The Broken Road (Part 1) – I have been requested to tell the story of my journey to Costa Rica and the experiences that I encountered in the land of “Pura Vida”. While the experiences will be truthful, the names of people will be changed to protect their privacy. This is not a story of retirement in Costa Rica or or one to try to sell living here, I will just tell the truth and you can develop your own opinions of this country.
I think a lot of what goes on here is hidden to get people to invest or even relocate to this country, but it is not for everyone. Many people come to Costa Rica thinking that packing their bags and getting on that flight is going to make their past and their internal demons disappear. I want to dispel that rumor, if you have addictions or other demons they will definitely be resurrected in Costa Rica. I have to start with a background and intro before I get into my experiences here, which will help you grasp the person telling the story.
When I entered the airport in Houston with my ticket to Costa Rica, it was not to learn to surf on the beaches of Tamarindo or to find a latina bride/arm candy like so many people do when they pack their things and head south to the land of “Pure Life”, it was to escape. Just 6 months before I had been arrested on the beach on my birthday for DUI and due to the fact that I had lost my license during the preparation for the trial, I had also been let go from my job. But like so many people I did not want to admit that alcohol was a problem in my life and would always find excuses to continue drinking.
One night I had hit rock bottom, after getting about 6 cases of Natural Light with what was dwindling funds, I thought about drinking myself to death. As a cry for help I called one of my best friends and lacrosse buddies from college and told him my plan. He actually drove 3 hours that night to make sure I did not follow through with what I was saying I was going to do. He talked to me for several hours before I passed out and he realized like everyone else in my life that until I decided to help myself that all the efforts trying to show me I had a problem were just a waste of time. After that night he like almost everyone else in my life gave up on me. They hoped I would change but did not think it would happen. I alienated my brother and sister, pushed away my parents, drove away my friends, and destroyed every relationship I was ever in with alcohol, but never wanted to take responsibility for my actions and change my ways.
You may be thinking what drove me to this point Maybe he had a tough childhood or abusive family life. On the contrary, I was raised going to private school, summer camps, swim team, and vacations to Colorado for Christmas. I was given everything I wanted an more. And No, I did not have difficulty in school, I did not have to study very much and always pulled A’s and B’s. If I could go back in time I wish I could tell myself that not putting more effort in my studies will not help you fit in more.
I had always felt like an outsider and did whatever possible to try to fit in and be cool. That coupled with alcoholism was probably what drove me to start drinking at age 15. When I drank I would do anything and not care what people thought. I was the person I thought I had to be for people to like me and with all the girls/women I hooked up with something in my mind was telling me this is who I always needed to be, the Dan with the magical powers of alcohol. I could go more into my past, but this is a story about my journey starting in Costa Rica.
I digress. After hitting rock bottom I decided to call my Dad and have him take me to rehab. Did I really want to quit drinking, of course the answer was no. I did however need a break to think about where my life was heading and what I needed to do do next. This also gave me an opportunity to fool my parents into thinking I really wanted to get better. So we packed a bag and drove to a government funded rehab center where the admissions person looked at me like a spoiled little rich kid that was in the wrong area of town. Both assumptions were very true. He helped me fill out the questionnaire (how to answer certain questions) so that I would be admitted, I said goodbye to my father, and then headed to a rehab that was used for jailed criminals in the Houston penal system and walk-ins like me.
There is not much to tell you about this experience that really mattered other than the fact that I was one of about 6 Caucasians in the center and 2 things that are ingrained in my mind. The first night I was there we were in a room and everyone was saying their name and their drug of choice. As I heard cocaine, heroin, crack, I said my name and alcohol and thought to myself I am not that bad…..boy was I wrong. The other thing I remember after we watched the cliche movie “28 Days” with Sandra Bullock, one of on site psychologists told the group, “If you continue on the roads you are on, there are three things that will happen. You will end up in rehab, jail, or dead. ” Little did I know I would accomplish all 3 and write to tell about it.
After 4 weeks in rehab without drinking, I had decided what I needed to do. Instead of facing my problems and being held accountable for putting my life together, I was going to leave the USA. During college I had spent 3 weeks over a Christmas break studying Spanish in Costa Rica and thought what better place t start over. I wasn’t going to change my life and ways. I was going to run away from my problems and thought that if I left the USA I could re-invent myself. I found out through my journey in Costa Rica that you can never hide those skeletons in your closet and that unless you take responsibility for your own actions and hold yourself accountable you will never be able to overcome your demons and try to heal the sadness that most of us keep buried inside.
My journey to Costa Rica is one of self discovery. It is a wild ride filled with drugs, alcohol, love, family, happiness, pain, death, and hope. It helped me discover the true meaning of family and friends. It opened my eyes to how far this world has fallen and made me realize that you can only help those that want to be helped. I think back on the time when I was drinking and know that I although it masked what was going on inside me it also blinded me to the battle between good and evil occurring everyday on earth. When you wake up in a Costa Rican hospital after dying for 6 minutes on an operating table from heart valve replacement at age 33, it makes you reflect and you can either change or die.
I am going to take you on a dark journey that will show some things about Costa Rica that the government here does not want to expose. Like any country there are good and bad things, and I will let you know about each. Every experience I had while in Costa Rica taught me a lesson and brought me closer to understanding what really goes on in this country as well as closer to understanding life in general.
Even with all the ups and downs, all the happiness and pain, all the times I was knocked down and had to pick myself back up, I would not change a thing. I was told once that life only gives you what you can handle, and for me that statement was pushed to the limits as I am sure it has been for many. I think its true through all our experiences in life and the decisions we have made that determine our paths, we are exactly where we are supposed to be right now. You cannot go back and change our past, so just learn from it and do not repeat the same mistakes. I think I am learning what everyone already knows that all that matters in life is finding love and experiencing happiness. I know what the final destination is but I a still trying to put the pieces of my life together to get closer to accomplishing that goal. Through this broken road in Costa Rica I was given a second chance on life and I am still trying to figure out what is the true meaning of it all.