Updated: Dec 12, 2019
I did not drink until what most would think was way late in life. I was 26 the first time I ever drank.
I remember the first night feeling as though I could never come down, never be harmed, never not drink, and could drink everything.
My jobs were high energy and high on the customer service spectrum. I was an outgoing person but becoming very introverted. Having to be on and entertaining strangers in the bands honor was a hard prospect to do every night, until I met Alcohol.
It loosened me up, it provided me the fuel I needed to be the drunken kitten wrangler, as I liked to call it.
I started off casual as it let me become the life of any party, any VIP event I was hosting, and merch booth I was in charge of.
This slowly started to be my norm, my every day, my I cannot be without. I depended on it. I was not me without a drink or 13 before I started my experience.
As it went on and became more and more a thing the more my tolerance grew, the more I could drink, conveniently in the music industry, traveling circus, no one would stop you, most of the time reward you with the holy shit! You are crazy! Do you remember what you did last nights?!
Most mornings I had no clue, waking up in my tour bus thankfully, most times on the floor, or somehow getting back into my bunk. Somehow making it to my hotel rooms, sometimes bushes on the sidewalk. There is a photo of me with my prized PBR in hand in my top bunk, hand clinched around it like it was a fucking ruby. I was awakened and alerted of the full can, so I was told, and my hand disappeared and 3 seconds later an empty beer can was dropped on the floor.
This insane pace, a handle of rum plus shots and other various drinks a night, kept going and going and there was no stopping. I was being warned by any and everyone who knew me that I needed to slow down. That I was heading for disaster. That nothing good would come of my drinking habits.
But I was fine, I had my old friend who would never let me down, never hurt me, always lifted me up. Right?
Well almost 16 months ago that was a dark lie that slammed me into a brick wall. I flew home to see my grandfather before leaving on one of the biggest tour opportunities I had been offered.
I was feeling normal, whatever that meant.
I remember getting off of the plane in Ohio after having a drink and passing out before flying, having to deal with family especially meant I needed at least a few drinks and shots.
I was immediately greeted by my father with a look of horror I have never seen before and hope I never have to from anyone ever again.
My dad informed me that I looked crazy, and that if I thought that there was nothing wrong with me then there was something wrong me with.
I ignored him and fell asleep on the way to my parents house and stormed out to meet a couple friends and their kids for dinner.
I was greeted with that exact same look of horror. Except that this horror came with an action, my friend took her kids, kids who called me uncle Nik, and left the restaurant as if they had seen something horrific.
I knew then that something was wrong, especially when my friend asked what was wrong with me and asked if I was on drugs.
He informed me that I had scared the living shit out of his kids and they did not want to be around me. Then I knew there was a problem.
The next morning a few friends and my dad were waking me up first thing in the morning and demanding I go to the hospital.
I finally agreed and we headed to the ER. I was informed by the nurse at the counter that people would look at me, that I was the most yellow person she had ever seen in her 30 years of working in medicine.
I was then taken to a bed and a doctor came in after I had tests taken on me and my liver due to the jaundice.
He walked in the room and in a thick eastern European accent informed my friend Anthony, my Dad and I that " He's not going to make it". I have never seen anyone this bad in my life, he will not make it. You can take him to Cleveland to get comfort but he's not going to make it, sorry. Then he left the room. Immediate darkness crept in, I was so scared, I had no idea what to think. Just terrified. My old friend, my me, my life of the party had failed me in the worst way, by destroying my liver and my body was giving up at just 33 years of age. I gave it a hell of a time in 7 years. I was transported to Cleveland and was informed that I might not have tomorrow. I immediately told the doctor if that was true and he knew for sure that he should look the other way or do whatever he had to because I was not dying in that hospital bed, I was going to go to Norway and base jump off of a cliff over the fjords. I was put in with the hope that they had caught it in time and that they could help with some parts of it. I was on suicide watch because of how my liver numbers were and how much I admitted to them that I drank. They also had whiskey outside my room incase the withdrawals were too bad that my body had to have a drink to not kill itself.
After 3 days of tests and what felt like a vampire feeding frenzy, I was released. I was told that it was not because I was good, not because I was going to make it, but because there was nothing else they could do for me.
They told me, Nik you can never drink again, start eating healthy and start exercising and hopefully you will make it, and we will check on you every month until you are either good or you are gone. Outwardly as a show I would say, I got this, No problem, I can do this, to show confidence. Inside I had no clue who I was without drinking. I did not have an identity. I was stuck in this dark and fuzzy hole with no light. I did not know what it was like to be not drunk after being drunk for 7 years. Well thankfully I am here writing this, almost 16 months later and have been sober since pre flight that day, which was 2 double rum and cokes in one glass and two shots of Jager, on August 23rd 2018.
