It turns out retreat is an option

It turns out retreat is an option

Posted on July 4, 2024 at 4:24 pm by Evan Ward

It had been brilliant returning to the UK. It was easy to forget how great the simpler things in life were on this side of the pond. Being able to walk down any street and know I could grab a nice big bag of real English chips is just so comforting. And I mean proper thick cut, deep fried, fluffy on the inside chips covered in salt and soaking in vinegar, not crisps. Pure joy.

It wasn’t long before I’d have to leave these creature comforts behind and head back stateside, where the chips are thin and crispy, in time to defend my newly regained LSD Championship against a man grieving at the loss of his relative and inability to achieve anything at Ward Games. It would be an emotional match for sure… But before I could hop on a plane and be harassed by the legions of fans locked in that flying metal tube with me, I had a very important job to do.

I had to take the first step.

After being confronted by my wife and unable to avoid the situation, as I had been doing for months, had made me remember, much like with the bag of chips, how very, very much I had missed her. Fear can drive a person to the extremes to avoid what they’re afraid of and, admittedly, I had been petrified of rejection. I had been afraid that I was no longer the man she had married and she wouldn’t want me back. I was scared I had gone too far and so I carried on going without looking back. If I didn’t confront it then I’d never have to accept the fact the fears were warranted, would I? Obviously I’d also never know if they weren’t either, but a fearful mind lacks optimism of any sort. Sometimes you have to be forced into a situation or you’ll never face it. I suppose that’s why people have interventions when their friends go off the rails with drugs and alcohol, isn’t it?

Either way, I faced my fears. We talked for so long and… I was right. I had gone too far. I wasn’t a man she respected anymore. In her words I now embodied everything I once despised in the industry. I can’t say she was wrong in that, I was a total snowflake back then, but she missed me as much as I missed her. Sara wished more than anything in the world that she had me back. But she didn’t want the cannibalistic asshole I had become, she wanted her Evan back. The man who was actually suitable as a role model for our kids and not a man who might eat them when she wasn’t looking. That definitely isn’t me. Not right now.

So she rejected me, but she didn’t close the door. If I could change, if I could regain some of my former moral fibre and turn myself into around then she’d be happy for me to come home. Obviously I agreed and immediately said I’m a changed man and would never be a douchebag again… but she wasn’t having any of it. It takes more than an evening in a hotel room to change a man, she had said, to which I replied: “That depends on what’s going on in that hotel room, rawr.”

I can’t be certain, but I don’t think that comment helped my cause at all. No, she wanted me to work on it. Urgh. That sounded like an awful lot of effort, but I agreed. I wanted to be back with Sara so much I would willingly give up the delicious taste of human meat and the joy I get from being an absolute prick to everyone. With that in mind, I joined the one support group which specialised in my particular kind of addiction: AA.

That’s right, in order to get clean and become a better man I have joined Assholes Anonymous. A support group for men such as myself whose rampant addiction to douchebaggery was ruining their lives and harming those around them. This wasn’t for your average asshole in the street, but for the real hardened assholes.

I’m talking about the sort who would see a lady panicking because her kid had run off in the park and would tell her he’d seen the kid playing by the edge of the river! He’d then go and find the kid and tell them he’d seen their mom getting it on with her friend from work down by the river and they should totally tell their dad about it… And THEN go take a shit in the sand box for good measure.

Absolute assholes.

It was a fortuitous time to join, because there was a local chapter running a two day induction retreat this week. So I figured I would go take the first step of their 97 step programme before going back across the Atlantic to Chicago. I had gotten off the bus at the foot of a single track lane, about half a mile’s walk from the camp where I was sure to meet the biggest bunch of assholes this side of a hemorrhoid clinic. The drudgery of the walk was shortened by a short but supportive phone call from Sara.

“Good luck, Evan.” She had said after the menial pleasantries were done with. “I know you can do this if you put your mind to it.”

“I’m honestly worried I can’t.” I sighed as I hoofed my way up the muddy track. “I have no idea what it’s going to be like. What if I don’t fit in? What if I flunk whatever tests they have?”

“Evan, you’re pretty much the biggest asshole in a federation of assholes, you’ll fit right in.” Sara enthused. I wasn’t sure it was meant as a compliment. “It’s just an induction, to get to know the programme. The real work starts after. You’ve got this, Evan Ward.”

“I hope you’re right.” I pushed the gate open and entered the camp’s grounds.

“Just do your best. Be your best.” She said, “And come home to me. Talk soon.”

“I’ll let you know how it goes.” I replied. “I love you.”

She hung up before the V left my lips. I was sure it was an accident.

As I neared the reception hall a skinny, bald guy walked out the worn double doors and headed towards me, waving a hand above his head. “You must be Evan!” He shouted with a nasal tone.”Come on in, we’re all inside waiting for you!”

“Hey, it’s Tom, right?” I said, offering out a hand for him to shake.

“Yeah, that’s me.” He gripped my hand like he was squeezing the juice out of a lemon. Strong for how wiry he was. “Let’s go inside, grab a coffee and take a seat.”

