Open Letter to the Underdogs

“When he took the time to help the man up the mountain, lo, he scaled it himself.” – Tibetan Proverb

“I’m looking for something bigger. I’m looking for a ‘Dare-to-be-GREAT’ situation!” – Lloyd Dobler (Say Anything)

“It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.” – Tyler Durden (Fight Club)

Recovery should be selfish. Hell… life should be selfish.

By this I don’t mean you should stand on the backs of others or tear people down to lift yourself up. I mean that you are in more control than you ever imagined.

lloyd-doblerThere are two movies that stand at the top of my charts. One is the 80’s classic, “Say Anything.” Never in my life have I related to a character more than Lloyd Dobler. He’s an underdog. He’s a bit of a goober. He loves women. His best friends are women. Regarding relationships, though, he sets his sights high on the school Valedictorian, Diane Court. When he finally lands a date with her, he’s awkward and nervous. Nevertheless, we find that Diane admired the little things that Lloyd did without even thinking about it, like kicking glass out of her way.

Girl at the party: “Did you really come here with Lloyd Dobler? How did that HAPPEN?!”

Diane: “He made me laugh.”

Still don’t fully grasp how much I love this story? My first Bronco was named “Diane.”

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This is the pocket knife I carried with me during my two years as a Mormon Missionary in Mexico…

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“Diane” became an idea. She was something that represented our Workman motto: “Be pleased but never satisfied.” Maybe I’d get my heart broken 100 times chasing the wrong girl, but someday being true to myself would pay off.

It has taken me a lot of work to feel comfortable alone in my own head and in my own skin. I’m realizing today more than ever that I will never be “satisfied” because to me that signifies an “arrival” of sorts.

I will never arrive. My journey won’t even end in my death. I will leave behind something for my daughters more important than a financial inheritance.

I will leave them a legacy.

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What KIND of legacy is up to me.

For a long time in my life I found it much easier to accept the bad things that happened to me than the good things. I never felt worthy of any kind of success or recognition. Even today I still apologize much more than I should.

Ironically, finding that balance between self-worth and ego hasn’t ever been about my bank account. One of the happiest times of my life was during early recovery when I was literally “living in a van down by the river.”

I worked construction. I was homeless. I was broke. I had a few weeks under my belt since the last time I’d used any kind of drug. I slept in the dirt and bathed in the river.

Oh, and I loved every minute of it.

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(Yes, Robin… that’s the Jägermeister t-shirt.)

The truth is, however, that I had managed to tap into something that eluded me for a long time.

I was at peace.

Call it Karma (do good and good will come), faith (to thine own self be true), law of attraction (the secret), philosophy (I think therefor I am), science (string theory) or just the patronizing voice of your 3rd Grade teacher… “you can do anything you put your mind to.”

We have two choices in this life.

1 – We can succumb to the pseudo-comfort of mediocrity and choose to believe the people who tell us that we should just “aim low” and never be disappointed.

2 – We can make the conscious decision to ignore everything we are being taught by YouTube, Twitter, and the Kardashians. Being a reality star won’t make you happy. You aren’t defined by your “likes” or followers or recognition. We can flip the bird to the idea of “15 minutes of fame” and instead choose to build something that will outlast us.

My other favorite movie is Fight Club.

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“The only way to find true happiness is to risk being completely cut open.”

“Find out what you’re afraid of and go live there.”

“I just don’t want to die without a few scars.”

-Chuck Palahniuk (Author of Fight Club)

This morning I sat in my beat-up little car behind a gas station and did an interview on “Sober Life Radio” between sips of Red Bull and silent reminders to breathe. Because of where I’m at in my personal journey, that was a huge honor for me.

The last time I was at that gas station I was making $12/hour delivering nightcrawlers and fishing tackle for a company called “Got Worms.”

The biggest difference wasn’t really drugs. My addiction was simply a physical manifestation of something much bigger in my own life. It didn’t matter how many people told me I was too smart to work labor jobs or too “cute” to be suicidal.

“We only accept the love we feel we deserve.”

I’d sought validation in a million different places. I wanted talent, recognition, certifications, education or ownership of “stuff” to make me feel worthwhile.

If I couldn’t have those things I wanted a hot girl on my arm to enable my bad behavior and tell me I was “still great” while we drank, drugged, snorted and screwed away our true feelings.

I also dreaded the future. The ultimate “Fuck It” mentality became a living nightmare through heroin. Death was right around the corner. I didn’t bother to floss or pay my credit card bills. Besides, I wasn’t going to live long enough to have to clean up after any of it.

My body wasn’t a temple. I treated my life with almost as much respect as you treat a cheap motel room.

That’s when something incredible happened. My heart kept on beating despite my best efforts. That girl who everyone hated and blamed finally said something brutally raw and honest to me:

“Don’t you realize how far you would soar if you stop letting all of this drag you down?”

That’s what I mean about being selfish. In order to have any kind of life, I needed to walk away and start living for myself. If I saw that girl today I’d give her a hug and wish her well. I’ve got no time or energy for hate, bitterness, or self-pity.

I’ve found more peace and joy in unbridled optimism than I’ve ever known before. That doesn’t mean I feel victorious. That doesn’t mean I feel like slowing down. That sure as shit doesn’t mean I’m going to get everything right.

It means I’ve finally found my passion. I’ve gotten a grasp on the concepts of “borrowed time” and perspective. I’ve gradually learned how to stop getting in my own way. I’ve discovered something internally that cannot be measured by any kind of financial success, fame, or a medal.

“Well, that’s great for you but that will never happen to me.”

(I hear that a lot.)

The only thing I’ve done different with my life recently is started pushing back. In the past, I held in every strength and magnified every weakness. I treated life as if it were a playground bully and just hoped if I hid long enough it would leave me alone.

Maybe you can relate. If so, I’m here today to tell you one crucial truth:

That shit will only go on for as long as you allow it.

tumblr_n73brc2ls21tuk7ruo1_500You’ll never know for yourself until you try. However, I wouldn’t recommend waiting. There’s not much in this life that feels as good as surprising yourself.

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What’s different between you and I? What’s my secret? What makes me so special?

Not a fucking thing.

Go try it. Do it today. I dare you.

I double-(under)dog dare you.

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