Lessons in Losing it All, and Why I Wouldn’t Change a Thing
Lesson: An amount of teaching given at one time; a period of learning or teaching.
I had a plan; oh man did I have a plan! I was going to graduate College, work my way up through a company, and parlay that into an amazing opportunity where I would own my own business like my Dad, make a bunch of money, buy some nice things, and live the good life! Meet a girl, have some kids, buy a house, that’s what I’m supposed to do, and I was going to do it.
I had it all figured out at 25 years of age, I had seen Boiler Room, and Wall Street, I read all the right books, the world had no idea I was coming. I was going to be a top producer in the financial services world, and I was going to crush it!
I began the process of “world domination” when I was hired on to “own” my very own insurance and financial services business in roughly 2006–2007. It was going to be an epic run! I had to secure thousands of dollars in credit to finance the business, acquire office space, hire a staff, and get this money machine moving down the tracks. I secured all of this against my personal credit because we were unable to incorporate at the time, but what did that mean? It wasn’t like failure was an option, I’m ME! I don’t fail; you’re not supposed to fail.
There were some other things going on in the world at that time that had nothing to do with me, my business, or the little one horse town I ended up operating in. The credit default swap bubble that led to the US recession of 2007–2009 was just getting ramped up. I can remember driving to my office in the mornings, and seeing entire streets with FOR SALE signs in their front yards. People calling to cancel insurance policies, on their homes, cars, life insurance, trying to find any way to save money, pay their bills, and keep their homes. The main employer in the town was a large power plant that was now laying people off, and each day on that ride to the office or around town, the number of FOR SALE signs grew.
The business began to slip away, as I continued to swim against the tide, and throw more and more money at a sinking ship via the credit line I had secured upon opening the business. Maxing that line out, cashing in my own personal life insurance for liquid cash, charging payroll to personal credit cards, finally the money ran out.
It was finally “mutually decided” that I would walk away from the business. Not the debt that I had acquired, just the brick and mortar building with my name on it.
I was miserable, depressed, overweight, experiencing soul-crushing anxiety, and I found alcohol as a great way to numb all of these feelings out. It didn’t ask for anything, it didn’t want to have meetings and discuss sales techniques, it didn’t cancel plans, it didn’t lie, it didn’t talk back, it didn’t tell me to suck it up and move on, it was just always there. It was great, until it wasn’t.
So there I was, not yet 30, definitely not Gordon Gekko, financially ruined, owing more on credit lines, and cards then what most people spend on a first home….this was not the plan. This was not how it was supposed to work. I couldn’t fail. I had life figured out.
That was the syllabus; the curriculum I was handed at the beginning of what was a long semester in the course of life.
After I left the business, I took other corporate jobs with other companies to try to pay the bills, and jump start my corporate rise to power, because that’s what I was supposed to do.
“That’s why the call it work! It’s not supposed to be fun!”
All the while, my soul, my inner light, my true self screaming out, crying out, this is not what you want! I continued to muffle those cries with more, and more alcohol, more and more depression, more and more of what is called the setting sun mindset. I wanted to crawl into a dark hole, and be left alone, and just wait for the world to pass by.
I went from job to job to job until finally, the Universe realized I wasn’t going to respond to gentle coaxing, a nudge, a shove, a push, and it finally kicked me down the stairs and said WAKE UP!
There was a turning point
I remember having this exact thought on countless occasions before passing out for the night, “If I go to sleep, and I don’t wake up tomorrow, I’d be ok with that.”
And when the sun would come shining through my window the next morning, having this exact thought, “shit”.
I remember one evening; I spent the night in a hospital at my own accord, calling the police to my home because I didn’t know that I was going to be able to care enough about myself to get through the night. I remember meeting a police officer that night who was about my age, who came to my home, talked to me, and took me to a local hospital where he stayed with me while I got checked in. He didn’t have to stay, he didn’t have to speak to me the entire way to the hospital, and treat me like a human being, but he did.
I picked up the phone the next night, and called the first treatment center I could find that came up on Google, and booked a flight to South Florida. I had finally given up control; I had finally given up how things were supposed to be. I didn’t care about the stigma of what may come from admitting I had lost control. I just knew what I was doing wasn’t working.
I asked for help.
The Lessons I’ve Learned
On my journey to finding my true self, I found the beauty in sobriety. I saw the beauty in HOPE, because sometimes that’s all you have.
I learned to appreciate the sunrise in the morning, and not want to draw the shades. I learned that there are good people who care about YOU, not what you can offer, or produce for them or for a company.
I learned that if you have a roof over your head, food, and water, a shower, a machine to do laundry, you’re already doing better than 80% of the planet. I learned how comfortable a twin bed could be for 5 months, because it was a bed, and I could sleep through the night, and a bed is a blessing no matter the size.
I learned that there is no such thing as YOUR PLAN or what YOU SHOULD DO, only that you try to live with right intent, right action, and right thought, and the results are not up to you to control.
I learned that you could live happily with less money, less things, fewer acquaintances. I learned that coffee in the morning with a sober mind, and an open heart is delicious, and better than a beer to calm the shakes. I learned that life is never over no matter the difficulty or the challenge; there is a lesson, even if it hurts at the time.
Most importantly I learned that when we are placed directly into the furnace of life, we can either choose to be burned up by that fire, or come out shining like a diamond, maybe not a perfect diamond, maybe not even a diamond, but we will shine if we open our hearts and listen to what the Universe is trying to tell us.
When we stop swimming upstream, and listen to our true inner self, we are capable of finding happiness, whatever that looks like. But you cannot live a life idealized by others, society, or shoulds and expect your true self to occupy a space of content.
“Letting go gives us the freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything- anger, anxiety, or possessions — we cannot be free.” Thich Nhat Hanh
The one constant in any life situation is our self. There is no situation, failure, or challenge that we cannot overcome. However, we have to be willing to ask for help, and be willing to reevaluate the way we are living our lives. When we are right with self, the right help will come along, and allow our light to shine.
There is no shame in falling, but you must get up, and if you can’t get up, reach out your hand and let someone pull you up.
I am grateful for my struggle; it is the direct cause of my happiness today. Lesson learned.