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Psych Ward SmackDown: Following My Dreams While Battling Addiction

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You know, the first time I ever thought about writing for a living, I was in a really dark place.  I was in the psych ward, as a matter of fact. Why I was there is an extremely complicated issue, so do me a favor and just believe me when I tell you: my periods of mental instability are damn well earned.  Over time, I’m sure you’ll find out a little bit about me and my life – I’m open to a fault. I do not have the energy to hide who I am or what I’ve been through. That’s why the title of this article (and future ones) is (are) what it (they) is (are). I’m telling you this, because during my (latest) stay in the psych ward, when my schizophrenic roommate, we’ll call him “Dave,” on copious amounts of drugs (admittedly, like the rest of us) just would…not…stop…talking…(about random facts regarding New Mexico, for instance).  So, to remedy my situation, I put some earplugs in, borrowed a pen and some printer paper from the nurses’ station, and I wrote…

About wrestling…

For hours.

Most of the reason why I ended up in that strange, depressing-in-its-own-right place was because I had been living my life incorrectly. I hated my career (I was a bartender/bar manager – great career if you work for the right group of people, something I had and lost, as well), I had nothing but toxic relationships with women, substances began to run my life – it was bad and only getting worse.  Some folks say that there is no incorrect way to live life – you live it how you see fit. Well, some of us have defective brains that can and will steer us in terribly wrong directions if we don’t constantly reach for and find a “grip.” Hence, the phrase. I was one of those folks. If I didn’t change my ways, I was going to die.  

Yes, everyone dies, but I was going to die soon. 

While in there, there was one therapist that was really cool. His name was, we’ll say, “Blake.”  He encouraged me to try and think of a time when I wasn’t angry, when I wasn’t depressed. I tried to find a quiet place before I resorted to putting in those ear plugs right in front of a human-being-that’s-speaking-to-me’s-face, but Dave was relentless.  He followed me fucking everywhere. I hated to do it, but I was there to work on myself, not learn about Dave’s fifth favorite fucking food. So, while he was in mid-sentence, I popped them in and went to work trying to forgive myself for being so rude to another human being, regardless of how insanely fucking annoying they were, and just before I closed my eyes, I saw Dave turn his attention to an orderly passing through, as if he hadn’t just been extremely insulted – as if it happened to him all the time.  At that point, I simultaneously felt even worse for him while I forgave myself. Apparently, Dave was well-equipped to handle such irreverent gestures. Then, I went to work, trying to do what Blake asked of me. You know what I came up with? Two things/instances. If you think hard enough, I bet you’ll be able to tell what those two times in my life were. You’re smart, I know you can do it.

Yep, you guessed it.  

Writing and wrestling.  

When I write, I feel a sense of calm and collectedness.  That, and everyone that is important to me in my life have said (since high school) that I should be a writer.  Due to my self-loathing and deep-seated fear of success, I ignored their firm suggestions. In a hospital bed, looking out of a rather large window (for a psych ward, anyway – the wide openness of the far walls in every room seemed like an open invitation for those seeking help in their darkest hour to abandon ship, get a running start, break through the glass, and end it all…these are the kinds of thoughts one has while in a “mental institution”) on to the city of Wilmington, Delaware, it occurred to me that when I wrote, everything started to make sense.  I could bring order and reason to my constant, abundant flow of scattered, but “deep,” pressing thoughts. Just like that, I had my answer.  

I am going to be a writer.  However, as my brain works, there is no time to celebrate self-discoveries or even victories – there is only time to worry about the next issue (I’m working on that), which is: what am I going to write about?

Fortunately, that was a pretty easy one.  Folks, I honestly do not remember a time when I was not a massive fan of professional wrestling.  One of my first extremely vivid memories is of watching the 1990 Royal Rumble match on my grandparents’ thirteen inch television in the half-finished basement.  I was the definition of enthralled. Everything about it was downright awesome – in the literal sense of the overused word. The stories, the larger than life characters, the athleticism – I was hooked.  Before that even took place, my first toys were the big, rubber, posing action figures. I had “Macho Man” Randy Savage, Junkyard Dog, “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorf, Tito Santana – everyone but the holy grail of pro-wrestling action figures (to me, anyway) – I didn’t have “The Hulkster.”  When I finally saw him on television – when I saw Mr. Perfect hit Hulk with the “PerfectPlex” to absolutely NO avail, as Hulk – well, “hulked” up/wildly-no-sold-his-opponent’s-best-maneuver, and ended up throwing Perfect OVER the turnbuckle to win the match and retain his WWF Championship belt – when I saw this, my goals in life as a child became crystal clear.  One, I was going to religiously follow professional wrestling and learn absolutely every detail I could about it – and the second goal? It was so simple, so easy, but in the 90s, there was no Amazon, no internet – ONLY toy stores – so to accomplish my second goal – to find the no longer produced or sold rubber Hulk Hogan action figure – I had to scour the aisles of every toy store in Delaware.  Even though I knew that they had not made that line of toys in years, I was determined to find it. I held out hope for a miracle.

