Life’s highs and lows make me who I am

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Daniel Carde

Daniel Carde

From paratrooper to heroin addict, I’ve learned a lot.

Viewpoint by Daniel Carde

The pursuit of my goals has taken me to the highest places in life, the top of mountains, and to the lowest places in life, heroin addiction.

When creating your list of life goals, pick things unique to you as an individual. Don’t worry if they are positive or negative, don’t worry if other people will approve, and don’t worry if some of the goals currently aren’t accomplishable. Just create your list and know saying “yes” to one goal may inspire goals you never intended to achieve.

On the high side, I enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2001. I met people I consider my brothers, and I can tell you as much about them today as when I first met them.

I became a paratrooper. Those who don’t know what it means will never understand. It’s more than just jumping out of planes.

Becoming a paratrooper allowed me to check two additional goals off my list at once. One of them was to jump from an aircraft in mid-flight. Leaping out of a plane is a rush, especially with your brothers. I conquered one of my greatest fears — heights.

Overcoming a fear brings some of the greatest joy.

I always loved visiting California when I was a young boy. I got to live in San Diego for a few months in 2009, rooming with my best friend. I loved living there. I would have stayed longer, but work was scarce so I moved back to San Antonio. Everyone should visit “Cali” at least once.

I spent time by myself in the mountains. They say mountains are a poor man’s temple. I couldn’t agree more. I can still hear the call of the mountains. I’m infatuated with them. They are the playground of the gods, waiting to be conquered.

I snowboarded in the backcountry outside of Canyons Resort near Park City, Utah. I shredded the great white “pow,” a snowboarder’s term for powder. There is nothing like venturing onto the steep, untamed slope of a mountain. Carving your own tracks in deep snow down an untouched slope is amazing. So is riding down a natural half-pipe sprinkled with a fresh inch or two of silky, buttery-smooth powder. It’s indescribable.

I saw the sun rise from the top of a mountain. I was blessed to have worked at a ski resort as a “liftie” in a lift-shack perched at the top of a mountain. I witnessed brilliant fiery colors vanquish the night sky as the sun rose from behind the blackened silhouette of mountains. It was breathtaking.

Other goals I have accomplished were negative.

I used heroin. After the Army, I wasted nearly seven years of my life, 2005-2011, becoming a soulless void of a human shell that is a heroin addict. I didn’t live. I merely existed in what I called “the nothingness,” a reference to the primary antagonist in the “The Neverending Story.”

When I was in eighth grade, my girlfriend rented “Trainspotting,” a movie about friends living in Scotland who are junkies. The lead character, Renton, struggles, as he puts it, to “choose life” and become a sober, productive member of society.

My friends who watched the movie decided heroin was something they never wanted to do. Not me. I saw a beautiful romance in it, choosing heroin over everything else. I knew I wanted to try it.

The addiction, random bouts of being homeless and becoming someone who couldn’t be trusted were not among my goals. The only thing that mattered was scoring the next shot of dope.

Eventually, I added a new goal to the list — survive the train wreck of heroin addiction. I was addicted the first time I shot up heroin. I was so nervous I was shaking to the point I couldn’t stick myself, so my friend stuck the needle in my left arm.

I then pulled the plunger on the syringe to make sure the needle was in my vein. My blood shot into the syringe’s reservoir like a rose blooming before my eyes. To me, it was love.

The last time I used heroin was in 2011. The withdrawals are nightmares. It felt like God had reached into me and twisted my body from the core. It felt like the pain spread from the inside of my bones to the rest of my body.

I couldn’t control my bowels so I didn’t leave the house. I soaked in long hot showers, but it barely helped alleviate the anguish. I didn’t sleep the first 11 days after I stopped using, and the cold sweats didn’t stop for several days after that. It took me a couple of years to get off of it after I made the decision to stop, but I can finally check it off the list.

Staying clean is also a daily goal. Some days are harder than others to accomplish, but I do.

I’ve had many friends die along the nightmarish path of addiction. I am sure many more will still go if they keep using drugs.

Most of my life goals have elevated me physically or figuratively. If I don’t stay clean, my prior goal to use heroin will bury me — six feet deep to be exact. Had I failed to get sober, none of my future goals would matter. I wouldn’t have a future.

To anyone living the hell of addiction — there is life after sobriety, and you are worth it. There is light at the end.

I want to spend the rest of my life focusing on the highs.

I want to learn four languages.

I want to live on a different continent for more than two years and experience the world. I want to visit all 50 states, and I am halfway there. My goal of climbing the seven summits, the tallest mountain summit of each of the seven continents, will allow me to check off visiting each continent. I want to camp under the Northern Lights and the Southern Lights.

I want to see Earth from outer space and visit the moon.

I want to be thankful for each day and help others.

Another goal is to pay for a Father’s Day salmon-fishing trip in Alaska with my dad and stepdad. I want to attend the weddings of my three younger brothers.

I look forward to becoming a photojournalist. High or low, I have learned from all of my life’s goals.

The pursuit of them has shaped who I am.


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