You would have never known Jason “J” Rodricks had a problem and was knocking on death’s door. He was a talented builder and artist who was great to work with and funny AF. But behind-the-scenes, J was in a lot of pain and was trying to drown it out.
Now almost a year in recovery, J really appreciates and fights for each day. It’s simple, but to him, that’s #worththefight. Read more about his fight in this week's journal entry: "I Fight For Each Day."
JASON RODRICKS: My name is Jay Rodricks. I'm a builder. I make stuff. I’ve been making stuff for a while. I've always done construction and thankfully work for the movie industry, building props and sculptures and stuff like that. I'm like an art school dropout who’s trying to run a business.
YORK Athletics: That's great. So the word fight. It's integral to our brand. What does the word fight mean to you?
JASON: I was thinking about that. It certainly means a lot of different things recently. I don't know how to put it but, it hasn't been easy to get to where I'm at now as far as not giving up, not dying…yeah, that was a big one.
YORK: That's the honest answer and we’d rather have an honest answer than some canned bullshit. Have you had situations in your life that you've had to fight through to get to where you're at today?
JASON: My life's been a fight since I was a kid. I don't know how heavy you guys want me to get, but I can certainly lay it on you. I grew up in a great family but everything that was normal got ripped away from me when I was a kid. This is heavy, heavy childhood stuff.
JASON: Right now, I'm in recovery. I have an addiction that is part of my story. I'm 40 and I put so much effort into running away from stuff that happened to me when I was a kid that I'm feeling like a kid again for the first time in my life, which is awesome. And part of that is I have this gorgeous little daughter who's two so I think my identity was so wrapped up in what I did for a living for so long that I'm only just feeling like living is really incredible. I’m getting my second chance.
The things I did to run away from my past – I put on this mask almost, like everything's cool, right? And everything was not cool. I'm figuring it out as we speak and things are getting better because of it. Probably the best part about what's happening is that I realize I can rely on the people in my life. I thought for so long that I had to be the one who figured it out. I thought that I had to have the answers and I thought if I ever asked for help people would scatter. But they didn't and that's probably why I didn’t die. I just had to ask for help and it was so worth it because honestly, I feel like a kid again and after going through some heavy, heavy, heavy shit, it’s really freeing. For the first time in my life, I feel like everything I had my identity wrapped up in, like what I did for a living, what I drove, where I live, who I hung around with like it was so important. Now I realize those things don’t define me and are not who I am. I think who I am is going to be somebody who hopefully can help somebody else eventually because somebody helped me, you know?
YORK: Was there a moment when you were struggling that you realized, "You know what? Fuck man, I gotta try... "
JASON: What I did was a secret. The things I did to get through the day were secret. Nobody knew. My family, my wife, nobody knew what I did so I was living a lie. And it was like maintenance. I didn't party -- the party was over by the time I was like 15 so it was all just maintaining a lie. It’s crazy, I remember I was on a job site and this painting contractor, he was just so open and casual with me about his recovery and his program and what he did. He was sober and he was okay with that being his thing. His name was Paul and he opened up to me three years before I even began to crack the surface.
Because one thing people like me don't want to do is tell anyone, to admit that I needed that relief. That relief that you get, that's why you're successful, that's why you have this great business, that's why you have this family that looks like everything's cool. Your disease tells you, "No," it's your best buddy but it's like your best buddy is a serial killer. You wake up one day and realize you're palling around with a fucking serial killer who takes people out every day. Especially now with fentanyl -- the shit that's out there is killing people every day. It's an epidemic.
So back to Paul. I bumped into him on a job site and he put this bug in my ear that just scared me, you know? Because it meant that it was possible to be in recovery. One thing we do as people who struggle with addiction is telling yourself you can quit anytime by quitting for two days or two weeks or you say to yourself, "It's the New Year, I'm gonna surf more, I'm gonna do this! If I can do this then I can quit anytime." But it's a joke, you know? It's not a funny joke, it's like you can't do it without asking for help and there is a way out. I think for me, it's about talking about it and outing myself and just not only asking for help but saying, "You're worth it," you know?
JASON: I want to raise a kid who has a father who's present. I wanna be good in the world and be available to other people. Which, outside looking in it seemed like I was. People were shocked that I was doing what I was doing around the clock, 24/7 because when you get good at lying the way I did, you basically become this other thing. You isolate yourself to the point where you're completely alone, surrounded by people who care about you. And so your addiction tells you, "We're good. Me and you, we can get up and do the same thing tomorrow, you know right where to go to do that." And so you fall into this cycle where you lose years of your life to it. And you just start rotting out from the inside.
JASON: I didn't really know what I was gonna say during this interview because there's other shit I do that I'm proud of, but right now to me this feels like the thing that's special because it's something I'd like to pass along the way that guy Paul did to me. The way I kind of bumped into him and he put a bug in my ear. If anybody feels the way I felt, that lonely, and I could put that same bug in their ear that they don't have to feel that way, they can literally be sober. It's possible. That's a goal of mine, to help, to literally pass that on to somebody.
