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Great Read from (UFC Fighter) Evan Tanner's Blog
Evan Tanner's the guy who lost in the second round to Yushin Okami on Saturday night. I knew he'd been out of the fight game for a while, but I didn't know about all this. Very well written... worth the time.
Defining Moments, thoughts on the fight this past weekend.
I don’t write the following for my own sake, because I feel putting all of it out there is a path to self healing. I don’t write this, seeking words of encouragement, or advice, or hoping for understanding. That is not what I'm looking for. I know my path, and I am walking it. I have always walked it.
I have written about the drinking problem I had knowing there will be talk, knowing I will be misunderstood, knowing I will be criticized and ridiculed. A big, tough fighter so weak and emotional. I don’t mind, my shoulders are strong enough to bear the weight. I write this, and I am willing to face all the ridicule and laughter, in the hope, in the belief that this story may have meaning to others out there. It is a message of frailty, and of the strength that each of us has. It is a message of belief, and it is a message of hope. If these words reach even one person, if this message helps even a single individual, then it is all worth it.
If you you don't want to read it all and just want a quick summary, you can find it at the bottom of the page.
There are moments in life when all that a man is, is put to the test. His strength, his honor, his fundamental character, it is all on the line. It is the thoughts passing through a man’s mind, the decisions made, the actions taken in these rare moments that define a man, minutes or seconds that can shape the course of a man’s life.
This last weekend I faced one of those defining moments that come rarely in the course of a lifetime. In an interview, I said the fight this last weekend was the most important fight of my entire life, and it was, but not in the way that most may think. Oh, I am extremely disappointed in the defeat, embarrassed beyond belief. I feel so bad to have disappointed so many people. I feel I embarrassed my coach, my school, the Team Tanner members, and everyone who believed in me and stood by me. I am deeply hurt that I couldn’t do better for them. I lost the fight, and I am embarrassed…………….. but I won the war. I will explain.
Five months ago, I was near the end, I sincerely believe I was near the end of my life. It was the culmination of 15 or more years of heavy, heavy drinking, I won’t go into the details of how my life fell apart. I had lost everything I had worked for, everything good in my life. I lost my home, my fiancÚ, the beautiful woman I had been with for seven years, almost all of my friends, most of what I owned, my self respect, and the respect of those around me. I lost almost everything. I almost lost myself. I was very close to living on the streets. Late last year I was staying with a friend, sleeping on his couch. I had no where else to go. As I said, I had been drinking very heavily for fifteen years, long before I ever even thought about fighting. The last year and a half I went deeper than I’ve ever been before. I was doing nothing but drinking, nothing. I had a beer or a mixed drink in my hand from the moment I woke up until the moment I passed out again. My health was failing quickly. I couldn’t stay awake for more than a few hours at a time. I had no time reference. I woke when I woke, and slept when I slept, morning, afternoon, evening, day or night didn’t matter. I couldn’t eat. The drinking had completely killed my appetite. I couldn’t hold food down. I remember so many times struggling over a meal, feeling I had accomplished something by forcing down a few bites, only to throw it all up minutes later. Sometimes I would go days without eating, but I couldn’t bear to go without drinking. I was becoming extremely malnourished. My body hurt, my joints ached, my teeth were getting loose, and I could feel it in my eyes.
My kidneys had been aching for that last year and a half. I could feel them, a dull persistent ache. I was having trouble with them, one of the symptoms being the swelling of my lower legs from water retention. It was a scary thing to look down and not recognize the legs below me, the misshapen, swollen flesh.
But none of it mattered, as long as I had my drink, as long as I could numb the incredible, crushing, debilitating anxiety. It was an anxiety so intense, words are incapable of describing it. I would wake up, my body shaking and jittering, that crushing anxiety taking my breath away, feeling that everything in the world is wrong, everything I’ve ever done is wrong, and everything I will ever do is wrong, and there was nothing I could do to make is all better, to make it all make sense, overwhelmed with the incredible complexity of it all. Unbearable pain and emptiness. Waking, looking for the bottle I was holding before I found a moment of peace in sleep. It’s not there. Shuffling to the refrigerator, shaking, dizzy, grabbing a beer, standing with the door open pounding it, then grabbing the twelve pack and taking it back to the couch. Five or six beers and I could breath again. Everything was going to be okay, for a few hours anyway, as long as I had plenty to drink. An endless cycle, over and over again.
The alcohol had taken away everything good in my life, and I knew it was killing me, but I could not stop. I was addicted. That is who I had become. That is who I was five months ago.