Tom guided me into the hall where a circle of assholes sat on their asses on uncomfortable looking seats. It was a motley bunch of guys. There was a smug looking guy in a suit, obviously a business asshole; a scraggly looking man with thinned out, whispy hair and missing teeth who looked like he was about to crumble to dust at any moment from his drug addictions; a tracksuit wearing, blinged out little chav who clearly thought he was some big time gangsta, with an A, not an E R; then there was the angry looking a skinhead who was quite likely a nazi, given the massive swastika tattooed on his face. There were some other guys but they seemed quite normal compared to these assholes. I took a seat between the nazi and the businessman.

“Welcome!” Said Tom as he took to the centre of the circle. “I’m glad you could all make it to our little retreat. Today we’ll be getting to know each other and coming to terms with why we’re here. I know you’ve heard this a thousand times before, it’s what all these sorts of groups say whether it’s for drugs, alcohol, porn addiction, anger management, convicted sexual predators, Scott Stevens fans, any group at all… Admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery and that’s what today is about. I know some of you have already been to meetings with me, some are from AA chapters in other cities, and for a couple it’s your first time, so let’s all introduce ourselves. I’ll begin. My name is Tom, and I am an asshole. I used to be a fully fledged member of the National Front until I realised what a problem being such a massive asshole was and how it was hurting everyone around me. Now I have got myself together and am trying to make a real difference in legitimate politics.”

“Oh? What party are you with?” I asked.

“Reform UK.” Tom nodded. Almost everyone in the room shuddered at the thought, even the nazi. “Hey, it’s a process. One step at a time.” He stepped back and gestured to the  business man beside me.

“My name’s Kevin.” He said as he stood up.

“Hello Kevin.” Everyone else droned in response.

“I’m an investment banker from down in London. I have spent years of my life swindling people out of their money to make myself richer.” He explained. “But when I couldn’t stop myself from swindling my own mother and my children out of all their money, I realised I was an asshole and needed help”

“Thank you for sharing, Kevin.” Tom said as everyone else clapped. He gestured to me next.

I stood up. “Hey dudes, I’m Evan W-” I began but saw Tom holding up hand to stop me.

“First names only, Evan.” Tom said. “Assholes Anonymous is a safe space where we can deal with our problems being assholes with no repercussions, no one needs to know who you are outside of this circle.”

“Oh.” I frowned. “I guess I’m wearing the wrong t-shirt, then.” I was wearing my ‘I’m Evan Ward and I’m fucking awesome!’ t-shirt, available from the HOW store for $69.97, which had  a picture of me holding my LSD Championship over my shoulder while wearing the same t-shirt which recursively had the same picture of me on it. I was standing in the exact same pose as in the picture, including the LSD Championship over my shoulder. “Ok, so forget that I’m Evan Ward, just call me Evan. I’m a professional wrestler, but I won’t mention where to maintain anonymity-”

“Man, you’re whack, yo!” Said the chav. “I watched that shit you pulled at War Games and was, like, damn, son, he be trippin’! I used to wrestle myself, innit, but I ain’t never seen no tank blow up no bleacher before, sheeeeeet! Yo whack, innit, blud.”

“Bazza, no one cares that you were a jobber in some no name fed.” The banker wanker snarked at him. “It’s not like you ever won a match.”

“Hey, bruv, go easy.” Bazza replied. “Full Scale Pro was legit! Why you have to be so harsh on a brother, I’m just a gangsta like you, innit?”

“Don’t give me that brother bullshit, you’re as white as the cliffs of Dover.” Kevin snapped back. “I find it offensive that you think I associate with that culture just because of the colour of my skin. I’m an upstanding asshole, not a bottom feeding dole-line bum like you. I earn more in a week than you will in your life time.”

“Woah, let’s calm this down.” Tom interjected. “It’s Evan’s turn to speak.”

“Like I was saying.” I coughed awkwardly. “I’m a pro wrestler and I’m addicted to eating people. Like, literally, not metaphorically or sexually. If you’ve never tried it, I’d recommend it. You used to be able to get some great long pig cuisine from the Mystery Meat Curry Cart but it’s gone totally woke under its new management and only serves animals now. Yuck. Anyway, I’m an asshole who eats other assholes. Help me stop.”

“Aye, that’s the biggest asshole addiction I ever did hear.” Said the skeletal motherfucker across the circle in a raspy Scottish accent. “You need to kick that addiction soon, lad.”

“Yeah, you know about addiction, don’t you.” I scoffed back at him. “Bet you’re gagging for your next shot.”

“What? I don’t do drugs.” He replied back.

“Oh yeah, totally, shooting up heroin every five minutes isn’t why all your hair and teeth are falling, right?” I laughed. “Remember, admitting you have a problem is the first step to solving it.”

“I’M RIDDLED WITH CANCER, YOU FUCKING ASSHOLE!” He yelled back.

“Woah, sorry, my mistake, no need to spit it over everyone.” I rolled my eyes.

