I was up all night doing cocaine before a 5am conditioning session with the football team.
20 minutes into the exercise, I blacked out and woke up in the hospital.
The doctors had me stay overnight to be observed. My Mom flew halfway up the east coast to make sure I was alright.
The next day, I was discharged from the hospital. I told my mom that I needed to go back to campus so I could grab materials for studying.
I went into my dorm room and used the rest of the cocaine.
Consequences have a weird way of sneaking up on you. They can be avoided, and they can even be numbed, but they always come to term.
You can notice when consequences are on the way because you live in a state of fluctuating anxiety.
You feel a wrench to the gut when half of the team contacts you to say that the weightlifting coach is looking for you.
You sense impending doom when none of your assignments are turned in and your attendance record has been plummeting.
You feel a surge of fear when an “unknown” number starts ringing on your phone. An “unknown” that always meant retribution. A call from the athletic department:
“Why did you miss the workout this morning?”
“We stopped by your macro economics class and you weren’t there.”
“The drug test results came back…”
You never answered the unknown number. Instead, you showed up in the athletic department with your eyes down and your chest out to accept whatever punishment they gave.
In the back of your mind, you knew that you were attending university for free. You rationalized your athletic commitment as a form of payment. You even told yourself that they were lucky to have you…
So you accepted whatever reprimand they gave, but didn’t change any behaviors.
You went back to your dorm room and got high.
I lived life to get by. I lived life for me.
I didn’t concern myself with anything other that what I had. And, I used drugs to increase the pleasures of a comfortable existence. I used substances to emotionally avoid consequences.
But, the consequences always happened. I could escape my feelings, but I couldn’t escape my future.
Consequences are always on their way.
It’s kind of like “the force” from Star Wars. There’s a light side and a dark side. And our choices affect what we attract.
The trajectory of my choices today, affects my future tomorrow. It’s always been that way.
The difference between “now” and then is everything. I don’t escape into the dark.
I understand pain and discomfort as prerequisites for growth. I can use the force and channel that energy toward something positive. I can call a friend, write an essay, or exercise. It’s not instant, because it takes work, but it is permanent. It forever shapes my future.
Knowing that what I do today, whatever challenge I encounter, or fear I face, is a stepping stone towards realizing a new type of consequence:
Creative realization. Authentic connection. A sense of accomplishment.
The feeling when you finish what you’re working on, look up to the stars, and feel totally connected with everyone, and everything, that has ever existed.
When the “you” you used to be, a year, two years ago, is metaphysically slapping high fives with yourself for encountering resistance and defeating it.
Accepting an emotional state and digging in for a fight. For a feeling of success, however momentary and fleeting, that is more powerful than any drug.
Because it changes your story. It adds a chapter.
Because today, you don’t escape emotions. You engage them. And the consequences for your actions are always good.
The choices we make have a slow build. Nothing ever comes to fruition all at once.
There is no final victory or total defeat. There is no “winning”. There are just moments when you have to make a choice: to fight, or hide.
And if you make the right choice, those moments will move you closer to becoming better than you were.
It will make everything worth it, excited for the next challenge…
Because honestly, that’s all there will ever be.