10 years ago today I made a choice.
A choice that changed everything for me.
A choice that would take me on a journey of self-discovery.
I was sitting in the passenger seat of my mother’s car as she drove me to the airport.
The previous 15 years flashed before my eyes.
Every day was the same…
A flurry of alcohol and bad decisions.
For a while it was fun….
It was a party….
A party just about every day.
Gradually it became the center of my life.
I was drinking no matter what the occasion.
I was a pro when it came to drinking.
This became a learned skill for me.
And I certainly had the results to prove it.
3 DUI’s … before the age of 23...
In and out of jail…
Hurting the people that cared about me the most.
Dark days, man.
Now I was riding in that car trying to hold back the tears.
Still kind of nauseous and hungover from the night before.
A wave of anxiety impaled me.
But something told me if I didn't follow through with what I was about to do, I would lose everything.
Or end up dead in just a matter of time.
I thought to myself…
“I just can't-do this anymore.”
I was just too tired….
Too tired of the pain
Too tired of feeling worthlessness
Too tired of disappointing myself – and disappointing others
Too tired of partying
Too tired of drinking
Too tired of lying to myself
Too tired of feeling like shit every day.
Too tired of living in this prison I’d created for myself…
And too tired of building the bars around me.
The drinking really was just a side effect of what was really going on.
I had to get honest with myself.
If I wanted to change my life, I had to get answers.
And the answers weren't out there.
I had to take a hard look at myself
Square up with myself.
I was just so fucking scared.
I don't know what scared me more – the thought of losing everything or dying.
Or… giving up drinking…and my identity.
As I looked down at my hands seeing the trembling from the alcohol withdrawal I had nothing left.
I felt soulless – like a shell of a human being.
Nothing else to lose except my life and my family.
At this rate that wasn't too far off.
But once I got on that plane things were going to be different….
Waiting for me on the other end was a fresh start – a sober living community.
A place to help me get sober and begin to change my life.
So I did what I had to do.
I felt hopeful.
I got on that plane leaving everything and everyone I knew behind.
Cutting all ties!
“This is actually happening..."
“I can't believe I'm actually going through with this.”
When I got to my seat I sat down and the reality hit me….
I was thinking to myself…
“I can't-do this. I can't go through with this.”
The voices just hammered me …
“James, Why are you lying to yourself you can't-do this….”
“You're not going to succeed at this….”
“This is going to be too hard you don't deserve this!”
“You're just going to fuck this up like everything else..”
“It's Just a matter of time before you're kicked out of the community..”
“This is crazy..”
“Leaving your life in Texas to start a new life in California..”
“You have only been to California one time for 2 days…”.
“You don't know anyone there.”
I started to panic the voices just got louder and louder…
“James this is fucked..”
“You're leaving everything you know..”
“How are you going to handle this.”
“You have nothing there!”
“You're totally going to fuck this up!”
“You're not worth this-this is a really bad decision..”
Man, I had to stop these voices now!!
This was too much to handle...
So I did what I did best
I said fuck it!
It's time to get fucked up!
I started ordering drink after drink after drink…
by the time we got to California I was obliterated…
In fact, I got lost in the airport… and passed out at a bar there.
I woke up….
I had no idea where I was, I blacked out I guess…
Turns out some people from the Sober living community found me passed out and took me back to where I'd be staying...
That next day...
I woke up and I was in a completely new place.
I'll never forget how blue the sky looked…
I was still kind of hungover and out of it from the day before...
But something was very different!
I had this sense of relief...
It seemed like the fear was gone.
On the other side of all that fear, there was a sense of freedom and hope!
In spite of all the fear,
I had followed through on these things…
I had taken all the steps to change my circumstances...
In spite of being in a completely new place not knowing a soul...
And because I was willing to find the courage just to do that ...
I felt hopeful.
I said to myself…
“James, you actually did it! you made it!”
I knew I would never do this to myself again.
I was determined to live a better life…
By committing and following through on just a couple of very big steps
Changing my circumstance...
Stepping into something unknown...
Becoming real in my mind each step of the way
I had started to change...
I had subconsciously admitted it to myself that I was no longer that guy.
I was not the same person that was in that car yesterday.
By the following day when I wasn't hungover I was able to take the next step and the next step and the next step...
Literally taking this one day at a time...
My self-concept was changing just by consciously committing to taking these scary steps…
I was growing by stepping into the unknown...
I realized my real fear had been that I would feel this alone and afraid every day for the rest of my life.
But it didn't turn out to be that way.
In spite of the fact that it seemed like I was going to have a lifetime of pain …
Finding the courage to change my circumstance in that way shifted everything so that then step by step …
I could get better and better and better...
Now I know you may not have had the same issues that I've had ...
But you've been in situations where you knew something had to change.
And it seemed terrifying.
I know you felt like you were a failure, or you felt regrets, and changing your life seemed impossible ….
But what I want you to realize is that I know how afraid you are.
How scary it is to even think about changing your life.
But what you're really afraid of is having a lifetime of the pain you've already been experiencing.
A lifetime of the terrifying unknown …
I'm here to tell you that isn't what awaits you...
What awaits you if you can find the courage just to take that first step and change your circumstances just that much, change starts happening immediately.
And it as soon as it does you're in a different place with yourself.
You're becoming a different person.
And from then on it won't be as scary; it won't be as overwhelming.
And it won't be what you thought it was going to be.
What you'll find is hope in a sense of relief hope and freedom!
If you can just allow yourself to feel your fear, and go ahead anyway and make one significant change in your circumstance, things will shift.
Since I woke up that day and stopped drinking 10 years ago, it’s not as if I haven't been afraid.
And it’s not as if I haven't had failures and setbacks and pain.
But it's never been what I had imagined it would be when I got on that plane.
It’s been a decade of change, and discovery and growth.
And in that entire 10 years, never once been tempted to have another drink...
Sometimes you have to destroy everything to let the next great thing happen!