“My thoughts were full of other things when I wandered off the path.”
-Dante Alighieri, Inferno
My enjoyment of the Refused concert in Cambridge two weeks later was ruined by texts from M. I was falling apart at work, I couldn't even look at people. My sleeping habits had become so bad that I was suffering major panic attacks even after quitting Golds Gym and taking two weeks off from working out. During that time, I indulged on near toxic amounts of sugar, I had ignored all the rules of reverse dieting and shot up to 192 pounds in just under two weeks. My ankles were swollen. I was a glutton. A circle of hell that was reserved just for my fat ass. I showed up to the beach with my friend, Ashley and her friend, Bethany with a swollen stomach and “bitch tits”, I felt so uncomfortable with myself that I had to change my habits. Like usual, I made drastic changes very quickly, this time in the form of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
Now my problem then just like it is now, is that I carry anger with me everyday. It's a part of my personality, at least for now. I figured Martial Arts was an appropriate outlet for my aggression as I wasn't like myself in the gym, I'd screw around with the weights for 45 minutes with my hat brim all the way down below my eyesight and once my anxiety reached a breaking point, I'd retreat to the locker room, grab my stuff and head straight home. My first day in Jitsu class wasn't what I had in mind though, as everyone was waiting for me to gas out, then simply applying a few simple techniques and in a matter of minutes, I was submitted. Every submission made me angrier, this wasn't working, I should just quit. Or should I? Maybe I'm not doing enough, so I called Josh Brown and asked him for some advice. He has the education, motivation, patience and honesty to give me some kind of direction as far as what my options were.
After an hour long conversation, I picked right back up from where I left off, I had now set my sights on possibly doing another show in November, but at this point, my health was in serious question, three different Shrinks had spoken with me, and I was going to see a doctor “unofficially” to determine why I was having such rough problems keeping my head on the pillow every night without flipping my shit at 4am. This was a bad idea, but away I went...for a little while.
I was still fielding questions stemming from a June Article “Stories From The Backstage” regarding real scenarios of betrayal, cheating, and stealing, all fitness related. One item was removed pending legal findings, but it was in regards to marital infidelity, just another shitty person doing a shitty thing to another person. My faith in people was dwindling and my ability to mince words about myself and others was deteriorating rapidly. That, paired with chronic dizziness, high anxiety, and deepening loss of physical strength made for a difficult prep. Yet, I continued on with Jiu Jitsu, meal prep, morning cardio at my new gym, plus finding a new job.
If your are confused by some of the plot at this point, believe me, I am too. I'm still trying to piece it all together to this very day...
By early July, I was down to a healthy and lean 178 lbs with Josh's nutrition advice, despite all my ailments, prep was stupidly easy as it was based mostly on a Ketogenic diet and was rather nice to not have swollen ankles or tits anymore. However a small fall down a cliff made everything go sideways. It was early morning up on Rock Rimmon Heights, when a dizzy spell on my descent caused this poor asshole to tumble a decent way down the heavily tree rooted walkway. When I reestablished some kind of balance, there was real pain in my knee, but as I was limping home covered in dirt, I was far more concerned with why I fell in the first place. Growing up, I was more of a Mountain Goat when it came to balance, I was unstoppable and faster than a virgin firing off his first “bullet”. So off I went to see a buddy of mine, who when he wasn't getting hammered and chasing ass with his Kansas City accent, was busy being a hospital surgeon. So I called in a favor...an expensive one.
Chilling out at a health clinic during non-business hours is not the most comfortable feeling, but it was necessary in order to get use of the machines needed to scan my head, cus I didn't have health insurance and I didn't want record of anyone knowing that I was there. My buddy, stuck me under this open CAT scan looking thing, whatever the hell you want to call it, about an hour later, he pinned up some brain pictures on the wall next to my scan for comparison. As a joke, I expected my head to be hollow, but apparently there is something between my ears. The comparison charts were that of brains that were susceptible to seizures, over-active adrenal activity, and another of a brain that was “slow”.
The questions came throughout the whole visit, “take any drugs?”, “have any life altering stress in your life lately?”, “how much sleep do you get?” Normally I cry only during Meg Ryan movies, but now I was so messed up, that even a Life Insurance commercial could send me into a tailspin.
