Saturday, February 28, 2015

My 2 year anniversary

           For the last month I've been thinking a lot about what I would say in this post, how much I would reveal.  So, here I sit, on the eve of my 2nd birthday typing away.  A long stretch from what I would have been doing on a Saturday 2 years ago.  There are a lot of directions I could go with this.  I could tell you about every drug I've done, everything I've lost due to being an alcoholic and what my rock bottom looked like or I could tell you about all the postive changes I've made in my life and how much better things are.  I've decided to give you both, but I want to focus on the positive because that is the real reason why any addict decides to put down there vice and aspire to something better.
           I've known for the majority of my life that I have a very addictive personality with an affinity for the booze.  Though I was able to keep it in check for years through involving myself in competive sports, I eventually lost my grip.  My life took a dramatic turn about 14 years ago, just a year after moving to Colorado.  For a long time I was having fun.  Giving up on sports I took to partying, and a lot of it.  Turns out I was pretty good at it.  For years I was able to maintain a career, relationships and friendships without my alcoholism getting in the way, but eventually it caught up to me.  With alcohol and cocaine now controlling me, instead of me controlling it, I was quickly falling apart and my life reflected this.  When all sense of responsibility, care and reality seeped its way out of my booze soaked pores and started to lose things.  I managed to destroy a marriage, drink away my mortagage payment each month that led to me losing my first home, ruin friendships, wreck my motorcycle, truck and eventually end up in jail...4 times.  One would think that this would be enough motivation for me to sober up, but it wasn't.  I stepped it up to a consistent, handle of Vodka a day, liver destroying level that damn near killed me.  My friends were becoming more and more scarce, bartenders were cutting me off and blood was coming from places it shouldn't come from.  I was literally drinking myself to death.  
           It wasn't until I got arrested for the 4th time, 2 years and a week ago, that I hit my "real deal" rock bottom.  Not only did I truly want to sober up, but I would also be hit with court ordered monitored sobriety.  This meant that 3 times a week I would pee in a cup then have it analyzed for alcohol and drugs.   But I had to get in one final hurrah.  So for the week between my release and my first probation meeting I drank...a lot.  
           Day one of sobriety.  Not so bad I thought to myself.  Sure the cravings were there but it wasn't as painful as I expected.  Day 2.  Now the booze was truly working its way out of my system and the withdrawals I was worried about started to reveal itself.  The shakes set in and sleep became nonexistent.  I layed in bed shaking, sweating and occasionally throwing up, this went on for a week.
Once the withdrawals subsided the real work began.  I had to find a way to maintain this, to stay sober.  
I had tried AA meetings a few times over the previous 3 years with no success so I knew I had to find an alternative.  
           I completely changed my routines.  Instead of heading straight to the bar after work, if I even made it that long, I would hop on the motorcycle and ride into the mountains.  I would ride to places well out of cell phone range, away from traffic and people, where I could find a quiet place to just sit and think.  I basically had to physically remove myself from any area that had booze or would encourage me to drink.  I would simply sit in the woods, or by a river and think.  Spend some time reflecting on how I got to this place, what I was going to do about it and where I wanted my life to go.  This went on for 6 months, until I finally felt comfortable socializing without being drunk.  Though sobriety was still difficult, it was getting dramatically easier.
         Suddenly things started to change for the better in a big way.  My business was more profitable then ever before and I was actually saving the money instead of drinking it away.  My relationships became more solid and honest.  I was taking more pride in myself, my work and my loved ones. I was starting to care again.  I started seeing opportunities in front of me and taking full advantage of them.  I was excited about life again.  It would take me a week to tell you how much better my life is now so I'll just tell you this:  I'm happier then I've been in years, I'm confident in my ability to accomplish anything I put my mind to, I have respect for myself and others, I'm in a healthy, supportive relationship and I will stay on this path for the rest of my life. 
          In closing, If anything you read today sounds like a reflection of your own life, and you want to make a change, know that you can.  If I can do it, you can do it.  As cliche as it sounds, change starts with you.  There is no magic pill, no secret trick, just a tough decision between what is more important to you, your life or alcohol.  Take it from me, choose life.  

