Lions for Lambs

Certainly the truth about what actually happened this last year would completely discredit me, right? 

Anyone who has ever tried to walk the road of recovery knows the immense pressure that comes along with it. It is the stuff that legends are made of.

It is a mystical, super human and soul tearing experience that stretches you to the very brink of sanity. For the practical person, it leaves us wondering – how? How did this all happen? How could a life so filled with joy and excitement turn so sharply to absolute chaos?

For all of us at some point the truth became too much. Maybe it wasn’t too much for us, but it was too much for others. So, in an effort to protect ourselves, our family or friends or whomever, we started hiding it.

It’s a simple, self preserving and seemingly harmless act on the surface, but it comes at an incredible cost.

I am a very spiritual person, not necessarily in the traditional religious sense, but on an individual level. I think it manifests in my life with my ability to connect to other people. Not bragging, but if you know me personally you know this is a talent of mine. Rather it is with you, your spouse, your son or daughter, we have a deep connection. It’s strange and hard to describe or quantify, but it is there. And it is something I cherish. lion-wide

This being said, I am acutely aware of the science behind the soul and the damage you do

to yourself in trying to change your truth.

Unfortunately sometimes it takes extreme trial and error for us to figure out the only way to set things right it to tell the truth. Don’t sugar coat it. Tell it how it is –

The truth is like a lion, set it free. It will defend itself.

So would the truth discredit me?

It was a question that followed me around the last 365 days like a hawk. It tormented me and drove me into further isolation.

I was terrified that if word got out that I was still struggling with sobriety that everything I stood for and asked of this world would be destroyed. I convinced myself that this was the truth. Instead of letting the lions out of the cage, I turned myself into a lamb. Only projecting the quiet, fluffy and fraudulent information that wouldn’t rock the boat.

Which is completely ridiculous and the only discrediting to my idea that I was doing was lying about what was really going on.

I never claimed to have any grasp  on sobriety or spiritual perfection. The only thing that I did claim was that the truth – the loud, roaring, teeth-gnashing lion of a truth – will bring a positive change to the world. It did then and it still does now.

I’m saying goodbye to this blog and to this story. I’m stepping out of the spotlight so that I can go find myself. A coming-of-age journey of sorts.

Just remember – trade lions for lambs.

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All that shimmers isn’t gold – guest post by Kenny Desoto

Every morning Shane Wickes buys a venti coffee with a splash of cream and makes it back home just in time for the Today Show. In 2016, Wickes was one of the speakers at TEDx hosted by the University of Nevada, Reno.

“I was actually supposed to be a master of ceremony last year when I gave a speech.”

Shane Wickes is a Reno native and the talk he gave was about being a gay football coach and his struggle with addiction and depression.

Shane committed countless hours into the TEDx event where he started out as a parking volunteer in 2014. In preparation of the event, the speakers practice their speeches in front of volunteers to receive feedback. Shane attended so many practices in 2015 that event organizer and mentor Dr. Bret Simmons invited him to attend the speaker dinner.

“At this point in time, I was not ‘out of the closet completely’ and I was debating whether or not if I should bring a date,” Shane said reflecting on the night.

Shane was sitting right across the table from Jennifer Knapp, a Christian song artist who spoke at the 2015 event. Knapp’s talk was about her being a lesbian and Christian. Jennifer and Shane hit it off that night and after meeting Knapp’s partner, Shane had to go pick up his date before the after party.shanewickes_j460_001

“Jennifer said, ‘I have to meet this girl.’ I smiled and laughed. Little did she know.”

After surprising Jennifer and her partner, Dr. Simmons’ approached. Shane paused; he was about to come out to someone that has known him since he was in high school.

“It’s funny because I dated his daughter in high school” Shane stated.

Dr. Simmons’ was ecstatic to meet Shane’s date and the rest of the evening was a night to remember for Wickes. After feeling so inspired by Jennifer’s story and newfound support from Dr. Simmons, Shane decided to apply for the 2016 event and the rest was history.

“I’ll never forget, I was sharing my story and my idea with Jennifer and she said, ‘What are you waiting for?’”

It was a tricky road to walk for Shane in the months leading up to his talk. He was about to give a grandiose coming out speech to the world, but he was still fighting to stay in the closet.

“I made the decision to stay closeted for that football season, but the circle of people who knew was getting bigger and bigger and the stress was unbelievable.”

It has been just over a year since Shane’s talk and his schedule has picked up ten folds since the world had access to his talk. He has given talks in places at many different high schools and joined a Facebook group called the Equality Coaches Alliance – a private group where LGTBQ coaches all over the country can collaborate on ideas and hand each other support.

As momentum gained with his story with publications like the Reno-Gazette Journal and USA Today, Shane felt as if this new light has caused a lot more problems rather than a new extravagant lifestyle.

“It’s different when you give a talk largely centered around addiction when you are sober, but it is completely different when you are giving the talk and you’re still struggling with your disease.”shanewickes_j460_002

When Shane shared his story in 2016, he was still not completely sober. As time went on after his talk, he coped with stress with even more alcohol although there was no more pressure on hiding his sexuality; he was struggling with how to handle the attention. His drinking habits became so bad, that he developed delirium tremens (also known as DTS) which is the body going through an alcohol withdrawal. He developed a true dependency to alcohol.

“I got a feeling that the world knew more about me than I knew myself,” Shane explained to me as he holds a cup of coffee to his lips. “I was overwhelmed and everything was happening so fast that I didn’t realize what I was doing to myself to cope with all of it.”

Shane realized that he needed to really get himself back on track of things. After making a big coaching change, he needed to grab ahold of things again. He decided to admit himself to West Hills Hospital, which is a mental health and substance abuse treatment center.