Quick flashback: During the New England Championships of 2014, before I went on stage, I was approached by Bruno, he relayed a massive amount of information to me just before I went on stage, as he was speaking to me, I started to mentally blur out, the next moment I truly remember was seeing Jimmy, Bruno, and Jen Polk behind the curtain. There is no memory of anything that happened in between that. It was later told to me by friends, spectators and fellow competitors. The kicking of the trophy, the phone call to my parents...that was my first memory blackout.
Prolonged use of large amounts of combined pre-workout supplements, plus water depletion, plus chronic sleep deprivation...equals broken brain...well something like that. Suddenly a sprained MCL didn't seem all that bad in comparison. It was a mess in my head and I wasn't sure how to clean it up. I had to shut it all down mentally, so out of desperation, I looked into adrenal cleansing combined with nootropic therapy supplements. No coffee, no stimulants at all. The first day on all this stuff, was like my body and brain was running on reserve power, the brain had a vacation and the effects would begin to dissipate in the evening where I begin another round of this in order to keep myself asleep. This would continue for around a month...felt like a year. Everyday I was like a zombie with the exception of Saturdays during the daytime where I felt like an unleashed rescue dog in a large crowd of people I didn't know. I didn't take certain pills on the designated Saturdays; which allowed my body to sort of reset according to the research I did. So that gave me one day of talking...so for about 14 hours, you absorbed a weeks worth of suppressed, fucked up Joey.
Bruno was unleashing his new crop of bikini girls at the OCB Yankee Classic in Newburyport, so my future roommate Elizabeth and I took a trip down so she could get a glimpse of what she'll be in for come September. This wasn't a big venue by any means, so it's easy to spot friends and potential enemies. I never really was close with Shaina, OCB Bikini, but I was always very cordial with her. Why she sat next to me, still puzzles me to this day. I was forking through another meal as was she and we were casually chatting about nothing really in particular, she asked me about my diet, I told her it was fine, I was eating rather well and I had lost most of the garbage weight I had put on after the last show. She asked why I wasn't on Jimmy's diet...well...away I went. I laid it out very bluntly, since the New Englands, I hadn't heard from his camp with the exception of Alison, Jimmy's now Ex. His communication and monitoring skills were garbage in my opinion, plus in comparison to the plan I was on now compared to his, with everything I had recently learned about his so called “loyalty and commitment”, I verbally flattened his whole prep design to the very girl he was rearranging the insides of...that part I wasn't privy to until later...oops.
The rest of the weekend was rather uneventful, just more pills, a little more sleep and another groggy morning. The surprise text came in I believe two parts, I was in a rough state at work when I read it. Apparently his side slut took all my comments from Saturday and that fueled his “Stevie Wonder” Text message. I was in the last few weeks of my treatment, I was a little rough socially, I didn't want to talk to people, I just wanted everyone to go away. I could of kept my mouth shut, but something felt wrong about not calling people out on their bullshit. “Don't ever contact me again...think on your sins.” This was me strapping a bomb to my chest. Then I went on Facebook with the conversation...and detonated it. At that point, I didn't care about being trusted or relied on, what mattered the most is that I was left alone and never fucked with again. Mission accomplished.
Alison called me later flipping out about the incident, but once she understood why I did it, that I just wanted to go away, she started to deflate her aggression a bit and laugh a little. Like me, she had her own problems to deal with. So after that explosion, everything became very quiet, it gave me time to focus on the last couple weeks of adrenal rehab as I came to call it. The caffeine was slowly being put back into my body, my sleep went from 4 hours to 7, my strength had increased and the seemingly grey color scale that my mind was converting everything into had seemed to allow more color back in. Blue's became extremely blue, red's became seductively red, almost like I was seeing everything for the first time, like a newborn. So on the morning of August 8th, 2015 as I stood on the peak of Rock Rimmon Heights, I was drug free. I had slept all the way through the night, a passer by saw me standing there and snapped a photo before I had a chance to turn around. It felt kinda new.