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Via Mexico: Chapter 4

        We woke in the morning nervous and excited.  Today we would be crossing the Mexico border at the Nogales port of entry.  Fortunately, the ride from Phoenix to the border was uneventful.  Though Phoenix was experiencing record low temperatures, it was still far warmer then it had been.  We approached the border around 11 AM, a bit later then we had hoped but still within our window of exceptable.  Our plan was to make the crossing, then proceed to push quickly a minimum of 250 miles south to the coast.   250 miles was what we felt would put us a safe distance from the violent border towns.  Interestingly, the Mexican government has put in place an American Hassle Free zone that covers the area from the border to 250 miles south of the border.  Within this zone, if you any issues such as mechanical breakdowns, you are promptly towed and escorted, for free, to the closest edge of the Hassle Free Zone.  
       We approached the crossing with tanks full of fuel and our nerves on high alert.  The final approach directed us onto a oneway, no second thoughts allowed road tucked between two towering concrete walls.  Directly ahead were the gates, Mexican flag and a way of life most Americans will never understand.  We approached the gate slowly, looking through them with anticipation of what lay  ahead.  There we were, on the United States/Mexico border with no one behind us, being waved in by wide eyed Federale watching us awkwardly navigate the series of baseball size pucks placed on the road to clearly define the line.  Bouncing semi out of control we entered a land neither one of us had ever experienced.  Quickly scanning the area for potential threats, we witnessed extreme poverty and suffering.  The faces of the people were not threatening nor scary, they were sad and desperate.  Here we were, 100yds from the border, but years away from America.  It is almost unbelievable how different life can be so close to our border.  
       In addition though, we also noticed the extreme presence of the Federale as a reminder of the violence that was taking place in this country.  Everywhere we looked there were flat bed trucks with flashing blue lights.  On each truck there were 6 troops, covered head to toe in protective gear showing no part of there body, carrying semi automatic rifles.  Rolling through town towards the secondary border crossing 25 miles south, we tucked in behind one of these trucks thinking it would be the safest place for us.  We followed this truck a few miles until the traffic cleared, Noagales was behind us and the truck turned off the road.  At this point we were alone so we rolled on the throttle and raced to the secondary border crossing where we would have to register our bikes and inform the Mexican government of presence.  
      The crossing went smooth.  We procured our necessary paperwork, exchanged some money, smiled and went on our way.  The sun was out and it was finally starting to really warm up.  We were feeling good as we rolled towards the coast, excited to stare at the ocean while eating fresh shrimp.  Along we rode, down new roads, through small towns where the locals tried to sell us trinkets and fresh juices.  We enjoyed the sites, the weather and......."Hey, where's Michael!?" I said to myself while frantically looking around.  
        At this point we were 225 miles south of the border and Michael was no where to be seen.  Immediately I screached to a hault, looked back up the road as far as I could, seeing nothing. I had to get back to him.  I looked at the 50 foot wide, sandy, cactus filled median, grabbed a handful of throttle and went for it.  Getting pretty sideways a couple of times while dodging Giant Senoras I managed to get across, up on the road and sped back to where I came from until I saw Michael standing beside his bike on the road side.  Now, of course, I had to recross this median to get over to him.  Once again, getting sideways and narrowly avoiding impalement from the cacti, I succeeded  in getting over to him.  
Asking what was wrong, Michael told me his rear wheel locked up and the motor died....engine seized.
This was a seriousy bad situation.  So, we did what anybody else would do in this situation.  We took turns jumping on the kickstarter thinking that maybe the combination of that along with a few dozen Hail Marys we would somehow convince this completely destroyed motor to repair itself and start.  Turns out that no amount of praying will repair a seized motor.  Fortunately though, the local policia did hear our prayers and came to the rescue.  Remember that Hassle Free Zone I mentioned earlier?  It was about to come in real handy.  We quickly explained our situation to the police and they explained that they would call a tow truck for us.  Perfect we thought.  We could get ourselves down to Hermosillo and figure it out from there.  While thanking the police for there help and assessing the amount of sunlight left I asked the cop how safe we would be sitting out here in the middle of the desert.  He replied with "you or the bikes?"  I said "either?" he just shrugged and walked away.  
          We were told that the "tow truck" would arrive in about an hour so we felt lucky when it showed up in 30 minutes.  Now, I use the term tow truck rather loosely here.  In reality it was a Ford Ranger, completely lined in tool boxes with a giant antenna bolted to the middle of the bed.  No ramps, no english speaking driver, and no spanish speaking broken down bikers.  Luckily, with our impromptu sign langauge, we were able to convince the driver to drive his truck off the pavement and back the tail gate up to the road where we would only have to lift the bike a couple of feet.  The next problem though was where exactly to put the bike.  We decided on the "cram it and see what happens" method, it actually kind of worked.  With the frame sitting on the tailgate and the front wheel precariously strapped to the side of the truck we crossed our fingers and decided that it was as good as it was going to get. The driver slowly drove back onto the road and  I tucked in behind the truck as we caravanned our way, at a snails pace, the 25 miles to the town of Hermosillo.  For some reason the driver never broke the 25mph barrier, pretty sure he was getting paid by the hour.  
          We pulled into Hermosillo at somewhere around 9pm.  The driver of the tow truck pulled into a rather swanky hotel complete with marble floors and an english speaking attendent.  This would be our home for the next three days.  Knowing there was nothing we could accomplish at this time of night we decided that a warm meal at a local restaurant was in order.  We received a reccomendation from the hotel clerk then proceeded to walk a few blocks to said restaurant.  As expected, the food was great and conversation with the bartender was labored due to the obvious language barrier, but we did meet a nice english speaking local to chat with.  Upon completion of our meal and we turned back to our luxury $50 a night hotel for a good nights rest knowing that the next day could unfold some interesting events.  
           I started the morning by opening the phone book resting on the nightstand, looking for any sort of Harley shop....nothing.  Next, I scoured the pages for what looked like the biggest shop in town.  I ended up connnecting with a Yamaha dealership that not only had an english speaking manager but was willing to send out a truck to recover the dead motorcycle.  Things were looking up.  Though we both knew that there was absolutely no way that bike would leave Mexico in any other way then on the back of trailer it still felt good knowing that it was at least getting to a repair shop.  