I decided one day that I was done with it. I set a date: October 10, 2007. On that day, I quit drinking, cold, no weaning my way off of it, no rehab, no drugs, nothing to ease the pain. And I suffered. It was the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life.
I packed up all that I had left, and went to Las Vegas to begin rebuilding my life. I had no place to stay, and no money. I had no real plan other than not drinking. I knew I just had to get there, and I would find a way to make things work. I spent the first weeks sleeping on the floor at my friend’s gym. I was so thankful to have a place that was warm. From there, everything started coming together. I had some good friends help me out with money, and help me get into an apartment. I spoke with the UFC and was offered a contract. It seemed that since I had made the decision to stop drinking, the fates had gotten behind me. Everything was just working out.
I began training again about mid October, so lightly at first. I could barely move. I had been near collapsing just a week before. It is said that alcohol is one of the worst addictions, and the withdrawals can be more intense than any other. It is said that it is so intense that many die during the detox period. I had moments when I first quit that my chest and arm would start cramping and my heart would pound strangely. I had made the decision to stop drinking was going to stand by it. I thought that if I died while trying, then so be it, but I was done drinking. I had some scary moments. I was extremely frail, so getting into training was very difficult. I had to start very slowly. I didn’t want to collapse in the gym, and I didn’t want to injure myself permanently.
I slowly got my appetite back, and began eating again. I set up an very strict diet and trained everyday. I began to feel a little better as the days went by. I signed the fight for UFC 82 and began to get in shape for that. I started the Team Tanner project, and began work on a lot of other projects. Everything was falling into place. Everything seemed to be going great, but the drinking, my addiction was still fresh on my mind. I had quit drinking, but I knew my greatest test would be when I had to face extreme disappointment. I was afraid of that test. It would be then that I would be at my weakest, and then that it would be so easy to fall back into the old habits.
My fight at UFC 82 could arguably be considered the most important of my “fight” career. I was an aging former world champion trying to break into the scene again after a long layoff. I sat out as the sport evolved, and it was said that I was too old, and the sport had passed me by, that my day was done. I could be said that there was so much riding on that fight, that there was so much to prove, …and there was.
I sat alone with my coach in the dressing room after the fight. No words, nothing to say, both just sitting there staring at the floor. It was an unbearably heavy sadness. We sat there without words, as the tears came to my eyes. I had to stand up and walk away as they rolled down my face. I didn’t want to bother my coach with them. They were mine, mine to deal with.
I had just stepped out of the Octagon where I had stood face to face with one of the top fighters in the world, but it was there, in the dressing room behind the scenes after the fight that night, that I waged my greatest battle. It would have been so easy to have picked up the bottle again in that moment, to have made the decision to go back to it. I could have thought “I tried so hard, I did everything right, and this is my reward?” I could have cursed the heavens and gone back to the bottle. My addiction was still fresh with me. It would have been so easy. And the thought was there, tempting me, teasing me.
That moment, in the silence of the dressing room, faced with crushing disappointment, numbing embarrassment, and that heavy sadness, I faced the old demons. I felt so low, as if everything had been lost. I wanted to drink. I faced those old demons again, and I beat them down. I won the battle, and I won the war. I didn’t drink, and I won’t. That was my great test, one I had to face before I could really move on. I passed it. I stand triumphant, solid, UNSHAKEABLE.
The loss at UFC 82 was a setback, and I am very disappointed in that, but considering what I just came out of, the fact that I was near collapsing just months ago, that I was almost on the streets, I feel it was huge that I was even able to step into the ring again. I faced my fears, and my greatest weakness, and won. Despite the loss, I'm feeling very good, and highly motivated. There is still a belt out there to win. Now it’s time to get to work. I’m not going anywhere. I’m back in training this week.
Five months ago I was struggling with a severe drinking problem. I quit cold turkey, suffered through the detox, moved to Vegas to get back into training and get my life back together. I stayed away from the drinking, worked my ass off, and everything was coming together. I knew though that as well as it seemed things were going, it would be easy to fall back into the drinking. I knew that taking such a huge fight at UFC 82, after such a long lay off was a huge risk, and if I lost, it would be a disappointment that might easily cause me to take up drinking again. I lost the fight, and I really feel bad about that, but I didn't break down and start drinking again. I haven't been away from it long, and it would have been easy to fall back into it. That was the big test, and I passed it. I'm solid. I'm back into full time training this week. The fight was a setback, but I'm not done. There's still a belt to win.
Last edited by KcMizzou; 03-05-2008 at 05:39 PM..
Reason: added link