Coming up on one more year down. . .
If you would have asked me ten years ago where I would be at 34, and if I were honest, I would have answered “dead”. It sounds dramatic now, but it didn’t feel that way then. I couldn’t realistically see myself lasting this far into the future. I was nurturing seemingly innocent and cheeky alcoholism paired with a closet drug habit that was gaining serious traction. I was already well into the process of slowly giving up on a meaningful future. Stressful upbringing, followed by an even more stressful adolescence, followed by an angry exit from my latter teenage years, had reinforced very destructive coping mechanisms. Destructive and effective, and fun, for a while. Those vices, along with a rotating chemical cast of characters, were a constant up until about eighteen months ago. When despite my best efforts, I couldn’t hide them anymore. I ended up in the hospital with a liver twice my age and a pancreas that was threatening mutiny. My kidneys had somehow managed to stay just out of the imminent actionable danger zone. I still don’t understand how they somehow held their own while the rest of my filters were steadily tanking. My doctors just tell me I got lucky. Very scientific, thanks guys. I had managed to stay upright most of the time and flew under the radar remarkably well. I got really good at half-truths. To those around me I had a reputation for being a jolly and eager opportunist when it came to intoxicants. Everyone knew I enjoyed a good, solid, buzz, but few caught on to the reality of what was happening. Those that asked usually got denial and a deflective chuckle in response. Until my guts almost literally stopped me dead in my tracks. At first it was just months of numb pain. Figured I’d pulled a muscle. Then it was big pain. Then sweat and pain that would stop me mid-sentence. Then I had trouble breathing. Then I got puffy. The last few symptoms came on like a tsunami. The signs were all there but if you didn’t know what to look for, then, crash. Everything was fucked. If I didn’t make it to high ground fast, or in this case the hospital, I was toast. That was the moment I realized that I cared about my life and its effect on the lives of those around me more than I had ever cared to admit or believe.
Everything stopped all at once. Seeing it all in lab reports and looking at the numbers was the most chillingly sobering experience of my life. Detox was the worst sickness. I was scared shitless. I was in pain. Sleep was a joke. I was embarrassed. I felt like a failure. I thought I was going to lose my god damn mind. When you fight for sobriety, and it is a real fucking fight, your life is put under a microscope and everything around you gets louder. I lasted four and a half months without booze until I decided I could allow myself a few beers a week. I created a rule that I thought assured success both socially and personally. Carefully calculated moderation. And it worked until it didn’t. At a wedding a few months ago (the best wedding I’ve ever been to) I decided I didn’t want to be moderate anymore. I wanted to get smashed with a pile of my favorite people for one fucking weekend. The vibe was too damn good. The love was fucking palatable. What could have possibly gone wrong? I drank for three straight days. Slowly at first, but with abandon on the final day. The big day. It was glorious. It was all the whiskey I could handle. My genetics and alcoholic wiring were brought back to life and my brain and body felt like pure electricity. Until I ended up back in the hospital. And then I had to quit all over again. I had to say one more big sickly goodbye to my good buddy Booze. For good. And I’m relieved to say it’s been much easier this time around. Because I know there isn’t any moderation left in me. I know that even if I was able to trick myself mentally my guts would revolt. It isn’t even worth entertaining the possibility of a harmless little tipple anywhere in my future. Ever. And I’m okay with that. The decision has been made long before the offer has ever reached the table. When the options are a little bit of temporary fun and a wicked hangover coupled with slow and painful death, or a likely healthy and fulfilling life of exploration and adventure, there’s no contest. I’m gonna choose life, man. Suddenly I’ve got shit to do.
Why would I share this? Why would I put this out into the public eye? Because I know I’m not the only thirty something with a hollow leg for drugs and alcohol. Because I know that quitting is hard no matter how you cut it. Because right now I feel like celebrating. I feel like celebrating being fucking alive. Because looking down the barrel of a gun was a good way to find out what my life meant to me before and what it means to me now. Because ten years ago I couldn’t see myself making it this far. And on another, completely unrelated note, after this fucking exhausting election I feel like I owe it to myself to take off and fall back in love with this place I call home. Because right now I’m more clear headed than I have ever been, and I’m looking at our country the way I used to look at my dog when he would make eye contact with me before pissing on the kitchen rug.
So I’ve decided to turn the next year into a celebration of life. And that is the crunchiest hippy bullshit sentence I’ve written in a very long time. I cringed just thinking about writing it, and then I stopped cringing and allowed a small smile to crack on my smug mug. I’m bailing on another lease and another roommate and hitting the road. I know, believe me,I know, friends like these. Nearly everything I own is for sale. Even the snowboards. Even the bikes. Even the truck that has become an almost organic extension of my physical being over the last four or five years. If it’s too big to fit into a 5X5 closet with a lock on it, then it’s for sale. What’s left behind will be good for reading, sleeping, and a proper night under the stars. All of the distractions and material crap that can be replaced are on the way out. What doesn’t get put into storage will either be worn on my body or strapped to the DRZ400 I picked up after selling what I could of my worldly possessions thus far. Home is a 2003 Suzuki Dual Sport motorcycle that goes by the name of Kilgore Trout.
The next two months will be dedicated to taking apart and learning everything I can about my new partner. Two months to get everything as close to dialed in as possible before putting it in a truck to be transported over the mountains towards the Oregon coast. Away from the snow. From there we’ll head south down the 101 into California, eventually making our way east into the desert. There are no plans beyond that. No timeline and no itinerary. Eventually I’ll go back to the 5X5 closet with a lock on it and surely wonder why I kept anything at all. Eventually the stuff in that closet will be sold off or used to furnish some other set of four walls. There’s always more stuff, and the stuff doesn’t really matter.
I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don’t let anybody tell you different. -K.V.