Survivor: O.R. Tambo Airport

Survivor: O.R. Tambo Airport

I’ve been here a long time. Too long. Travellers who came here after me have already landed at their destinations. Still I wait.

I’ve been here a long time. I’ve seen the duty shift change. New guards watch as I wander with no destination in mind. New servers ply their wares as I drift past. “No thanks,” I say. I already ate. Twice.

I’ve been here a long time. Crisp morning air sublimated as the highveld sun warmed the earth and air outside. Not that I ever felt that. Inside the terminal silent heaters wilt every living thing here, baking us into a fetid, teeming mass.

It’s been nearly 8 hours now, that I’ve been trapped here at O.R. Tambo, recreating myself as Tom Hanks in Steven Spielberg’s 2004 flick, Terminal. My flight only leaves in another three hours.

I’ve been here a long time. Long enough to know all the junk sold in the kiosks. Long enough to have used at least four rest rooms. The most jocund restroom attendant, Justice, stationed near the food court is a man whose spirit is not thwarted by his daily entrapment in this building. He seems more proud of his workplace than any person I’ve ever met claiming they’ve landed their dream job. What is his secret? Stockholm Syndrome? Maybe.

I’ve been here a long time. I’ve tried catching an earlier flight, but today is not my lucky day. So I wander the terminal like a hobo, unfocussing my eyes to the sights I cannot escape.

I’ve been here a long time. There are precious few chairs for the inert traveller to use. I suspect that’s done on purpose, to drive us into the gaudy eateries and coffee shops. No sitting for free. No loitering. Make like you mean business, and pay your share, dammit! So I’ve snuck into international arrivals, and am sat here next to my cling-wrapped luggage, looking for all the world like I’m waiting for a lover or a colleague, so we can catch our connecting flight to Somewhere Else. Anywhere but here.  

I’ve been here a long time. Even turned off my phone to save the battery. I’m now cut off from everything outside this terminal. There are no cat memes here. No Twitter outrage. Any conversation will have to be with a real person. There will be actual eye contact.

A small child climbs onto the seat next to me and stares at the words I am writing on my laptop. He is not having this nonsense of me losing myself in a world of my own. He pulls down my hoody, pulls my head phones out my ears and yells “I’m going home!” 

Good luck, kid. So am I.

Eventually.

© Dave Luis 2017. All Rights Reserved.

 

Euphoric Recall

Euphoric Recall

The pills came on early that night, twenty years ago, in the queue outside Nexus. The nervous energy they fueled in me made you laugh and we connected.

That night the music set our souls on fire. Just like it did every Friday. Every Sunday in End Street. At every Slippery When Wet on Oxford. 

You remember that music, right? It gets you right there, in the hairs on your forearm. It kicks up through the floor and into your head. It sets your mind on fire.

We connected in the music and the drugs. We became mates. Friends in more than just the weekly rush to get wasted. You and my friend started dating. A perfect match. Plus me. The Three Musketeers. 

For years we managed life, jobs, relationships while we indulged our every whim for loud beats and too many drugs. We did life as a way to play with chemicals. 

That night I died in your house when I thought I was bigger than the heroin, when I died because too much was never enough, it was you who got the ambulance that started my heart again. 

That night was not the only time we came close to death. Both you and I played ‘last man standing’ more often than I can count. There was always room for more.

Life moved on. Marriage. Kids. You cleaned yourself up. I chose crystal meth. I chose to shut you and her out my life when you tried to do an intervention. 

I walked away.

Years passed.

I hit rock bottom.

More years passed.

And you came back. We’ve reconnected, the three of us. The cold years apart are forgotten. I’ve met your beautiful daughters. I’ve witnessed your love for each other; your prosperity, while I revel in my own reignition. My own redo from start. 

Three weeks ago, I celebrated five years off drugs and alcohol.

Tonight I called to wish you for your 40th birthday. I’ve known you for half your life. Half your fucken life! Do you know how incredible that is?

Of course you know. You said as much. How incredible – how miraculous it is – that either of us is alive today to have this conversation. We survived. Against all the odds and machinations of our wild drug binges, we survived. Thank fuck we survived.

Happy birthday, buddy. I am so proud of you. Proud of all of us, for making it out of the chaos, alive. 