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Via Mexico: Chapter 3

          Day 2. Morning sun and clear skies brought bitter cold temperatures.  The current temp was 15 degrees and the forecast wasn't calling for a warm up.  Our destination for the day was Phoenix, Arizona via interstate 40 and Interstate 17.  
         Sticking to protocal we were on the road by 8am, west bound on I-40 where we would remain for the next 400 miles.  The moment we left we were instantly in the trenches battling a wind chill that would make a snow man shiver, the sort of cold that threatens to freeze the marrow in your bones.  
         After a speedy and painful 50 miles we quickly came to the conclusion that we needed to seriously assess our situation and devise a plan.  We came up with this:  We decided that we would tackle no more then 50 miles at a time.  If we came upon a gas station at 40 miles we would stop there instead of pushing on to the next.  We proceeded to buy out the gas station of hand warmers and stuff them into every nook and cranny we could to absorb as much heat as possible.  From here we would put on our rain gear to block some wind, ski goggles to keep our retinas from icing over and our helmets to give us a false sense of security as we nervously rolled across the intermitent ice patches on the road.  The only problem with the ski goggles was that they were pushing on my broken nose causing it to speratically start to bleed, creating a frozen, bloody concoction that encrusted my beard with what falsely appeared to be a cherry icee from 7-Eleven.    
      So, with our new plan, he reembarked on our adventure.  The temperature never really did increase, 18 degrees was the high temp until we rolled into Phoenix.  But, our plan actually did work.  About every 30 minutes, approximately 30 seconds before our extremities would turn black and fall off,  we would slide into a gas station and attempt to thaw out.  I say slide in because that is basically what was happening.  The roads were relativley clear but the exit ramps and gas stations were snow packed and icy.  In fact, in Flagstaff, Michael managed to dump his bike in a man eating, slush filled pot hole.  
       We approached Flagstaff about 30 minutes before sundown on wet, shiny roads.  At this time they were just wet, but knowing the moment the skies went dark that would quickly change.  We sped into town, quickly gassed up and barreled toward I-17 south where we would push the limits of our bikes in  the hopes of getting to warmer temps before the roads turned to ice.  It worked.  We came screaming into Phoenix at inappropriate speeds excited about the temps now in the 60's!   
       My Uncle lives in Phoenix and that was where we would stay for the night.  Not expecting us to have made it in the conditions we had to face, he has rather surprised when we knocked on his door. But, being the great Uncle that he is, he welcomed us with open arms, a much needed hot shower and a warm bed.  Spending time with family was a great way to end a difficult yet thrilling day.  We spent a little time catching up, explained what happened to my face and soon fell into a deep sleep with anticipation of crossing into Mexico the next day.