I’ve lost 29 pounds since January 1st, roughly 17% of my New Year’s Day body weight. In a very real sense, 17% of the old Travis A. Naughton no longer exists. Therefore I’m only 83% the man I used to be. I wonder if I can fit that on my business card or into the lyrics of a country song.

Travis Naughton

My weight loss is not a result of some heinous disease, as some have speculated (literally, and to my face.) Neither was it borne from a narcissistic need to look good for the paparazzi who are incessantly snapping nude photos of me through my bedroom windows. No, the explanation is quite simple actually. I realized that if I wanted to be around to witness all of my kids’ milestones in life, I needed to take the steps necessary to increase the chances of that happening.

As I sat in my dentist’s office six months ago, getting ready to have some cavities filled, his assistant checked my blood pressure as a routine precaution prior to giving me sedation. My reading was 184 over 110. In all likelihood, the anxiety I was feeling prior to undergoing what would prove to be unpleasant dental work contributed in some way to that extremely high reading. Yet last week as I sat uncomfortably in a chair answering personal questions about my medical history prior to donating blood for the first time in 14 years, my blood pressure was recorded at a healthy 120 over 74. My resting pulse rate, mere moments before having a razor-sharp needle shoved into my arm? 60 beats per minute. White Coat Syndrome alone, therefore, could not account for the drastic differences in my vital statistics.

Four months of eating healthier, exercising regularly, and abstaining from alcohol have helped me become a much healthier—and happier—person. And with a clear mind, I have had an opportunity to discover who I am.

I am a homebody. I’ve learned that I really, really love being at home with my wife and kids. I used to look for any reason to get out of the house. Usually, those forays involved alcohol. Okay, all of those forays involved alcohol. But even when I was at my house, I usually had a drink in my hand—a wall between me and my family—so it didn’t matter where I was, because I was never really at home.

I am a teacher. I’ve reaffirmed how much I love teaching kids. I like to think of myself as a more modern, slightly edgier, substitute teacher version of Mister Rogers. Overall, kids seem to respond pretty well to me. I thrive on the positive energy in the classroom, and I hope to continue to teach for many years to come.

I am a writer. I have also reaffirmed that there is a dark, yet creative, side of Travis A. Naughton, where a shadow of the late, great Gonzo Journalist Hunter S. Thompson lurks. Although I strive to be a role model to my children and to the kids I teach at school, I’m as much the degenerate Hunter S. Thompson as I am the compassionate Fred Rogers.

I must sheepishly admit that although I was always aware of Thompson’s legend, I had never read a word of the famous freelancer’s work until very recently. Despite appearing in the pages of countless magazines and newspapers over a career that spanned decades, in my mind Thompson existed mainly as a character in Johnny Depp movies.

After experimenting with writing styles over the years, it turns out I’m something of a Gonzo Journalist myself—albeit one with a small-town-living, married-with-children bent for the most part. Both Thompson and I inject ourselves into every story we write. We both specialize in writing columns with left-leaning bias flavored by accounts of questionable, often terrible, decision-making. Humor, politics, sports, and intoxicants are mentioned frequently in our pieces. And, something I just learned yesterday, we were both ordained by the Universal Life Church. I’m glad, in a way, that I never read Thompson until recently—otherwise people might accuse me of being a forger copying the work of a far superior artist.

If Hunter S. Thompson and Mister Rogers had a love child, (now there’s a visual for you), that peculiar spawn would be me. These are the thoughts that pop into my head at night now that I’m sober and “thinking clearly.” But I don’t mind. I like who I am, and I know who I am—finally.

I am a homebody, a husband, a father, a teacher, a writer, a minister, a guitar builder, a public address announcer, a classic car enthusiast, and a recovering alcoholic.

I am healthy, and I am happy.

I am 83% the man I used to be, and that’s fine by me.