Never happened.  

What did happen, though?  I was granted an escape every single Monday and, typically, Thursday night (sometimes Sunday, sometimes Tuesday – now, Wednesday – you get it).  Watching wrestling and reading wrestling rumors online provided me with brief reprieves from my constantly troubled or worried mind. Pro wrestling is basically a sport that’s guaranteed to have an interesting plot or ending (in theory).  It’s the original “fantasy” sport. It is easy to get lost in the action and the stories. The wrestlers and the storylines are so much, like I said, “larger than life” – they can envelop your mind for hours at a time. Throughout most of my life, I kept my affinity for “sports entertainment” a secret. I came from a family that was heavily involved in “real” sports (my older brother was All-State in three sports and my older sister was captain of her cheerleading squad) and went to a school that was unabashedly focused on having superior athletic programs.  

Professional wrestling was not “cool.”  

I found a couple of friends that were also pretty covert fans of wrestling, so we would meet and talk about it way before school started and in hushed tones while we waited for the bell to ring, but never openly.  This trend continued for me through college and early adulthood. I was an expert at hiding my true identity as an avid wrestling fan.

As life progressed, things changed.  I lost sight of what made me happy. We’ve been over that.  

So, long story short (too late, sorry), in the darkest hour of my life, an epiphany came to me.  

In order to be happy and enjoy my life thoroughly – to wake up and enjoy my life every day, without needing a drink or a break or NEEDING a vacation to look forward to in order to stay remotely happy and sane – I should adopt writing as my vocation.  

And I should write about wrestling.  

So, after briefly working with Kevin Connolly (GREAT guy) @DailyChinlock (great content), I saw a tweet sent out by Brad Shepard, one of the undeniably premiere voices in professional wrestling today (not kissing ass, it’s valid), looking for folks that want to write about wrestling. I responded to him, but to be honest, I didn’t think he would get back to me because of my limited experience in writing wrestling commentary – but to my surprise, he did. 

So, here I am, doing what I love, hoping to make it into a career. Most don’t get this kind of opportunity. In fact, most never take those ever-significant couple of minutes to even think about what their dream job might be. By no fault and without remotely any  judgement, most spend a third to half of their waking hours in this life doing something, or many things, they do not even particularly enjoy, let alone love, for a living. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.Hell, I was guilty of it, too. The difference is that via terrible life choices, I ended up in a psych ward with nothing but time to think about how to reset my life and enjoy my time on this planet. Most do not get or do not take that opportunity, because the stigma behind it is so damning. It is. Spending time in the psych ward immediately equates to social failure. To failure, in general. It means you were going to, or seriously wanted to, kill yourself. It means you were a legitimate threat to yourself and/or others. Most put that sort of experience in a lock box, far, far away from the light of any conversation or the community, in general.

I refuse to do that, because it saved my life. Not just in an immediate-I-was-going-to-kill-myself way, but also in the way of: we can do anything we want in this life. There’s a way. It may be hard. Check that – it WILL be hard. You might have to sacrifice A LOT – but time is a currency much, much more precious than gold.  It’s finite and some are blessed with more than others. Some are blessed with better situations that set you up to spend your time more freely and significantly than others. All I know is, personally, I will not waste any more of it.

Maybe, the stars have aligned. 

Maybe, destiny is a real thing for all of us, if we do the work and take the right steps.

The fact is, we don’t know.

All I know for sure is that a couple of months ago, I was in the darkest place imaginable.  Now, I am here, writing for Pro Sports Extra while I pursue a master’s degree in creative writing at Full Sail University. You knew it had to be Full Sail, right?

The only place I would rather be? Well, I’m working on getting back to benching 325 and seeing eight percent body fat in the mirror again, so maybe I should start training to get in the ring myself.  Then again, I have had three back surgeries in three years, all leaving a great big chunk of metal or an electronic implant that pulsates electricity through my back and down my legs, so maybe I should just chill and be happy with my lot in life.

Anyway, I am writing about professional wrestling as a potential career.  That is already a dream come true. Suddenly, I like my story. I want to see how “destiny” deems it to end. 

So, I decided not to…you know.

Thanks for reading and allowing me to share a little bit about my life with you folks.

Next time, we’ll talk a hell of a lot more about wrestling – and there will be a next time. I promise.

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