It’s cold today. It was 15 degrees when I got in my truck this morning…
And it’s not even 7 pm and it’s pitch black out. It starts getting dark around 5 this time of year.
There is a natural depression that comes with this weather, for me anyway.
But man, back when I was drinking I’d be out later tonight – walking the streets of downtown, stopping at bars where I knew someone and putting back shots of whiskey. Couple shots of whiskey and a Budweiser at every stop. I could walk around in my black T-shirt and drink whiskey all night, I’d never get cold. Damn, I was fucking cool. Like a regular James Dean, if that’s the kind of stuff James Dean did. I don’t really know much about James to be honest – never really got into him. I was too busy living it! I was the fucking man, man.
That’s what I thought… for the first part of the night anyway. By midnight my thoughts would start to change. If I made it ‘til 2 I had probably changed moods several times. Who knows. I was trying to escape those cold dark nights. Trying to go numb. Most nights I would succeed and turn my mind blacker than the night. Lights out. Hopefully I wouldn’t do anything too embarrassing, rude, shameful, awful, stupid or annoying. See I left out dangerous because who cares, right? The reason I needed this nightly escape was because I had given up on the possibility of ever coming in from the cold, dark night that was my life.
Sometimes on these cold nights my brain still manages to try to romanticize this shit. Like I really was cool back then or that really was fun.
To be honest, I was completely lost. I had no idea what real life was like or could be like. I had been bartending and binge drinking for a long time by then. My world was small. Small and dark. My entire life revolved around getting fucked up. Like fucked up fucked up. My dad once said “most people drink up to a line that they have for themselves and really try hard not to cross the line. You, you seem like you are sprinting through that line like it’s the finish line of a race.”
At the time I remember thinking that was pretty badass of me.
It’s taken me 6 and a half years to get to this point. 6 and a half years to really start to see all the effects my alcohol abuse had on my way of thinking…on my brain. I didn’t know back then how bad my life had become – because it was the only life I knew. I didn’t know how much better life could be, how much bigger the world was. I thought it was just those 6 bars downtown and the one on Grand Avenue. I certainly didn’t know what came after the dark. I mean I knew what came after a blackout – and I knew that it fucking sucked most the time. But I didn’t know what came after that dark cloud of life I was living in. I thought it was just an endless black abyss.
Thankfully, I found the sun. I found a warm light. Instead of constantly looking for an escape into the dark I welcome in the light. In fact, I am up early waiting for the light. See, no matter how dark the night is, the sun is going to rise. Somedays it might not shine through the clouds and that’s just life – but the sun is still there, and it will rise again.
I started taking pictures of the sunrise when my wife and I moved to the country in June of 2015. Quite often I would post them on Instagram. Occasionally, I would say something that I found to be relevant- a quote or a song lyric. Some real sober guy inspirational shit! People seemed to like it and I certainly enjoyed it, so this past year I kept count of how many sunrise photos I posted. I think I am just over 50 with a few weeks left in the year. Catching a good sunrise photo is a bit of a challenge. Sometimes you couldn’t possibly take a bad one but it only lasts in that perfect space of rising above the horizon for a couple of minutes – maybe less. As previously mentioned there could be clouds involved. You have to get up on time – that’s hard, right? It can be tricky but it’s been really fun. It’s therapeutic. It’s actually so beautiful when it happens and it’s always better in person than in the photo.
But I didn’t know that back then. Back when I was lost. I didn’t know how beautiful the simple wonders of the world are.
Look, it goes without saying my life is not perfect. I have every day real-life issues just like everyone else. I am just so grateful that my life is a sunrise photo now instead of a cold, dark December night. I can deal with the clouds as long as I don’t ask my old buddy Jack Daniels for any help.
So instead of sunrise photos this year- or maybe in addition to, I haven’t decided yet- I thought I would share some stories with you. Stories about my life back then and my life as it is currently. I hope that IF the stories of old resonate with you, that if you feel hopeless, that if you feel lost, somehow my stories can help you find a way to the light. I hope to provide you some hope. I want you to know that you are not alone in what you are experiencing and that real change is possible.
Addiction is a chronic, progressive and ultimately terminal disease if left untreated.
If you need help ask for it.
People want to help you but they need to know that you want the help.
I know it feels hopeless but it can be done.