Episode 130: Dancing on a Piece of Wood

I met Douglas at my home group We Agnostics, and last summer after a meeting, we were talking about recovery-related movies as topics for future podcasts and he suggested “The Way Out”, a short film by Jim Greco. Douglas has been skateboarding his entire life, and Jim Greco is a professional skateboarder who made this film about his 11th and 12th year of sobriety.

This sounded like an intriguing idea, so I asked Douglas if he would do the podcast with me. A few weeks later, we watched the film together and recorded the podcast you’re about to hear. It’s an interesting conversation, not only about the film, but about Douglas and his recovery, skateboarding culture, and learning to enjoy activities sober that in the past may have been opportunities for drinking.

We posted the film here, followed with a transcript of the podcast. You can also view the film in full screen mode at the Thrasher Magazine website

The Way Out

Podcast Transcript

01:08 John S: What is it that you like about that movie that we can talk about?

01:11 Douglas S: For me, being someone that skated for the last 20 years, seeing a professional skateboarder make a personal movie about their way out of addiction. He struggled with all sorts of alcohol, and heroin, and all sorts of other stuff, and just seeing what his life is like now 12 years, not exactly free of addiction, but what his life is like now in recovery. And for me, that was just inspiring and just something to kind of model off of. I want to say I watched it after I started getting sober, but I was a chronic relapser. So even in times that I was still out drinking I could, knew that was always there, and I could always go back and watch that until remind myself, you know what you want, you know you want to seek recovery again, how do you get there? And it was just a tool and constantly an inspiration button. I knew where to go and click on it.

02:20 John S: So is drinking and drugging part of the skateboarding culture?

02:25 Douglas S: Oh, for sure, yeah. It just comes, it was part of the old surfer culture. It’s part of just let loose and you’re hanging out, and it’s kind of a young man’s culture, and drinking and drugging and sex, rock and roll, just all come with that. There are a handful in it that have never drank or touched a drug in their life. They’re far and few between. Some have been able to watch it happen to other people and know how to not go down that rabbit hole too bad. And then some, they end up getting down it in some way, shape or form, and it’s just real popular for the cycle to be, go out, and skate, and accomplish something, and then party. And you party about what you accomplished, and just party with your friends, and go out and see shows, go see music, pick up girls, whatever. It just comes with that go, go, go, it’s euphoria, let’s just keep the party going.

03:35 John S: Was Jim Greco one of the first professional skateboarders who came out publicly with his recovery?

03:41 Douglas S: No, I have no clue who would be the first. Definitely the first that I’ve seen that’s ever made a video like that. There’s been guys and girls that have talked about it in interviews. There have definitely been a lot that have lost their position as a professional because of it.

04:03 John S: Really?

04:04 Douglas S: Oh, yeah.

04:05 John S: Wonder why.

04:08 Douglas S: Kind of stop showing up and you stop doing your job. I know that was sarcastic.

04:13 John S: Is it because when they got clean, they couldn’t skateboard?

04:16 Douglas S: No, no, I mean, they lost their job, while they were using. There’s a lot of people that use and can still keep their position as a professional skateboarder, but then there are some that have climbed so far down to where they’re basically not even skating anymore, they’re not doing their job anymore. At the end of the day, when you’re sponsored to skate, the job is to skate, it’s to promote these different companies and to show up for different things.

04:47 John S: See, I’m so ignorant of professional skateboarding. So there are actually people that are making a living.

04:52 Douglas S: Yeah, yeah, you see someone that’s been making a living through sponsorships, and a big part, especially in his coming up until more recently, like one of the biggest, the two biggest ways to make a living in skateboarding is filming video parts, and competitions. And for a lot of skateboarding since the ’90s and into the 2000s, video parts pretty much outweighed everything. Because that’s when street skateboarding became more what everybody did. It became more popular, and there’s a lot of people in skateboarding that they don’t like to compete, and I’m one of them. I’m not competitive with most people, and a lot of us are just competitive with their selves for the most part. And we just, a lot of us have weird social anxieties, so being one person in front of all these people, then, “Hey, monkey, go do tricks,” like flaah, a lot of us don’t like that. So just being able to, like most of that film from just what I can see, it’s like a small group of people going out and filming and skating together.

06:00 Douglas S: I personally like that in almost everything I do. I like to be by myself, or I like to be in a small group. I can stand big crowds, but I don’t always like it. It can be just over-stimulating and overwhelming. I like having… It feels more intimate to be… You see that with him and his friend, I don’t know that other guy’s name and I probably should, because I imagine he’s a very influential pro skateboarder and I’m bad about not knowing every pro skateboarder, because at the end of the day, I don’t give a fuck.

06:47 John S: Right. [chuckle]

06:48 Douglas S: I’m not one of those people that… I don’t know all the actors and I don’t pay attention to…

06:53 John S: I’m the same way, I don’t either. My wife, she knows the name of every single actor in every single movie she’s ever seen.

07:00 Douglas S: That’s cool, but if they didn’t really stick out to me yet, key word yet, they didn’t stick out. And I haven’t bothered to really get to know who they are and how they’ve influenced stuff. But you kind of see that between them and how watching each other battle through for tricks and spend the day together. You can see the emotions on their faces and how they share that experience together. It’s a very intimate thing and it’s a very big part of what people talk about. Not exactly in those words, but just hanging out with friends and sharing the experience. It’s not all about the hardest trick you can do, because a lot of it’s more just being around the people you want to be around and doing things that you like to do, and not necessarily trying to measure that all the time. You get to see that with them.

07:56 John S: When you skate, is it mostly on your own?

