Book: The Fifth Vital
Author: Mike Majlak
1. Did you experience any anxiety while writing “The Fifth Vital” knowing that within this book you were being so vulnerable and candid about your past?
Honestly, I didn’t know the book was ever going to come out. For the first couple years, I was just vomiting stories onto my laptop. Some days I would get halfway through a painful story and find my keyboard covered in tears and basically have a breakdown for an hour or two.
It was very therapeutic. The anxiety didn’t come along until I realized holy shit this might actually go to print. That’s when I started wondering if anything should be left out. Luckily for the reader, nothing was.
2. Due to the opioid epidemic, more than 750,000 people have died in the U.S. since 1999. Being a survivor and someone who has overcome the trials of addiction, what are you most proud of yourself for?
Staying kind. As much nasty sh*t as I did and put myself through, I never let it blacken my heart and empathy for others. You see a lot of people lose that compassion in life, especially after going through trauma. But the world needs kind people more than ever right now.
I’ve always wanted to help others that suffer like I did and the book has allowed me to start doing that which I’m so grateful for.
3. Readers have been extremely touched by your book, “The Fifth Vital”, did you expect your story to have this kind of impact on readers, or has feedback from the book surprised you at all?
I knew I had a crazy story. I knew people who read it would be blown away that I was still alive. I thought a couple hundred people would read the first chapter and then set it down for another night and then never pick it back up. But if you told me it was going to spend time ranked above Stephen King, Michelle Obama, and John Grisham or be a USA Today Bestseller, or that people were going to have quotes from it tattooed on their body, or that movie studios were going to be reaching out to me, I wouldn’t have believed you. I definitely have had a few moments where I was just in shock over how this book has been received.
4. Many fans of the book expressed that once they picked it up, it was very hard to put down. Being that this was your first book, when did you realize that you were such a natural storyteller, or was it a difficult writing process that came out looking easy?
GREAT QUESTION. So yes, I’ve always loved telling stories, ever since I was a kid. And I’m not sure there’s really a wrong way to tell the stories from this book. Sometimes you have a story that is so captivating, that even when told wrong it’s going to shock and enthrall the reader. So I started with great content. Then I layered in a seasoned expert in Riley J. Ford to get the thing over the finish line structurally and that helped a ton.
Also, this book could have been much longer. But as someone who works in digital media, I intimately understand the attention span of today’s consumer, and brevity ended up winning out. I think that really increased the book’s ability to capture and not let go. Sometimes less really is more.
5. When was the moment when you knew that your life had to change or otherwise, you’d be dead? Also, when was the moment that you realized that your life was a story that needed to be shared?
In my last days of active addiction, I felt my life slipping away. I felt my body shutting down. I was passing in and out of consciousness. I wasn’t sleeping for days at a time. I was running fevers constantly. This was during my final showdown with crack cocaine and the filth of that drug and of that culture had just taken over completely.
My teeth were rotting out and breaking off. It was the end and I knew it. And for people who read the book, the final kick in the ass was my probation officer and making an offer I couldn’t refuse! Don’t wanna spoil it for those who haven’t read yet!
When did I know the story had to be shared? When I realized how big the problem was. How many people were dying. Kids like me from good homes. Brothers, sisters, veterans, and everyone in between. And no one was talking about it.
Like it was a dirty little secret that people were just going to ignore. I don’t think I ever felt like I needed to do something so much in my whole life. And I’m so happy I did. From what I’m told, this book has saved lives and will continue to do so. And the feeling that gives me is indescribable.
As the story goes, we met on a marketing gig for a company I was working with in 2016, quickly became friends, and the rest is history. This was years after I got clean, so he didn’t help me beat addiction. That said, the art in Logan and my relationship is the symbiotic nature of it. There are a lot of one-sided relationships in this city, and in this world. Logan and I have always been different.
He was the rocket fuel I needed to turn my raw, natural talent into the rocket ship it is today. And to him, I was the big brother he needed in his times of confusion and strife. He has always called upon the lessons of my life to help him through his own traumas. As much as people understand our friendship, I don’t think anyone really gets it. It truly is some Michael and Scottie sh*t. There could be a whole book about it. I really mean that.
7. What is one thing that you learned about yourself while writing “The Fifth Vital”?
That I’m too hard on myself. That I don’t give myself enough credit. I’ve struggled with feelings of not being accepted and not being good enough my entire life. I believe those feelings were actually the catalyst for a lot of the pain I put myself and my family through. But I think writing the book, and reading it back years later, it forced me to step back and look at what I was able to overcome and I have to be proud of that. I feel like I was able to fulfill at least a part of my purpose here on this planet.
8. When you first started using, did you have any slight feeling or idea of how slippery the slope you were on was going to be?