© Dave Luis 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Image © Tim Marshall at Unsplash Free Images

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It’s never too late to take that first step and ask for help. If the drugs have become too much, call Narcotics Anonymous and get help. Choose to live. Call 083 900 6962

Lost again.

Lost again.

You know that feeling when you’re plodding through life, mostly care-free, and for the most part content? 

Or even as I’ve been doing, dodging some feelings and tripping over other emotional obstacles, but generally ok?

I have a big milestone coming up tomorrow, 5 years clean and serene. Drug and alcohol free. I’ve been rebuilding, retooling and doing a lot of growing up – but you know this.

Did you know, though, that – anecdotally speaking – for a lot of us recovering addicts, we fall off the wagon around our milestones.

The threats come at me in the form of emotional upheaval. Small things that in my head I whip up into giant cataclysmic relationship-ending warzones. 

Outwardly I look fine, ‘normal’ even. Inside my head that inner bully rages and tears at my heart. 

I’ve really been worried about this over the past few days, wondering how the universe will trip me up. No, not the universe. That’s lazy thinking. How will I trip myself up? How will I get in the way of myself and create the inevitable emotional havoc? 

Overthinking things as I do (my favourite passtime) I also am sure I make these inner storms happen by focusing so much fear on them. A self-fulfilling prophecy.

Well, it’s happened. And I find myself 24 hours before my milestone crippled with anxiety, fear, insecurity. I feel cutoff and alone. 

For what? A small thing, a misunderstanding, a carelessness, a treading thoughtlessly on someone’s toes and – internally – reacting like a cornered kitten, all hissing and spitting, heart racing and hands shaking. 

Skin’s aching voice in Skunk Anansie’s Twisted perfectly expresses my yearning for that space of chemical disconnect right now:

JUST A LINE COULD HAVE HELPED REMIND ME OF YOU, OF YOU

So this is my confession. My vulnerability and my armour: Right now, I would kill for not just one line, but an endless array of cocaine, stretching out all the way from now to the end of my life.

Right now, looking at you in the mirror, I feel like I’ve ticked all the boxes you wanted me to tick: I chose to live. I stopped drugs and then drinking. I’ve been to therapy and group and meetings. I got a food coach and an eating plan. I workout, don’t smoke and pay my bills. 

Isn’t that enough? What more do you want from me!!! 

This is not a cry for help. It can’t be. It won’t be. It is a declaration of war inside my head, because life with no emotion is not allowed. It’s not part of the grand plan.

I don’t even know whose plan it is, anymore. Mine? The guy in the mirror? My inner child? 

I don’t want to play anymore. Not today. 

Tomorrow.

Tomorrow will be better.

© Dave Luis 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Image © Todd Quackenbush at Unsplash Free Images

What You Wish For

What You Wish For

I guess it’s an obvious truth that when you do a life makeover you leave no stone unturned. There are no half-and-half deals here – once you commit to that path and start re-engineering / re-parenting / re-birthing yourself, over time you get to explore, pull apart and rebuild every little bit of yourself, from scratch.

I’ve never been good with feelings. I suspect because it’s always felt like I’ve had too many feelings, all the time – rushing in and overwhelming me. 

So I learned which feelings I could master, and use to hold the other emotions at bay. I used humour and laughter both to connect to people and to keep them at a distance. A perfect façade constructed to welcome you in only so far. Push any deeper and you’d find stronger barriers of crude, filthy humour – precious few people hang around under a barrage of offensive quips. 

Then I grew up and found drugs. Cocaine in particular. And that took care of all the internal emotions kept behind that barrier. The only thing that thrived in that white powdery desert was the cruelty of my outward smile. No other feelings were nurtured. None. I wanted them to wither away and die.

But that never happens. They lie dormant, waiting for the façade of a lifetime to crack and fall. 

And then the flood.

Therapy was a tool I used to slowly release the pent-up emotion I’d spent decades hiding. I wanted to let go of all the old pain and loss and disappointment and learn how to roll with the punches life would throw in the form of more death, anguish and heartache. I wanted to learn how to love like an adult, in a healthy way, and to feel what it feels like to cry without shame. 

Therapy was good. Great, actually. I was foolish to stop it when I did. But I did.

The walls have started to come down. That is what I wanted, after all. What I wished for. And that adage, of being careful what you wish for? It hit me squarely – right in the feels. 