“Why don’t you sit down now, Evan.” Tom said firmly. “Heinrich, why don’t you say hello.”

“Guten tag.” Said the nazi beside me. “I am Heinrich, und I vas a neo nazi until vun day I realised zat I vas zee problem und not zee solution. It had taken over my life. I am not even German, I vas born in Essex! Now I can’t valk down zee street vizout everyone getting scared. Zey see my tattoo and run avay! Zey von’t give me a chance to change! I don’t vant to be a nazi anymore!”

“Aww, that’s so sad…” I wiped a tear away. “But I’ve got an idea!” I pulled a set of coloured sharpies out of my pocket and, before Heinrich could even react I had finished doodling on his face. “There you go, now it’s not a swastika!”

“Is that…”  Tom was stunned. “The Windows 95 logo?”

“Almost, it’s the Windows Vista logo!” I was chuffed at how well it turned out. Heinrich burst into tears.

“My god, man.” Said Kevin. “Vista?! That is horrific! How could you be such an asshole?!”

“Why don’t we take a break?” Tom said before anyone could kick off any further. “Evan, I am disappointed in you, go have a time out in the corner while I help Heinrich remove that symbol of ultimate evil from his face.”

Once Tom and Heinrich came back we continued to go around the group and spent the rest of the session talking about our feelings and what it means to be an asshole in today’s society and all that boring bullshit. I was beginning to think I had made a mistake. Maybe this group couldn’t help me. Was I too much of an asshole even for racists, heroin addicts, wannabe ganstas and bankers? I needed to become less of an asshole but getting all mushy in a group just didn’t seem like it would do anything. Maybe the American chapters of the AA  would suit me better. Like everything, the assholes are all much bigger over there. I’d have to look into it after my match with Stevens was over.

That evening we ate a barbecue around a bonfire. It was surprisingly tasty considering it didn’t have any people in it. After the meal Tom stood up and raised a glass.

“Congratulations on a day well spent.” He said. “We’ve covered a lot of ground today and, while It might not feel like much, this is an important first step for you all. Stick with the process and carry the momentum through it will get easier and you’ll be able to regain the loves you’ve lost from being assholes. It’s going to be hard, you’re going to struggle at times and some of you will certainly fall off the wagon…” He shot a deliberate look at my direction. I had no idea what it could mean. “But there will always be one of us to offer a hand out to help you back on. When things look bleak, when you’re feeling helpless, just remember our mantra.”

He coughed to clear his throat and some of those around the campfire joined in.

“We are broken and despicable, we are assholes. To put the pieces back together we need to look in our souls. Only then can we forgive ourselves and find that which makes us whole.”

The group cheered and clapped, most drank their beers. Maybe he was right. Maybe I really did need to look inside my soul to find that missing piece, to fix my broken self. Maybe having support from others going through what I am would help spur me on to being better. I’m a competitive person so that sounded right up my alley, competing with all these bastards to see who can stop being an asshole the soonest. I was looking forward to rubbing their noses in how awesome I was for becoming a nice guy first. It would serve them right for being assholes.

Tom let a warm, friendly smile creep across his face as he picked up an acoustic guitar. “Now how about a good old sing along? Come on, you all know this one from when you were kids!”

He started strumming out the tune to “Glory Glory Hallelujah” and everyone joined in the song.

🎶🎶🎶🎶🎶🎶🎶

He jumped without a parachute from twenty thousand feet
He jumped without a parachute from twenty thousand feet
He jumped without a parachute from twenty thousand feet
And he ain’t gonna jump no more 

Glory glory what a hell of a way to die
Glory glory what a hell of a way to die
Glory glory what a hell of a way to die
And he ain’t gonna jump no more

He landed on the pavement like a lump of strawberry jam
He landed on the pavement like a lump of strawberry jam
He landed on the pavement like a lump of strawberry jam
And he ain’t gonna jump no more

Glory glory what a hell of a way to die
Glory glory what a hell of a way to die
Glory glory what a hell of a way to die
And he ain’t gonna jump no more

They put him in a match box and they sent him home to mum
They put him in a match box and they sent him home to mum
They put him in a match box and they sent him home to mum
And he ain’t gonna jump no more

Glory glory what a hell of a way to die
Glory glory what a hell of a way to die
Glory glory what a hell of a way to die
And he ain’t gonna jump no more

She put him on the table when the Vicar came to tea
She put him on the table when the Vicar came to tea
She put him on the table when the Vicar came to tea
And he ain’t gonna jump no more

Glory glory what a hell of a way to die
Glory glory what a hell of a way to die
Glory glory what a hell of a way to die
And he ain’t gonna jump no more

The Vicar spread him on some toast and said what lovely jam
The Vicar spread him on some toast and said what lovely jam
The Vicar spread him on some toast and said what lovely jam
And he ain’t gonna jump no more

Glory glory what a hell of a way to die
Suspended by your braces when you don’t know how to fly
Glory glory what a hell of a way to die
And he ain’t gonna jump no more

🎶🎶🎶🎶🎶🎶🎶🎶