“When did you stop drinking?” It’s always an interesting feeling when someone asks me that question, and it always gets me to pause. “Hmmm, honestly, I don’t know. A while ago.” It really doesn’t matter. The important thing is that for me, drinking wasn’t going to coincide with a happy life with a happy wife. It was at that time I was able to stop blaming others, and look inward and figure out what it was in my past that I hadn’t dealt with which kept me looking back, living on memories. These are the kind you don’t wake up from a night of sleep and get excited to share with those around you. The ones you mask with another round, earlier and earlier in the day. Brain jail. Where freedom doesn’t exist. Happiness is fleeting. Helping others isn’t possible because you can’t help yourself. But that’s no longer true, and it feels great. This next part didn’t feel so great. But it is what has led me to where I am today. Let me share it with you.
I didn’t realize the impact of these events until I got sober. What seems so simple and clear for my experience looking back, and many others who have gone through it, is that to stop this horrible thing while it is happening, all I had to do was something. Scream. Run. Anything. But I didn’t, I just froze as quick as a bunny in headlights. It happened three times. Twice before the age of 12 and once during a European trip before my junior year of college. The first was my best friend. The second was by an adult, a close family friend. I only recently was able to realize who this person was. I wish I didn’t. It is easier to keep them faceless and nameless. The third was another best friend. To have someone touch you without your permission is horrifying. Life changing. I didn’t know that at the time. I just woke up and got on with my life. It wasn’t until that day I stopped drinking, and many months after I was able to realize the ramifications of what being molested can do to a human being. It seems as if a boomerang were thrown right after the first time it happened. It just kept going and going at an incredibly long and slow arc, out of sight, until one day, almost 13 years later, it finally came back and hit me square in the forehead. I’m glad it did. It was the beginning of my new life. For many, that boomerang is still spinning out there, somewhere. I have found this is also why it is hard for people to believe my story. Why didn’t I just tell someone what happened soon after? I don’t know, but I didn’t, and that is pretty common. I hope if someone reads this, that arc comes to an end sooner, and someone is there to catch you, like my wife was.
Adversity creates strength. I don’t want to be around anyone who hasn’t experienced adversity. Look around. Pause. Reflect. Search for perspective each day. Think about the two year old with alzheimer’s who needs spinal taps just to stay alive. Or the veteran who experienced the death of a fellow soldier right in front of them, or lost a limb, or the family who lost a brother or sister. Think about the child whose parents boil cardboard or paper because access to real food isn’t a possibility. There is always someone who has experienced worse life events than me. Perspective is everything. Without it, we just get wrapped up in ourselves, in our own little worlds. If I’m not focused on helping others, I’m not doing anything worthwhile.
We all have events and people in our past, both good and bad, that make us who we are today. These three events should never have happened, but they did. It is hard to understand how someone can do that to another human being, but not talking about it or keeping my story inside won’t make it go away. I could spend every waking second of my life trying to change my past to no avail. It would be like kicking a can down the street until it eventually hits a wall and comes right back in my face. It always does eventually. If you don’t change directions and get uncomfortable, nothing changes. Not sharing my story also means I can’t help others. I originally stopped drinking and went on this search of the past to understand the present for myself. I came to realize it isn’t about me, nor should it be. Serving and loving others is the purpose. Share your story and I’m certain you will find the same to be true.
We aren’t put here on Earth to experience only favorable moments. There is no clear path to happiness, but I’m certain it includes sorrow on the journey to get there. I wouldn’t change what happened to me, which may sound weird, but it is true. I’m happier than the first person who saw water come out of the tap. I’m happy in a bar or a brewery. It doesn’t matter where I am, it matters who is with me, even if we aren’t friends yet. I just wish it didn’t take thirteen years to realize this. Hopefully it doesn’t take you that long.