07:58 Douglas S: It’s a bit of both. Here lately, it’s been a lot on my own. Growing up, it was a lot on my own, because I grew up in some different places that didn’t have a high concentration of other skaters or definitely not in my age group. Some of my best times skating have been by myself. Sometimes that’s when I’ve learned the most amount of stuff, is when I’ve just been by myself. It can be a very individual thing. There have been times where being at skate parks and people are going there to hang out, which is fine. Ad they’re wanting me to talk and stuff and I’m like, “No. Today I came here to skate.”

08:45 Douglas S: Like, “Hi, but I’m focused right now.” It’s nothing against them, but I get focused and I don’t… When I sit down and stop for five minutes, I’m pretty much done for the rest of the day. It’s go, go, go, go, go, and then if I finally sit down, I’m like, “Okay, I’m done.” Once that ball gets rolling, I try to keep it going. It took a while, until I was like, honestly, like 18 is when I found… When I was younger, it would just be one or two other people that I found that I could really skate with and kind of had more of a similar mentality about it and were as driven and passionate about it as me. But it wasn’t until I was about 18 and I came to Kansas City North versus being in the more outstretched rural areas of Kansas City, that I found a group of five to eight guys that regularly got together and went skating.

09:47 Douglas S: And came to downtown Kansas City and skated downtown and midtown, and all that stuff. To me, that was all downtown until I met downtown people that were like, “No, that’s downtown, midtown, that’s it, that’s Briarcliff, or this is whatever.” That, to me… I grew up north of the river. Everything south of the river is downtown.

10:13 John S: Exactly. [laughter]

10:16 Douglas S: I don’t know, that has been my experience of how people view it up there. Once I got down here, it exposed me to really how tight-knit the skate scene is here in Kansas City. I knew about Escapist Skateboarding, because I’ve been shopping there since I was seven. They used to be up off Berry and North Oak. I could get my parents to go there twice a year, birthdays and Christmas-ish time. I could get them to take me to Kansas City North and go there. Then they got a little more popular and started opening up shops in different places. I don’t remember what year it was, but they opened up one at Southwest Boulevard and Broadway, basically.

11:00 John S: I remember that. I know that place.

11:02 Douglas S: You remember when it showed up?

11:04 John S: Yeah.

11:05 Douglas S: Yeah, it used to be, I want to say it was like a motorcycle shop and has been one for a long time. Then finally it stopped being one and now it’s a skate shop and art gallery type thing. So that once that kind of like, that became their center of everything and then it gave them space with the space to the side of it, to be an art gallery, it gave them a way… And with First Fridays that happened downtown, it gave them this space to open up and share skateboarding with more people and the public and invite people that maybe didn’t know anything about skateboarding, but maybe know something about art or just like art. Like, “Ooh, hey, shiny. I’m going to walk in here.”

[chuckle]

11:51 Douglas S: It helped more and they’ve always been really great about bringing in outside companies that are on skate tours and having demos. They used to do that. They would have a lot of demos up at Pleasant Valley Park. I grew up going to that park. I remember going to a couple of those. Now that Penn Valley is here, which is on 31st and Penn, it’s right next to Penn Valley College. And now that’s there and it’s more of a modernized skate park.

12:28 John S: Is it actually a skate park that has all the concrete stuff where you can… It’s actually built for a skate park?

12:36 Douglas S: Yeah, it’s explicitly built for skateboarding and you could say BMX, but some skaters would argue that. The same with scooters. They’re in-line, but it’s a public park meant for extreme sports.

12:48 John S: Where’s that at?

12:50 Douglas S: It’s right there by Penn College. Do you know the Indian that’s at the Penn Valley Park?

12:55 John S: Yeah.

12:55 Douglas S: It’s there. There’s tennis courts, the Indian’s…

12:58 John S: Oh, I’ll have to check it out.

12:58 Douglas S: At the north part, there’s the huge condo lofts.

13:02 John S: Yeah, I know exactly where you’re talking about.

13:03 Douglas S: And smack in the middle of it, is the skate park.

13:05 John S: I know exactly where you’re talking about.

13:06 Douglas S: When that skatepark got lights, that condo building hated them and threw a big old fit and did not want them to have that. But yeah, skate parks are a mix of these obstacles that would basically be used for nothing else but skateboarding, and then like an adaption of what you would find in common street areas or plazas and stair sets and handrails and kind of almost art looking sculpture like things. And we look at it and go, “I can skate that.” That’s no longer something I just walk up and down. That’s not something that supports me to walk up and down. That’s this obstacle I can jump over, on, or ride, and whatever. And that’s, and that’s part of what a lot of us love so much. It’s just this ability to use things for not what they were meant for and that’s where some of the creative process comes from. And that’s, I don’t know… And to me that’s like that comes… That feels like an addiction for it. Like, I can no longer look at beer ads. I can no longer look at certain things and not think of my addiction. I can no longer look at a set of stairs and not think of skateboarding. Like, it’s just… It’s changed my perception of the world around me.

14:31 John S: When you go to a skate park like that, what’s the age range of the people that are skateboarding?

14:35 Douglas S: Oh, man, from three years old to older than you.

14:39 John S: Older than me. That’s pretty incredible. [laughter]

14:41 Douglas S: Yeah. There’s a YouTube video of, I would say, the guy was in his 70s.

14:47 John S: Wow.

14:47 Douglas S: And he was just learning.

14:49 John S: Oh, my God.

14:49 Douglas S: Never been on a skateboard ever in his life. He was just learning to skate at like 70 years old.

14:53 John S: Oh, wow. That’s fine.