I guess to not give up the fight is like ... I don't know man. I'm in the middle of it, you know? People fall off constantly. We lose people every day. People like me don't want to let people down so there's also this whole other fear. Don't hitch your wagon to me because I'm in this for today. It's all I can do. But I want it. I’m ready. I had to be ground into the fucking ground, like, knocking on Death's door to actually say, "I can't do this anymore." And now I want to live. That's it. It sounds simple but it's heavy.
JASON: Before I got the help I needed and started to surround myself with people who have what I have, I was the loneliest person on the planet. My ego had me by the balls, telling me "You've got this," and until I got on the other side of it and started to identify with people who have what I have, that's when things started to feel possible. I was living this basically suicidal life because I needed that relief to get through the day. I've been seeing shrinks my while life, it was only until I started to identify with people who actually have what I have where I felt less lonely. And I started to see that I might make it. I'm just glad to be here, doing my thing. To be here for my kiddo.
YORK: Raising your daughter, that is a reason to fight…having that little beacon to keep you going when shit's darkest.
JASON: Yeah. Her name is Sid, she's two and a half. She's just perfect, she's so wonderful. Any father would say that about their daughter or son. I'm so driven now to be better and do better. I guess you could say it's a life-changing thing. What I was doing suicidally is not an option because of her. And I throw that word around but it's legitimately the way a lot of us live and when you are reckless with your safety it affects everybody. You change the people who love you. If I do this right and I stay in it, her world will be better because she won't have to deal with the stuff that a lot of us had to deal with as kids.
YORK: As a dad, I can relate. When you have kids, it changes everything. It's not just about you anymore, it's never about you, forever moving forward.
JASON: Yeah. It's kind of a relief.
YORK: How so?
JASON: I didn't even know I had a fucking ego until recently, about a year ago, and I'm realizing that not only does the world not revolve around me but it is so much better to be focused on something else, not just her but my whole entire family opened up. My marriage might survive, my parents might know who I am, which is crazy. People might actually get to know me…I might get to know me. I'm dealing with emotions for the first time since I was 10 years old. Anger, joy, they go through me -- I'm a wreck. It's crazy. I pull my truck over just so I can hear a song now because I'm not gonna stuff things down anymore. It's just weird to be checked back in.
YORK: It's overwhelming.
JASON: It's overwhelming but then, just so everyone knows, people like me, we’re really hard to detect, like when you do things secretly when you're projecting an image of everything's cool. That's how I grew up, so my story is that both my parents were handicapped in a way. Mental illness is a big part of one of their stories. So basically, growing up in a world where there was so much chaos. My parents didn't have what I have. I came up with this myself. This isn't a hereditary thing for me, this is more of a response to that chaos. A behavior I learned that provided relief from an early age.
My childhood was incredible until I was seven years old and then it wasn't. So now I feel like I have a second chance at being silly, not having to project that everything's okay because that's the role I fell into as a kid. "Everything's okay, don't worry about me." I was the last one anyone would ever have to worry about and it was like that growing up. I talked to counselors and shrinks as a kid and I learned how to talk my way out of that stuff and I really learned how to become the person that nobody ever had to worry about.
And then by the time I was in my late 20s, early 30s, it was more than that. Outwardly it looked like I was a very successful person. We took this little construction company and all of a sudden we're working for the movie industry and building props for the movies and meeting crazy people and it looked great on paper. I'm glad nobody worried about me for that long. It kind of worked but at some point, I needed people to worry about me and the thing that I thought would happen, which was everybody would scatter, is the opposite. Everybody was just cool.
JASON: That's when all the stuff I used to worry about started to fade away and I started to realize, it really is about people…this whole thing is about people, and I started to focus more on the people who love me and started to realize there's more of them out there. People I didn't even know would care about me. It’s hard in the beginning when you sober up. Things are foggy, depending on your addiction. But you forget what you tell one person and then all of a sudden it's like, "How much of this is fair game?" I'm kind of like rolling the dice with this because I have a family, I have people who depend on me. I'm always thinking about that.
I still want to protect everybody, like I did my whole life, protecting my mom, protecting my kid sister, all the shit I did my whole life I still want to do. I don't want to fuck anyone up who's in my world but to live I have to figure out how to be authentic, which, it's the opposite of what I was. I have no training in being authentic. It gets confusing when you beat yourself up.
JASON: If there is anybody who feels the way I felt a year ago and they go, "Oh shit! There's a way!" It won't be my way…there is no right way for everyone, but there is a way. But if there's any way that I can help someone else…I hope I meet that person one day, the way I met that guy on that job site who said there was a way. I just hope I meet them or that I already met them because that's the gift. So that’s what I'm doing right now. And then just trying to live a healthy lifestyle.
