Yesterday I started my annual candy-cleanse diet. It wasn’t horrible! Getting started is the worst. Being healthy is a hard habit to just jump into. Even when you’ve done it before. I was diagnosed with high blood pressure back in the summer of 2012 and for the last 3 years I’ve been trying to get my physical health under control.
I thought that I was bulletproof until my doctor told me if I didn’t get my shit together, I was could bank on having a stroke sometime in the future. My doctor didn’t even give me a chance to crap myself before he started recommending high blood pressure medications. Getting told that I was gunning for a stroke at 18-years-old was terrifying, but it was a billion times scarier to told I was going to need to take high blood pressure (hypertension) medication. Whoa.
I was home for the summer after my first year of college. It was the 2012 Euro Cup and my favorite team THE DUTCH were imploding. I was on an uncontrollable drinking bender. I’m ashamed that the morning that I drove to the doctor’s office for my yearly physical check-up I was inebriated. I used to drive drunk a lot and it’s only now that I realize how ashamed of myself I should be. I was a monster. I was the kind of arrogant teenager that blamed Robin Van Persie choking in the Euro Cup for all of my wretched behavior. That summer, I blamed Bert van Marwijk for making me drink so much. I remember (sorta/not really) riding the couch and screaming at the television while I watched the Dutch National Soccer Team that I loved more than anything in the world eat shit. They should have won the whole thing. They lost three straight games and I cried. I cried a lot.
The Oranje got creamed in the Euro 2012 Group of Death. The last thing that I remember clearly was seeing Arjen Robben take of his jersey in frustration and jump over the field partition when he was subbed out and Rafael van der Vaart came in to unfuck the situation. Spoiler Alert. He didn’t unfuck the situation. On June 17th, 2012, the Dutch were eliminated from the Euro Cup. They lost 2-1 to Portugal. The only other team in the 2012 UEFA Euro Cup who sucked that badly was Ireland. Even Greece did better than The Dutch. This broke my heart. And alcohol was how I dealt with it.
After the final loss to Portugal, I remember getting the spins, pounding this crazy-ass, home-made sangria that was made with gin, and crying all night. I cried myself to sleep every night after the Dutch lost. Was this irrational? Yes. But that’s sports. I cry over the stupidest stuff. Sometimes it seems like the only thing that makes me cry. As long as I can deal with this kind of emotional devastation in a healthy and positive way, I think that it’s good to let it out and cry. Even if it is over something as stupid as sports. But that summer, my drinking was out of control. I did not handle anything well. Good or bad.
By that point, the summer after my first year of college, my chronic alcohol abuse had caught up with me in the form of hypertension (high blood pressure). Even though I had recognized earlier spring that drinking was fucking up my life, there was nothing that I could do about it. I couldn’t stop. The worst part was the denial. Anything bad that happened? I never blamed alcohol or my problem drinking. I blamed myself. But while I did blame myself, I didn’t blame my drinking. I think that’s a big part of the guilt and the shame. “It’s ME but it’s NOT my drinking!” It’s very confusing. I was guilty of putting the blame for all of my problems on other people. But when I sat down and really thought about it, everything was my fault. But it would be a long time before I understood that this was 100% textbook alcoholism. I couldn’t blame alcohol. I thought I had control, which meant that the problems all came from my not being able to “man up” and handle my problems. Even though all of my problems were caused and/or worsened by my drinking, it took me forever to admit to myself that alcohol had taken over my life. I couldn’t give it up. Even though it was the problem, I couldn’t put 2 and 2 together. I was medicating with alcohol and was blind to all of the ways in which it was killing me and making my life all but completely unlivable.
