NORFOLK, VA–Ross Bingham, a married, 34-year-old professional videographer, likes to think of his own past as sordid, sources revealed Monday.
"I don't talk about it much, but I went through a pretty wild phase in my early 20s," Bingham told a group of coworkers at Outreach Communications, a corporate video-production company. "I'm lucky I straightened out, because if I'd kept heading down the path I was on, God only knows where I'd be now."
"Those first few years after college, there were times when I was going out drinking with my friends three or four nights a week," Bingham said. "The low point probably came when I woke up on the couch at my friend's apartment with my coat over me as a blanket. I could barely even remember what had happened the night before. Then I realized I must've fallen asleep while we were drinking beer and watching Fletch. Kinda scary when you think about it."
Bingham characterized his living situation at the time as "pretty out of control," telling coworkers that they probably wouldn't even be able to comprehend how "crazy" it was, not having been there.
"One of my roommates was a total pothead," Bingham said. "He'd have guys dropping by to sell him drugs, right there in our living room. I smoked a little pot myself, but I didn't care for it all that much. Drinking, now that was my vice."
Continued Bingham: "I was working part-time at a video store, so I sometimes didn't go into work until noon or one in the afternoon. For a while there, it was 'get off work, go out and party, sleep late, and do it all again the next day.' I knew it was no way to live, but, you know, you get into a downward spiral and it's hard to crawl back out."
Bingham said his other roommate was good friends with the members of Dread Skatt, a popular local ska band, which meant that Bingham would accompany the friend to shows and social events, often staying out as late as two in the morning.
"I was pretty much living to party," he said. "I didn't care about anything else."
Though alcohol was his primary vice, Bingham admitted that it was not his only one: He also had a strong weakness for the opposite sex. The now-reformed Bingham went through a "serious womanizing phase," dating numerous women with no intention of getting into a long-term relationship.
"There was this one girl," he said. "I met her at a bar and we went home together. The next day, I was going to call her, but I realized I couldn't even call information to get her number because I didn't even know her last name. It's probably a good thing we didn't go all the way, or it might have turned into a pretty bad situation."
Bingham also described a "near brush with death."
"I was out with the guys at a nightclub one night, and I'd had a few too many tequila shots," he said. "I started walking to my car when I realized I was way too 'altered' to drive home, so I called a cab. If I hadn't, that could have been it for me right there. To think how close I came to meeting my maker that night, it makes me shudder."
Luckily, at 23, Bingham had a spiritual awakening and realized it was time to turn his life around. The wake-up call was the arrest of best friend and drinking partner Matthew Stackpole.
"Matt got really drunk one night and was goofing around on the walk home," Bingham said. "He decided to steal a 'No Parking' sign, and as he was pulling it out of the ground, a cop drove by. Matt got nailed for attempted theft of public property. Watching him stand in the harsh glare of the police lights, I realized it could have been me being handed that ticket."
Less than a month after his best friend's brush with the law, Bingham took his first steps on the road to recovery. He applied for and landed a job at Outreach Communications, where he prepares video presentations for corporations about to make initial stock offerings.
He hasn't looked back since.
"Sometimes, I miss hanging out with Matt and the old gang. But I know how easy it would be to slip back into my old ways if I did," Bingham said. "If I knew it wouldn't lead to trouble, I'd look Matt up again. It wouldn't be too hard to find him. I hear he's a systems administrator over at Novix Consulting."