“I do not fear death. I fear not to live fully”—Wim Hof

What’s it like to face down your fear…and overcome it?

(especially important in today’s world)

On a sunny Saturday about a week ago, I rode shotgun, my good friend Mike behind the wheel…Mike and I got our drivers licenses around the same time, many years ago

When we were teenagers, Mike drove a cranberry-colored Oldsmobile Delta 88, long and wide like a barge, what they used to call a “land yacht”

I piloted a yellow Volkswagen Rabbit, a tiny box of a car…one night, driving home from Mike’s, I spun it off the road, down a hill in the snow-filled woods and into a tree

Fortunately, I wasn’t hurt…I hadn’t been drunk…distracted, perhaps, seventeen years old and the University looming, its responsibilities and challenges

I set off to college a year early, skipping my senior year of high school

And did get drunk, very often freshman year, soon graduating to breaking personal records for consumption of cocaine, speed, ecstasy, and combinations thereof

Somehow receiving a degree a few months after my 21st birthday, and later adopting a career in methamphetamine addiction

Living a life full of terror…stretches strung out on meth psychosis, paranoid sitting outside my studio apartment, broad daylight with a 12-gauge shotgun on my lap, terrified of people coming to kill me…

Yet today, having not drowned under the waves of stimulants, I’m twelve years clean

On that sunny Saturday, Mike drove us out to Seabrook, New Hampshire…to meet up with Chucky Rosa, of Chucky’s Fight

Chucky lost two sons to addiction, when they were in their early twenties

He scattered their ashes off the coast, and every day takes a dip in the sea…in memory of his sons, and to raise awareness of the risks to other youth

Chucky brings special guests with him…like me, and Mike

Cold water has been a fear! It used to be an existential one…might the jarring waters might cause my heart to stop, my internal organs freeze up?

While remnant ghosts of existential questions may have haunted me on the coast of New Hampshire, more immediate was the surface fear: Do I have the heart to actually get through this?

For weeks, I’d been preparing with cold showers…

(you can read more in a previous blog)

…and breathing techniques invented by “The Iceman”, the remarkable Wim Hof

Hof climbed Mount Everest shirtless and in shorts, has set Guinness world records for swimming under ice, holds the record for a barefoot half-marathon on ice and snow

When setting the swimming-under-ice record, his retinas froze, blinding him…he almost perished, missing the exit hole and having to turn around

Thereby almost doubling (as I recall) the distance he set out for

Hof began teaching himself after his wife died from suicide…the cold became his God

Maybe you—like me—are or have been prone to forms of depression, and seek something resembling your God

For years after quitting meth, I battled not only depression, but deep resentments…of the people and circumstances around me, of a lot of things

Yet thanks to my form of God, I found the strength to put a good face forward, and become a better friend/family member/citizen than I’ve ever been

While far from perfect, to be sure, it was a better me who stepped gingerly out of Mike’s car on Saturday, onto the salty sand of Seabrook

Moments before, Mike and I had followed Chucky out of his perfectly warm home…which he shares with his amazing wife Mary…both are beautiful forces of nature, wonderful people, the kind from whom caring for others radiates, like the heat from their wood stove

I thought fondly of that wood stove, as Mike and I stood by Chucky’s side near the surf, in sand like the snows of Hemingway’s Kilimanjaro, having stripped down to our swim trunks…

Air temperature 25° with wind chill, water temperature 42°, the waves lapping like the frozen tongue of some arctic creature swum up from polar depths

I wore the dog tag Chucky gave me…many soldiers sacrificed, for my freedom to do things like dip in the ocean in March

Mary started the video, Chucky said a few words, and we headed towards the drink 

Have you, at this point in your life, left your wood stove…do your frosty waters beckon you?

Are you feeling extra-prone to depression, or fear? Are you living, as I often was (and still find myself today), less-than-fully?

If so, you are like many others…your suggestion is, do something you fear, on behalf of someone else

Like taking a nice cold shower! You may not necessarily fear a cold shower, of course…but the thought of one, probably doesn’t make you turn cartwheels

Another friend of mine, Matt, who served over a decade in prison and is now a sought-after personal trainer, had some words of wisdom

He uttered them on an amazing road trip we took back from a weekend volunteering in Pelican Bay State Prison, coaching men incarcerated there to become entrepreneurs, employees, and to advocate for themselves

I rode shotgun as our friend Bill, who surfs off Santa Cruz and graduated West Point, drove…Julia traveled with us, she attended college in Boston and is a successful entrepreneur

All three of my co-riders are incredible humans, who could’ve been spending their weekends doing a hundred different things, but chose to serve incarcerated men turning their lives around

Matt enlightened us: Anything that makes you uncomfortable has the potential to be good for you

So for you, reader: next time you take a shower, consider challenging yourself…

Spin your faucet to “C” even if for a few seconds…stand in the spray, in honor of all of who struggle as you struggle…who have lost their own lives, lost others

I’d love to tell you that’s what I did, as I marched towards the sea, Chucky and Mike at my side, the cold snaking shivery over my feet, ankles, and knees…

But—I wasn’t thinking of anyone other than myself! Which is okay…the point is progress, not perfection…I’m thinking of others now and since

I wouldn’t have been there in the first place, were I not inspired by the Mikes, Marys, Chuckys, Bills, Julias and Matts of the world

When you step out of your cold shower (or complete whatever you feared) you’ll likely find yourself a better person for having done it

It’s how I felt when I emerged from under those waves…a better person despite myself, better able to live a full life of bringing some measure of good to the world around me

Like the good so many incredible people—you, the reader, included—have brought to me!

Resources For You

If you know or are a person who is struggling, check out my free PDF: Ten Helpful Questions to Ask When Someone You Love is Recovering From Addiction

Simply go to my website, and hit the “Download PDF Now” button in the lower right. When you enter your email, you’ll be signed up for my weekly newsletter, Meditations on Meth. Feel free to unsubscribe if you don’t want it.

2 Responses

  1. Even more than previous posts, this one rings true for me, Ed. If we can’t bear to spend two minutes of discomfort where nothing is on the line, it’s very unlikely that we will choose the uncomfortable option when our journey and the journey of others depend upon it. Courage over comfort. I’ve talked to some folks who see courage as an abnegation of negative feelings, but I think that courage is the ability to embrace negative feelings (grief, shame) and mine them for empathy. We can only connect with others in pain when we see and accept our own. Negative feelings and experience are powerful medicine, fertilizer.

    Anyway, feeling something akin to pride for you, Ed. Awesome work!

    1. Hi Theo, I love your insights, thank you for sharing. Indeed, it is important to embrace the dualities…something I’ve been working on lately. We would miss out on the opportunities to overcome fear, if we did not first experience fear. I too am proud of you my friend, for all you’re accomplishing and the good you’re bringing into the world!

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