From tragedy to triumph
It was a crisp, cool end of October morning. The sun was shining and I was a 19-year-old girl, sitting in the back of a police car in handcuffs as we pulled out of the hospital garage on our way back to the city jail. The arresting officer who was driving asked, “Lauren do remember anything else about last night”. The female officer who was along for the ride in the front seat said nothing.
I answered, “No, I’m sorry I don’t”. “Well,” he continued, “Unfortunately, there was a man on a bicycle.” I panicked and frantically asked “Where is he? Please tell me he’s ok?” The officer continued, “I’m sorry, Lauren. He didn’t make it.”
I went into hysterics, crying and screaming.
All I knew was that I had been driving home in an alcoholic blackout and I remembered nothing prior to being at the bar looking for my keys. I could not conceive how someone like me, who had always loved everyone else but always hated myself, could have possibly done the worst possible thing to another human being.
The man whose life I had ended was a hard-working Mexican man in his mid-30s and he had a common-law wife and 5 children still living in Mexico. It was a nightmare from which I wasn’t sure if I would ever wake up. Before I had even made it into the county jail, I was asking my parents for help. I pleaded “I just want to get help” and “I just want God to forgive me”. I was in shock. However, I knew my drinking had gotten out of hand, and I had no idea how to stop. After being bonded out of jail a few days later, I attended my first 12-step meeting and enrolled in an outpatient rehab program for my recovery from alcoholism. Luckily, I had supportive parents and siblings but the impact was significant on everyone involved.
A year and a half later, I was convicted of a felony crime, reckless homicide.
I was sentenced to 6 months in jail, 3 years of probation and 150 hours of community service. This was a light sentence to be sure as I had been drinking at a bar and restaurant where I was not asked for my ID, and many of the local politicians had seen me in the bar that evening, but never thought to intervene. The case was messy drawing attention from the local chapters of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (M.A.D.D.) and Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists (A.A.I.M.), among others. My jail time was to be split into two summers so that I could continue my undergraduate degree in Psychology and Spanish.
The first summer I was in jail, I worked on my Psychology thesis related to alcoholic blackout and memory loss. After that 70 days, I was privileged to be able to go to Mexico for 4 months as part of my internship program for my Spanish major. I attended a language school and then spent 6 weeks working in a school and orphanage for 14 and 15-year-old Mexican girls, many of whom lived on campus. It was a rewarding experience, one that I will never forget.
After this, I went back to school, finished my senior year in college and graduated.
While I watched most of my friends go off and get jobs, I prepared to go back to jail to serve the last 180 days of my sentence. I had never felt so useless, miserable and hopeless in my life. When I look back now, I still am somewhat in awe that I survived this. Much of the time I didn’t want to survive and I didn’t know how I would, but, somehow, I kept going. I made myself useful by translating the Bible studies that the “church ladies” brought in from English into Spanish so that the Spanish-speaking inmates could benefit from them too. The jail experience that second summer was way worse, but finally, it ended with me having made connections with other women who were also suffering and knowing that it had all been a part of some greater plan.
After that summer, I returned to live and work in Mexico for another few months, returned to the States to find employment, which I did at a real estate company, and to continue working on my sobriety. I was eventually given the gift of speaking publically about my story on victim impact panels and in high schools. I teamed up with M.A.D.D. and A.A.I.M to do much of this work and the healing process began. I felt like I had to do this to share the message that drinking and driving kills. I learned that I wasn’t a bad person, but rather that I was a good person who’d done bad things because of the choices I made related to my alcoholism.
The next 10 years of my life were an ongoing whirlwind of adventure. I experienced working for an insurance company, getting married, moving out of state and eventually, completing that Master’s degree in Clinical Professional Psychology in 2007. I became a full-time therapist in 2011. I was very excited to finally be working in a capacity where I could help others, but the career was tough as the work was hard and the pay was low. Again, I questioned my worth. Would I ever find what I was really meant to do?
My personal life was very tumultuous in the next few years…
Including a divorce, a baby and falling in love with a woman. The divorce and new love were not expected, so focusing on career was tough. I explored, questioned, made attempts and made changes in my career for about five more years. This year, I received divine guidance to start my own business as an online emotional healing coach, and it is everything I’ve dreamed for in a career.
I love my life as an online coach, and I finally feel like I am truly doing the work of my soul’s purpose. I am grateful for 19 ½ years of sobriety from alcohol and drugs. Not only have I experienced ongoing healing from my own past, but I also get to lead other beautiful women in the pursuit of their healing and their dreams. The deep emotional pain and fear I’ve experienced have been catalysts into my joyful future version of myself.
I want all women out there to know that it doesn’t matter, where you come from or what your past story is. You are constantly re-writing your story and it just gets more genuine and more powerful as you learn. I know that I would not be half the woman I am without having gone through everything I have. Every step was necessary. Never let anyone tell you that you can’t do whatever you set your mind to, and especially, don’t tell yourself this lie! Go for what you want and let no excuses stand in your way! Be the light! Be the change! Don’t forget to take nurturing and healing care of yourself along the way.
Lauren Zolecki-Polzin is an entrepreneur working in the online coaching industry. On her current journey, she shares her approach to finding spiritual, emotional, mental and physical balance by providing her unique perspective on how the most raw life experiences can blossom into one’s best assets. As Lauren guides women through overcoming their past, she walks with them on the path to truly embracing themselves so that they can discover their true purpose and live life to the fullest capacity imaginable while doing so. Her experience working as a Masters Level Limited License Psychologist for 8 years and working in physical health in wellness for 2 years are essential pieces of what she brings to the table when working with clients.
Originally published at www.thiswomancan.org on September 27, 2017.