Michael’s Memoir

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*This piece was originally written for media, and is a synopsis of the moments of clarity that shaped my current life

Moments of Clarity

My chest muscles have clamped down on my heart. My arms are limp, and my jaw is pulling to the left. I’m hunched in the corner of my bachelor apartment—paralyzed from having smoked crack for the last four days. The boys that I have been partying with are now packing my bags with my own belongings—half-convincing me that I owe them more money for the drugs I’ve smoked. Money I don’t have. I can’t move.

I glance at the utility knife on the coffee table—the one we’ve been using to cut our crack. My heart is racing. I’m terrified that this is the end. Am I going to die? I’ve always believed that my life would have a dramatic climax.

My extreme and obsessive mind has driven me to the bottom of another downward spiral—which is difficult to imagine seeing as I’ve already been in addiction rehab three times, a mental institution, and a halfway house.

I’ve spent all of my money on crack and sold my stereo to get more. I’m powerless over the addiction, and powerless over what is about to happen to me. Gone are the days of carefree partying in the nightclubs. I now know without a doubt that I am a drug addict—and I’m in serious trouble.

I had moved to Toronto when I was 20. The house music, glamour and drug-fueled club scene of the mid-nineties was overpoweringly seductive for an overweight young gay man who had never really found his footing in homophobic Northwestern Ontario.

I was afraid growing up—scared of being myself and of being beaten up by the bullies because I was fat and gay.

During my teenage years, I had been suicidal, though I don’t think I truly wanted to die. I tried dramatic, drug-inspired ‘attempts’ at hurting myself, but never fully followed through. I was stuffed with an overwhelming rage to be myself, but felt that I couldn’t. I was trapped—stuck in my fear and hopelessness.

I had used lighter drugs throughout, but in my final year of highschool, my chemical drug use escalated seriously.

Around that time, I became captivated by the New York clubkids that I watched on Donahue and Geraldo. They were gay and completely outrageous—and they were being themselves! On top of that, they were celebrated for being different, and many of them were becoming famous.

I started making weekend trips to Toronto where I mastered the art of being an outrageous clubkid myself. I later learned in my adult psychotherapy that the word ‘outrageous’ meant just that: outwardly displaying rage, meaning that all my pent up anxiety of my hidden life I was now channeling—full-throttle—in the opposite direction.

Driven by my desire for fame and recognition, I moved to Toronto and quickly became the toast of the Church-Wellesley club scene. I was hosting parties, promoting events and even did spots on television.

My drug use intensified, and I started using Special K and Ecstasy, alongside an ever-increasing cocaine habit. After almost two years of clubkid notoriety and celebrated drug use, I had an overdose and did a midnight run back to Thunder Bay.

Battling between relapse and sobriety, I developed a keen interest in alternative spirituality practices and physical fitness. These practices alone weren’t enough to keep me sober, but they helped a little with my self-esteem.

As with everything, I became obsessed with fitness, dropped my waist size by 12 inches, and transformed into a new muscular and athletic version of myself.

After my third stay in rehab, I moved back to Toronto, where I began to work in restaurants and work out in the local gym hotspots while I figured out what to do with the rest of my life.

I remained dry for nearly a year and a half, but eventually my addictions caught up with me, and I relapsed for a nine month period, at the end of which I found myself in this current situation.

Fortunately, my crackhead captors didn’t kill me. Instead, they slung my bags over their shoulders and walked out the door, threatening to return and collect the money I ‘owed’ them.

Early in the morning of September 21st, 2001, I was on my knees, crying in front of a police officer at the corner of Church and Maitland. The police had just arrested the two who robbed me. I contemplated my life. I was nowhere near being the person I so desperately wanted to be. I was not able to live the life I knew I was capable of. I was stuck. I was hopeless and lost. I was scared. It was the darkest moment of my life.

And as the saying goes, the darkest hour is just before dawn.

That evening, I reluctantly ventured into a meeting within Toronto’s recovery community—a community that I discovered was—and is—thriving and very much available to anyone who is lost like I was.

My real moment of clarity came shortly after when I was sitting in a church basement on a cold and rainy November night. I heard a recovery friend speak about standing at the turning point. This resonated with me. I thought to myself that maybe all of my troubles—all of my rehabs, mental institutions, halfway houses and the terrible agony of despair—had brought me to this place for a reason.

For the first time within my dreary cynicism about my recovery I had a glimmer of hope.

Maybe I also stood at the turning point? Maybe if I stayed within this community, I could stay sober and live happily? In that moment, I realized that if I didn’t do something different, I would be doomed to more of the insanity that had brought me to this very place.

That night, I made the decision to stay—not a resolution—a decision.

I learned to ask for help and to be honest about myself and my fears. I made good for my wrongdoings, and I got in touch with my spiritual side.

Recovery helped me to become the person I had always wanted to be. I began following my passions, one of which happened to be yoga. For me, yoga combined the physical with the spiritual—part of the recovery cocktail that had saved my life. I got certified as a personal trainer, and I ran the Toronto Marathon (and qualified for Boston!). I went back to school for media relations, and then became a yoga teacher.

I’ve combined my knowledge of yoga, fitness and public relations to create my own athletic brand called Jock Yoga. I’ve used my passion and experience to try to help others overcome obstacles and make healthy changes in their own lives. This, for me, is satisfying beyond any drug high I ever attained.

Since then, Jock Yoga has grown and expanded beyond the GTA and has developed into its own genre of yoga. My story and my brand have been featured numerous times by local and national media, and I often have the privilege of sharing my story on television.

I couldn’t have imagined this life for myself. I am now living the life that I knew I was capable of but just couldn’t manage before.

I never thought I was going to live beyond 25.

At the end of last year—surrounded by beautiful friends and family here in Toronto—I turned 40—and for me, it feels like real life has just begun.

 

Michael DeCorte 2015