A Question I Could Not Answer

Barry Buss

Kalamazoo: junior big time.

I escaped Muncie and the Westerns unscathed, setting off for the long trek to Kalamazoo for my first ever trip to our National Championships. This was the team's big week. The US National team at the US National Championships. Demands on our time would be high: meetings, dinners, exhibitions, banquets, all the formalities of the gig that made me cringe.

A couple days the establishment way and I was instantly edgy. It was too risky to drink anymore around the team, yet trying to stay sober around the brass was killing me. With still over a month of summer to go, I concocted a plan, scoring a giant bag of pot from a local Michigan kid. I'd spent my high school years stoned, learning all the tricks of avoiding detection. Anything to escape reality that wasn't going to get me in trouble. I just needed to ride out the summer. But implicit in my plan was a resignation. That at seventeen, I was already too far gone to change my self-destructive ways and take advantage of the opportunities before me.

Finding places to get high would prove tricky. The coaches roomed me with Southerner Lawson Duncan, the straightest laced guy on our team, having never as much as drank a soda before. Alone one afternoon before heading out for a night of team functions, I made the mistake of getting high in our room, trying to blow the smoke through the air conditioning vent. Bad idea as the room soon filled with the pungent smell of marijuana. As I tried to pry open the sealed shut hotel windows, Lawson walked in, immediately freaking out, his virgin lungs now inhaling this foreign toxic air. Lawson began to panic, using his shirt for a filter as if a dirty bomb had gone off in our room. Frantically gathering his stuff, he began screaming at me.

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Growing up in Boston and Los Angeles, Barry became a national ranked junior player at the age of 12, and a member of the elite USTA Junior Davis Cup Team. As a college player he tied the legendary Jimmy Connors 22 match win streak at UCLA. He is now an independent teaching pro working in Franklin, Tennessee.

You Can Get There From Here

The harrowing tale of an American junior tennis standout's descent into alcoholism, addiction, bipolar disorder, and eventual hospitalization and his journey toward healing and recovery. Essential reading if you care about alcoholism, recovery and mental health, with competitive tennis forming the backdrop of Buss' life.

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