14:55 Douglas S: So it’s yeah, a little bit… It’s honestly… I mean, the core age is probably 10, 11, 12 to low 20s. But then, now where it’s becoming more common, guys that grew up in the ’90s, we’re about to turn 30. So it’s becoming an even bigger group of people that do it. But yeah, the core of it. It’s a brutal sport. It’s a brutal lifestyle. It kind of hurts. And it’s not for everybody. And some people eventually hang up the board and move on to just different stuff. And then some people like myself can not imagine life without it.

15:48 John S: So do you think that Jim Greco’s skateboarding suffered from his using and did he get better when he quit?

15:57 Douglas S: I think it’s a mix of both. I think, there’s a sense of in a way it could help it or it can help you, it can help you deal with how bad it hurts. That was especially my experience with it.

16:10 John S: I was wondering about that. Whether it be alcohol or drugs.

16:14 Douglas S: Yeah. It helps you kind of dull the pain of a really hard day of whether you are just worn out or you slammed a lot and you ache or you break shit like… And then potentially you’re getting prescriptions from hospitals or you tear stuff, which I’ve done. And you get prescriptions from hospitals and you start going down that avenue.

16:37 John S: Isn’t that interesting that I’m drinking to dull the pain because that’s pretty much what we all do anyway, whether it be emotional pain or whatever.

16:43 Douglas S: Emotional or physical. And a lot of people, and for myself and a lot of people that I’ve encountered in skateboarding, we come from nasty backgrounds and not so great family lives. So skateboarding was our escape. And that is for a lot of people between just being in rough bad neighborhoods and trying to get out of gang life to just trying to get away from abusive or just absent parents to just… Or they’re just weird and they don’t fit in to these other social norm groups. But you can be weird and not fit in in skateboarding. And then it’s kind of…

17:24 John S: Kind of makes sense too, because it’s something you can do in the city and it’s not that expensive, is it? You can just get a…

17:30 Douglas S: It is and it isn’t. It is kind of expensive, but as a kid I did BMX too. And, sure, a bike can cost almost as much as a freaking motorcycle sometimes. Or I’d really like their bikes and four wheelers. I would have loved to be able to race those. That’s super intriguing to me and my family did not have that money. But I could get them to go spend $150 on a brand new setup and then just trying to make that last as long as possible. And then that’s when it helps when you have the other like kind of core group of friends because then, maybe they’re a little better off and they could get something or what I was kind of talking about earlier with I don’t like focusing or snapping old boards because someone at the end the day probably has a worse board or no board. And they could use your old stuff. I had lost my board and my friend just had all this old hardware in his closet, just old wheels and trucks and bearings and all this stuff that he’s been stacking up for the last decade. Literally like the last 10 years worth of just old crap.

18:51 Douglas S: And it wasn’t great. But all I had to do was go get a board. And voila, the rest of my setup was there. It wasn’t great, but I could skate and I could work with it. And I don’t know, when you see some kids and what they’re skating and what they can do on what they’re skating, you almost want to give them a brand new board and be like, “I can see how passionate you are. Here, skate this.” And then just watch things develop from there. But it’s just, I would say it’s cheaper than being in elementary school and be on a private soccer team or a basketball team or something between gear and just what it costs to be in the classes and all that stuff, which there are now training programs that to do. But at the end of the day, all you really need is you and a skateboard and your front driveway or sidewalk.

19:51 Douglas S: Just a little patch of concrete, you can… Your garage floor, where a lot of us have done, learned a whole bunch of stuff. Because it’s the one place in the middle of mid-western winter, January, that we can go and play around. Like you don’t really have any space, but it’s just enough for your basement, it’s just enough for carpet skateboarding and it’s just enough to feed that bug inside you that like, I want to do this.

20:19 Douglas S: And so, it’s not cheap, but it’s like with anything, if it’s what you want, you have to sacrifice other stuff, like when I started skating, I didn’t want anything else. I wasn’t really asking for anything else, it was, now, I need another player skate shoes, now, I need another deck or I need another this, to progress the skating, it wasn’t. I think all my cousins had all these Legos and GI Joes and stuff, I didn’t care. They were cool, I liked to go into their houses and played with that stuff, but at the end of the day, no, my skateboard was like the one and only toy that I really, really, really wanted and needed.

20:57 John S: So you know how some people talk about like they have… They did something when they were drinking, for example, they were golfing. And they… There was a… Whenever they went, when they golfed, they always drank or if they ever went out to a game, or… So did you have that association with skating?

21:11 Douglas S: Glad you’re bringing this up, because it totally hit, the last time I was in the hospital, and I talked about skateboarding being like a great coping tool and… But it’s for me, it’s a double-edged sword. Because drinking and like weed and other drug use is heavily associated with it. And it’s just around that culture, and most of the people I skated with, I smoked a lot of weed with and that was just, that was normal. So it was kind of a, like this last time I got out of detox, it took me, once it was almost a month, till I actually went out and skated.

21:52 John S: Wow.

21:53 Douglas S: Which since the last time I had skated before that, in my using I wasn’t skating at all. So it had been almost five months since I had really stepped on a board and did anything.

22:04 John S: How did that feel?

22:05 Douglas S: Rusty, rusty. There were some things I can do. It’s like jumping back on a bike and I can like do these certain things. But it’s still, you can feel like the lack of control you used to have, and I’m just now getting it back. I had a session the other night, that I really tapped into that zone, that it felt really good. And I was like learning new things and I could just… I could really feel that it will never go away from my brain… Like I’ll always know how to do these things, I know how to do it. But to have my body be like trained for it and being conditioned to do it, is a totally different story. And that argument between what I know I can do and what my body can do at that point in time, is always like this weird kind of thing.

