So I told you guys I wasn’t publishing my book. And I’m not. But considering my rock bottom blog caused so much controversy, on and off YB, I decided to give you guys a chance to read it in the context of the story. Hope this adds a little clarity to the picture. Enjoy.
My third game in Spain was an important one as far as the standings went, against a good team. It would be my first try since my injury against some high quality competition in the post, and I was anxious to test myself.
Focused and dominant; I had waited seven months to feel that feeling again, and it had never felt better. I was soaring. I came down from my high for a quick second as the opposing coach called a time out, no doubt to discuss their new plan for trying to contain me. It was 12 minutes in and I’d already hit them up for 15. As I sat on the bench and took a quick drink of water, I ran the fingers of my hand over the 4-inch long scar on my left knee. I looked at it; it was so ugly. During the healing process I had refused to put anything on it to soften its appearance. It was my evidence, my war wound. Proof of the long arduous rehab process I had just been through; a period of time in which I had worked harder and more consistently than I ever had before. It was my visual reminder of just how far I had come. Nothing about the process was soft or pretty, so I figured my scar shouldn’t be either.
The timeout was over and I couldn’t help but smile as I walked back onto the court. Lets go. This was the beginning of everything. Of a promising season on a great team overseas; of the preparation for the next WNBA season in which I finally had a coach that believed in me, and expected me to play a major role in our team’s success; of me, quieting critics and finally living up to the title of 2nd overall draft pick 3 years before. Lets go!
And then, 10 seconds later, with a landing and a quick pivot, there it all went.
It felt as if someone had kicked me directly above my right heel. As I went down to the floor screaming, I knew exactly what it was and what it meant: I had just torn my Achilles, the most feared injury in sports. It meant surgery and nine (more) months of painstakingly slow and difficult rehab. At that point I was not screaming from the physical pain; that had just been a quick sharp sting and then it was gone. No, at that moment, while I lay there on the floor whimpering, “I can’t do this again, I can’t do this again”, I had never before felt that level of ache and desolation. I could have stayed on that floor for another three days.
But I didn’t. They rushed me to the hospital in an ambulance where I got an MRI to confirm my self-diagnosis, which turned out to be correct. My Achilles was completely torn and would require surgery, to be performed the next day. Most people ask if I was nervous about having surgery overseas. But no, I really wasn’t. At that point, I didn’t want to wait to get back to the states or to figure anything else out. I felt my body had betrayed me and I didn’t want to waste a second before fixing it. I just wanted it done.
Pretty soon, everyone left the hospital (with promises to return the next day) and things calmed down. And there I was, sharing my hospital bed with my shattered ego and trying to figure out who was in charge–because apparently, contrary to my belief just 5 hours before, it wasn’t me. As the small and somewhat unwelcome voice in my head kept telling me, I already knew who was in control, and actually, deep down, had known it all along. So in reality, I was not trying to figure out who it was, but rather, come to grips (both me and my ego) with the now painfully obvious fact that I was not the one.
During those first few days in the hospital I drifted back and forth from a numb, drug induced fog, to relative lucidity and optimism. At times I could smile and even laugh at how my situation could have been worse. At others, I sat crying at my window overlooking the vast and beautiful city of Barcelona, and questioning out loud the sanity of this life. Still others, I would lay in my bed staring at the wall, thinking and feeling absolutely nothing. It was somewhere on that continuum of being that I began my inquiry to God.
It was similar to how I would imagine a conversation between two telepathic individuals. I would think something and then the response would simply appear into my head as a separate thought. Never anything loud or extravagant; just a completely logical response.
God, basketball made me so happy. How could you take that away?
You cannot have other gods before Me.
But God, that’s so unfair! It’s what I do!
I am God. I don’t owe you anything.
But I can’t do this again!
Yes you can. I will never give you anything you cannot handle.
Trust Me and I will help you.
But I’m so scared. I can’t do this.
Have faith and you will have everything you need.
Short, concise, and to the point. As I said that final “ok” to that large, quiet voice in the room with me, I was infused with peace. Though His voice was then unfamiliar to me, I somehow knew what I heard was truth. And 10 days later, it was that promise I took back to the U.S. with me. What I didn’t know was that that promise was just the beginning.
