses was our Modus Operandi. Our team tactics did not always work as planned, but when they did, it was extremely satisfying, especially for the team leaders.  I used to love it when our team kicked the shit out of other teams and riders.

The first stage of that race was a 70+ mile effort with a mean and unrelenting three mile drag uphill to the finish in the Mt. Bachelor parking lot. Our team members had been solid all day, working together, bringing gaps, pulling back attacks, and looking out for each other. We did our best to set up our climbing specialists for the last ascent up from Sparks Lake. As we began the final ascent, I settled in mid-pack to survive with the group. I’m not a natural climber so I did not want to lose a ton of time on the first day of the race. At that point I was just trying to survive the climb to make it to the next day of the race. Half way up the hill another rider crossed his front wheel with my back wheel, which caused my rear deraileur to break, leaving my bike un-rideable. What happened next was a good indicator where my maturity and emotional instability was at the time. After the “rub,” I yelled “FUCK” at the top of my lungs, called the guy who hit me several profanities, and proceeded to throw my multi-thousand dollar bike into the woods. I threw a tantrum that a five-year-old would be proud of. It was an incident that I often refer to as an example of some severe childishness. And my reaction after the race feeling like the victim of someone else’s mistake? Drive down from Mt. Bachelor, go to the Circle K convenience store,  a shady corner store off of 14th Street in Bend, purchase three Ninkasi Tricerahops Double IPA’s, and proceed to drink all of them in one fell swoop. Once that was accomplished I felt worthy again, having all but forgotten what had happened in the race earlier in the day.

Looking back I feel foolish for having reacted the way I did. I had grown accustomed to displaying that type of reactionary and immature behavior, not just in cycling, but in life.  My reasoning stemmed from a few things, ego being the main culprit. For me to not finish that race as the “leader” damaged my ego like none other.  I deemed myself weak, unworthy, a soft cyclist, which is ridiculous, since it was all due to an incident that was out of my control.  I had failed at my job and I took it very seriously and personally.

Cycling was the only thing that I identified with; I was relatively good at it and with a shot-to-hell self-confidence and ego problem, I took any negative experience as a major blow to my self-worth. Any slip-up meant that I was worthless.  I prided myself by how fast I was in Time Trials and how aggressive I was in road races. It was everything to me. And when things didn’t go right, I lost my identity, and I drank to feel better and gain more confidence. It was a vicious cycle of addictions.

At the conclusion of CCC, finishing up with another road race on a Sunday, with a bruised ego in hand, I went on a self-induced, one month all-out bender. Alcohol, Cocaine, prescription pills, downers, anything that could use to get out of my mind.  Luckily for me, I was able to direct this aggressive substance abuse to prepare for a single event. Just like training for a race, building volume and tapering, I built my alcohol tolerance to an all time high in just a couple of weeks. Motley Crue was on tour that summer and they were coming to Clark County Amphitheater, just outside of Vancouver, WA, about a 3 hour drive north of Bend.  I was ready to unleash absolute mayhem and debauchery.

The concert weekend was shaping up to be fucking raucous, raunchy, and epic. The day of the show, a group of friends and I drove up to Portland in the early afternoon to start the party early enough to make the event as “Motley” as possible. We were on a mission to self destruct while our favorite band played the soundtrack.  I was going to live out another dream of sorts, a party with my all-time favorite metal band.

During the drive north to Portland from Bend, without any food in my stomach, I chugged a few  Four Loko’s, a disgusting, alcohol-filled version of Red Bull, as well as ingested a variety of mystery speed pills that I had stolen from a friend earlier in the day. When we arrived at our hotel in Portland, I was feeling really good, buzzed, and primed to ramp the party up even further. After we checked into our room, our group promptly bee-lined it to the hotel bar, the point when my memories start to get real fuzzy and surreal.

Again, with no food in my stomach, our group of four quickly lined up a dozen shots of Jack Daniels and proceeded to toss them all back, not giving a fuck about how much we’d already consumed that day. The more motley we were the better.  It must have only been 4 or so in the afternoon, and I was completely shit-faced and incoherent. After some exploits  in the bar our group boarded a bus that was driving a bunch of folks up to the show at the Amphitheater just north of Vancouver. Desperately needing a second wind, I took another handful of stolen speed pills on the bus ride, knowing that I might have gone too far too early in the day.  I had felt this many times before, almost like my head was separate from my body.  Inside I felt euphoric, tingly, excited.  My brain felt like it was spinning out of control.