My friend Bobby took me down to Boston for a little Birthday Lunch, I brought him up to date on everything as he was recently engaged and doing quite well for himself and is far more intelligent than most would give him credit for. He would go on to become my most trusted adviser to all my projects, and always fills me with the right amount of caution to keep me on a better path than the one I had previously planned. Yet, when it came to love, everything he said to me went into one ear and immediately out the other...especially later that week, when M messaged me.
I never asked for much in life, actually for a long time, I was perfectly fine with the white picket fence lifestyle, For all of M's oddities and personal anxieties, none of them ever remotely bothered me. I was up for whatever came down the pike, so when it came to spending the whole weekend together and just chilling over coffee, cookies, movies and some dinner, I felt privileged. I did, however have an uneasy feeling towards the end of the weekend as I know she seemed just as overwhelmed by it all like I did. As I look back at it now, I'm not sure how to really think of that weekend...or the ones to come. Just a week later, she started flaking out like a fucking Psoriasis patient and I, just coming off all supplements was not emotionally tested and was feeling used. I had spent a lot of that summer, seeking people out from my early to mid 20's and apologizing to them if I had mistreated them in anyway. So to be stuck with the emotional check again by M, made me turn hard towards the only useful emotion I had, anger.
The meddling pain of my knee, the recent emotional turbulence I had acquired, tapped with stalled physical progress made me give another call to the doctor.
He agreed that I had treated some of the issues pertaining to poor sleep and adrenal overload, but when I mentioned competing in the 2015 New Englands and what it would require, he was pretty transparent with his thoughts. “If you think your gonna solve all your problems by November, depleting your water and putting all that stupid backstage crap that you told me about into your body all at once, then your body may not ever recover. A knee can be repaired, it can heal, look at all the examples I compared your brain to. These are very real possibilities...as a friend, shut it down.”
Josh, rightfully wasn't pleased about my decision...neither was I. It was over.
“So many times a man's thoughts will waver, that it turns him back from honored paths, as false sights turns a beast, when he is afraid.”
-Dante Alighieri, Inferno
My Saab, after 5 years of loyal service, was requiring a serious amount of repairs, from fuel pumps to a new transmission, my bills from my credit cards were out of control due to mechanics fees, competing in other states and a previous loan I took out for a $7,000 engagement ring back in August 2013, I was no longer in control of anything in my life, with the exception of finding a new job, because it no doubt was having an effect on my health. That and needing to move for the fifth time in just over a year was taxing my brain beyond its stability point. Not having a place to truly call your home is an incredible deficit on the mind. As I worked out a plan to minimize my debt, I reached an agreement with my friend, Elizabeth, who also used to be my property manager 6 years prior, offered me an idea. She was looking to buy a house sometime in the near future, so for the meantime, I could stay at her apartment until she found a house that she loved. So as the days grew shorter and my time in Zack's house and at my current job were coming to a close, I pulled the plug on everything, I just took my bed; which was just a futon mattress and jammed it into the trunk of my Saab, filled up the backseat with what I had for belongings and started moving at around 8:30 Saturday morning, by noon, I was done and going to get my haircut. The last day at my job was just as much of a blur, noone knew I was leaving except for M. By 5pm the next Friday, I had fulfilled my promise...
“No greater grief than to remember days of joy, when Misery is at hand.”
-Dante Alighieri, Inferno
So here I am, new job, new apartment, new gym...same anxiety. I went to the New Englands in plain clothes and I was so anti-social that I hid up in the back of the theater during pre-judging, I wished Austin James good luck via text, but that poor bastard needed more than luck to compete against the new breed of Physique Athletes, this was right before the memo about “size” in the Physique division was sent out as setting a poor precedent, that if you didn't have big enough legs, you could just throw on a pair of boarding shorts and murder everyone in your class. This has been remedied somewhat with the introduction of the Classic Physique division and now being marked down for being too big or too shredded, but there are always challenges when you compete so, I was relieved to have not been up there taking punches. Surprisingly after all the turbulence of the past year, I was greeted rather warmly by everyone who knew my face, Max Santos was an awesome Latin Competitor with a thick frame and a smile that would melt Gold Panties in Arctic temperatures. Bethany from York and her adviser Ashley sat with me for a couple minutes before having to go backstage. I actually crashed on Bethany's couch once during the summer and had a nice normal chat about simple stupid stuff. She's a very nice person, but not someone I'd want to vomit all my problems onto. Overall I was really uncomfortable being at the show, but I promised Rick Fortin I would be there, so at least a trip to Boston isn't bad, cus I could stock up on pastries, pesto and cured Italian Meats. Sadly Team Bruno was going to be in for another NPC ass kicking that night, but our Ace in the whole that night was Alison, who for her very first show, fit right in and salvaged the day and the integrity of the team. However I feel like the New Englands and the Jay Cutler Classic have grown beyond capacity, way too many competitors, it looked more like a national show than a regional northeast event. I learned more about the sport that night, than any of the others that I watched or was backstage for. I just sat there with no distractions and took it all in...but yes I left when bikini started, always have...always will.
