I had no idea I was doing anything wrong. I started around age 10. It was fun and socially acceptable; it was the trend, brought people together, a status symbol if you will. So I went along. I wanted it. I valued it. And I didn't use protection. Most people didn't back then. It wasn't really important and we weren't afraid of the consequences. Anyway, it would never happen to me...
But it did.
My demon is the sun. I played in it, worshipped it, and it got me. I now regret every minute I spent bathing in it. I wish I had those years back. I would have played differently. I was a swimmer, diver, lifeguard. We grew up with hobie cats, windsurfers, and water skiis. On vacation we unveiled our winter white skin to the blazing sun with a "have at me" attitude and additional accoutrements such as baby oil and reflecting mirrors. If we arrived in Florida and it was cloudy, we drove south til we found the sun. We burned, blistered, and thought a beat red face was beautiful. Why wouldn't we? The magazine models were bronzed and that was the standard.
Now I'm paying the price. Four years ago the dermatologist found something on my forehead - it had to come off. The scary part was that this large basal cell carcinoma was invisible. I couldn't see it. It didn't present in any of the ways we've been taught to look for (brown, irregular, pink, scaly, bleeding, changing....) Nope, not this one. Mine looked like my regular skin, the only difference was it behaved a bit differently. When I scrunched my forehead this circular area the size of a silver dollar didn't wrinkle like the rest of my forehead. I knew something was wrong. A Mohs surgery and 66 stitches later, the front center of my forehead now has a big scar. I hate the scar but I'm lucky it wasn't melanoma. I made a promise to myself: no more sun.
I'm writing this from Florida and it's not easy. It's awkward to shun something that most others love. I'm odd man out. I dress and act differently now, and I'm not a 'player' when a sunny outing is planned. I won't go to the beach at noon. I won't sign up for the boat tour. I frantically and frustratingly cover myself on long car rides when the sun is beating in through the window. To others I appear paranoid. But really I'm just not giving in to peer pressure on this one. I'm a sun wimp because I know it could kill me.
So what's your demon?
Neil Young quietly sings, "oh, the damage done... a little part of it in everyone..."
What do you do even though you know it's not good for you? The music industry and business world are ripe with offerings. Everyone's a player, right? Demons lurk in every paradise. Many are seemingly benign like late nights, no sleep, no exercise, junk food, excessive travel, work and stress. They're basically benign until they're the norm. If you get a warning sign like I did, make a promise to yourself. Crashing isn't an option.
One of my favorite emerging bands, Minneapolis' Communist Daughter, is a great example. Frontman Johnny Solomon is a recovering addict. At a house concert in my living room he talked openly about his dance with alcohol and other demons, and why he decided to change. You should see him now. He's clean, sober, happy, and engaged to his lead singer Molly. Best of all - the band is taking off fast. Johnny is another who'd like those years back. But instead he made a promise to his future.
If you're looking for us I'm the one under the umbrella and Johnny's the one with the diet coke. We took our warnings as a second chance. (Listen to Johnny below)