Contrary to what you may have seen in the movie “Fight Club ” with Brad Pitt, the first rule of fight club is not “you do not talk about fight club”. Yes, that is a rule, a very important one, and perhaps the one that keeps people coming back time and time again. That rule is there because you don’t talk about fight club to anyone else, other than those present on the day of the fight, because there is a code among the fighters, one that allows them to come and fight without judgement and without worry. Like a priest forbidden about talking of the sins he hears in confession, fighters don’t talk about the “sins’ ‘ of other fighters that make their way to the arena, for they know that the reason another fighter is there doesn’t matter, just that they showed up.
Anyone that has ever been to a fight club knows the difficulty in being there. No one enjoys getting their ass kicked, but when you choose to step into the fight that day, that’s exactly what you are going to get. Life will knock you down figuratively, but fight club will teach you to get up literally, and to teach you how to fight back and win. Even though “winning” the day is only one small step, the fight is never really over, everyone knows that much about the perils of life. You never win at life and then sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labors, you have to fight on a daily basis to keep your love, to keep your sanity, and to keep your soul. For some though, the fight is the only thing that keeps them alive, and that is why fight club exists in the first place.
One year ago today I went to my first fight. I was not sure what to expect, but I knew I was about to get my ass kicked, and I did. You are not expected to fight the first time you show up, you are not expected to do anything at all. But I was there for a reason and I was ready to jump right in, whether I was ready for it or not. And so I did. I started talking, and telling my story. Telling about the child I had and was worried about. About the relationship I was in and fucking up. I talked about who I thought I was and who I thought I needed to be, and I talked about the dad that had died and how that ultimately led me to this place. I talked about shame.
My dad died at the young age of fifty-six due to complications from a life of alcoholism. There, I said it, my dad was an alcoholic. The first time I said those words out loud to a group of strangers, I started crying uncontrollably. I had never really said it before, but once you name the enemy, the enemy comes forward, and the fight can begin. My dad was not the enemy, addiction was. He was just a poor soul that didn’t have the tools to fight a battle he wasn’t sure he was even in. The saying goes “dead men tell no tales”, but what they don’t tell you is the memory haunts you forever. I remember the struggle because I was there to clean up the mess. My dad was a good man with a bad problem, and I witnessed the slow death of a person that I can no longer help. I am not saddened by the memories of the past, but for the loss of memories now. I am not here to put him down. On the contrary, I am here to praise a man that fought the hardest fight of his life with his bare hands, but ultimately lost. I will not make the same mistake.
I go to fight club and sit among strangers whose stories are heartbreaking. I go to fight club because as much as it hurts to talk about a dead father, it would only be more painful to talk about a dead son. I go because it has to stop with me and I will be damned if I don’t do everything in my power to do just that. I am lucky, I don’t have the disease, but I will sit with those who do because I want to know all I can. I will give up lunches with friends and weekends of fun to sit with sadness because I hope one day my son doesn’t have to do the same. I will be sad today because I refuse to have regret tomorrow. I will sit and cry with strangers as they tell their stories, and they let me tell mine, because I refuse to let anything happen to my son. I will cry now so that I will not have to cry later.
Over the past year, I have become a pretty damn good fighter. I’ve become a stronger fighter, and more importantly, a better informed one. I wish I could go back in time and help my dad be a better fighter, but I can’t. I can just sit among the many that are fighting and honor a man that I saw struggle so hard. When someone is drowning, you can try and drain the lake or swim out to get them. I choose to swim. And sometimes the person may be you, and it’s an ocean who’s waves are as high as mountains. I choose to swim…I choose to fight.