Shane’s time didn’t last longer than just a few days, but the people he met and the experience itself taught him how much his life means to him.

Shane would not share his exact sobriety date with me saying, “I don’t share this because I feel as if my life has just been so much in the spotlight the past year, I find keeping some things just to myself is healthy for me.”

Now that he has been sober for a few months now and finally reflecting back on his journey since TEDx, Shane has been able to really focus on what he really wants to do in life once he graduates from the University of Nevada this May.

“I’ve really enjoyed writing and speaking. I’m working some new, more creative avenues of writing that help me express my thoughts.”

He is gearing up for another football season, this time for Bishop Manogue via the big news hire of Head Coach Ernie Howren.

“At this point, it is important for me to get back to just coaching football. This last year was insane. Many good things came from it. I am glad I was able to touch a few people’s lives, but I am ready to focus on just coaching for awhile.”

Shane emphasized he is not bowing out of the LGBT sports conversation altogether, but he is taking a much needed break.

Coffin Corner

There is a danger in labeling. You can coffin corner yourself.

*Coffin corner: A football reference which refers to a punt that is kicked out of bounds near the end zone, effectively putting the opposing offense in a “coffin corner.”

You’re one dimensional with your back against the wall and the defense is on a jail break blitz. Instead of a touchdown drive, you’re just hoping you don’t give up any points and have to hand the ball back to the other team.  screen-shot-2016-11-29-at-11-10-15-pm

One of the battles I’ve never understood is when someone says, “I’m not a gay (insert noun), I am just a (noun) who happens to be gay.” What? Huh? I don’t get it.

That was until I laid claim to, “the first openly gay high school football coach.”

Let’s take a step back and tell the story pre (and shortly post) TED Talk…

I had been volunteering for TEDxUNR for several years and I was slated to be the master of ceremonies in 2016. Until I was approached with an idea – don’t announce the speakers, be a speaker.

screen-shot-2016-11-29-at-11-07-36-pmThe friend who came to me with this idea was none other than the master curator of TEDxUNR himself and, through an awkward and entertaining series of events, he knew I was a closeted gay coach.

At this time I was committed to staying in the closet. I just landed my dream job and I knew very little about the “out” world of football other than that things didn’t seem to go all to well for Michael Sam.

I honestly didn’t think it was possible for me. Maybe for someone else with more mental fortitude, but not me. Besides, what sort of TED Talk could I give? “Umm… Hello everyone.  Name’s Shane. I coach ball. I’m gay. The end.”

So I started researching. I looked the internet up and down for anyone in my situation that might be able to help. I even contacted Michael Sam’s publicist (fat chance). I found nothing. screen-shot-2016-11-29-at-11-16-39-pm

So, I went about telling my story. Drawing from only my experiences. It was an absolute blur with no benefit of hindsight.

I don’t regret it. In fact, looking back on it through the chaos I actually managed to craft the perfect narrative before it had actually played out in my own life.

But, it’s hard to describe the dystopia I was living leading up to this thing. I was very quietly out of the closet in the months leading up to the big day and I was struggling to keep it a secret for much longer.

screen-shot-2016-11-29-at-11-20-16-pmIt was a constant battle of truth and lies. Who am I?

So why the fear if I was going to do it anyway? The reason I agreed with myself to do the talk was that even if it all backfired and my coaching career fell apart (it nearly did) at least I would have had the power to tell my story in a thoughtful, educational forum that highlighted the importance of the issue.

My life would be forever viewed through the prism of before and after.

The stories came flooding in over the next six months.

  • “Gay football coach gives emotional TED Talk”
  • “Gay high school football coach comes out in TED Talk”
  • “Tackling stigmas: high school coach knows the struggles of being gay”
  • “Gay coach gives emotional speech”
  • “Gay…….. Shit are we done yet?”

Okay that last one wasn’t actually an article, but you get my point. The Associated Press picked it up and it landed my beautiful mug on every newspaper from coast to coast.

So, that’s it right? I’m the gay coach. Screen Shot 2017-02-09 at 1.17.50 AM.png

Well however you see me, the gay coach or the coach who happens to be gay, it didn’t matter. It was about how I was seeing myself. I got lost in the noise of my own idea. Who was I really? The world seemed to know, but I definitely did not.

When you “come out” it is your time to really rediscover who you are. Maybe not even rediscover, more like discover for the first time. And I got lost in newspaper headlines telling me who I was.

I’m the gay coach.

No. “The Talk” and subsequent tornado of media is a part of who I am, but only a small part.

I am many things, but I am not a label.

The beginning of the end

After almost two years of dodging in and out of this blog, I have decided to retire it.

But, before I do I have made a promise to myself to finish up the 10 some odd blogs that are sitting in the drafts section and to finally write a few of the ones I never got around to.

So it’s time to strip the lipstick off this pig.

aaeaaqaaaaaaaaleaaaajgu0otewnju3ltezzjqtndbmoc1iowe0ltnin2e1mmm3ngeyngI have done a very good job of beautifying this blog. Nearly every blog I have written has omitted many truths. Some for the protection of others and some for what I thought was my own protection.

Calm down – this is not an all out assault on dirty laundry. This is me writing the things I never felt like I had the courage to write before.

Me shying away from writing something? I know it sounds strange, but to my small corner of the internet, this is the beginning of the end.

Never when I started this, for a social media branding class of all things, did I think that it would morph into the greatest adventure of my life. I’ve always tried to connect with you all in the most authentic way possible.

So, if you’re still tagging along, get ready because they’re coming fast and furious.

Thank you to all of you who follow, comment and write me. It has been encouraging and empowering. While I could probably write forever, this chapter of my life has come to its close.

Before I go I will leave you with my final thoughts on Faith, Family, and of course, Football.

 

Shane