From Spain, before going to San Antonio, I stopped in California for two weeks to spend some time at home with my parents. The best thing about being at home is that doing or thinking is not required. Your family has already seen you at your worst–and I was as low then as I had ever been, before or since–so there’s no pressure. I didn’t have to get out of bed, comb my hair, or even shower if I didn’t feel like it (and during those two weeks I rarely did any of the three). Daddy just let me be, coming in to check on me a few times a day, and talking to me whenever I ventured out of my room to eat or watch TV. Two weeks was a good period for me to be there. For the first time in my life my heart was broken because of basketball and I needed a stretch where I didn’t have to focus on recovery or anything else. I could just grieve. Got to love home for that.
“Hey Royce. It’s Chantelle. I need some weed.” It was the first non-business related call I had made since arriving in San Antonio two days before. Royce was one of those guys that I had kind of liked when I first got to San An, until I figured out he was just trying to hit. These days we were cool, and I knew I could call him for info. on the club scene, or as in this case, to get high. And that’s exactly what I needed: something to take me somewhere else for a moment, away from this enigma that was my life. A Harry Potter movie just wasn’t gonna cut it this time.
So I made the call, and five minutes later I was crutching out of my house, on the way to meet him and his cousin Sherman at their apartment.
They made fun of me for coughing the first few times. And it hurt when I burned my throat. You know, when you don’t quite inhale all the way and the hot smoke gets stuck in your throat? But once I got the hang of it, I allowed myself to inhale deeply, and drift away, one “puff puff give” at a time.
As my eyes narrowed and my smile came a little easier, my mind relaxed and I allowed myself to become entranced by the smoke, pretending that my worries disappeared into the air along with it. Soon, it was like the current state of my life was one long hallucination, and that when I came back, things would be as they should again. It felt good to believe that, if only for a couple hours.
While Royce was rolling the second one, I allowed my gaze to wander around the room. Almost immediately I noticed a gun sitting on the opposite corner of the coffee table in such an obvious location it made me wonder how I hadn’t seen it there before. Sherman saw me looking at it and asked if I had ever seen a gun in real life before. I said “No”. He picked it up and held it out to me, and I took it.
I examined it, tenderly caressing the matte black steel that was kind of pretty in a macabre sort of way. Then I pressed it against my temple; it was cold. Cold and unfeeling. I pressed harder. Holding it made me feel strong. For that moment I had control over something again. Even if I chose not to exercise that control, I still had the power to do so. In looking back I realize that the real strength was my ability to put down the gun, unused, and face my life, ruins and all. Still, it’s amazing how seductive control can be, especially considering the disarray of my world at the time; the gun didn’t leave my hand until I went home.
I made it back to my house a little while later and was once again alone with my thoughts. And I sat there, on my couch and still high, thinking about everything I got high to forget: how close I had been, how far I now had to go, how I had lost her almost as quickly as I had just lost my career, how I didn’t know if I could continue to tell myself “next season it’ll happen”… I didn’t want to think about it. I didn’t want to feel.
I went to the freezer and stood in the middle of the kitchen as I downed half a bottles worth of vodka shots. Then, like that cold gust of wind when you first step out of the front door in January, it hit me, and I started to cry; that agonizingly silent cry purging itself from so deep down in my soul that the sound got lost on the way up. In fact the only evidence I was actually crying were the tears that found themselves dripping off the edge of my jaw, and the somewhat irregular breathing as I embraced myself and curled up on the living room floor. I don’t know how long I laid there, but the last thing I remember before passing out was pleading with God, “Lord, please help me.”
At some point during the night I must have gotten up and moved to my bed, because that’s where I woke up the next afternoon with a pain so intense Tiger could have teed off with my head and it would have felt better.
In addition to the pain, I felt the forceful guilt of having not been strong enough to cope with the sorrow, and instead making the choice to pacify myself with the temporary and inadequate treatment of drugs and alcohol. I would joke that “sometimes, you just need a drink…”, but that night I had taken it too far, and I knew it couldn’t continue. So I got up, took some Advil, went to Whataburger for some comfort food, and then I made a plan.
I remembered Doc saying that being back on the court in six months, while unlikely, wasn’t completely unreasonable. So the first thing I did was go to the calendar on my phone, and mark each 5th Monday as a month anniversary, beginning with February 5th, the day I had surgery. That gave me 24 weeks. That was a better way to look at it. I could do 24 weeks.
And even after my next appointment when I told Doc about my new timetable, and he informed me that 24 weeks was actually only 5