2015 was the worst and best year I've had
How does one have the worst and the best year all in the same time-frame? The short answer is: spend 6 months training for a 750 mile race; get hit by a tree 1 week prior to your race, experience a severe concussion accompanied with short term memory loss; and then realize this is the best thing that has happened to you in a long time. Let me explain.
After spending 5 years in an unfulfilling job as a parks maintenance worker, I decided to seek more adventurous employment and became a logger. Yes, a person who cuts down trees for a living. Big trees. Fifty to sixty foot trees.
After six months of working this new lumberjack profession there came a particularly wet day where I found myself working on a hillside, cutting in wet, slippery conditions. As I'd done with any other tree, I made my notch cut on the side where I wanted the tree to fall, and then made my plunge cut, continuing to the rear of the tree. I felled it across the hill rather then dropping it downhill to make harvesting easier later. I walked uphill with my saw as the tree began, but I slipped and fell on the wet hillside and slid ten feet downhill away right back towards the cut tree trunk. As I slid, the tree fell on the hillside on a bunch of brush. What I didn't know was that under the brush was an already downed tree. The tree I had cut landed and see-sawed on the other trunk. As the top of the tree fell across the other trunk, it forced the base upwards - right where I was now standing. BAM! The tree drilled me right on the 2 O'clock of my head/face catapulting my feet up over my head. I landed all crumpled up and had no idea where I was for a bit. Once I came to, I hiked out of the woods and called a friend to come get me and drive me to the hospital.
(Happy to be alive in Alton Hospital)
Although I optimistically believed I was still going to race 750 miles from Port Townsend, Washington to Ketchikan, Alaska in a week, the harsh reality of doctors saying I had a long recovahead set in. After the adrenaline wore off, I began experiencing headaches every day, and my entire body was wracked with pain.
Now on workers comp, I sat home idle. 6 weeks in to recovery my employer terminated me, Something I didn't see coming, Funny how life goes. So a wrongful termination lawsuit ensued and yada yada, I now needed to find a job.
I had gone from making great money outdoors, being in the best shape I've ever been in and getting ready to race the biggest race of my life to being unemployed, with horrible headaches and soreness, and now repeating myself multiple times to a day due to short term memory loss. My poor wife was very patient with me. It must have been like living with a 40 year old with Alzheimer’s patient. I told her about Dale Sanders 2-5 times a day. Dale, AKA the grey Beard Adventurer, is an 80 year old man who became the oldest person to paddle the entire length of the Missouri river source to sea http://www.greybeardadventurer.com/. If you ask my wife, she'll absolutely know who he is after she spent a summer hearing about him everyday from me.
Thank god for Stand up paddling! Scrambling for a job that was low impact and outdoors limited me to, well... not much. Afterspending some time trying to figure it out I decided to work with what I had, and focus solely on what had been my second full-time job, SupStLouis , my ever-growing paddle boarding outfitter business. Fast forward the summer season : SupStLouis had an amazing season that provided my family a great income, allowed me to work a flexible schedule to spend time with my kids, and fulfill my dream of working full time in the SUP business. I was starting to make progress on my recovery. My 40 year old temporary Alzheimer's lessened and physically the headaches decreased.
The Dream office. Working on a beach
(The old gal that hauls)
(At a ripe old age of 20, the van needed a lot of love before becoming the main hauler for supstlouis Her previous years were served as a church van then a carpet van.)
(The overstuffed truck. )
We run 2 fleets for our 2 locations
The high point of paddling year occured in early September, when I tagged along on a 100 mile paddle with a friend Nate Dub who's a military vet, founder of Proudly We Stand, and a great spokesperson for Vets with PTSD. He raised over $7000 for charity by paddling from Chicago to Milwaukee on a SUP. I shot video and am currently completing a documentary on the paddle.
Here's the Bad side of my year.
So if I was able to fulfill my dream of going full time SUP then why was it such a bad year (besides the head injury)? Here's the dark side of the year. The SUP season ended in September and now I was truly unemployed. However, I had enough money from the business to sustain me a while. Post-season there's always a bit of summer withdrawals, but 2015 was different. Everything was different. The reality of not pulling off the 750 mile race I trained 6 months for, not having a job, not pulling my weight for my family and not being in control of my life set in. in. Sitting idle at home, I fell into
a very dark place. I spent two months depressed, alone at home. I didn't want to do anything. I spent my days on the couch, unable to motivate myself to do anything. The only thing I looked forward to was heading to my basement to drink alone and watch Netflix at night after my wife and kids were in bed. I ended up drinking away two months, causing my life, and the quality of life for those around me to suffer.
My depression and drinking culminated on Christmas Eve when I decided to drink a half bottle of Gin while watching Trailer Park Boys. Not thinking right, I picked up my mother in laws' car keys and started to drive the 200 yards out of her subdivision to a bar that was in walking distance. Before I even made it out of the subdivision, I received several texts from my wife, asking me to come home. I reluctantly went back to the house and went to sleep. Her insistence, and that decision, probably saved my life.king me to come home. I reluctantly went back to the house and went to sleep (a decision that probably saved my life).
The following days lead to many talks and one hardcore conversation with my wife. She drew a line in the sand and told me I needed to make a choice: The family or the alcohol. Never in my life have I been punched in the nuts so hard! Until that moment, I hadn't realized how far I had fallen. The depression and drinking had taken away the one thing that had kept me going: my family. It rocked my universe to think of not having my family with me.
Here's the good side
As I write this, March 2016, I haven't touched alcohol for 2.5 months. I can't spend more than 30 minutes on a couch, and if I'm in the basement watching Netflix I'm standing on my Paddle one SUP Ergometer getting some training paddle miles in. I work as a Substitute teacher for all levels elementary, middle, and high school. And most important, I have my family.
Subbing allows me to take off for meetings regarding SupStLouis. I get to continue to work in the SUP field as I'm teaching.
Currently I'm prepping for the 2016 SUP season. I have a couple of big paddles scheduled, Nothing I can mention now except one that involves that 80 year old I mentioned earlier, Dale Sanders (and yes he'll be on a SUP). For the Business, On top of our 2 current lake locations, I've acquired 9 additional contracts for pool SUP yoga with local recreation departments. I'm working on a concept of manufacturing boards here in St. Louis with a new local SUP brand that's 100% made in the USA.
And Last year wasn't all bad. Some good happened. a couple highlights would be:
Boone adopted us in August and became an
amazing friend and running partner (He got big)
In May I bought a 1971 VW bus that was pulled out of the woods In Jackson,MS
It sat there for 16 years
It's slowly coming back and will be part of Supstlouis this summer
I paddled 100 miles from Chicago to Milwaukee with my friend Nate
to benefit vets with PTSD (documentary in the works)
And spent some on water time with my family
So the year was the worst due to getting hit by a tree, having memory loss, suffering through depression and alcoholism and almost losing my family.
And The Year was the best that It indirectly lead me to follow my goals and to pursue one of my dreams of Full time SUP.
Going forward I've made and will be making a lot of changes. I've parted ways amiably with my sponsors. I left Glide SUP to pursue other options. They are a great bunch of guys with a great product and I enjoyed my time working with them. We still keep in touch.
I've become less focused on promoting others with a national presence and more focused promoting companies with a local presence. I feel I need to focus on the Midwest more and promote what's happening locally.
I look forward to sharing my continuing journey with all of you. Thank you for your past support and and for the days to come. In the words of the great Missourian Mark Twain, "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do..."
I don't regret how life has happened for me. It's lead me to where I am now, mistakes and all.