My past used to haunt me. I would make every effort to hide who I was and what I had done from the world. I was so worried someone would find out the terrible mistakes I've made in my life. I was living in fear on a daily basis. I was worried about what friends, acquaintances, or employers might find out about me and what they would think.
After surviving an abusive stepfather, multiple arrests, six years in high school, and time in drug rehab, I managed to become a lawyer and business owner.
Until recently, I never looked back at the things that haunted me and realize they needed to happen for me to become the person I am today. Reflecting on my past now I am able to articulate why I am so grateful for the lowest times in my life:
It gave me the freedom to be who I really am.
Once I embraced my past and didn't think of it has a horrible secret I had to hide from the world I was free to be me. That is people would accept me for who I am. Once I shared my story, the feedback I received was amazing. People were moved and inspired. My terrible past is able to have a positive impact on people's lives – that is truly amazing and truly something to embrace and share with the world!
It gave me perspective.
There are good things that happened to you and there are bad things that happen to you. You can stay focused on the bad things – and nothing will get better or focus on the good and improve your life. I can now see other people struggling in their life and I understand they might not be in a place in their life where they want to make a change yet. I just remember I used to be there and I hope they will grow like I did and I will do anything to help facilitate that growth if they want me to.
I discovered I was capable of anything.
If I was able to go through six years of high school, drug rehab, multiple arrests and still go to college and graduate law school – there wasn't anything I wasn't capable of. When things get tough for me now, I remind myself how much of a worse position I was in before and know I can get through this current tough time – that is I tell myself "I've been through worse – much worse".
I learned how to forgive myself.
It's okay that I made mistakes – a lot of mistakes. If can't tell myself that everything will workout and I will be alright, I can never move on from that place of fear. I'm not the same person I was years ago and I won't be the same person in the future. We are constantly evolving and none of us are perfect. I'm just trying to be better than I was yesterday and the only way to do that is to forgive myself for past mistakes. We all have faults – embracing those faults and accepting them is truly transformative. Remember, everyone makes mistakes.
I found out who my real friends were.
During the low points in my life the people I spent most of my time were not my friends. They were not encouraging me to do and be better. They were just bringing me down and wanting to see me fail. Look around the people who you spend the most time with and who you talk with the most – do they really want what is best for you? If not, it's time to move on from that friendship and seek those who fan your flames.
I found out what was important in life.
I used to be so wrapped up about what other people think about me – I thought this was the most defining thing in my life. I also thought having a big home, nice car, and lots of money was the goal of life. Seeking all those things only brought me pain and unhappiness and actually got me into trouble. Once I embraced living in the moment and being grateful for what I have right now and where I was in life, I was truly able to experience happiness. Put your ego aside and just be kind and love others.
I discovered there isn't a destination in life.
Yes a cliche, but also true. I was always chasing something better. I think Robert Hastings wrote it best in The Station: "Regret and fear are twin thieves who rob us of today". The past is the past – enjoy what you have where you are right now.
Maintaining a clear head and being healthy is the best way to live.
I thought I had to drink to have fun. I thought I had to be under some sort of influence to enjoy life. The thing is – being present is the most empowering feeling in the world. Life is much more enjoyable. Eating well and staying active has a positive impact on all aspects of my life.
Sharing my story is helping others.
I couldn't image years ago that going to drug rehabilitation and wrecking my car drunk could actually end up helping others and changing their lives. Changing people's lives and impacting them in a positive way is what I am most grateful for. I amazed that something good can come from something so terrible. Yes, I put myself and my family through hell – but now I can do something about it and give others hope in their lives.