YORK: Thank you for being so open and sharing your story with us. This is part of the process, right? The good that you're doing by helping yourself, talking about this stuff, being open, it's ultimately helping you get to a better place. You talk about the people that were there for you, that didn't run away when you were honest, they're going be so much happier that you're on your way to a better place for doing things like this, right?
JASON: Yeah, it's good. It keeps getting better. It gets better every day.
YORK: How do you go through each day? How do you take your day? How do you attack it?
JASON: Gratitude really, just being thankful. It's the only way. I need a routine. I need my alarm to go off and I need to get up. I was so much more punctual and on it before. For some reason, this is a confusing element of my story. I'm sleeping for the first time in my life, like, actually sleeping and dreaming and it's hard to wake up. I used to get up at 4:30 in the morning every morning without an alarm clock. I had my identity wrapped up in thinking, "Oh dude, I'm a hard-working guy. I get up early, I'm out the fucking door, working crazy hours, putting food on the table," you know, Blue collar worker, New England style, get my Dunkin' Donuts… Now I sleep and I've never hit a snooze button so much in my life.
You asked me how am I doing it, the fight, and part of it is letting myself sleep. I need to sleep right now and I don't sleep until 10am, but it's like 6:30 in the morning and I'm like, "Oh my God, I was just dreaming." I'm tripping out, having crazy dreams. It's insane! I kind of want to trip out on dreams right now. Being sober and waking up thinking: "Dude, nobody can know what I just dreamt about." I like it. On top of that I try to wake up with gratitude every morning.
YORK: Do you have any rituals that you do? Do you go through things that help you day-to-day like that?
JASON: Honestly, I just brush my teeth now. I used to think I had to meditate or something. I know for some people, meditation is great. I want to meditate. But when I brush my teeth I think: "That's it." Because I'm living this new life. It sounds crazy but, that's how bad people like me are, you forget to brush your teeth. That's so gross, but I like it because that's all I have to do. If I want to live, I'm going to brush my teeth, that's the first thing I'll do. Normal people don't think like that, you know?
When I'm all hippy-dippy, I'll close my eyes and try to meditate. When I'm thankful I just think about people. I try to do that. If I have a ritual, it's when I wake up, just to be so thankful that I know where I parked my truck last night. That I didn't lie to anybody I care about last night. I wake up and I'm thankful that I don't have to remember the truth. Literally, someone could be like, "Hey, did you ... ?" I don't know. I don't have to remember shit anymore. I don't have to remember the truth. That's really important to me because I have this freedom now. So my ritual is, seriously, brush my teeth (the tooth brushing thing I'm obsessed with because my two-year-old is brushing her teeth right now and it’s this thing we do), have gratitude. And then think about my day before I go to bed and be healthy, as healthy as I can.
I want to be this zenned-out surfer meditator dude, but I'm grateful if I can just get my teeth brushed and get out the door in the morning. That's it, that's really what I do. I go in phases where I'm like, "Oh, I'm going to throw down some pushups right now. I'm going to be a vegan this week. I'm going to do this, that, and the other thing," I go through all these phases. One part of my program is I'm not going to put all that weight on myself anymore. I'll be a vegan yesterday, that's cool, and if I see some pizza, you know, my identity is just: don't die. That's a pretty fun thing to be able to have that be your thing. Because I am a skateboarder, I'm an artist, I'm a dad, I'm a guy who works, I'm a friend, I'm a son, I'm all these different things, but, I'm somebody who's not going to die today and that's not who I was.
YORK: How do you feel you're doing? Do you feel that you're making progress? I’m guessing with recovery, it doesn't stop.
JASON: Yeah. I feel like I'm making progress but I'm allowing myself to take it real slow. And I'm really into checking in with my family. When you're like me you avoid people who love you. You don't call your mom. I'm enjoying checking in with people, saying, "What's up?" Like, I called this dude last week, I was like, "Why do we talk once a year? I love talking to you." Friendly shit.
I'm doing better, I know I'm doing better because I'm happier.
YORK: Is there anything else that you want to say to somebody who might be in your spot, that you haven't?
JASON: To do what I did for so long, to be that alone in it, I'm just so thankful to have a support group. I'm part of something now and that's important. I love addicts, I don't know why. It's like, they’re people but maybe more human. I'm glad I have these people in my life who I identify with. That's it. If you feel alone or if you feel like you're doing stuff that you don't want to, you're not alone. Just out yourself. There's help. Ask for help, you know?
If you have a doctor, tell your doctor, that's what I did. The first person I told was my doctor and he dropped his clipboard and said, "What? You can't do that." Like, literally, the way I would tell somebody if they were framing a house wrong, he just told me I couldn’t do that. So take suggestions, let your ego go and let somebody know. Let somebody help you. That's what I did.
Jay Rodricks is an artist, skater, father, friend, and owner of North of Boston Studios.