I found the secret to life in a bottle of whiskey. I never learned shit in school. I learned more about life and people and money and love at 2 am at the local bar.
You learn a lot at 2 am. The hours on the clock are a passageway between life and death and the day is life and the night is death and 2 am is the bridge that separates life from death. I walked that bridge four days out of the week.
My brother used to live in Yaletown. And I would stay with him for half the week. I would sneak out of his apartment at 2 am and I would wander through the city with no destination in mind.
I just like to walk and observe and learn. And the night is the perfect time to do that because I get to see people in their truest form. During the daylight we all wear masks and align ourselves with company morale and act in tune with what mommy and daddy want, but during the night, we are free to be the barbarians that we are.
Life is perfect and pure during the wee hours of the morning. And it’s my favorite time to walk and think.
On Mondays I saw elderly couples walking hand in hand. On Saturdays I saw drunken girls who wore handkerchiefs for clothes. But I didn’t complain.
I kept walking and walking and walking. I walked fast for a man who had nowhere to be. It wasn’t a destination that put the fire into my step; it was the need to turn my life around.
I knew something had to give. I knew something had to change. I couldn’t keep living the life I was living. The last year of my life would have made the strongest of men crumble to their knees. I’m far from the strongest of men. And hence you can imagine what it did to me.
My cousin died then my uncle died then my friend died then my business died. And then I died. Not literally, but mentally and physically and emotionally. That was my year in a nutshell.
And I needed to turn it around.
And that’s why I was strolling through the streets during the wee hours of the morning with no place to be. I was looking for something without knowing what I was searching for. I was down and out and I craved death as much as I craved life. I was a tear drop in an ocean full of flames.
But I kept walking and I pushed the evil thoughts to the back of my brain.
And then I started running.
I stopped after a good twenty minutes. I was dripping in sweat.
I don’t know where I ended up. I was lost and I was feeling shittier than ever. But something inside me was alive. And it was laughing.
I thought about calling my brother to pick me up. But I didn’t. I shrugged it off and called a taxi and took a ride to the local bar instead.
I needed a drink. It wasn’t a Friday or a Saturday and there was nothing left in the world to celebrate (besides the fact that I had a fake id in my pocket – I was 18 at the time ha). But I paid my fare and I walked inside and I joined all the other men seated around the bar with broken hearts.
There are only two types of people who sit at the bar by themselves. Those who lost the zest for life. And those who never had it.
I didn’t know what category I belonged to. And I didn’t care to find out.
I ordered my whiskey and I sat and I drank. I didn’t know what tomorrow was going to bring and I didn’t want to know. I was drowning right now in a glass full of whiskey and I was loving it.
The minutes passed and then the hours passed and then my sorrows passed. I was numb. And then I met a man, a very wealthy man. He was the owner of the place. He took a shot with me. And he cracked a joke and I laughed for the first time in a long time.
And then the laughter turned serious and the conversation became realer. There are some people we can never be real with. And there are other people we can be real with right off the bat. They make us feel strong and fill our internal cups with the energy we need to speak the thoughts we have been suppressing all our lives. This man belonged to the second category.
And so I spoke. And he listened and listened and listened.
By the time I finished the bar was closed, the broken men with broken hearts had left, and it was just the two of us left behind. He could have left and gone home. But he stayed.
He poured another shot of whiskey into both of our glasses and with it he poured out his life story.
He told me about the time…
He grew up with an abusive father and a mother who was always strung out on heroin.
He walked in on his wife in bed with his best friend.
He lost his two year old son to a rare disease.
He poured all his life savings into his business and it failed. And then he declared bankruptcy. Not once. But twice.
He wrote a suicide note and left it for his daughter and then set in motion a plan to kill himself. His suicide attempt was thirty seconds away from being successful.
He made $10 million and then lost it all. He lost his home and his cars and his wife and his children.
He talked and he talked and he talked. I shut up and I listened.
And as numb as I was from the whiskey, I could still feel. I could still feel his words and they were realer than anything I’ve ever heard.
And I only had one question. Well two questions.
The first question was…
You look familiar. Have I seen you before?
He laughed and brushed it off. But I knew I had seen him somewhere before. And I was right. I soon discovered from his colleague that he was one of the wealthiest men in Vancouver. I was inspired and my jaw fell to the floor and joined the glass full of whiskey I had accidentally knocked over earlier.
But I didn’t care for the whiskey anymore.
I was motivated and energized for the first time in my life.
All because of this man’s story and the realization that even after this man went through complete hell, he still found a way to climb the ladder of life to the top of the world. And I was going to do the same. Or at least, I was going to try to do the same. Not today…I was too drunk. But tomorrow. Or maybe the day after.
But first I needed to know a deeper truth and that was the foundation for my next question.
How did you bounce back? How did you weather the storm and make it through the downs to see the ups? And he smiled. He knew I was wasted. He was wasted too. So he gave me his email and he told me to email me the next morning if I still remembered and cared enough for the answer.
I woke up the next morning with the mother of all hangovers and I fired off my email. And he responded.
Below is his advice. Whenever you find yourself down and out, just do the following. It seems useless and pointless, but it makes a world of a difference. It’s simple, but effective. It worked for me and it worked for the owner of the bar. Try it and see if it will work for you.
Exercise – Each day you must rid your body of bad toxins. Exercise for 20 minutes a day and sweat out the bad in you. It will leave you feeling refreshed and brand new.
Write a gratitude list – It’s easy to focus on the bad when life is rough. And the last thing you want to do is focus on the good. But if you don’t focus on the good, life will continue to be bad. Rip out a page from your notebook and write down ten things you are grateful for. Come up with new things to be grateful for everyday and watch your world change before you.
Go for a walk – Take a walk through the forest and just let go of everything. Clear your mind. And get lost in your surroundings.
Surround yourself with love – Eat, sleep, and dream with only those who love you. Forget about everyone else. They don’t matter.
Laugh – I have never met a sad man who loved to laugh. And that’s why I live to laugh.
Help someone in need – The fastest way to feel better is to help someone else. Take a homeless man out to eat or help a kid who’s down and out at the local bar.
Pray – You don’t have to believe in god. But there’s something about getting on your knees and praying. Pray to god or pray to your computer or pray to yourself. I don’t know. But it helps.
Keep your phone on silent and delete all your social networks – Your phone is evil for your well being. It stresses you out. Notification after notification. Text after text. Phone call after phone call. Put it down.
Go back to earth – Get out and sit in nature.
Sing and dance – I travel a lot and I’ve been on both sides of the world. And I love the Eastern way of life. I met rich people and I met poor people. But the people that are the happiest are the ones who sing at the top of their lungs and dance to the rhythm of their heartbeat.
I met the wealthy man at the bar a few summers ago. And today my life is dramatically different.
The bad times still come and they come running like a mob of angry protesters. But there is always a silver lining even in the darkest of clouds.
I didn’t know it at the time, but the purpose of my 2 am stroll was to find that silver lining. And I found it…in the owner of the bar. And my life has never been the same again.
Thanks for reading.