Turning off

Let me preface this by saying that there is no either place I’d rather be and given the choice, I’d pick being home every time. Still, making the mental transition from the Vegas war zone to the hometown skirmishes is not a piece of pie.

I knew before I left for Las Vegas that returning home wouldn’t be easy. That’s the funny thing about being a road monkey. You spend your entire time in a hotel wishing for the day you get to go home. Then you get there and you find your brain all jammed up.

I feel fortunate that I’ve done this enough that I knew what was going to happen. In the past, I’d get home and wonder how I’d ever been a responsible parent and husband. I wondered how I could bear going to bed at a reasonable hour or maintaining constant attention to a kid. It usually took me a month to recognize that I’d been living in one big fantasy land and I was back to real life. Knowing all of this before coming home has made the transition workable. Still, it’s not easy.

I find it really hard to explain to anybody else. Most of my friends in the poker media are single or childless. Most of my friends at home are parents and rarely leave the confines of town. It’s hard to fully convey how different my two lives are. On the road, I stay up all night and sleep for a few hours in the morning. I close most nights with a beer or more. I have a constant stream of new people to talk to and, at least this year, nearly always had someone to go out with if I wanted to. My goals were to stay sane, make as much money as I could, and not do anything stupid. This year I accomplished that.

At home, it’s the life you might expect. It’s grocery shopping, meal planning, remote working, and keeping the family happy. I need to ensure my internet connection stays stable while I work (I have a friend who moved to infinity dish to help them with this), but otherwise it’s really an ideal little life that I wouldn’t change if given the chance. It’s just so remarkably different, my mental spectrum occasionally threatens to shatter. I find myself drifting off, snapping when I don’t mean to, and dreaming impossibly odd dreams that keep me in a self-induced coma for longer than even I want.

The late Willard High School football coach Reuben Berry, a man who I speak of reverentially, often spoke at length about COD–change of direction, that ability of a player to stop and turn on a pin point. It was that kind of player who could halt a defender in his tracks and win games. I never had the knees or speed for Berry’s version of COD. This transition from working man to family man is COD of the first order and I always stumble a bit on my first try.

I feel fortunate–or something like it–that I at least have the experience of the past five years to help me. In 2006, I was about month too far down the road before I woke up and realized my brain (and liver) had never left Las Vegas. Back then, I was a mentally absent husband and father and it took me way too long to realize it. Now, it’s only been a few days at home and I’ve managed to rally physically and, for the most part, mentally. I have my moments and I am quick to admit them. In the past, the wife would ask me what was wrong and I would either lie or make up an excuse, because, in all reality, I didn’t know what was wrong. Now, she still asks what’s wrong and I have a ready and honest answer.

I’m just trying to get all of myself home.

Brad Willis

Brad Willis is a writer based in Greenville, South Carolina. Willis spent a decade as an award-winning broadcast journalist. He has worked as a freelance writer, columnist, and professional blogger since 2005. He has also served as a commentator and guest on a wide variety of television, radio, and internet shows.

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2 Responses

  1. Drizztdj says:

    Not a week goes by where I take a step back from the grocery lists, T-ball games, and picking up toys that will get thrown about the floor an hour later and wonder “why am I here?”.

    I haven’t found an answer but I enjoy the ride enough that I have no urge to leave the car.

  2. Joe says:

    Ironic that in two different lines of work we live the same life. I may be the one person you know who has EXACTLY the same problem.