Anxiety. Alone-ness and loneliness. Jealousy. Love. Infatuation. Greed. Compassion. Anger. Joy. Fear. Pride. Despair. Hope. Resentment and rage. God, the list is never ending, and the onslaught relentless.

Every minute of the day, my mood, actions and responses are powered by, influenced by, affected by or tainted by emotion. Even when I sleep, my dreams conjure up anxiety, loss, sentimental confusion and depravity. Every. Single. Second. Of the day.

It is exhausting! Fuck, I just want to turn on the drugs or alcohol to get a break, a minute’s respite from the always-on status of my heart and the accompanying chatter in my mind. Anything just for a moment of silent numbness.

But that’s not the deal. It can never be the deal, ever again. The agreement with myself was that I choose to live, and take everything that that choice brings. All the chaos. All the sobriety.

All the feelings. 

It’s been a tough week. My heart and mind have been rough partners; they have played the game well, throwing out one damn lesson after the next. 

But that’s the deal. That’s what I wished for.

I guess. 

© Dave Luis 2017. All Rights Reserved. 

Young Enough To Learn

Magnificent views...much later when the sun rises.
Magnificent views…much later when the sun rises.

A mere 5 hours into my 43rd birthday and I have already learned 3 very valuable lessons, proving this old dog can learn new tricks:

  1. Dawn may have been at 5:15 a month ago, but it’s a lot later now. Check the sunrise times before leaving home for your dawn run.
  2. Weather happens. A bracing breeze will cool you down on a long run; a howling gale makes it impossible to run, walk and sometimes even stand. Google the weather conditions before leaving home for your dawn run. 
  3. Energy Gu really works, and if you suddenly find yourself back in bed just 40 minutes after eating a whole sachet because it dark and tempestuous outside, and you are not able to run, you won’t be able to sleep, either. Make sure you’ve done step 1 and 2 above and that you can leave home for a dawn run, before eating your Gu.
Dressing the part is not doing the part...
Dressing the part is not doing the part…

© Dave Luis 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Heart of Gold

Heart of Gold

As the #SaveDave (from himself) campaign hots up, I find myself in the kitchen removing the yolks from hard-boiled eggs. 

Not only that, but I’m steaming asparagus spears and white quinoa, and roasting extra-trim beef. There will be no rich gravy or thick, sticky plum sauce for the beef – oh no – it’s a teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce, and that’s it.

Gone are the days of bacon and potatoes deep-fried in duck fat, on pasta drenched in creamy mayonnaise in a baguette. No more the lavishly roasted duck breasts dripping sweet mandarin sauce. 

Gone, too, are the days of convenient overindulgence at the McDonald’s drive-through. No KFC family meals. No more Wacky Wednesdays at Steers.

More often than not you’ll find me at the fish deli, picking up a fresh piece of hake or kingklip. Once I even bought trout, but that’s a haddock-tasting travesty I’ll never repeat. Salmon is good, and so is tuna – and both are so easy to cook they’re practically as convenient as any fast-food drive-through you care to mention. Quinoa, on the other hand, is more troublesome and finicky to cook than duck, and less fun to eat, too. 

My work lunch boxes these days are filled with tuna, tomato and lite mayonnaise – with sprinklings of sesame seeds because fibre and roughage are things I need to care about.

I eat All Bran Flakes with fat-free milk, and sweeten my fat-free yoghurt with Agave nectar instead of sugar or honey. 

But mostly, I rip the heart of gold out of hard boiled eggs, and eat what’s left with a light dusting of salt.

In just less than three months, I’ve lost over 12kgs. My clothes fit better and I have more energy. My ulcer is less murderous and sleep – when it happens – is deep and restful. 

I miss cheese, of course, and crisps, and chilies, and ice-cream, too. But it’s all for the greater good and if it means I never have to feel the way I did in December when my ulcer ruptured, then I’m game for this all to be a permanent thing. 


© Dave Luis 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Beach Running for Beginners 

Beach Running for Beginners 

A complete guide to the things they never tell you about beach running, but that you’ll soon discover. As a seasoned beginner, I feel compelled to enthuse thusly:

1. Running barefoot: as much as you want the support and stability of your favourite cross-trainers, beach runs are barefoot runs. The sea makes your shoes smell. Mostly of dead seaweed and Athlete’s Fish. A little bit of sand between the toes never killed anyone and on the plus side – no blisters! So, basically, winning at life.

