For the last several years I could tell that my eyesight was getting worse. Road signs were getting closer before I could read them. I knew the Department of Transportation wasn’t responsible for that. Three years ago I renewed my driver’s license and I had to guess at the last two lines of the eye exam. The DMV employee wasn’t paying attention to my answers and I slipped through the crack provided by a lazy employee of the state. I knew my sight was getting worse but I didn’t want to have to start dealing with the hassle of wearing glasses or contacts. I ignored my problem.
Sometimes people say that “youth is wasted on the young.” I don’t know that I agree with that, but I can tell you that youth is wasted on the drugged-up young: I was one of them. I lived a very different life when I was in my mid twenties. I blinded my heart and dulled my emotions with substance abuse on a daily basis. Getting high wasn’t about the high. The only place I sought to find my value and worth was with validation from women. Cocaine gave me the energy I needed to be at the party, no matter how long the party lasted. I believed that if somebody wanted to be with me, even if for only a night, it was better than not being wanted at all. And if I could say "at least she wants to be with me right now" (whoever she was that I ended up with that night)... well that meant something. A lot of people don’t realize how much money you can make dealing drugs. Managing that money well, however, is a completely different story. I did work in several bars, which enabled me to sell more drugs and hang out with my friends at the same time.
Believe it or not, I was working on my Masters of Divinity at the time. I was the rare combination… Drug Dealer and Seminary Student. You don’t see a lot of people selling coke and working on a Masters of Divinity together, and for good reason. It doesn’t work. Even as I studied scripture and theology, I lied, cheated and stole. This powerful hypocrisy lead me to hurt the people I cared about most in my life.
I was completely disconnected from my God, I had no sense of worth or value, and I was as lost in depression as I could ever possibly be. And the shame that came along with knowing that I was where I was in life because of the choices I made was like walking around with the rotting carcass of a two ton elephant strapped to my back.
Interestingly enough, this behavior is not uncommon. It’s almost cliché, except for the fact that it was my life and for the most part, I felt like I could not escape. I don't tell you this to glamorize my life story, far from it. I believed I was a loser, that I deserved that life, and that I would be dead by thirty. One afternoon while I was taking a shower I collapsed to the bottom of my bathtub, weeping and crying out to my God for help. When I emerged from the water and steam filled bathroom, I was determined to come up with a plan and execute it at any cost. Four months later I sold everything, except what I could fit into my Toyota Camry, and drove across the country to crash at my parents house for about a year.
What I wasn’t aware of at the time was that I had the choice to change my life, every moment of every day. Even though I was in a living hell, the fear of change was more powerful than the pain that I had created… until it wasn’t. However, even after months of the brilliant clarity that came with sobriety, there were days that I wanted to return to that lifestyle because it was comfortable. I may have been messed up and completely self-destructive, but at least I knew how to handle life in that mode. As a sober person, everything was new and brought with it a sense of intense fear. The simplest of tasks, like scheduling appointments on a calendar seemed like it took the energy of escaping the Earth’s gravitational pull.
Every day was a choice. Connect with my God, get centered, and choose a new way, or return to where I had come from. Sixteen years later and I don’t know how to express in writing how rewarding it is to have stayed the course. The only thing that comes to mind is to say the names of my two little girls and maybe you might be able to recognize what is wrapped up in this imagery. Life.
Today I value myself; connect with the Divine hourly; have deep and meaningful relationships with the most rewarding friends a guy could have; and know my purpose, as my life and income are wed to helping others make their own changes, discover work that matters and learn to love themselves. I still make mistakes, but I’ve learned how to process through them in a healthy manner. Living an extraordinary life isn’t a one time decision. It’s a choice that’s made every single morning followed by action steps that back up that choice like powerful punches landing on the jaw of ‘the comfortable’.
Maybe you want someone else to make you feel better about yourself. Maybe you are at the end of your rope and feel like you don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell. You do. Today you have the most power you will ever have… the power of a choice. Maybe you begin exercising the power of that choice with a simple prayer asking for help.
It could be that you’ve never been to those depths, but at some point you decided that you wanted a better life for yourself, one with purpose and meaning that energizes and compels you. Now you’re wondering why things haven’t changed yet. Is it possible that you’ve forgotten that living a meaningful life is a choice one must make everyday? It doesn’t take a new year to make changes, just a choice.
When you woke up this morning, what did you choose? If it wasn’t clear, concise, and followed by actions, chances are high that it wasn’t an empowering choice. Here’s another cliché for you… thinking you’re not making a choice is most certainly a choice.
If you are interested in subscribing to the mailing list and receiving these via email, simply click under ‘subscribe to the mailing list’. _______________________________________________________________________________________ "The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time." - Abraham Lincoln
"This is as true in everyday life as it is in battle: we are given one life and the decision is ours whether to wait for circumstances to make up our mind, or whether to act, and in acting, to live." - Omar Bradley
"Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom." - Viktor Frankl
Special thanks to Mike McHargue for an open conversation and help in refining this piece