“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.