Besides an article I posted back in Early September, I hadn't posted a single thing to the website since June, I couldn't reach down into what I used to pull from and create something truly original, I doubt I would ever be able to. It required a sense of stability and I emotionally felt like I was chasing Dante through each circle of Hell. It helped that on my side of town, there was no constant reminders of my old life, other than a box full of stuff that I had downstairs. I'm not sure what the future of PositiveSarcasm.com would be, there was too much chaos in my head, yet I had no time to sit idle. I started a small side business of meal prepping for those who didn't have the time, nor kitchen skills to eat properly. I could then use some of that money to pay down my exhausting debt and some of it to fund a potential Peanut Butter business. It was worth the risk, so I put together the essentials for both, set up the schedule and got to work.
“Turn around, and keep your eyes closed shut, for if the Gorgon Medusa, does appear, and you see her, you would never be able to return upward.”
-Dante Alighieri, Inferno
At this point, my skepticism was on high alert as M had once again reached out, I agreed to setup a meeting at the usual spot, so I could have a chance to hear what her thoughts truly were, now that we were no longer co-workers, how many more excuses could you come up with? I asked her direct questions and demanded direct and immediate answers. For some reason I just happened to have a soft spot for her. Maybe I just had a soft brain, I wouldn't argue that. She mentioned something about bringing some backwoods fuckwad to her company's Christmas party and how he sat in the car the whole time, cus he refused to dance. Nice work, M. Way to make a great impression than dragging that fucking half-wit in front of your bosses. The one thing I never was able to do with M was dance and as Elizabeth came home one night, there she stood surprised to see us two, chatting it up and goofing on the sofa like we had never parted. M always did have a thing for booze; since I knew how to mix a drink or two, I just wanted her to feel comfortable and relaxed in my new home. As we danced to Sinatra around the Christmas tree, her tears and apologies came flowing like a broken damn. It was tough to see her full of guilt, but I knew it was the holidays and she was the only person I wanted by my side. However with the only holiday left celebrating quickly approaching, if New Years Eve went off without celebration, then a purging had to be made. A couple days after an uneventful Christmas with family, I texted M and asked what time I could pick her up for New Years Eve, she said she wasn't up for it...that's when I became truly pissed, explaining how I felt used, after all the back and forth she'd been doing, either step up or fuck off. She quickly retreated and played the anticipated card. When your not able to let out your inner most secrets to your closest friends, they are not your friends. I went downstairs and grabbed the box full of her stuff including a painting she did that I liked and the picture of her in Boston Harbor, drove across town in the snow, my heart pounding, my head racing with pure insanity regarding the actions I was performing but with the idea that I never wanted to be taken for granted again, never being gullible or believing in the idea that humans are inherently good. I could no longer help her or myself, but hopefully someone else could; which is why I didn't hesitate when I pulled up to the house...and dropped the whole box of Melissa's crap right on her friends porch.
...Happy New Year.
“The law of Dante’s Hell is the law of symbolic retribution. As they sinned so are they punished. They took no sides, therefore they are given no place. As they pursued the ever-shifting illusion of their own advantage, changing their courses with every changing wind, so they pursue eternally an elusive, ever-shifting banner. As their sin was a darkness, so they move in darkness. As their own guilty conscience pursued them, so they are pursued by swarms of wasps and hornets. And as their actions were a moral filth, so they run eternally through the filth of worms and maggots which they themselves feed.”
-Dante Alighieri, Inferno