I vaguely remember arriving at the show. The line-up for the evening began with some local metal band followed by Poison and then the Crue. After the combination of the local opening band and countless $8 twenty-ounce Coors Lights, I blacked out.  I had finally gone over the edge.  According to my friends I was still kicking ass when Poison was on stage, singing along to every single word of their smash hits “Fallen Angel,” “Ain’t Nothin but a Good Time” and “Talk Dirty to Me.” Aggressive fist pumping predominated the action at ‘80’s metal concerts. In that atmosphere, with that number of substances in me, I tended to not give one single fuck as to what I was doing. It was heaven. The next snippet of memory I have was the time I briefly became conscious while leaning against a random tour bus after a security guard had escorted me and a friend out of the arena. “What the fuck is going on?” I thought.  I was puzzled and nauseous and drunk as hell, barely able to hold myself up. It turned out that I had been asked to leave the arena because I was too intoxicated. “Are you fucking serious?”  No one tells me what to do at a Crue show.  Whose call was it to kick me out of a Motley Crue show? I was going to have words with somebody. It was just a matter of who that poor son of a bitch was!

Somehow, miraculously, after being kicked out, I got back on the actual bus that had taken us to the show in the first place. I have no clue how I got there. It made no sense.  Also reassuring was the fact that all of my friends who accompanied me were on the bus as well. This scenario also made no sense. It was illogical to think that we’d all end up in the same place considering how fucked up we all were. Confused and dumbstruck, I eased my way into another blackout.

Later on in the evening I awoke in bed at our hotel still dressed in my concert attire, trying to find comfort that I was safe and not dead. Part of me just wanted to die, I felt rancid and awful.  It was midnight. I had accidentally lost the last four hours of my life. Fortunately, my friends, knowing that I still had had nothing to eat that day, brought back a bag of Taco Bell food to the hotel to help nurse me back to health. What a godsend.  Chulupa’s and Gordita’s never tasted so good.  My friends had been having a blast without me, having seen the show, continuing to party in my absence. I felt a little jealous knowing that I had missed out.

After the Taco Bell feast, things get murky again. Next up in the sequence of events, a friend of mine, Laura, randomly showed up at the hotel to stay and help me in remedying my destroyed body.  After she appeared, I, yet again, blacked out.

The next morning I woke up in a complete drunken haze. In a completely different hotel room, with Laura by my side, the group of friends from Bend busted in saying that we had to leave immediately to stay on schedule, one of them had to be at work later in the day. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t even think. I told them to leave without me, effectively stranding me in Portland. I felt sick and all I wanted was to be on the cold hotel bathroom floor with a toilet beside me. Resting my head on cold linoleum felt like heaven.

Once I was forced to check out of the hotel, after requesting two different late check-outs, Laura loaded me up in her car for a tumultuously bumpy ride to her apartment. I had to make her stop a few times on the ride so that I could poke my head outside of the car to vomit. Later that afternoon, after a short and pukey nap, I woke up in Laura’s apartment snuggled up in a blanket on her couch. It was heaven, if heaven meant being hung over and sick with a bucket by my side to catch any of the spew that was still coming out of my body. The rest of that day was spent doing intervals back and forth from the couch to the bathroom. No pill, nor any type of booze, anything for that matter, was going to help me get through this period of pain, sickness, and withdrawal. At this point, time was my biggest ally.

Ultimately, I ended up catching a bus back to Bend the following day. That ride was absolute hell. My two day hangover was still in full force as my sickness continued. The end of that bus trip culminated with my running into the bathroom at the bus stop to get sick once more. Once home safe my solution to my sickness problem was clear. Go to the nearest 7-11, purchase three CAMO XXX Malt Liquors, drink accordingly, and get “well.” With liquor in hand, with plenty already in my system, I once again blacked out. It was the only way to cap off a Motley fucking weekend.


Depression: 10 days of hell that must see the light

I’ve spent the last 3 hours going back and forth on whether I should write this post.  Therefore, I’m trusting my gut that says to write and to get this shit out.  Maybe I can help someone who is suffering in silence, or maybe I can continue to help myself.  I really hope for either case.

Lately I’ve been feeling extremely vulnerable and careful in what I post or share to the world.  Perhaps it’s a lack of self-confidence, perhaps not.  Even more I’m feeling a bit of shame as to “my story.”  The current narrative in my head of who I am is the “drunk guy who got sober and runs a lot.”  Clearly, based on that assumption, I’m not in the best state of mind right now and I know I’m just making shit up.  I’m working through dispelling those narratives, however given my present state it is not easy.

On Sunday, September 3rd, I woke up on the very wrong side of the bed.  Looking back, I could feel something coming on so it shouldn’t have been a surprise, based on past history, that what I felt that morning was another dark and depressive episode setting in.  By 5:30AM I knew that I was about to crumble.  It was on.  What I didn’t realize was just how long it would last.  Ten days in and I’m in the exact same place as I was when this episode first begun.  Since exiting Sageview Psychiatric Center in 2008 I have not had this long of an episode.