22:54 John S: But it wasn’t that difficult to get back to it sober.

22:57 Douglas S: No.

22:57 John S: No.

22:57 Douglas S: No, if it’s… And that’s what it kind of goes back to you like do you think it hindered it. In a way it’s… If you can get past certain mind blocks, to me it’s easier. And at the end of the day like with the hindering or helping like…

23:13 John S: What do you mean by the mind blocks? Is it like the inhibitions of be the fear, maybe, of a certain…

23:19 Douglas S: It can be the fear like with the social anxiety type aspect of it, like drinking or drugging can kind of help with that side of stuff, or the other, someone has talked about doing their art work and they did their art work fucked up, they felt like they were more creative when they were like that and while there’s creative aspects to skateboarding, so you just… You’re so used to doing it in this type of mindset that now coming into it from a sober stance, like you feel like you might not be able to. Or just now you’re in these places with people you used that or used with and now you’re kind of different, so that might be running around in your brain. But anymore, I think it’s, before if you were using it to dull the pain, it would do it, but it wasn’t helping to heal you at all. It was just honestly hurting you more. And if you’re sober and you start to use techniques to dull the pain without drugs, like I started instead of taking in a shower and having shower beers, I started taking baths with Epsom salt.

24:27 Douglas S: And so similar, but one that’s like, ooh, a hot shower feels good, and beer to help all the pain. Or I can take a nice hot bath with Epsom salt and actually like relax, and heal my muscles and drink water, and not beer, so it’s dehydrate myself or it’s hydrate myself. Hmm, imagine which one’s actually like helping my body heal itself.

24:51 John S: Well, exactly, yeah.

24:51 Douglas S: Which one will actually make me feel better in the long run. So that’s… That’s where I think if you’re like being sober, you’re not going out all day hurting yourself and then staying out all night, hurting yourself some more. Whereas I go out and I kind of… And I potentially don’t get hurt. There are a lot of sessions that I don’t get hurt. And then there are sessions that’s all I do is just kind of, it comes with the territory.

25:16 John S: But you don’t wear hats or helmet or anything like that.

25:18 Douglas S: You learn to… You learn how… You learned how to fall.

25:21 John S: Right. Yeah, I saw him do that, Jim Greco in that film, he did a lot, he did a few… He made a few falls in the film.

25:28 Douglas S: Yeah. And that’s definitely not showing all his falls.

25:31 John S: Yeah, yeah.

25:31 Douglas S: And that’s another thing of the outside public and seeing when they do see skateboarding they usually see it in this… And it even messes with skateboarders, because we watch a video part and most of the video part, it’s going to be roughly 90% success. And you throw in a few falls in there, because there’s some shock value to it. But if you saw all the back footage to each of those clips, some of those takes are first try, first go, bam, you got it and some of those are 100-200 takes later. Some of those are three days’ worth of going back and forth trying to get that thing.

26:15 John S: That’s amazing. You know, when you watch it, something like that, I’m not thinking about what actually goes into…

26:21 Douglas S: Goes into making it, yeah. And it’s potentially on what…

26:26 John S: It shows you how good it is.

26:28 Douglas S: Yeah, yeah, and it makes it look easy. And that also just shows how long they’ve been doing it, to make themselves look that natural, and honestly a very unnatural thing to be riding around on a piece of wood that is not natural at all. But some of these people can make it look like that.

26:48 John S: He is very graceful, he was very graceful in that. I can see the artistic value in it, just the way that he moved and the way that he could just look at some object and figure out what he was going to do with it.

27:00 Douglas S: And usually, that’s kind of what inspires, like the object inspires you to do something different. Yeah, that’s where the creative side comes from. And I’ve always looked at it like dancing. I look at it as a very… I think you’re dancing on a piece of wood. That’s kind of how I’ve always looked at it and I always wanted to dance and just was too scared to ever do that and I found this other thing, it was like, “Oh, this is a little bit more socially acceptable,” and I liked it. Loved it, and it just, it fed all these different needs for me.

27:41 Douglas S: But yeah, touching kind of back on the you think you’re better sober. I definitely think so. Different people could argue this, but I remember even when I got high regularly, that there would be times where like, ope, I’m too high, I’m not able to skate how I want to skate. And then there’s sometimes like it’s the right strain, it’s like, ooh, I’m just the right high, this is great. And then I would get completely sober and I’d be skating and I’d be kind of going through that rusty period of, fuck, it’s been a little while since I’ve skated and trying to get it back. And I’m conditioning myself again and kind of what we call getting our skater legs, just kind of getting them back into shape. And once you do that, it’s kind of fine. And then I started dabbling with smoking again, and I would smoke and be like, oh, fuck, yeah, I cannot, I don’t know how I skated like this, like I can’t do this, like I can roll around, but I can’t trust myself basically, I can’t…

28:50 Douglas S: And I really need to have confidence and trust in my ability, because if I need to bail and get out of it, I need every little cat reflex I have in me to try to get away from it and not get hurt, and it just kind of anymore, and that’s why I also, I know a lot of dudes that do get pretty drunk when they skate. I always saved getting drunk for after, because I didn’t like being… I didn’t mind being that just fine line, a few in me and skating, but I didn’t want to, I didn’t want to lose any of those reflexes that I desperately knew I needed to keep from. My big thing is basically anything and hit the ground, but my head, that’s the one thing that I make sure does not hit the ground, and it still has, but not that many times.