She spoke about being the owner of a “broken brain”. Spoke of the strength that “broken brain” had given her. Growing up with these mental roadblocks made her stronger and open up her heart and mind and share it in her art of music and songwriting. She also spoke of a time where her band had declared bankruptcy and that her partner had become an alcoholic and checked himself into rehab. Many people thought that was necessary for me, with how far gone I was, I am sure they were not wrong in thinking that. I never felt the need for it, I let myself develop into the sober person that I was to become. To rely on experiences, to really fall in love with life and all that I had worked hard to provide myself. I have also been in ways ashamed to tell my story, I think ashamed is the wrong word here, I have been allowing myself to not write about it publicly as to not receive the praise for it. Praise I would not be asking for, but that would inevitably come with talking about such things. Praise that maybe I do deserve, praise that would be warranted.
I want to share my story not for the praise of anyone, I want to share it for the lost souls and minds that are stuck in the situation I had put myself in. The situation I had let slip to the depths of hell, the situation I never saw a light at the end of. I want to open myself up and be vulnerable and let people see that it is ok to be in that place, to let yourself get there. It is ok to think you are ok in that place. It is also ok to not be ok in that place. To seek out the help and care that is out there. For me it was not rehab. It was not AA.
For me it was the help of beautiful strong human beings with beautifully broken souls. Humans that met me where I was at, no judgement just love and acceptance. It was the beauty of the life I was living and hiding in. The beauty of the road and the loneliness it brought on. The beauty of the cultures and cities that I was surrounded by on an ever changing basis. I fell in love with life. I fell in love with the little details that I was a night away from losing forever. I fell in love with the experiences and the humans that this life gifted me. I am a constant work and live with the constant struggles and will never or could never be perfect and I would never want to be. I enjoy the gift of the grit of true life. I live in that grit and thrive in it. I want to lend myself to the broken human souls, to the ones that think they aren’t broken and are about to be. To the beautiful hurting souls, to the thriving souls, the humans living in that grit of life. Ray Charles don’t take my sunshine is on the record player spinning, no sunshine can be taken, only given when you are vulnerable and meet and respect humans.
Another speaker Friday talked about the true value of conversations with strangers. How it brought out beautiful aspects of her and her life. Showed how vulnerable and open we can be when no judgement is there, no preconceived notions are put onto a conversation. Just humans respecting each other and enjoying talking about life. Who are we to think any of us have life figured out. Life will never be figured out, if it was it would turn into a boring place, the adventure would be gone. If you knew the next step where would be the fun in taking it. The next heartache you would never put your heart out there in life to find it. The next fuck up, you would never make that decision to get down there. What life is, is beautiful. You can know that or earn it the hard way by taking yourself to the edge of it. Either way if you truly believe that and thrive in the grit of that beauty it can be truly amazing. Now more than ever, this world needs more grit and love and respect of humans and their value.
That man or woman you pass and ignore on the sidewalk on the way to work is someone’s son or daughter. Someone has cried a lifetime of tears for that person, as someone has cried a lifetime of tears for you in your bumps in your road. That person who you have no idea their history or where they came from is not to be feared but to be cherished for their contribution to our society and making it diverse and beautiful. Learn from them, let them learn from you. Differences are just points of reference for learning something that you do not know. Fearing it only hurts you and those you convince to fear it as well. Stand up to that fear and show how beautiful it is to learn from any person who is different from you. Spark up that conversation, ask how their childhood was. Laugh and tell your stories with them. It might have happened in a different world but it might have the exact same hooks in every story. It might be sad and you could offer some sort of healing by listening and experiencing their hurt and sorrow.
Through writing this I have come to realize some thoughts I have had but had not fully grasped.
I remember in 6th grade feeling this instant connection with punk rock music. It was fast and aggressive and loud and angry and fought and stood for what they believed in. It came from places of fucked up homes and circumstances that they understood to fight against. It felt alive, it felt like a movement. I know this hit me because of those circumstances in my own life, and lit me on fire and gave me a passion.
I know had I lived my life in the way of settling, safe or not attempting things that you know you might fail and not living with a reckless abandon, a passion and love for living fast and loud.
I would have been on my deathbed pissed off at myself for the things I did not do. I would have been incredibly angry with myself.
Instead I was on my deathbed pissed off at myself for the hurt that I would cause people in my life. More so I was pissed off for the life I was taking away from myself.
I know for a fact that life is way too short for any kind of bullshit like that. Focus on the gritty beauty that surrounds you, enjoy the diversity and thrive in it. Grow and learn and adapt with the other beautiful broken human souls that surround you. You cannot truly live a life without that.
Travel, love, experience, inspire.