A Brief Summary of Recovery (written for a drug addicted friend to encourage his return to health)

In 1999 I stopped riding my bike and I settled in Paris. In place of cycling and travel and adventure, I took up drinking and smoking and eating. I lived with one French girl and then a second, who was truly beautiful. This seemed a wonderful and natural progression in my life at the time. I was living in a new way. I did not understand then that I had begun a course of killing myself faster.

A decade later I was married to that beautiful French girl and living in Miami and New York. By this time I was a professional drinker and smoker. I took pride in that I did more of each, and for longer, than anyone I knew. I exercised aggressively, though in short duration, and believed this sustained me through days and nights of drinking.

But I was far gone. Early in that year I had suffered through a week of being hardly able to move. My joints were so swollen and painful that I could hardly get out of bed, my body so weakened and depleted I could not lift my arm to the cupboard to open it. It took me 3 minutes to walk across our 900 sq ft apartment. Still, I did not stop drinking and smoking. When I did eat my diet was devoid of any nutritional value. I did not drink water and lived in constant dehydration. I suffered from intense fatigue and had to drink coffee and energy shots to stay awake through the day. I would often take multiple naps of sometimes 2 hours each. Still, I did nothing to change my life and expected these problems to pass.

I remember the morning I decided to change. My wife had been gone for 6 months at this point. Since I sent her away all I had done was drink harder, smoke more, snort cocaine, and chase women. The world stock markets were collapsing and I had been short massively the day before but had covered and gotten into a much larger position long. I awoke that morning praying the bottom was in.

It wasn’t. Next to me in bed was a naked fat girl. I seemed to recall a pretty-faced Cuban from the night before. Then I recalled the shock of getting her clothes off. The loose skin hung from her stomach from the gastric bypass that brought her down from 500lbs. The fat girl was snoring loudly. Clearly it had been some sort of charity fuck. My mouth hurt and was full of what I thought was saliva. I went to the bathroom and began to spit but instead of saliva I was spitting blood. Bright red, fresh blood. It kept coming out of my mouth. There were blood spots all over the sink and countertop. I was bleeding from my gums. There were darkened brown patches on each of the gum areas between my teeth. I flushed my mouth with water but the bleeding wouldn‘t stop.

I went back into the room and checked the futures. They were limit down. The market was fucked. My positions were fucked. My body was fucked. The girl moaned and called out to me. I walked over to the bed and looked at her. She begged me to fuck her again before she went to work. I just looked at her and then went to the bathroom to spit more blood. She was waiting for me when I came out. She was bent over on the bed with her ass up. I saw the stain on the sheets and remembered how she had vomited on my stomach while trying to take all of my cock down her throat. What a fucking mess.

“Just get the fuck outta here,” I mumbled. I was afraid to open my mouth. “Get the fuck outta here. I’m serious.” I went back to the bathroom to spit blood.

She left finally. I puked my positions and found a doctor who would see me. I was fucked and I knew it. I accepted it. It was only a matter of how I was to die and what they called it.

But the doctor said I could be saved. Drink, cigarettes, drugs and a terrible diet had done this to me. You’ve got to change, she said. Your body is breaking down. That day I had my last cigarette. Drinking was harder to quit. Though I did not drink for a few weeks it was to be some months later before I had my last.

It was in New York that I got drunk for the final time. It was Super Bowl Sunday and I went at it as seriously as I used to. The next day the fatigue returned and the glands on my neck just below my jawbones were swollen. The next day they were even larger and aching. My strength left me, my body ached all over, I was dizzy, and even the lightest exercise was impossible. I was fucked all over again. I pledged to myself that if I could live there would be no more drinking. I pledged to drink only water. I pledged to take my vitamins and eat only what my body needed. If only I would not die but be given another chance.

It took 1 month before the swelling in my glands had gone down. And then in the following months I began to slowly feel better. I moved to Chicago and began cycling. I stopped talking to everyone I knew. I did not need anything but my body. I became a night worker and exercised my body throwing tons of bags of soil and stone and brick. I drove forklifts. I spent much of my days outside. I began to recover what was animal in me. I added to the cycling and night labor a rigorous kettlebell and weight program. My strength returned as I had not known it before. My muscles expanded. My clothing fit tightly on my body. I began to look more youthful. I walked differently. The world responded to me differently. I had the sort of physical confidence I once had before I put down my bicycle a decade before.

But most magical was the return of my mind. I was doing good philosophy again and the original thoughts were substantial and lasted more than a few days. The writing returned as well. I was seeing the world again and its depths and I did not feel dull or dazzled. I realized I had been reduced to a great degree for a long time. Each day that I thought I was back--and that my physical and intellectual strength could not be any greater-- I was surprised that in the next I felt even stronger. I had neglected the life of my body and had nearly lost everything because of it.

I realized I didn’t need anything. I realized my time was all I was and that I would no longer give it up for wives, booze, drugs, parties, television, bars, and definitely not for money. Yes, I needed some money, but I only wanted to make money doing something that increased my physical strength. I would not work any job that did not contribute directly to this project of increasing my strength. Night laboring was perfect and I was the hardest worker anyone had ever seen. But they did not understand that I did not do the job for the money. They would not understand that I did the job for the challenge. These other workers lived as I once did: living in a way that killed them faster.

What is wonderful about the life of health is how cheap it is. Sure, the knowledge worker office jobs pay more, but I have little use for that money today. I have no large expenses. I only need to pay for my needs, which my body reminds me of. The other problem with the knowledge worker jobs is that they are not intellectually challenging (true intellectual challenges are my own projects). So other than more money, I see no reason to do such jobs. And, as above, I have no use for more money. The physical labor jobs can also be left whenever I wish to leave them (for travel or more intense periods of writing and study) and returned to or new ones found. I understand now why Wittgenstein recommended his philosophy students work in canning factories.

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