29:45 Douglas S: So I just… Yeah, I would save my heavy drinking for after or just with my type of drinking, also, I was a shut-in drunk. So usually when I was really getting into drinking, I wasn’t doing anything, I wasn’t skating, I just wasn’t doing anything. I slept in my bed and slept for 20 hours and the only time I got up was, for a meal and to go get more, and that’s another reason why, kind of leaning back to the like has it been a double-edged sword and does it trigger you wanting to drink. It does and it doesn’t, because of that, because I’m more of a shut-in drunk, not all of my skating is associated with it, but some of it is, or a lot of it’s more… I don’t feel like getting drunk while I’m skating, but when I go home and I’m by myself again and I’m hurt and I’m sore, that’s when I start to think, hmm, beer sounds real good, or some Jim Beam sounds real good.

30:46 John S: That makes sense.

30:47 Douglas S: But for me, I’ve never been that outrageous, like big partier. That was never attractive to me. I’m kind of loud and obnoxious, but competing with other loud and obnoxious people, I guess I don’t like it, I don’t know, I just normally, I’ve just not been super attracted to that.

31:07 John S: I was kind of a solitary drinker. I was kind of odd, though, I would, I would start drinking, I would drink in bars, but I was pretty much by myself.

31:16 Douglas S: While you were there.

31:17 John S: Yes.

31:17 Douglas S: Yeah, yeah, and that’s, when I have drank in bars, I’ve either been with one friend that I really liked and we were there to play pool or do whatever or yeah, I was like, I would happen to be drinking by myself or when I was driving a semi, I started doing that a little bit more, because that was the only place I really could drink, while I was out there was… And it was kind of fun to be in a different state, different city and just sit at a bar and be like, “Oh, is this any different? Not really.” Like it really wasn’t, but it was still kind of interesting to do. Yeah, it’s just, it’s all the same and it’s not at all at the same time, and it just… It just makes it where I can still go on trips with friends that use and whatever, but I try to… [chuckle] I’ve been on trips where there’s enough people to have two cars, and there’s the smoking car and the non-smoking car. I usually…

32:18 John S: Are those for skateboarding trips?

32:20 Douglas S: Yeah, you literally go drive to the other side of Kansas to go find this one…

32:25 John S: Really? [chuckle]

32:25 Douglas S: To go to this one skatepark and skate there all day. We’ll take that three, three-and-a-half, four-hour trip out to Wichita and go skate Wichita, and then there’s Derby Park and there’s a couple of others. And then, you potentially street-skate, and yeah, you take mini… Depending on how much time you have, you take mini-vacations. And that’s why my thing is, ever since a little kid, people talk about going on vacation, I can never not think about taking my skateboard on a vacation. That’s… People are like, “Oh, I want to go see the sights.” Going and seeing the sights, for me, is just…

33:01 John S: You want to skateboard on the sights. [laughter]

33:02 Douglas S: Yeah, I want to skateboard on the sights. It’s something that it’s so pretty that I can skateboard. And that that can be the mountains. I’ve seen people, like desert mountains that have skated on them, and they look like they should be skated, they look like these waves that have just been cut out into the earth, and it’s like, “Yeah, I want to play on that, that looks awesome.”

33:24 John S: That’s funny.

33:25 Douglas S: And I don’t know, that’s just… Again, that’s where it’s warped my perception and just… That’s part of vacation to me, is doing something that I enjoy, and that’s what would get me to the other side of the country or the other side of the world, is the drive to want to skate something else. To see something else and to skate it. And then, with it comes… Like you see in the video, not all of them is doing… Trying to accomplish these hard tricks. Sometimes it’s just like, “I’m skating.” Just skating down the road and skating through. And you see a lot… They showcase in that a lot of hard LA life, of tent cities down the street and these different things, and that’s one of the greatest things about skating. And then, when you go to other places and skating, you’re going just fast enough to see a lot of stuff, but just slow enough to really look around and see it and take it in a little bit more. I feel the same way with riding a bike around, whether that be a road bike or BMX bike, or whatever. You’re going just fast enough to get to the other side of the city, but just slow enough to really…

34:42 John S: You can actually get around pretty well on a skateboard, can’t you?

34:43 Douglas S: You can. Half of the time, I’m as fast as the buses.

34:46 John S: Wow, yeah.

34:48 Douglas S: Just because they stop a lot and I don’t. And definitely, if it’s more short-distance, because how I skate is a sprint more than a long thing, but the more you get your conditioning back and stuff… There have been times where I’ve went to donate plasma and blood and my heart rate is almost too low, where they’re freaking out and they’re like, “Wait, wait, wait, wait, are you athletic?” I’m like, “Yeah, I skate every day, I ride bikes and stuff.” And they’re like, “Oh, okay, your heart rate’s 41, you’re freaking us out.” I was like, “No, no, I’m just fleek, I’m just okay. I’m fine, I’m relaxed and I’m not worried about anything,” and just, my heart rate stays low. It doesn’t have to work that hard. So, skateboarding is super, super physical, and physical throughout the entire body, and it’s one hell of a cardio workout. So, if you want to lose some weight, go skate some hills.

35:37 John S: I do need to lose some weight.

[laughter]

35:40 Douglas S: And there’s safe ways to skateboard. You can just skate some walking trails and still have the risk of falling.

35:46 John S: Well, it’s funny, I’ve never been an adrenaline junkie. I do like… The things I used to like to do were running and bike riding.

35:55 Douglas S: You get some of that, and more of the… Not just the adrenaline, but just the runner’s high, that endorphin release.