No idea. No D.A.R.E. class or conversation with a teacher or parents could have ever prepared me for the horrors I would witness or how quickly it was all going to happen. It literally felt like it was overnight, that transition from recreationally using to be a full-blown addict. People just don’t get it. That’s another reason why I’m happy the book is so uncensored and so gritty.
I don’t think there’s enough being done to scare the youth. I’ve always been inspired by the Darren Aronofsky film “Requiem for a Dream”. I remember watching that and immediately knowing my life would never be the same after it. I wanted my book to make people feel the same way.
9. How do you hope your book, “The Fifth Vital”, helps people going through or coming out of their own bout with addiction?
While the meat of the book is the grimy, dirty story of my addiction and all the sh*t that came along with it, the real magic is in the back half, when I get clean and start to rediscover my abilities. I still remember that feeling I had coming out of rehab at 25 with a 400 credit score, no car, no prospects on a job, or an education, or life whatsoever.
That’s a scary feeling and I’ll never forget it. But then being able to read about how I got from there to where I am now is where the real power lies. Addicts need to know that getting clean will not only award them the ability to be average, but the ability to be extraordinary. If you beat addiction, you have something in you. That something can lead to very great things.
10. You host a very popular weekly vlog on YouTube called THE NIGHT SHIFT. In your opinion, why have vlogs been such a great medium for you to connect with your audience, and is there a cutting-edge platform or medium that you can see yourself transitioning onto in the coming years?
The Night Shift is a ton of fun. It started as this variety show at first that was breaking the mold of YouTube content, and then at some point definitely shifted towards a more conventional vlog. Listen, I’m entertaining to watch. I’m not gonna sit here and claim this is some groundbreaking content. I live an extremely odd life, I’m surrounded by celebrities and good-looking or funny people, and I put together this weekly program to make people laugh or feel better about things for ten minutes.
I’ve always loved the idea of being versatile. I wanted to deliver value in the book and on the podcast, and then just have fun on my show. As far as new platforms, I will be streaming on Twitch soon and I’m very excited about that. I love video games and I always will just be riffing for hours at a time and that is where I truly shine.
11. What does the term “clout” mean to you? And how important is “clout” to you?
Clout means different things to different people. To the everyday Joe Schmo, clout is how many followers you have. But as you move up the ladder, clout really means how influential you actually are. How many units can you move. How much clothing can you sell?
My feeling on clout is going to surprise you. I can’t say clout isn’t important, especially in the space I’m in. I need followers to promote content to, or products, and that supports my life. That’s the work aspect of it. But other than that, I hate the idea of clout. I hate the idea of being popular in Hollywood. The whole industry is so superficial, fickle, and fake and everyone knows it. For many things, I look at something’s popularity in today’s culture as evidence of how uncool it actually is.
As a culture, America just isn’t as cool as it once was. While everyone listens to Da Baby’s new song, I’m answering this question listening to The Black Keys “El Camino” album. They have no clout right now and I think they’re cooler than anybody who has it. I don’t know, maybe I’m just weird.
12. What’s your best advice for getting over writer’s block?
I never really struggled that much with it, but when I did it felt like it was because I was trying to force something I didn’t feel. My entire book poured out of me. It was the most intense storytelling I’ve ever done. If you don’t get some deep feeling from your writing, of course it’s going to back you up.
Then it just becomes work. It should never feel like that. And obviously a career writer won’t always be writing about what they love or what inspires them, but there usually is a way to more closely align with those things. Get creative in finding ways to find real passion about your current assignment.
13. If you could create a burger using ingredients and items from any of the fast-casual chains you can think of what type of burger would you make? Ex. Shake Shack double patty, Big Mac bun, In-N-Out sauce, and Arby’s fries…
Ok know you’re just getting me all hot and bothered. Roll, lettuce, and tomato from Shake Shack, meat from Five Guys, cheese from Culver’s in Wisconsin, pickles of the Big Mac and now ready for this: Stacker sauce from Burger King. Side of Five Guys cajun fries. Work of art.
14. What’s the best advice you have ever received on happiness?
Different strokes for different folks. Be okay with what people say to and about you and how others live their lives. If you can live your life without feeling like you have to react to everything that happens or every person that has an opinion, that is true peace. Find a way to run your own race and let others run theirs.
15. Do you plan on writing any more books in the future?
Absolutely. Right now I’m focused on making money and setting myself up for the future. I don’t know if anyone has told you, but authors ain’t exactly printing money. I made a good bag off my book because I self-published, but the publishing industry is so messed up. Can you imagine if I had printed with a big house?
I would have kept 8% of the sales. And that sucks. Writing is a timeless art and with digital and video exploding, there has never been a more important time to fight to keep it alive. Hopefully, the big houses wake up to the idea that things are changing, the model is shifting, and make the needed changes to keep people excited about such a necessary craft.
Places To Find More From This Author:
Youtube: Mike Majlak Vlog
Youtube #2: Impaulsive
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