Substantial Abuse

I've almost killed myself, twice. Almost killed myself as in hospital bed, "He might not make it", family by my side, the entire production. For nothing other than luck and heroic medical professionals am I still here today.

Both were unintentional, but both my own doing.

The first time I was in University and it was because I drank too much. Not because I was drunk which then caused a part B, but because I literally almost drank myself to death.

It wasn't even an atypical night, at least not until the end. We started watching football and I had a couple bottles of "wine", the cheap gas station variety. Then, after going to different parties and drinking for the next however-many hours, I ended up at another house where I don't recall a whole lot. What did happen was that somebody handed me a half-gallon of vodka and, with or without encouragement, I chugged everything that was left.

Probably not long after, I passed out and would have certainly died if it wasn't for an accident of extreme luck. Two friends where deliverying my limp body home, which was nearby. If they had made it there, I would have been placed in my bed to never wake up again. But in the spirit of the night, on the way down the fire escape stairs, they dropped me. The person carrying me by my arms was horrified as I slipped through their hands and my head smacked metal, splitting open.

An ambulance was summoned and I was taken to the hospital where they soon realized this wasn't just a head trauma but alchohol poisoning, so they pumped my stomach and got an IV flowing fluids back in. My stability was uncertain so they called and my mother came in, a 5 hour drive away.

I lived.

What I didn't do was learn.

That night, the highest reading of my blood alchohol content was 0.465%

People have died from less. That same week, at another University, a guy my age died from a lower BAC. I would have been done at 18 years old. It was just luck.

The next party I went to, I got drunk.

When I was 23 it was much, much worse. The story isn't all that different, alchohol, destruction, nearly died, but this time with massive injuries and a long horrible trip for my parents: 15 hours flying halfway around the world this time.

I won't go into the entire story now, but the price I paid was big. I use prosthetics and a wheelchair because of it. There's still no way I should be alive. More shocking than that, though, it was another 9 years before I stopped drinking.

If you're involved in substance abuse, then I don't have good advice for you. All I can really say from my experience is that, if you think you can manage it, you are wrong. It isn't going to stop being a problem, it isn't going to get better and it isn't because you are a bad person. It is just a crazy beast. For it to stop, , but to get whatever help it will take. I had probably the lightest form of it, I simply drank as much as I could get my hands on after a certain point. Otherwise, I had no dependency. Look what it still managed to do to me, and look how long it took me to figure it out.

Why are we so good at destruction? There are big dumb ways we go about it, that any outsider could see. That's not all though, we do a lot of little things, daily things that are destructive. They don't bring us joy, they bring us unhappiness.

From eating unhealthy, to not working out. From half-assing it at work to hours playing _____ (enter the mobile phone game of the season here). From clicking the next link, the next video, the next app... well, I will make my own list. These things make us miserable. Not so much because of the activities themselves, but because we are doing them instead of doing something better, something productive.

This isn't how I work though. I just take the easy way out, cave to my instant desire, do what everybody else is doing, mentally turn off, take the passive entertainment over the engaging and active kind, and then I feel like a total failure because I gave in or because I didn't make things happen for myself.

I've made some good progress. Caffeine is the only substance I'm currently abusing, working on that a bit. There are things that I'm currently working on that have me popping out of bed before my alarm (no matter how early I set it), and I'm addressing things by thinking about them, writing about them, and simply working on them.

In no way am I aiming for perfection. That would be a fools pursuit... and probably a boring result. I'm just interested in getting better, in finding more joy.

Well, here is to making things better for both for ourselves and others.  Enjoy today.

-AjK, 21 February 2015

Rage Against Futility

One day I'll be no more. I don't believe there is anything more to it than that, I just don't.

The people close to me will know of me and maybe a few consequences of my life will linger, even if indirect, insignificant. But that too, and any sign of it will one day be no more.

My children and theirs, a big long chain of humankind will go on as long as we can. Even if it happened to be a billion years or as long as it takes for the last sun to burn through, they will only go so far.

So what is the point, if it all goes black? Who should care if there is actually nothing to care about?

We do get some things. We get to create the meaning, if there is no creator. We get to make use of our moments, even if they disappear. Most importantly, we get to answer our own questions about this finite existence, making it a simple choice- do  we  care? In the end, when the panic and confusion falls down, we get to decide how we respond.

We are strong, proud, and beautiful minds that want to make it matter. We want to make it count, whatever the situation. Amongst our choices we find the only fearless option, the two-fingered salute, as we spit in the face of our end. We will make the most of this life, the most of our world. We have this time and then, with a perfect lack of evidence, it will seem to have never happened. Yet, this will have happened, we will have been. That is the fight. We don't consider what wins, we act in the truest defiance - a rage against futility - because we still get to choose.

That is Free Will.

(alt ending: 'I choose to live.'  Still toying with this ;)


-AjK, 2nd December 2014

Where'd I Go Wrong?


Last March I was going to run from LA to Boston. There's two pretty well known marathons in those cities and an idea Charlie Engle and I hatched, was to run them both, including all the ground between. The idea was to break the running and wheelchair records by going 3,100 miles in just 44 days, which is what it would take to make the start in Boston. We road some blog posts on Runner's World.

If you go to those posts, you'll see it starts with a post from each of us explaining that it wasn't going to happen. It was devastating and no fun at all.

Right now is a good time to review the mistakes, that I feel we made, so they don't screw up my current plans - to be the first Handcycle to solo RAAM. I'll be leaving from Oceanside, CA and traveling 3,000 miles by bike in 12 days. In reaching Annapolis, MD by then, I'll do 700 more miles than an average Tour de France in half the time. SO, it is going to be a special race, and even more so because my sister, Bianca Kajlich, is going to produce a documentary film based on it!

I think it's crucially important for me to revisit what wen wrong last year so 1) I don't hate myself if I repeat them 2) because I want to save myself the heartbreak of losing another opportunity, and 3) to learn. I don't want to be overly critical, we tried hard and the timeframe was very short. Still, I'm determined to make it work this time and feel this is a worthwhile exercise.

Mistakes we made:

Not asking enough people for the money. We spent a lot of time trying to figure out what to ask for, how to ask it, how to present, what our message was, what we could offer, and many other details. I think we needed all of that stuff, but not at the cost of not seeking funding which is the number one thing we needed. In the end we didn't have the funding and we didn't go.

Taking too long to figure out what we were doing. I think it would have been better to commit and adjust if necessary, rather than being indecisive and changing our minds every week. There wasn't going to be a film and then there was. We were going for sponsors and then investors and finally crowd sourcing was a last option, but there wasn't time to launch a campaign.

Being Afraid to Pick up the Phone. After some time of launching off emails, I realized that nobody is going to respond to a random email, if they even look at it. I figured that the best thing to do was just call. It is very hard to get up the nerve to call and the first few lines are the worst. However, if you are passionate about something, you need to try to communicate this to them. Even after a few good calls with people in companies as big as Volkswagen, I didn't just have a change in mindset that would have enabled me to make hundreds of phone calls. I should have been doing it every day. Chances are it would have led to something.