36:00 John S: Yes, you get those endorphin release, you absolutely do, absolutely.

36:04 Douglas S: And that comes from it, it doesn’t have to be…

36:07 John S: I don’t like that feeling of being on a rollercoaster, where you’re falling or you’re…

36:12 Douglas S: You don’t get that… [chuckle] Well, okay, depending on what you’re… If you’re jumping down big sets of stairs or you’re airing out at stuff, you get that falling-ness…

36:19 John S: Well, he was like… Jim Greco was jumping over the roof, I was there. [chuckle]

36:22 Douglas S: Yeah, yeah. That gives you that sense of falling. And I also just like the sense of… I really like skating down really big hills, and we call it bombing hills. And you’re teeter-tottering on this edge of making it or crashing. And that adrenaline of coming from, like, “Almost just ate the ground, but I didn’t,” that feeling of accomplishment and just the adrenaline of knowing, like, “That would have really hurt, but I didn’t have to go through it,” so then you feel… You just get overcome with adrenaline and endorphins and all this other stuff. That feels really good.

37:05 Douglas S: But I’ve also used that to self-harm. I’ve been in bad emotional states, and instead of cutting myself or something, I go find the biggest, fattest hill I can and push mad at it and, “Well, if I make it, I make it, if I don’t, cool, because I get to focus this pain physically somewhere because I’m feeling all this other stuff.” And I’ve found some other people in the skateboarding community that have, like, “Dude, I know what you’re talking about.” And we’ve had conversations about using it to self-harm. And again, that’s just comes back to where it can be this…

37:40 John S: Is that a form of escape, the self-harm?

37:42 Douglas S: Yeah.

37:42 John S: Is that almost like drugging and drinking?

37:45 Douglas S: I think so. I think so. because it gives you a way to focus it on something. because even when you’re drunk, you’re kind of… I never was able to really get rid of the pain.

37:58 John S: Right. Unfortunately. Sometimes, you just kind of… [chuckle]

38:00 Douglas S: It just focuses the pain in this different way, and it’s focused not on whatever, it’s just focused on, like, my drunk pain now. And I think it helps you focus on one thing or the other, instead of what you’re potentially running from. And that’s more my experience, and I haven’t had a lot of self-harm type.

38:27 John S: No.

38:28 Douglas S: Not things that I would have considered self-harm at the time but now, I realize different actions I’m like, “Ooh, yeah, yeah.” That kind of… That definitely was… I’m very, have a habit of self-sabotaging and stuff like that.

38:40 John S: I think it’s interesting that you, that on the one hand, skateboarding is very healthy. It’s something that you enjoy and I think it’s important to have a passion in your life like that. Especially, it’s great that if we’re going to be clean and sober, we may as well enjoy our life, right?

38:57 Douglas S: Yeah, yeah. Otherwise, why are we doing it?

38:58 John S: Exactly, exactly. But at the same time, you also recognize…

39:02 Douglas S: It’s so dark.

39:03 John S: As part of your addiction it’s like you understand that you have to figure out a way to do it in a healthy way, I guess.

39:11 Douglas S: Yeah, yeah, to balance the two.

39:13 John S: Yeah, have the balance.

39:14 Douglas S: And for me, to touch lightly on what I think a drug is to me and from any research I’ve done, a drug is a mind-altering substance. And to me, everything alters your mind. So there’s… You can… Everything and nothing can be very healthy and very self-abuse all at the same time and there’s just finding that happy medium with it. And it’s definitely… It’s way easier to use drugs to fall off the deep end, but you can use a lot of other stuff to escape responsibilities and how you feel and all that stuff, too, and still be harming yourself. It might not be as fast. Alcohol is really not that fast as heroin or other things, but it’s still faster than a lot of other methods to do that with.

40:10 John S: So do you know any other skateboarders that are in recovery in Kansas City?

40:14 Douglas S: Personally, yeah, yeah, actually, a handful, and then some that I didn’t know that were that are older. And recently, I was telling you about that Over It article that Thrasher put out. They had had it physically in their magazine and I picked up that magazine. Then later on, I was looking at their website and they had posted the same article onto their website feed, onto their blog feed or whatever you call that. And so then, I shared it on my Facebook. And from there, someone that I just, more of an acquaintance in skateboarding in the city that I know, was like, “Oh, that was really a good article. I’ve been clean I don’t even remember how long or whatever, but just like I’ll never go back.” It just kind of shared a little bit of that and I was like, “Oh.” I didn’t know him as a partier necessarily, but I didn’t know he was explicitly sober either.

41:14 Douglas S: It had been in the program or through the program or whatever. And then I’ve had friends that I feel like the seed has been planted potentially in other places in their life and then being close with me has planted a seed. And they’ve come to me and just asked me about what my experience has been and what I think and stuff like that. And I’m very open about it, I don’t really care. I’m not ashamed by it at all and I’m glad that if they have questions, I’m more than happy to know what my viewpoint is on it. And none of them to this day are sober at this moment, but I know the seed’s planted. And I know they’re looking at what they’re doing and I know they’re questioning where they’re at with it. And fuck, when one friend came to me, it made me extremely happy and sad, because I was like, “Damn it.” I thought, I was really hoping you were teetering on the edge, that you could still be a normal drinker, but now, you’re coming to me with these certain things and I’m like, “Fuck, you’re welcome to the group, bud. You’re with us. You’re one of us.”

