Suffering is common to all humankind. It seems that skateboarding is plagued by addiction, alcoholism & mental illness much like the rest of society. Many of you out there -I’m sure-have watched as a friend drank & used drugs; skating less and less, to eventually be overcome by their own particular inner demons.
I can think of many examples. Tony Alva has shared his tormenting battle with alcohol while Jeff Grosso & Duane Peters make no secret of their own past drug hells. You have examples like Christian Hosoi, Ben & Tas Pappas & Gator…all torn by inner turmoil, virtually succombing to the dark pull; alcohol & drugs leaving them wrung out like water from a twisted rag.
I am of this group as well. If I keep my sordid past a secret, I lose. I can only help if I tell the truth. Truth is paramount. We are only as sick as our secrets. I have always battled booze & drugs. I had ten years of virtual sober time but I fell out of my tree & quickly went down the toilet. For me, alcohol & drugs cannot be an option. I tell people, “I am allergic to alcohol. I break out in handcuffs!”
Funny, but pathetically true.This article is only to ‘put it out there.’ It’s cathartic for me. I know that I wait for an absolution that will never come, but…I am hopeful. If this helps someone to drink less & skate more or go seek help, then it has not been in vain. This was one of my days, awakening from a blackout….about two years past.
I was standing on a corner covered in sweat, the salt leaving white crusted spots around my armpits and on the back of my once dark blue shirt. The midday sun hammered down like a lead pipe on my skull and I whimpered like a small animal. People were passing me; a mass of humanity, colors, races, ideologies mingling by in waves. It seemed as though a thousand languages reached my ears and smells of roasting meat came to me.
Nausea tore at my guts and my stomach- in a convoluted mess- emptied itself across my Vans skate shoes. How I arrived here I couldn’t say. What I’d been doing was –likewise- a mystery. All I knew was pain, confusion and that I was in the grip of an existential panic. Meltdown plagued me… and still the throngs on the colorful streets trundled past me, seemingly unaware of my drunken, chaotic and deteriorating mental state.
The pills I had taken- like a handful of ‘Skittles’- made me numb and unable to feel my legs…I stumbled and careened down the sidewalk periodically leaning against light posts and such to wipe my face and get a grip on myself. I saw wads of chewing gum on the concrete sidewalk blackened by the countless summer seasons and boots that have trodden over them.
I felt comforted by these forgotten wastes…I was of their kind. I was forgotten; a nameless, faceless hole in the city. I was a cipher in a land of concrete, chrome, glass and sex-ridden sensationalism. A land of make believe where no dreams came true and there really was ‘no place like home’. Peering under an overpass I saw red spattered graffiti that called out to me of forgotten debaucheries, a mantra to pagan gods. Broken glass of brown, green and clear yellow littered the gravel. I wanted to lay down and roll in it.
“Breathe”, I found myself muttering, while looking into the storefronts that were selling the same tired things. Women rolled by enmasse, draped in black polyester and silk. Burgundy -threaded gold pumps and Gucci bags, scarves of turquoise and cornflower yellow made the contrast all the more immediate.
The air became crisper, the dirty sunlight sagged onto my shoulders like a farmhands’ tiring load and I found myself winded and mumbling again. I saw a crumpled newspaper bounce by and felt its desperation. Its breeze-blown trip was halted by my foot, I scanned its headlines. “Baby –killer executed”, “Dow plunges for second straight day”, “War of attrition escalates”, “AIDS killing millions exponentially in Africa”
I screwed my shoe onto the ugliness I read there and twisted its print into torn ruin. Gods! Shuffling down the broad expanse of urban street, I saw myself reflected in the glass windows as I passed into the bowels of the city. I wanted a drink…seemed like a great idea. Only a lush like me would awaken from a blackout & proceed directly to finding a bar! Even the store mannequins seemed bent, depressed and dressed in ill-fitting clothes. The air held little except a sense of desperation.
I knew that particular feeling well. I am Ozzie. My story is your story. I know that some of the particulars will differ, yet the unfulfilled longing; the black hole and all-consuming emptiness is shared. We are one and the same. We have skin; bones, brains. We function with varied peculiarities, yet most of us share this terrible need for ‘something other than this’….and it will remain –forever-unrealized.
I have blonde hair that curls and rubs –unshorn-against my collar. I am five feet, eight inches tall and weigh in at roughly one hundred and fifty pounds. I resemble humanity and go un-noticed; a face in a crowd easily missed. My laughter –if at all-is quiet and derisive. My stare is intense. A look Bruce Lee called ‘controlled cruelty’. I am filled with loathing and repugnance.
If I feel any human emotions, it would be anger and contempt. I am not purposefully contentious. I wear my mask well. It is from this base existence that I function. If I don’t experience pain and suffering, I feel dead and limp like a tattered flag from a vanquished third-world country. I didn’t need to be shoved head-first down a funnel just to get the point. I know what I am.I am the walking wounded, the armchair warrior that will always fail. This is my pathos and pain.
Epilogue-I am no longer this horror of a human being. I was broken, like a misused toy.I entered the VA hospital & cleaned up my act. Skateboarding quickly-once again-became my savior. I have a spiritual belief that is my own & push it on absolutely nobody. I try to help others, stay positive, and be humble. I should be dead. Instead, I get to live & skate with my pool pals. I have a little sign in my room that reads “Remember what is important. Never forget what and where you were”. I try- daily- to do that very thing. Skate Strong-Ozzie…( Thnks- JGrant Brittain for photographs.)