2. Sunrise and tide times: as romantic as sunrise or sunset runs sound, do your research and run at low tide, whenever that is. Less beach camber and a harder surface to run on, see? Thank me later. Also – arriving before sunrise means it is inevitably cold and your paranoid mind will populate the bushes and dunes with all manner of scurrilous miscreants and creatures intent on eating your beating heart out of your chest. Not the ideal cardio workout you wanted.

3.  Ocean ambush: you’ll run along the water’s edge because the sand is more compact and easier to navigate here. But pay attention! Incoming waves (especially of the Atlantic Ocean kind) are colder than that woman from Game of Thrones and if you’re a screamer like me, will elicit squeals that will remove what little dignity you have left. Side note: there is no dignity in running. It is not a pretty or graceful hobby, but you shouldn’t lose sleep over the fact you look and sound like the Elephant Man as you lumber wheezingly into the waves by mistake. 

4. Chafe vs. beach sand chafe: runners’ thighs chafe. If your thighs have chafed because you forgot to lather them up in Glide or Bertram’s Baby Bum Cream, then beware the added joy of beach sand chafe which is a dreadful thing to have happen to any part of your body, but most ‘specially to the bits close to your Unmentionables.

5. Leopards, blue bottles and Surprise Labradors: you will encounter a whole range of critters on your beach run. Just this morning I trampled a blue bottle hiding out in the tide line. We’ll call him Eric. Eric’s ignominious death caused much pain and whining and a vague memory that the cure involved having someone pee on the wound. I stopped whining and pretended it never happened. Once I was also running merrily along with music blaring in my ears and setting the pace, when a Surprise Labrador bounded up at me from behind, thinking my Herculean efforts were a game of tag. I squealed much like I do when cold waves surprise me in the same way that dog did. There are also Cape Leopards in this part of the world, and possibly on the very beach I run, as evidenced by the dry white critter poop I found on the trail back to the car one morning. Dr. Kelly Marnewick, famed animal scatologist, confirmed as much. Could also have been poop from the Surprise Labrador, she says, but I like my life a little more dramatic, so we’ll opt for leopards until proven otherwise. 


6. Runners’ High: you don’t have it because it’s further than you can run and takes more energy to achieve than you can give while running on the beach. That ’90s rave laser show in your head as you’re beach running is just a mess of endorphins hitting you harder than Thai White at the after party.

7. App-solute distraction: you will lose focus on your running while you try interpret all the data streaming in from your heart rate monitor. Ignore it. It’s almost impossible to run and stare at your phone without falling over and looking like a pratt. 

8. The Surreptitious Dune of Death: when your run is over and you’ve managed to catch your breath and regain some composure, you’ll suddenly discover that the car park is at the top of a steep dune that somehow wasn’t there when you started your beach run. At this point you will also discover that your calves have already had all the workout they’re prepared to allow, thank you very much, and you’ll hobble back to your car like your granny hobbles to the loo.

9. The Strava Rule – Reality Bytes: if you didn’t record it on Strava, it never happened. 

10. Beach sand and bed sheets: always shower after your beach run. Always! Even when you’ve gone out at a ridiculously early and god-forsaken hour of the morning and just feel like falling back into bed when you get home, take that shower – because once beach sand gets into your bed sheets, it’s there for life. Even if you change sheets, burn the bed and move to another country. It Will Follow You! 

11. Fifty Shades of DOMS: after my first run I had painful legs. And a sore bum. And aching sides. “Ah! DOMS!” said Samantha Perry to me. “Can’t be. I haven’t been to a warehouse BDSM party in a while.” I replied. There followed an awkward silence until Sam explained DOMS is an acronym for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, a result of exercise – and not Doms-as-in-a-Dominatrix-flogging-your-ass. Still, the thought of a leather-n-PVC-clad woman chasing me down the beach with a flogger in each hand is not a bad idea, but I don’t think it will catch on. For now, keep those hobbies separate. 

No doubt you’ll make your own discoveries as you start beach running. Just get out there, get active, and enjoy it!

© Dave Luis 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Image: Summer Running by Avery D’Allesandro at Unsplash Free Images