From a picture of our yard with a stenciled piece of wood to a real logo in 9 months.
I started to write this blog post about 3 weeks ago. It was leading up to my 40th birthday and the launch of our hot sauce line. Like a real, legitimate, and might I unabashedly add, fantastic tasting hot sauce. I thought I’d be able to squeeze in a quick 2500 word post about how exciting the whole process has been, and how great it felt to have something overshadowing my entrance into a new decade of age. Had I not been doing anything new and exciting, turning 40 could have had real potential to be a life check moment for me. It might have even teetered on a mid life crisis, but… crisis avoided. Instead, I was completely immersed in launching a hot sauce company.
It was less than a year ago that we had our first pop-up sale in the driveway. It was less than 3 years ago that I cut a giant patch into the yard and told everyone I’d be planting it.
My behavior, in many ways, is still very similar to the days when I “partied.” I’ve always had grandiose ideas; I’ve always enjoyed pushing my personal limits. Ideas like “I’m going to finish this bottle of whiskey before I go to work” didn’t pan out as well as the garden. Come to think of it, none of my “great” ideas from those days panned out. I failed a lot. Even less aggressive ideas like “I should make it to work tomorrow” or “I should take tonight off from drinking” seemed to fizzle out pretty often. I always considered myself to be so close to accomplishing these sad little goals back then, if it weren’t for bad luck. I always had such bad luck… or so I told myself.
And now I have good luck, right? That’s basically what it is- things are going really well. Every lofty, aggressive idea / goal I challenge myself with now is being met. I’m not failing very often. Lucky me. It’s about time luck swung my way.
Of course I don’t really believe luck has much to do with it. I would argue that it’s much more about positioning. You put yourself in a position to be successful, or, for that matter, a position to fail.
Drinking til I’m blackout every night doesn’t put me in a very good position to make it to work every day. Even more so it doesn’t put me in a position to be good at virtually anything I try to do. It just makes life hard.
I would further argue that I may have been more LUCKY when I was drinking than I am now. It’s not luck that I don’t get in an accident on my drive home from work. I have all my faculties and am capable of driving safely. Back then however, it was almost like I had angels on my shoulders, pulling me from the wreckage I was trying to cause to the safety of my bed each and (almost) every night. I remember nights where I was lucky to get home. Other nights I don’t remember at all, but I found proof, like 4 bags of McDonald’s on my counter and a $50 receipt. If my inability to functionally order fast food is any indication of how I drove that night, I’d say I was quite lucky.
These days, the angels’ work is much more subtle. They might bless us with a sunny day when we have a birthday party scheduled, or give us rain when we are out of town and the crops are dry. No longer am I throwing up my hands and forcing them to carry me home.
After I quit drinking, I was pretty guarded for a long time. I didn’t go anywhere around town. I could travel to places I’d never been, but I couldn’t go anywhere in town really… it wasn’t safe for my sobriety. I stopped talking to most people. I joined Facebook at that time, after being pressured by a friend who had also recently joined. It turned out to be kind of amazing for a couple reasons.
- Thank God I didn’t have social media when I drank. Seriously.
- It allowed me to “socialize” from the safety of my own home.
I know a lot of people shit on social media, and I get it, but it was really helpful for me. When I first stopped drinking, I had absolutely no idea how to be social without alcohol. I’ve heard people who don’t attend concerts say “those things are all people getting drunk and high” and when I was getting drunk and high, I assumed everyone was (they aren’t). In life in general, I assumed everyone was having drinks to be social. I didn’t think it would be socially acceptable to say “I don’t drink.” I felt like that would be something embarrassing, like it showed a weakness. I suppose that’s exactly what my friends Jack, John, Jose and Bud wanted me to believe.
When I first got sober, I didn’t go out because I was embarrassed. The fear was always with my ability to say no. When I found myself in a familiar place it was just easier to do what was familiar. I would feel so uncomfortable in public and what do you do when you feel tight in a bar? A couple quick shots and a beer- problem solved. Not really though. Being able to remove myself from those situations and basically control my environment while still getting some social interaction was a very happy accident.
Now it’s been over 7 years. I find myself out in the real world a bit more recently. I found something worthwhile to offer to the same community that I was once so destructive in. Making up for past mistakes? Maybe. Making the most of today? Yes. The foundation is being built correctly. The angels are working behind the scenes. I am able to be social with people I haven’t seen in a few years, and it’s a lot of fun. We still laugh and joke around like we always did, only it’s safe for me to drive home after. I don’t ruin everyone’s life that I come in contact with like I used to. (OK, maybe that’s an exaggeration) In fact *puts on owner hat with salesman shirt*…
We here at Brown Dogs Farm like to believe we make food better, which in turn makes the world better. (Maybe another exaggeration?) Anyway, Grandpa loves them both:
*Takes off the BDF merch- available for sale at- okay okay*
Seriously though, if someone were to ask me how I got so lucky, like how was I able to quit drinking, it’s a tough question to answer. It’s so many things. I guess I removed myself from the world I lived in when I drank, pretty much completely. I changed my people and places and playgrounds, right? I did that. For a long time though, I also really protected myself. I don’t think there is a limit to how overprotective you can be those first few years. Sometimes it might make you feel a bit selfish or guilty, but you shouldn’t. You might miss a birthday party or a wedding reception. You are gonna miss bachelor parties and trips to Vegas, but don’t let it dissuade you. You might miss a night or 10 or 20 or even 50 nights that feel important, but you’ll be there every day.
I have gradually reintroduced myself to the world through a different lens. I remind myself of what’s truly important often. I keep some phrases very close to the front of my mind at all times. The line that sticks with me most days is “do the next right thing.” It can apply to anything you are doing. I find it simple and effective.
My “New Years Resolution” this year- I don’t think I do NYR’s but I guess I did this year- was to be out more… in the world. Like be places. So the pendulum has swung and now might be swinging back, and I’m really hoping to land it right in the middle of everything this time. Everything in moderation? I don’t know about that… *puts back on salesman shirt*… don’t be moderate with that Brown Dogs Farm Hot Sauce.
I’m sorry, these are the types of stupid jokes I have been making every day since I turned 40.
What’s happening now in my life probably isn’t luck. It’s work. It’s decision making. It’s positioning. At best it’s 10% luck and 100% everything else.
On that note, I really need / want to thank everyone who has supported Brown Dogs Farm and What Comes After the Dark. It’s been really overwhelming and such an amazing feeling to experience. Thanks to everyone who has helped me out, or encouraged me to keep doing new things. Thanks to all my family and friends. To everyone who has supported the launch of the hot sauce, to the businesses and people who we are working with- most of whom also fall under the “friends” umbrella- just thank you to everyone.
Sometimes I think what you put into the world is what you get back.
This last year has been so much fun and I am really excited to see what comes next.
What Comes After the Dark.
Okay, I’m going to check the bird feeders now.