42:37 Douglas S: That made me… It made me extremely happy that he was opening up and expressing to me what he was feeling, but it made me extremely sad that he’s now potentially an addict. And that will never really go away. So it kind of had this thing to it. And I’m… Oh, actually, yes. So I live at the Welcome House and this is my second time being there. The first time I went was in March of this year, of 2019, and I lasted a whole maybe 12 hours. I got there in the afternoon, I left by 5 o’clock in the morning the next day. That was for some, a lot of other different reasons and I kind of freaked the fuck out. And I ran, which is totally my MO is to run.

43:25 Douglas S: But when I first got there, this guy and I, we recognized each other and he came up to me and he’s just like, “Oh, you’re Douglas, right?” And I was like, “Yeah, you’re blah?” And he was like, “Yeah.” And I was like, “So what are you doing here?” And he was like, “Well, I work here.” I was like, “Oh, okay. Cool. Where have you been?” He was this guy that very involved in the skate scene in Kansas City. He was like, I won’t give too many details. I’m sure he wouldn’t care, but I haven’t talked to him about it, so I’m not going to. But yeah, a very, very well-known person and I hadn’t seen him around in a long time. In a long time, meaning a few years. I was thinking, “Oh, what happened to you?” And he was like, “Well, I came here a few years back and I stopped skating and I’ve been clean and I’m happier for it.” And I was just blown away.

44:15 John S: Wow.

44:15 Douglas S: Blown away that he was clean, didn’t realize he had had that big of a problem with it. I knew he definitely came from a group that… Or some pretty… Really good skateboarders and very heavy partiers, too. I just didn’t know necessarily that was affecting… From the outside, it didn’t seem like it was affecting him badly, but we all know how good we are at hiding stuff like that. And then it blew me away for the first time that getting rid of skateboarding in your life could have this positive thing. And that definitely…

44:25 John S: He completely stopped.

44:25 Douglas S: He completely, that I know of, he does not skate at all.

44:25 John S: Wow.

44:25 Douglas S: Which for some people that might be better. And I had… And that was the first time I had ever considered, like skateboarding was my first love, just… I really can’t see myself not doing it. And I still kind of don’t. But that started this kind of adventure I had of where I no longer needed it. I just kind of want it, and I like it to be there, but it’s not, it’s not like, I don’t have this withdrawal from not getting it, it’s… I have a little bit of a different relationship with it now. And that was really nice to see, and it was just really good to see him be clean and be successful and be content and happy with what he was doing now. He’s gotten a different job so he doesn’t work with Welcome House anymore. But it wasn’t for anything… It was just because he’s moving on to bigger, better things that he wants to pursue. It wasn’t because he went back out or anything like that, and that was like, so I came back, and he was still working, but then they were like, “Oh, he’s leaving.” I’m like, “Wait, what happened?”

45:55 Douglas S: And they’re like, “Oh, no, no, it’s okay, he’s just… He’s gone off to do his thing.” And I was like, “Oh, cool, yes, he’s leaving, that’s a little sad he’s leaving. I would have liked to be here and be able to talk to him a little more, but like, cool, he’s, he’s found another job doing what he wants to do.” And the more, the more open I am about it, the more that type of stuff, being able to post that on my Facebook and then, people comment on it. That’s what made this one friend reach out to me. He had seen me go through my last two years really close-up, but that was the first time he was reaching out and was like, “Hey, what’s your meetings like?” And I know there’s a few people in his life that potentially could use AA and A help, and I didn’t want to single him out, so I was like, “So, who are you thinking about?” And he was like, “I’m thinking of me.” I was like, “I’m really glad if you’re… You can come to me,” and stuff like that. And it was that article that kind of triggered it for him.

47:02 John S: because he knew he could come to me, but it’s something about… That was an article, all of this handful of skaters, and he’s a skater, and that’s what helped me with the whole Jim Greco thing. It’s… And with other people in the skate industry that are now clean that are pro, we’ve been watching them since we were little kids. And we’ve idolized them and looked up to them. They’re like, they’re our pro athletes, they’re are role models or whatever. And in a lot of ways, not the best role models. It was like… If some of the companies Jim Greco comes from, like if you’re bombed, like if were to watch those skate videos, it would be like, “You are never skateboarding again.” They would definitely not be into it, but if you’ve watched the full circle of where they’ve come from, what they did, what they’re doing, where they’re now at, you’d be like, ” I want you to watch this because this is… “

48:00 John S: Well, I’m glad that you suggested that because it’s gotten me to think about, it’s gotten me to learn a little bit about something I knew nothing about.

48:07 Douglas S: Yeah.

48:08 John S: Absolutely, got me to know you better. It got me to appreciate just the art of skateboarding. And I’ve always liked this topic of an artist in recovery. I’ve talked to like… Well, a poet and I haven’t talked to a musician yet, but I’ve talked to a poet and a couple of comedians.

48:31 Douglas S: Ooh, comedy would be really hard, I feel like sober. Marc Maron is a sober comedian, he talks about that. I had a friend get me on to his book and he made a TV show and he has, he does a podcast too.

48:46 John S: Oh, really? I should check that out. The comedy thing is really interesting to me. That’s quite an art too and it’s not easy.

48:56 Douglas S: No, I could… It seems really cool and I like it and I like to make people laugh, but man, I could not imagine…

49:04 John S: But there’s quite a few sober comedians out there that are recovering.

49:08 Douglas S: Yeah, yeah, he’s the first one that comes to mind, I’m trying to…

49:11 John S: My sponsor was actually one.

49:13 Douglas S: Really?

