Quite possibly the best, and certainly the most personal thing I’ve ever written is on this website.
That alone would make saying farewell to Raleigh and Company difficult, but describing this as difficult seems profoundly understated.
This hurts, and for proof, here is the email I sent Raleigh and Company editor Shawn Krest shortly after he informed me that new content will not be posted on raleighco.com after Nov. 15:
“Damn. I’d be lying if I said this doesn’t hurt. Writing for RaleighCo has been a thrill, a challenge, a benchmark in my writing career. I’ve enjoyed the hell out of it and I hate to see it end. Thank you for all you’ve done and for putting up with me.”
Maybe that encapsulates my reaction, or maybe I’m presenting the email instead of figuring out what this really means for me because I’m afraid of what I’ll do if I don’t find a place to continue turning in weekly interviews with stand-up comedians whose acts I enjoy and whose skills I admire.
As good as those interviews are — do yourself a favor and read them all — there’s a chance that the pain I’m feeling is only partially caused by the possibility of no longer having the chance to talk to my favorite comics.
For better or worse, writing for Raleigh and Company has also served as a relatively steady form of therapy for nearly three years and maybe that’s what I’ll miss the most.
Long before acknowledging that I had to quit drinking if I wanted to live, I got my first RaleighCo paycheck.
Receiving this modest financial reward for doing something I love — interviewing comedians — was an Instagram-worthy event. Why is that significant? Well, I have only 111 Instagram posts and a photo of that invoice, which also accompanies this piece, is one of them.
Since I was hungover that day (and every day for many years) and did not want to risk setting off the interlock ignition device in my car, I walked a mile and a half to the nearest bank to cash the check.
Despite having to take a breathalyzer test every time I wanted to drive somewhere, and despite fighting daily hangovers after getting drunk every single night, there was a bounce in my step as I walked along Arlington Boulevard in Greenville, N.C., carrying my check. I felt the corners of my mouth involuntary forming a smile every few minutes. I cheerily waved at several passing motorists.
The crushing reality of being a practicing alcoholic in the throes of my addiction didn’t hold the same sway over me as I walked to and from BB&T. Maybe the creative outlet Raleigh and Company offered, and the monthly stipend it paid, would help me give up booze and start a new, sober life.
That night after work, I bought a 12-pack with RaleighCo money and drank 10 beers by myself, which was the rule, not the exception, for me in those days. Daily drinking to excess continued for the next eight months.
Most of the time, I thought I would keep drinking until complications from alcoholism killed me or until getting fed up with being a hopeless drunk led to me killing myself.
Then, on June 3, 2016, without any serious planning, I drank 20 beers and felt nothing. I decided that night that I had had enough and in the 509 days since, alcohol has not touched my lips.
I’m convinced that writing about this stuff helped me get sober. Writing about it helps me stay sober.
What happens when this platform gets taken away?
It occurs to me now that I’m presenting a somewhat myopic view of what Raleigh and Company was and that’s unfair because it had so much to offer.
Focusing on the work I’ve done here isn’t borne of selfishness. It’s just that, once my decades-long alcoholic haze lifted, I could finally evaluate myself and my struggle with booze in a clear and, I hope, compelling manner. So I did that, often. Some might say I did it too much.
But as proud as I am of my addiction chronicles, comedy interviews and the couple of times I wrote about Trump and guns, I’m just as eager to testify that the group of writers at RaleighCo are a talented lot and I wish we could have kept this thing going.
As it stands, we have only a couple of weeks left to write something new here. I plan on interviewing a comedian next week and maybe the week after that.
Then, who knows? Our stories and podcasts and videos are supposed to remain at raleighco.com and there’s some comfort in that
I plan on checking in once in a while just to make sure.