From negligent alcoholic to dedicated father and yogi

From negligent alcoholic to dedicated father and yogi
 

Header image from a recent shoot with James River Yoga.

—————

I just realized that I am somewhere past the two year mark of practicing yoga, two years of engaging in a lifestyle and pattern far different than I would have ever conceived for myself — even up until the exact point where my switch finally flipped from progressively unhealthy to getting well.

I have been many things in my so-far short life. Thirty years is not a long time, but it sure feels like it sometimes, like my experience is a living cassette tape played (and worn) at 2x speed to fit in an extra 30. 

I have been a college newspaper editor and columnist. An intern at a mom-and-pop newspaper. A high school literature teacher. An intern at a culture and arts magazine that highlighted the avant-garde leanings of Buenos Aires, Argentina. And let's not forget the years of my life spent in restaurants, serving soft drinks to kids, decaf to seniors and microbrews to coeds.

I have been a copywriter and a “reporter” for the propaganda wing of a well-known (for good or ill) institute of higher education. A newspaper designer and copy desk jockey. I left to try making more money as a car insurance salesman. It did not go so well.

I worked at a retail store for 18 months for less than the local poverty rate, while expected to operate as $50K/year marketing professional. Then I worked as a content manager for a counseling brand which, ironically, led me to depression, anxiety and extreme distractibility. 

Throughout most of these experiences, I was married (we split at the end of 2015, but remain friends). I tied the knot two weeks and one day past my 21st birthday, with a year of undergraduate Christian college yet to go. Having grown up in the restrictive environment of WWJD bracelets, “go-against-the-flow” T-shirts, dogma-driven re-creations of pop culture reference and Vacation Bible School — where everything “outside" was considered unquestionably bad and everyone inside unquestionable — one is led to dip a toe into the pool of non-restricted life.

You quickly find the water is welcoming, warm ... and suddenly overhead.

I became an alcoholic, arguably in the few weeks preceding my marriage, which leads my therapist to suggest that I have a genetic makeup prone to addiction. It took me eight years and three children to emerge from no less than a slight buzz (if not a full-on blackout) on a nightly basis. That emergence came in August 2013, not long before I started yoga and right in the midst of when I stopped writing almost entirely, and instead spent my time taking pictures and shooting films at most every opportunity. I even squeezed small music video shoots in during my unpaid lunch breaks from my marketing gig at the retail store. 

It took me going deep into the alcoholic pool, so to speak, to finally find my way out by means of the drain. I had lost all semblance of my childhood faith in 2010, a tumultuous summer that was less of a turning point in life and more of a completely destructive period of painful upheaval (the effects of which have yet to fully play out). The de-conversion pulled me even farther into alcoholism (age 25), into a three-year chain of late nights that I wasted on getting wasted. Those nights turned into mornings that sat heavy on my chest, like the 1,000 elephants in the bedroom that kept me from engaging with what was most important to me, what meant the most and for that which I labored so much to secure: a love for (and of) a beautiful woman, otherworldly amazing daughters, a home I own, a passion for lyricism and a desire to take up my post in the infinite tunnel of lamps and mirrors that stretches throughout time and place.

Simply stated:  I was too depressed and full of toxins to roll off the couch to play in the sandbox or to crack an egg.

I was sick. Overweight physically and emotionally. Distant. Neglectful of myself, of those around me and allowed my so-called talents to dull. I subjected myself to the horror of clearly seeing the life I wanted to live while wondering why, over and over again, WHY I continued to act against it. An invisible figure, perfectly matched to my form, stood in my way down every pathway that could have proved infinitely more beneficial, lovely, profitable and enjoyable. I continued to wonder why I did and spoke such a way at such times.

I resisted the truth of it — too awful to comprehend in full and so instead of changing things, I persisted in foolishness.

That is, as I said, until August 2013 ... when a fully-grown doe jumped out onto a dark Virginian roadway to commit suicide beneath the front wheel of my vintage motorcycle.

Yet another venture that my ex-wife suggested against with her sage-like clairvoyance. I slid 30 feet down the street, shredding my backpack. Remarkably, I hobbled away with minor scrapes and bruises. Two days later, I found myself on a plane to Los Angeles after accepting two invitations: to assist on a commercial shoot and to maybe give up drinking while I was out there in an effort to gain some physical and mental stamina.

(For the record, I was not intoxicated while riding the bike, but had been within the previous 24 hours and also immediately afterward).

Within 48 hours of no alcohol consumption and cleaner eating, I felt different. Sharper. More energetic. Present. I wound up in the apartment of famed rock-and-roll guitarist Warren Cuccurullo, whose many successes (world-renowned skill, multiple projects still ongoing, restaurants and a level of physique one cannot help but gawk at) he attributed to something he learned from his idol and former bandmate, Frank Zappa:  He didn’t drink.