49:13 John S: Yeah, my old sponsor, he was a comedian and still is, he plays in places like South Dakota. [chuckle]

49:21 Douglas S: Hey, everybody needs to laugh. Everybody needs to laugh. Yeah, I think it’s really cool to see artists in recovery and just how they tackle it and go about it and…

49:35 John S: I like to see them. I like this whole idea that you’re in recovery, you can enjoy your life, you can do that, you can do things that you like to do… You can do them better. There’s no reason that you shouldn’t pursue those things.

49:49 Douglas S: No, like going… A lot of people feel like they can’t go to shows anymore, they can’t go to concerts. And I haven’t been to a whole lot of concerts in general, but people, and it’s also not such a big trigger for me to have people drinking around me. Sometimes it’s annoying…

50:09 John S: It bothers me, if they’re like out of control drunk, but just sitting around drinking a drink doesn’t bother me at all.

50:13 Douglas S: It’s whatever…

50:14 John S: I think nothing of it. But like in my face drunk…

50:18 Douglas S: Then it’s more offensive and annoying and that would have been offensive and annoying to me when I was using, I just would have been more prompt to like say something about it versus have boundaries and kind of separate myself from it. So I’ve still had a lot of enjoyment going to shows and just still having a lot of fun with that. And same with being around other skateboarders. I just don’t go to the after-party. I’m there for the party at the skate park or the party going through the streets or whatever, but when it gets to the heavy smoke session afterwards or the drink session or whatever, I just… That’s when I take my leave and just… I just really have no business to be there anymore, I don’t get any, I don’t get anything from it and I’m not really giving anything to it besides possibly being the guy with a bad attitude in the corner going, “Urgh, look at them.” Like, no one. I’m the buzz kill at that point, and they’re kind of the buzz kill to me.

51:20 Douglas S: So it was just, I’d just rather, rather not be there. I think it’s unfortunate when people think they can’t do things that they used to like to do just because they’ve tainted it with their drug use. And sometimes it just takes a while to get that back. It took a while to kind of take skateboarding back for me and to be able to kind of change my relationship with it, but I think it’s worth trying, if it really does bring you bring your enjoyment.

51:53 John S: I think something I stopped when I drank, and I’m glad I stopped it and I’ll never do it again. Listening to country music.

52:00 Douglas S: Okay. Fair. Fair enough.

52:05 John S: For whatever reason, probably because I grew up out in the country and everything, Kansas and… And I’d go to these bars where they have a jukebox, they play country music, and country music was the background of my life when I was drinking, right, but it was kind of depressing music, too.

52:23 Douglas S: Some country music, yeah, definitely is.

52:25 John S: Now, the stuff they call country music now is nothing like the stuff that…

52:29 Douglas S: Like pop country and stuff, yeah.

52:30 John S: I remember, I was like, “I want to hit bottom.” My drinking… It’s like I didn’t even listen to music for a while, but I definitely wouldn’t listen to country music.

52:39 Douglas S: Yeah, I remember filling out… One of my first times in detox, filling out like a safety sheet or whatever, and it’s like, what are some of your triggers? And I was like, certain music, certain music that I have associated with certain people, and then what those people have these certain things attached to it. So yeah, that makes me super depressed, that I was like…

52:58 John S: I realized that I like other music better.

53:00 Douglas S: There you go. I’m glad it expanded your music. I love all kinds of music. It’s fun switching it up. I can’t just get into one genre. That’s what I like about skateboarding.

53:12 John S: I do kind of like bluegrass, I have to admit that.

53:14 Douglas S: Do you? Hey, I think it’s like a better version of country.

53:17 John S: It is. Alright, man, well, I enjoyed this, thank you very much.

53:20 Douglas S: You too. Thanks for having me over. That was, this is a great idea.

53:23 John S: It was fun, it was.

53:24 Douglas S: I love your podcast, it’s what brought me to finding We Agnostics, and I loved it, it was so trippy like listening to your podcasts, finding the group then coming into the group and the first time I heard you, I was like, “Oh, that’s the guy, that’s him. Oh, that’s good.”

53:43 John S: I love doing the podcast.

53:44 Douglas S: I think it’s such an awesome thing and I still run into people that don’t know what a podcast is.

53:51 John S: Isn’t that funny?

53:52 Douglas S: I’m like, “Well, it’s talk radio on the internet.”

53:54 John S: You know, before I did this podcast, I didn’t know anything about it either, before I started doing this one. I was like, I think I was actually, I actually did a podcast, before I actually ever listened to one. I was in a podcast with… No, that’s probably not true. I used to listen to some atheist podcasts, when I was going to that period when I was realizing I was an atheist. I’d listen to these all the time, there’s quite a few of them.

54:17 Douglas S: Yeah, I love them, they’re so… They’re just a great way to gain information and just news and just, I don’t know, just kind of getting in touch with different things.

54:28 John S: And they’re funny because you have these little niches. So we have this little niche podcast that’s like atheists in AA. because AA is a niche, then you have the other little even more nichey than that. So, anyway, thanks again, appreciate it.

54:46 John S: And that’s another episode of AA Beyond Belief. Thank you so much for listening. Hey, if you’d like to help out our site and podcast, there’s a couple of things you can do. First of all, go over to iTunes and leave us a review, hopefully a favorable one. You can also help out financially with either a recurring or a one-time contribution. You can do this by setting up small recurring donations at our Patreon page, which you can find at patreon.com/aabeyondbelief, or through PayPal at PayPal.me/aabeyondbelief. And you can always visit our site, aabeyondbelief.org and click on the donate button. Thanks again for listening, we’ll be back again real soon with another episode of AA Beyond Belief, the podcast.

Mentioned in the Podcast

“Over It — Skaters, Drugs and Alcohol” Thrasher Magazine 


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