Coming home was hard. After hours of arguing with doctors and counselors at the rehabilitation clinic, I was finally able to get a ride home and out of hell. I had detoxified my body of the narcotics I had been treated with for months as I lay in pain with a headache. When I woke up free from the cringe of harrowing withdrawals, the first thing I did was thank the Lord and take stock of my newfound pain-free body. And then I wanted out. I was not there for hours of therapy to prevent relapse; I never wanted to take these medicines in the first place and would sooner throw myself in front of a school bus than return to relying on them. So after reassuring myself several times that I was not dreaming, I found the first doctor I could and said, “fuck this place I’m going home.” In so many words.
I had been in bed for the better part of five or more months, lost my job, school, my house overlooking the beautiful Monterey Bay and seemingly my life. There was a hot, fired vengeance built up inside intent on taking my life back with the force of a midwinter swell.
Dear God, I’d only been in the water maybe six times since the start of the new year and it was showing. My waistline bulged, muscles shrank and my tan faded. Every time I did make it to the beach, my sessions were short, plagued with pain, riddled with weakness and shamed by my receding skill in the surf.
But today is a new day. I may have the body of a pale tourist, but my mind is sharpened by sobriety and starving to make a comeback.
One day out of the clinic and my best friend Nick calls. Sympathetic to my pain, he has been concerned for awhile and is excited to hear I’m doing better. It’s good to have friends who care. Nick’s family is headed to a Central California beach town they vacation at twice a year for a week and he wants me to come. Weeks ago, I’d opted out as I saw no future in my life beyond a migraine, but Nick, knowing I’d be keen to surf, reached out to ask if I was interested. He knows me too well.
A day later, and at dawn, we are cruising down I-5 with boards in the back, bags hastily packed, and music blaring has we tell back and forth about how stoked we are to see the sand. It’s a long drive but, when we reach the vacation house, we only rest for a few minutes on the porch watching the waves before we easily decide to suit up and surf.
Any and all cliché metaphors that describe the beauty of surfing apply here. Select your favorite. But the feeling of surfing that 4 foot wind blown swell to me was like surfing Trestles with only your best friends in the water, Pipe with only two guys out, or having Kelly and Parko hoot you into barrels. My batteries were instantly recharged.
The rest of the week continued with poor surf, but I couldn’t complain. Any surf was better than being jailed in my bedroom. We subsidized the remainder of our time hiking, kayaking, lighting off illegal fireworks, buying cheap boards from Costco and making fools of ourselves. We’d been coming to the same dinky beach town for years, never really scoring epic surf but always making memories.
But this year, as the week closed out, something felt different. I had a deep seeded satisfaction in my soul, the likes of which I don’t remember feeling in any recent memory. My loss of time had made me feel that much more blessed for what I’d been missing. No need to worry about quality of my time just that I had it back on my terms.
One of the last days there, I read one of the most beautiful and personally inspirational pieces of writing I’d ever come across and I’m proud to say it came from a man I look up to and am happy to call a friend, Alex Haro.
Alex spoke of a new life venture, one I related to quite deeply and literally. Grab the bull by the horns, do whatever makes you happy and do it all the way. If you don’t live your life now, you won’t ever get another chance. He wrote about his penchant for adventure, fulfillment, or more so, personal enlightenment and happiness through a sojourn. Quitting his job, buying a camper van and hitting the road to do life his way. And this comes from a man with higher education, the work ethic (and same job) as Paul Bunyon and the ability to make you feel like old friends from the moment you meet.
If someone so brilliant in all his work and so well educated can change the course of his life so drastically to find happiness after years of living a certain way, then I can find similar gusto in my own soul.
We can all find the fervor inside to reach that satisfactory glow earned from a day spent doing what you love for no other reason than it makes you grin. And that is the beautiful truth inside us all–that we are never too late to live life.
So I plan to live it up, take advantage of every new pain-free morning to accomplish a dream I couldn’t have otherwise conquered in my beleaguered state. It’s a new lease, a clean slate, a fresh set wave out the back coming straight at me. And I’m no longer scared to take the steep drop, park it in the curl and ride this thing with as much style and smile as I can. That’s just the way it is, the way it has to be; because if I don’t paddle for it, someone else will and God knows when the next wave will come. Men have been known to wait their whole lives and I certainly don’t plan on waiting any longer.