The search for healing, one adventure at a time
On a childhood boat trip, 12-year-old Brad Wetzler and his father are thrown from their boat into the raging Kansas River.
Wetzler’s father swam to safety, but his son was swept away.
When Brad hung from a submerged tree and thought he was drowning, he could see his father standing on the beach with nothing to do.
After Brad was rescued and brought back to safety by another houseboat, his father disapproved of everything. “Get up, son. You’re all right.”
Wetzler disagreed, considering the incident representative of a childhood full of neglect and abuse. “And there is a real way I will never be fine from that day forward,” he wrote In the Spirit World: My Journey to Healing (Hachette Joe).
A freshman and captain of the basketball team, young Wetzler seemed to have it all.
In fact, he was a “thin, lonely teenager suffering from anorexia, insomnia and depression”. Unhelpful Wetzler’s father often drank so much that the boy had to help him sleep.
After college, Brad landed his dream job the outside magazine and eventually launched a career as an adventure writer.
He traveled to exotic places like Greenland and Russia and published in periodicals including GQ, George, Men’s Magazine, And New York times.
But always, Wetzler struggled with what he called “the abyss,” the depression that periodically haunted him.
Take more than 20 prescription pills per day, including lithium, Prozac, Wellbutrin, Dexedrine, fluvoxamine, lorazepam, and trazodone.
None of it helped, and soon he started sleeping his days away and missing deadlines. His career eventually waned, then ended.
He bought a gun, for what he called “obvious reasons.”
Wetzler looked for help in the ways of Christ, even going to Israel to hike the 40-mile Way of Jesus.
He wrote that he was on “the path out of Nazareth and into the next chapter of my life.”
But a PTSD flashback of seeing the “cold blue body” of a friend who committed suicide pulled Brad into the dark. “I was trapped in what David Foster Wallace called ‘our little skull-shaped kingdom. ”
Wetzler eventually found solace in Eastern traditions, which recognize that life is “full of suffering”. He became a yoga teacher and in India was hit on the head by a 100-year-old yogi, a blow that unleashed a cascade of tears.
This can be explained when a therapist eventually diagnosed Wetzler with complex, undiagnosed PTSD which resulted from his emotionally turbulent childhood.
He continues trying to find peace in his world, but perhaps the best advice he received did not come from a swami but rather a Boulder yoga teacher. She advised him to take matters into his own hands, saying “If someone gives you a bag of dogs, hand it straight to them.”