“Mr. Langdon, wake up please, it’s time for your medication.”
What? Where the hell was I? What did I just swallow….My eyes roll back into my head. I sleep for what seems like a week. The room is dark. My socked feet hit a smooth floor. I rub my eyes and bury my face into my hands. I have no idea what I’ve done this time. No recollection. I’m hoping that I haven’t hurt anyone, but deep down, I know I have. It’s par for the course. I don’t recognize this room. I’d panic, but I’m totally numb to emotion. Must have been what they gave me. I shuffle through the cracked door and stumble into a brightly lit hallway. I see people in the same condition as me. I’m surrounded by the walking dead. Zombies. I see a window and aim for it, gradually getting there to see humans behind thick plastic wearing similar clothes. “Can someone help me please?”
“Mr. Langdon, medication is in one hour. You will be meeting with the psychologist in ten minutes. Do you still feel like you want to hurt yourself?”
That was my first trip to the psychiatric ward. It’s a bit fuzzy, but I do remember most of it.
I can’t breathe. Why is my face numb? These cold clothes feel good. I can’t stop shaking or crying. Why are all these people around me? Why am I on the floor? Another panic attack. My 5th one today. Unreal. This is it. I’ve finally lost my shit. The business got to me. It broke me. It fractured me so deep that I cannot continue. What will I do with the rest of my life? I’ve only ever cooked. It’s all I know. Oh my fucking god, I’m never going to cook again…..cue the 6th panic attack. Time to go to the hospital. “How do you feel?”
“I’m ok, I just can’t stop shaking…it won’t stop. I’m coming unraveled and this isn’t me. I’m a piece of granite. A stone wall. Unbreakable. Please help me.”
“Do you ever feel like hurting yourself?”
“Well, yes, I’ve thought about it before, but could never!! I’ve two beautiful sons. I could never be so selfish.”
Everyone leaves the room. A nurse enters. “Take this. It will calm you down.” What? Where the hell was I? What did I just swallow? “Michael, take this anti-depressant and take this klonopin. It will help sort things out for you.”
“PUT DOWN THE GUN!!! DROP IT NOW!!”
How did the cops get alerted? What is going on? An angel on my shoulders must have let them know I needed help. “Fuck you. You want my gun; you’re going to have to take it from me. It’s loaded, with hollow points. You want to shoot me, go on. I don’t give a fuck anymore. You can’t come into my yard assholes. Stand by my fence and wonder, you pricks. Fuck off.” I was really hoping they would shoot me and just end it all. I saw no way out of this hell. I finally empty the chamber, and release the magazine. I open my gate and let them in. I’m on the ground and in handcuffs before I can blink. As I’m getting escorted to the car, the family pulls up. My children. They watch along with the entire neighborhood as I get thrown into the back of a cop car. My second trip to the psych ward. I’d like to mention I was out in less than 24 hours. I manipulated doctors and psychiatrists. People with degrees to deal with people just like me.
I arrive in Syracuse, New York. I was to do a cooking demo, center stage for a very large food show. Lights, camera, fucking action!! From what I’ve been told, I did quite well. I’ll attribute it to muscle memory. It’s food. I can do that in my sleep. I guess it went so well, I decided to stop at the bar. I forgot that I wasn’t supposed to drink on all the medication I was on, but I suppose the morphine pills I was eating would counter it all and I would be ok. I was wrong. I woke up to accusations. I smashed a hotel room to shreds. I practically put my fist through an iron wall and severed several parts of my knife hand. Nerve damage. Way to go. My room looked like the seen from American Psycho. Cue Huey Lewis….security…cops…thousands in damages…I woke up on the side of a highway, still bleeding, not remembering a single thing that happened. I hope I haven’t hurt anyone, but I had. Again. I hurt everyone. Everyone I ever cared about. I needed help. A help I couldn’t give myself. I called a local drug and alcohol rehabilitation establishment.
Those were the final weeks before I was given my second chance. Looking back now, the most important time of my life. If I hadn’t gone through that, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I’ve changed my way of thinking. My perspective.
“Hello, my name is Michael, and I’m an alcoholic.” By now, after reading my last days, I’m certain you have figured out I have problems. Our industry runs rampant with addiction. It’s often glorified, and it’s utter fucking bullshit. I didn’t dream of becoming an alcoholic. It certainly wasn’t on my bucket list. But here I am. I went to meetings. My sponsor relapsed. I started my steps, and got a new job. I ventured out on my own. I did everything they tell you not to do. Was it right? I don’t know. What is? Who really knows what’s best? The people in the rooms. They do. The big book. It does. I wake up with my fish and my ceiling fan. My best friends. I don’t see my kids every morning. I’m bitter. I’m resentful. But I’m alive and I’m so grateful. I focus now on the good in life. I practice patience. I’ve lost a bit of my kitchen ‘edge.’ But I’m not angry anymore. I’m blessed. There is so much good in this world. You just have to view it with the right perspective. So much beauty. Have I stumbled along the way? Fuck yes…I’m just being honest. But I’m not the guy I used to be. I’ve shared this story for the first time ever, with you. I hope it helps. Know that you are not alone. We can relate. I wake up everyday with a smile on my face. Life is good. I’m doing it. On my own. Trust me, if I can, anything is possible.
I’ve shared this story in hopes that it might help one person. If it does, it was worth it. Will this story shock those who know me? Perhaps. Will it embarrass others? It may. But it seems that is their problem, not mine, as I do my best to be honest with myself these days. I’m still a work in progress and have a lot to learn, but I do know I participate in life now. When I get a chance to pull away from a busy work week I don’t spend it on the couch relaxing. I take my sons on adventures. I teach them to be boys. We unplug. We jump off cliffs into water. We skin our knees and twist our ankles. And we laugh. We laugh so loud. Things have changed quite a bit for me since last April. In every way possible. This…this path, is doable. Have faith.
This November, 2015, I’ll be venturing to New York City. Greenwich Village. I’ll be cooking at the prestigious James Beard House. Number two on my bucket list. Never in a million years would I have dreamt of such an honor. But here I am. Anything is possible, if you want it badly enough. Including sobriety. Stick around for my journey because I have my mind set on my number one.
Chef Michael Langdon is a writer and contributor for Culination Magazine