When I was diagnosed with hypertension I was scared. I couldn’t believe it. I thought I was THE FUGGIN MAN! Nothing could kill me, baby! It was all a delusion. My drinking had caught up with me after only one year of drinking. I think that I had at least 4 drinks a day on average every day for a full year. I drank every day for the better part of 18-months. Being in college, I thought that this was what people did. This was AMERICA–if you ain’t drinkin’ then you ain’t tryin’! If that’s true, I was definitely doin’ too much. And I knew it. But I was in denial. I didn’t want to admit it. I couldn’t stop drinking because I was afraid. I was terrified of what would happen if I stopped. In the kind of fucked up way that most things happen when it comes to alcoholism and addiction, I needed this diagnosis and there was a part of me deep down that felt some very comforting belief. When the doctor told me I needed to go get blood work done because he was VERY concerned, a small voice somewhere in the back of my brain sighed with relief and whispered, “…finally…”
Outwardly, I was pissed. I tried to make a joke out of it to get over my fear and mask my terror. I never admitted to anyone and I never really admitted it to myself either but I was relieved. I finally had a reason to quit drinking and that was something that I had been dying for for so long. I couldn’t stop on my own. I needed to at least get a whiff of rock bottom. I was subconsciously cruising for rock bottom and being diagnosed with high blood pressure was good enough for me. For a while at least.
I went and got blood work done and luckily it came back fine. I refused the doctor’s recommendation to go on high blood pressure medication. I was 18 fucking years old, I was not about to go on medication for high blood pressure medications. I told him that there was probably a couple lifestyle changes that I could make that would maaaaybe help with my high blood pressure. Y’know, maybe just a few little things here and there: not drinking every day, not day drinking, not drinking hard liquor to go to bed, no more chain smoking Black and Milds, and maybe gettin’ some cardio in or sumthin’. Y’know, the basics!
I did want to get my shit under control but I need to hear that I was destroying myself. I needed this to turn into life or death before I was ready to get a grip. I’ve always been a black or white thinker when it comes to myself. Everything is life or death. I want to change that, but first things first, I gotta get my drinking under control.
I left the doctors office a little more woke than I had been when I sauntered in still buzzed from the night before. But like so many alcoholics be for me, I walked out of the doctor’s office highly motivated and ready to make a change! …..and then I got home and went on the worst bender I’d been on in months.
That summer was a booze-fueled train wreck. I tried to pull up the emergency break, only to go completely off the rails. That summer, I blamed the Dutch. I remember crying my eyes out after it was all over and they lost their last game to Portugal and were eliminated. I remember just sitting up late–just me, my high blood pressure, and my Tanqueray sangria–and crying about how that was our last chance. MY BOYS! MY BOYS WILL NEVER WIN AGAIN! THAT WAS IT! IT’S ALL OVER! WE LOST! WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED?? VAN DER VAART! WESLEY SNEIJDER! ROBIN VAN PERSIE (fuck you, van Persie!) ARJEN??? ARJEN!! WHAT HAPPENED AT YOU?? DIRK KUYT! YOU TRIED SO FUCKING HARD, DIRK! (*sobs) MARK VAN BOMMEL! YOU FUCKING GOON! WHY MARK??? WHY???? I could not believe it. I just kept weeping and I watched YouTube videos of the 2006 World Cup game known as “The Battle of Nuremberg” where the Dutch also had lost to Portugal just six years before. THEY ALL LOOKED SO YOUNG!! VAN PERSIE’S HAIR WASN’T GREY YET!! I mourned like all of these guys had just been executed on live TV. It hit me hard. I’d waited all year to see them win. I thought they’d win. That was our chance. I never expected to see them again. But they did come back. And so did I. This was just another excuse that I made to drink. I turned a fucking soccer match into an Irish wake. Jesus, kid.
That wasn’t the end of anything. It wasn’t the end of my drinking or the Dutch. But somehow, the sun came up the next morning. And life went on. With my boys’ Euro Cup over, I had nothing left to lose. I drank it off (for weeks) and finally got over it.
The Dutch National Soccer Team made me do terrible things because I’m a psycho and that’s how alcoholism works. That EPIC choke-job was not a goodass reason to drink. But I turned it into a goodass reason. At that low point, 3-years ago, I figured that since it was all over, it was time to get a grip. I needed this loss, man. I along with the high blood pressure diagnosis and the scared straight job my doctor hit me with. Now, this is the stupidest story ever but this is important shit. I’m reflecting on this because I’m on day two trying to get back into shape after my last relapse. I kinda don’t want to. But I gotta fight inertia because otherwise, I’ll be cruising for a stroke. Or worse, another relapse.
All things considered? Sometimes ya gotta put it in perspective and remember why you’re doing stupidass shit like dicking around with a scale and eatin’ yer vegetables. Here’s day two! JUST WIN, BABY!