The Collapse…

This is Part III of a series of four essays for this blog. If you have not read Part I or Part II please click those links prior to reading this.  Please check back in 2 weeks for Part IV — I assure you  it’s good news…


Emotional disembowelment.  That is the best phrase I know to describe the morning that led to my fall.  It was also the doorway needed for a possible rebirth.  More on that in a year or two…

The Collapse

I had arrived home on a Monday after an eleven hour, and particularly toxic workday.  The personalities and conversations which pass through my studio can sometimes get the better of me.  It may be called fitness training but there can be a heavy crosspollination of thoughts and ideas exchanged as the fitness is cultivated.  The topics of death, aging, cancer, divorce, injuries, and family dysfunction are chief among the subjects people wish to discuss while they do lunges, planks, and crunches.  I’m not against this discourse so long as there is sufficient effort channeled into the exercises simultaneously performed. 

I had not had a drink in several days and had eaten extremely well for the prior week.  I was feeling like after 12 years of bedtime drinking, I might actually earn my way out of this thing.  A couple of over-the-counter sleep aids followed by a dish of Brussels sprouts and some carne asada would suit me fine on this evening, and my impending sleep would erase the toxic residue from my day.  Despite the sleep aids, as my head lay on my pillow in hopes of rest, every thought I had that day had rematerialized in my head – simultaneously.  Soon those bullets began to ricochet off the walls of my mind in rapid fire succession.

My head was spinning with thoughts of business, upcoming travel, finances, and conversations from the day still resonating.  At midnight, still wide awake, I poured a glass of vodka and drank it straight.  That calmed me down and I was probably been asleep within 30 minutes.  At 3:30am I woke up though, as the blender in my head turned on again.  This time the blender was set to puree.   I drank some more vodka and after another 30 minutes or so I fell back asleep.  I woke up again at 4:30am with just enough time to shower, build my meals, prep my bike, and get it together for another workday.  At this point though, I just didn’t want to.  I only wanted to go back to sleep.  So I poured some more and repeated the cycle again, insulating myself from myself.

Before I drank my way into another short-term coma, I texted or emailed all of my sessions for that Tuesday morning advising them I wasn’t feeling well and was not going to work.  I would not leave bed again until the following Saturday.  For nearly a week, I drank my way around the clock, scarcely leaving bed, mindlessly Facebooking, watching movies on my laptop, napping, enjoying conversations with my dog, and writing.  It was like an all-inclusive vacation on Skid Row Island.

Each morning for nearly a week I would contact my clients and advise them I was taking the day off; that I was sick, had some emergency, a flat tire, or whatever story might garner me another day off.  Truly, I just wanted rest.  Honestly, I’m not nearly as sorry about the drinking as I am for all the lying.  

The Confession Eruption

By that Friday morning I knew that my clients were beginning to sense something was up.  My brain was swimming in alcohol.  My ears rang, my hands shook, I was hot, I was cold, and I was confused.  I was also out of alcohol which meant all of those sensations were about to increase – substantially.  I called my first session of the day to tell her I was sick.  She is not only a client, but she is a dear friend and occasional workout partner.  Suddenly I just broke down and came clean about my week of drinking.  As I cried, I begged nervously for her forgiveness – feeling as though I deserved anything but.  She was both accommodating and concerned for me.  I’m glad she was first. 

One by one I began calling all of my clients with similar confessions, and sincere apologies.  All were received better than I deserved.  By the end of the 4th phone call I was in such emotional distress, I had to stop.  I began contacting my 32 remaining clients by email with similar, and well detailed confessions.  In sending those emails, I knew this might be my best chance to avoid losing my business, my life, or both.  I had made the commitment, finally, to stop drinking.  I would spend the rest of that Friday crying, thinking, and attempting to summon strength.

High Functioning Vs. Functioning High; A Juxtaposition

The first week after crawling out of bed that Saturday, I had to face my future as well as my past.  Yes, there was all that sobriety to reckon with, as well as my personal and business relationships, financial concerns, and my health.  But me being me, what I chose to came face to face with first, was my exercise life.  How on Earth, I wondered, was I was able to function at such a high level drinking well into the morning 7 days per week for over a decade…? 

My last drink during the night was often at 2am, 3am or even 4am.  Still, I would be out the door and on my bike riding 30+ minutes to work most days by 530am.  I would work until noon, take in my workout with the weights, have lunch accompanied by a drink or two, work my afternoon sessions, and ride home.  Once home, I would feed myself, crawl into bed with my laptop, and begin the cycle again.  Sundays would find me doing beastly exercise things with my beastly friends, and actually keeping up with them.  But I knew I was fading physically.  By January of 2012, I could feel it and see myself losing ground in my physicality.

To be continued…


Please check back in 2 weeks for Part IV.  Oh, and there is this from Ronnie Lane who passed away 15 years ago today.  He was exquisite.  Enjoy…

12 responses

  1. I certainly understand how draining clients can be at times. For me, it was easier to operate all day than to listen to and try to help psychiatric patients! Those days wore me out!

    Quite poignant, Roy! I hope this is helpful for you and turns out well in the now! It has been truly amazing for me to see what the human body can adapt to, and more importantly, can recover from!

    • Thank you Dr. J. A work in progress, buy doing very well and loving life again — or most aspects of it 🙂 I won’t suggest at all that the weight of what the clients have had to share through the years has had no effect on me, but the positive outweighs the negative greatly. I have benefited so much wisdom from so many through the years.

    • Thank you Jody. And why doe people like you, Dr. J, and millions of others do what we do in the gym, on the road, on our bikes, or in our shoes each day…? There are many reasons to be sure, but the ultimate reason is because exercise keeps us from killing people 🙂

  2. I can see why your friends were hesitant about you posting these essays, but as a reader, I am so glad you did. Raw honesty is refreshing. You have built a life (it seems) trying to help others achieve physical greatness. In the process, unbeknownst to you, you were also helping build people up on the inside. This is a journey you are still on.

    • Thanks for dropping in Heidi! I have helped many clients through the years and many have helped me just as much, if not, more. This business has been a two-way street for me and I am grateful. By the way: I noticed your a Nebraksa girl. Though I live in San Diego, I vacation on the Niobrara every summer with many dear Omaha friends — some are Chreighton grads. That school turns out some gems!

  3. I can only imagine how hard those times were for you Roy. I too hope this will continue to be a time of healing for you. Thank you for sharing these essays because you never know who you will cause to evaluate where they are right now. Even though I do not struggle with alcohol, there are struggles that I need to deal with in a healthier way than I currently do.

  4. Pingback: And So It Goes… « Roy Cohen's Contemplative Fitness

  5. I’m so happy for you that you realized what you were doing to yourself and decided to quit drinking. Thanks for sharing your story. It must be hard to write about this but I’m so glad you have.

  6. So raw, emotionally. As you send like a blender.

    I’m really glad you had the courage to confess to your clients, close friends and most likely others you didn’t mention. Thanks for sharing. Most of all, thanks for coming to terms on your time with your life. Sometimes people fail to realize this. Everything in one’s own time. 😀

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