Aside from a sip at my friend's wedding a month later (wine made on location) I have not consumed a single drop of alcohol since, and doubt I will ever again. Everyone’s disposition and biology is different, but for me, I look back at that time (and the Instagram post) and give thanks to that doe who sacrificed her life — however unintentionally — so that I might regain my own.

It was in the following months that I began practicing yoga, and soon found myself at peace with myself and my surroundings while also growing more and more aware of how much of my life and love had been misspent. How much I had thrown away potential for just another night of IPAs and indie bands while my saintly ex-wife sat home wondering less and less:

When will he grow up? Where is he? When will he come home?

By the time I came out of this eight year hangover, many mistakes had already been made. No amount of yoga, meditation and gluten-free eating would unmake them. No deviation from my irrationally angry past would erase the trails that were left, would silence the vile, untruthful words I used to spill upon the person I love and respect above all others and, for reasons of puerile selfishness and addiction, I had forgotten how to cherish. The me that knew had been drowned out and silenced (it’s all so painfully clear now) — but he's back.

All of this and more has pushed me from job to job, craft to craft, always seeking the peace and purpose that has been right in front of me all along. The peace I would never find in cigarette ashes, broken bottles and pot resin. The peace that is only found in loving well, loving often and loving incessantly.

Although, as said earlier, I feel decades older than 30, I also feel like a new human each and every day. On some days, I sense limitless possibilities for learning and capability, and on others I feel terror and vulnerability — like I am and adult who still doesn’t know quite how to stand better than a newborn giraffe sent out into the world with a disproportionate stature-to-experience stability ratio.

It’s hella frightening at times, but I’m beginning to wonder if that's the point.

I wonder if all of this living and learning, all of these life inversions that seem as inevitable as they are scary are pushing us onward into something real and beautiful and new. Perhaps instead of shying away from these heuristic flips, what I really need to do is dedicate myself to practicing them fully — like my crows, headstands and shoulderstands.

The word yoga, in Sanskrit, means union. It is a union wrought from uncomfortable moments, often difficult to engage with and sometimes the last thing I want to do on a given afternoon. It’ll hurt. I’ll sweat. It will take and hour or so away from seeking another freelance client or from writing clickbait at a reckless speed to make the few dollars worth the time — all for the sake of creating noise, distraction and self-serving SEO rankings (which seems to be the one of the only marketable self-employed uses of a journalism degree, these days). But it always silences the internal noise, the noise that once called me away from my typewriter, down the street and into the bar. The noise that tells me nothing in this life makes sense.

It feels like our entire system is inverted right now. Few things feel substantive outside of spending time with the people I care about and practicing that which generates not money but inner and outer peace. We are faced with the reality of one bozo presidential option over another, while the only candidates who do seem to be authentically humanitarian are considered to not have an Icarus-the-pig in a hell-bound blizzard’s chance of getting elected (or much less, making a difference). We are faced with the quandary of doing what gives us meaning vs. what is guaranteed to line our pockets. We opt for the latter, and then wonder why the world is in bass-ackwards turmoil.

We seem to be choosing the same foolishness again and again, if for no other reason than we are used to it. History repeating itself. Dog to its vomit. Fool to folly. The Ego making sure we continue to confuse our limited thought patterns for our identity.

I predict either doom or transcendence. What other options are there? Because if there’s anything I’ve learned in the largely silly and ill-managed years I’ve spent on this planet, it’s that the status quo leads to nowhere but a cruse controlled careen on a windy mountain roadway. Things get better or they get worse. Stagnancy is a myth. As much of a myth that we need only bide our time and wait for some other person or entity to step in and save us from our own inactivity.

That's never going to happen. Change can be sparked by events outside of ourselves, but it can only be sustained through internal dedication. Through coming to terms with our very own foolish hearts and minds and deciding to walk another path. 

For me to come so far in substance abuse as to now be looking towards three years of sobriety, for me to go so far away from angry as to now be idyllic in my pursues of unity and peace, for me to have once ignored the very things that are now the only pursuits I give any real lasting shits about, I know that you, dear reader — soul of my soul, consciousness buried in negative self-talk, fear and disillusionment — are capable of doing the exact same: inverting your life.

There are two ways you can go about it:

  1. Practice, so the labor and pain becomes your joy.
    — or —
  2. Play roulette:  Dive even further into the chaos of needless suffering — and, through the sheer agony of it, come out either reborn or dead.

The choice is yours. 

 

(If you want to see the physical proof of what I am talking about, here's the before-and-after:)

 

That's me on the far left, Fallen Leaf Lake, California (September 2013).

Me in October 2016: 70 lbs., several addictions and many emotions lighter. 

How would you like your life to be different? What's standing in your way? What can you do about it today? Let's chat in the comments section.

My name is Marcelo Asher Quarantotto.

I WRITE WITH WORDS, PHOTOS, VIDEOS, WEBSITES AND MUSIC.

I am a father of three beautiful daughters and husband to the most gracious, saintly creature I've ever met. (You'll find pictures of them here from time to time.) I am also a multidisciplinary storyteller.