Throughout that Sunday the depression took a vicious hold on my brain and my body.  It was debilitating.  From a physical standpoint I felt like my feet were encased in concrete, unable to move.  Emotionally I went to a place of unrelenting negativity. Luckily I was fortunate to conjure up the energy to get a run in.  The rest of the day was spent in bed, with my phone off, trying to fend off the demons.

Here’s what the rest of the days have been like:

Every single day I’ve woken up not knowing how the hell I was going to make it through the day.  All I’ve been able to think about is when I can go back to bed. The lens that I’ve been looking through fades back and forth from gray to black.  Nothing is bright and my head feels heavy with doubt. My first instinct each day is to stay in bed and believe that I’m not worthy of having a good day.  Reluctantly I’ve been able to solider on, albeit just for a few hours.

The only thing that I’ve really been able to look forward to is getting a run in, as  I know the endorphins will kick in and I’ll get a brief sense of reprieve.  And it has worked until about 30 minutes afterward.  Then I sink back into a hole, one deeper than what I had first felt in the morning.  From here on out the day remains excruciating.  From the hours of noon on I feel awful.  It’s only when I get  a cup of coffee in me that I get a little energy to get some work done and act in a state of normalcy.  In fact, my attention is needed right now as I have a couple of things in the works that need my presence and forward thinking.  Then, once the caffeine wears off, I’m back into my hole in my darkened bedroom.  Luckily season 4 of the Blacklist and season 7 of Walking Dead (a real feel-good story) made their way on to Netflix this past week.

Sleeping has been one of the only other reprieves that helps me to deal with the pain.  Over the last couple of evenings I’ve found myself sound asleep by 6:30PM, not caring about anything other than escaping the burden of feeling depressed.  I know it’s numbing out.  The way I’ve seen it lately is that it’s better to sleep than to turn to a past numbing device, drinking, which, for this episode, has been a non-option.

Unfortunately, isolation has been my friend, away from people, my phone, and my computer.  During these episodes it takes every ounce of energy to pick up the phone or respond to a text.  I physically cannot do it unless I’m caffeinated or riding  the high of endorphins that linger from the day’s run.  That’s one of the profound and unfortunate effects that depression has on me as it relates to other people.  Radio silence. My friends who are aware of the situation do not like hearing this, and I don’t blame them.  For me, it’s hard to explain what I’m feeling to someone who does not suffer from the same disease.  To take the energy to explain it absolutely fries me, I literally collapse after answering questions of why, how, when, etc, mostly because I really don’t have the answers myself.  This part sucks because I know I have countless people behind me that just want to know that I’m alright, safe from whatever purgatory I put myself into.  I do not know how to manage this part and I’m sorry for having put some friends in particular completely in the dark.  This is not my intent.

The friends that I have who suffer the same disease, at the intensity that I do, have been very helpful.  The advice is the same:  have compassion for yourself, let yourself feel the pain as it will pass, if you want to stay in bed than do it, be in a safe place with safe surroundings, and keep reaching out.  Fuck, the last part is the hardest.  I’m sure there are other bits of wisdom in there, I’m just too foggy to remember them right now.

As I look back at the depressive episodes that I’ve experienced since getting sober I notice the consistent trend that I tend to write about them.  One thing that I work on in therapy is discussing my intention in sharing these stories, the hard shit.  Honestly, at first, being as vulnerable as I was, I know that some of the posts I put out there were based on the impending attention that I’d receive, reinforcing the fact that I was a good person.  But today?  I just want people out there to know that depression, even in dudes, is as real a disease as any and there is no shame in having it or talking about it.  People suffer every single day from it and even consider taking their own lives.  I know this because I was there at one point in my life.  It must see the light!

One fear that I have with my depression is that it will only get worse.   Even if I up and move to another town, which I’ve done in the past to escape demons, depression will still be there.  I could run reckless miles to my heart’s content and it will still be there.  That’s  one reason why I have a very specific accountability team of people to help me through this shit, especially from a professional/medical standpoint.  It’s scary to think where I’d be without these people on my side.

My other fear is that I will be judged by others for sharing this.  But, as my friend Julio reminded me:  who cares what other people think of you, you have a story, you should be proud that you are working on living through it.  He’s right.  It’s just so hard for me to realize that sometimes.

Now, two hours later from when I first sat down to write, describing what it’s like to have this disease does in fact help in the process of living through an episode.  I was incorrect in assuming that it wouldn’t.  Now all there is to do is press the dreaded “post” button.  Here goes nothing…