Dater column: Thank you
Five and one-half years ago, this was the kind of thing I promised myself I would give just one chance at writing, a happy ending to the story of Adrian Dater. And, things weren’t looking too promising.
In December of 2014, nearly 25 calendar years working at the Denver Post, I was just coming off a two-week suspension for using foul language on Twitter, when I got in even more trouble on Twitter. Then, I was gone, told to turn in my building badge and ID and escorted out of the building. I broke down in the lobby of the building. I sobbed like a baby. I needed to be driven home by someone else, it was determined. I was unsafe to myself, it was believed. A long-time co-worker, Allen Daniel, drove me home in my own car. I could just stare out the window, thinking, “I can’t believe this. Please don’t let this be real. Please, please let me wake up from this bad dream.” I had to go home and tell my wife what had happened, some of which had been previously deceptive to her. I really didn’t think I’d make it a few more days, at tops. No way was I going to be able to overcome this kind of blow to my personal and professional reputation. I had always known I was a flawed, yet overall decent person. Smart, yet dumb sometimes, you know?
Now, I thought I would be judged a creep forever, no matter how much I knew I wasn’t. Or, just a loser who shot his mouth off one too many times. At heart, I was a nice guy, but with a few problems. I drank too much. Most of my writing heroes all had serious drinking issues. Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Thompson, Burrows, Kesey, Kerouac, Hitchens – they were all shitfaced half the time. I grew up in the business thinking “you’ve got to work hard, AND play hard. Drinking is part of the job, you’re not a real writer if you dont’!” I did just fine living like that for about the first 15 years on the job. Then, suddenly, I couldn’t sleep. I’d go two and three full nights without any sleep. I was in physical pain a lot, with major back issues. I drank more to combat both issues, believing it was the John Wayne way to decide such things. I tended toward rash impulses at times, especially when I was drinking. I thought it was all fanciful and fun – and for a long time, it was. Until it wasn’t.
On Dec. 5, 2014, I was one day removed from almost a quarter-century working at a great newspaper, for publicly unacceptable behavior. I didn’t think I’d make it much longer. I went from staying in the fanciest of hotels in December of 2014 to shoveling snow as a substitute gym teacher in February of 2015. I remember standing in that parking lot thinking “how did this happen?”
I struggled along teaching public school somehow, but I was tormented all day and all night by what had happened. I was standing in the middle of a room teaching 2nd graders how to use a noun in a proper sentence, all. the while thinking, “What are you doing here, what are you doing here?”
But I’m here to tell you that I overcame it and feel better in every conceivable way about myself and my life since. I got some help. I started to learn that I had some deep-seated anxiety that was sabotaging almost everything I did, no matter how successful I thought I was. I learned there was the old, nicer and friendlier person in there, after about 40 years of suppression. The smile I got on the face of a 2nd-grade Latino girl on that first day, after teaching her how to properly shoot a basketball in that gym glass, started me on a better path.
I will tell more of this story, how I got here, in coming “chapters.” It gets pretty interesting, I think. Including: time in a halfway house, talking all day with the dad of a famous Avs player, right in my living room, about zen philosophy and Scientology, and the time I think I stayed in a meth house in Florida in an airbnb rental.
I will have a ton of people to thank for helping me get here, too. Without them, there are no words to you here tonight.
To you all here, I have you to thank for helping support me and this site. I got the courage, a year ago, to go it on my own finally. No boss looking over every word I said anymore, ready to use it against me in a vulnerable moment.
Just me and the reader. That’s all I’ve ever wanted. Just me and the reader. I’ve always related much better to the readers than the bosses over me, trying to tell me how to relate to the “public.”
You are my public, and you know the real me by now, a year into reading this site. Thank you for making this all possible. Here’s to the next, even better, year. Well, whenever they drop the puck again.