My lovely bride is a different person today than she was several years ago. Night and day different. You might know that from her first guest post.
Why is she night and day different? You really want to know?
Read this. It ‘s about the reason she’s alive. It’s about how she answered the question that is the title of this post. I hope it speaks to you like it speaks to me.
Today is my 39th birthday.
I am a yoga teacher.
I am a personal trainer.
I am a wannabe Buddhist.
I am a passionate vegan.
Sober as FUCK.
AND I AM REALLY FUCKING HAPPY.
Why am I telling you this? Because it still amazes me that I’m even here, let alone that I’m in the space I am in today. My birthday is always a time of reflection for me, so I thought I would share with you a little bit of my journey BEFORE my big life transformation 2 years ago.
I distinctly remember a conversation I had with my mother when I was 14 years old; she was yelling at me (something she did quite often), and she was berating me about the condition of my life.
I don’t even remember what I had done to instigate the fight with my mother, but she said to me, “Stephani, what the hell are you going to do with your life? What are you going to be doing when you’re 30?”
To which I replied, “I don’t care. I’ll be dead by the time I’m 30.”
And I meant it. I had absolutely no intention of living past 30. As long as I can remember, I have always been… just maladjusted to life, for lack of a better term. I was always uncomfortable; I had crippling anxiety in social situations. I was a shy, awkward, introverted kid that had a hard time making friends.
My home environment was dysfunctional and unsafe. I lived in absolute chaos.
At 14, I was already on the fast track to nowhere. My future didn’t look too bright; I was a volatile, angry kid. My grades were awful, and I just didn’t give a shit about anything. During this time, I found the relief I had been looking for in a bottle of good old Boones Farm. From the first sip I ever took of alcohol, I knew it was the solution I had been looking for. My awkwardness went away. I stopped being so introverted.
I drank every single chance I got; my life quickly spiraled into alcohol, drugs, and a life that was quickly ensuring that I would get my wish-that I wouldn’t live to see my 30th birthday. I couldn’t picture any kind of life worth living, let alone one where I was “old.”
I could give you the gory details of the 16 years of my drinking…but I’ll spare you that pity party.
What I can tell you is this: in my drinking I had accidentally created the chaos in my own home that I fucking loathed from my own childhood. It sucked, and I was stuck.
So…Imagine my surprise on August 9th, 2006 when I woke up on my 30th birthday.
Shit. I was still alive.
And I had no idea why. Or how. Or what to do from there. I literally had done NOTHING with my life.
The next month was hell. I tried to drink myself to death during that time. It didn’t work. I’m obtusely resilient, and I just wouldn’t die.
So on September 10th, 2006, I had my last drink. It was a shitty bottle of cheap white wine. On September 11th, 2006, I got sober.
Honestly? There just wasn’t anything else left to do.
I thought that was quitting drinking was going to fix things. Wrong. It actually got worse. And stayed worse for the first 7 years I was sober; the only difference between the drunk me and the sober me was that I no longer passed out, drove drunk, and slept on my bathroom floor. I was crazy. I still wanted to die on a regular basis, but was just too chickenshit to pull the trigger.
My life didn’t get better, because I lacked the skills to do some serious self-reflection. I also needed to change my patterns of thinking about my life. I was stuck in my story, and I was wearing my trauma like a badge of honor.
I just couldn’t get free of my past.
So that’s how I lived. I lived stuck.
That is, until everything changed two years ago when I hit rock bottom.
And oh man, did it ever change.
Wait. What? A switch just flipped and everything changed? Just like that?
Yup, just like that.
So what changed? How did I go from a sick, miserable, dysfunctional kid/adult that wants to die…to the person I am today?
Well, that’s a big shift, wouldn’t you say? Yes, yes it is.
In my last blog post, I had a hard time explaining my transformation. I said, “Maybe it was god, maybe it was self-will, maybe it doesn’t matter.”
Or maybe it DOES matter.
I’ve actually been thinking about it quite a bit the past few weeks. And I think the answer is actually pretty simple.
I found a reason to live.
Now, when I say “I found a reason to live” I’m not talking about the obligatory stuff. I’m not talking about changing my life for my kids, my husband, my family. I had to want to change my life FOR ME.
I HAD to find the thing that lights my soul on fire. The thing I want to get up for in the morning. The thing that makes me understand why I’m here on this crazy fucking planet.
In “yoga speak,” this is also known as Dharma. I’ve found my life’s purpose. All of those things I listed at the beginning of this post….the yogi, personal training, sober, vegan, Buddhist hippie nonsense.
Yup. That’s my Dharma. Helping people. Healing people. Inspiring people. Using what almost destroyed me to give hope to someone who is struggling. I started doing yoga. I started working out and eating healthy. I started helping other people. I started writing. I started reading. I started learning. And my soul caught on FIRE.
See, when I was a kid, nobody was living their Dharma. As a kid, I learned that being an adult equates to being miserable. Nobody ever showed me a good example of what being a happy, functioning adult was. I don’t remember seeing an adult in my life express true, abiding joy, or talk about something that made their spirits light up.
No Dharma. Just survival. And chaos.
I guess nobody ever told them that this life is fucking beautiful, and that they could go out and help make this world a better place with the unique gifts that they possessed. Instead, this world, and it’s messages, snuffed out their fires. And then that was passed on to me.
Well gee. No fucking wonder I wanted to die before I turned 30.
I wanted to die because nobody showed me how to truly live.
But…that same resilience that wouldn’t let me die almost 9 years ago (and 2 years ago), is the same resilience that brought me to this place I’m at today. Out of sheer desperation for something different, I started taking action. I started reconstructing my patterns of thinking, and I stopped being a victim. I stopped wearing my past like a badge of honor.
I stopped living in my story, only when I started writing a new one. The hurt of my past dissipated when I started doing things that rewrote the script in my head that said I just wasn’t good enough. The script that said I was broken, and worthless, and there was nothing to look forward to.
Because I stopped being stuck and started moving forward with my life, I was able to halt the cycle of dysfunction that was bestowed upon me. I’m not sure why I was chosen to break the cycle, but holy shit, am I ever grateful.
I think we all at some point in our lives are presented with two options; an opportunity to live our Dharma, or to plod on to the bitter end. Most people, unfortunately, choose the latter.
When I found my Dharma, I greeted her like an old friend. I welcomed her with open arms. I stopped digging, and I started looking. And I started saying yes to the things that brought me joy. I’m writing a new story today.
If you are reading this, I want you to know it’s not too late. It’s never too late to start over, and find that thing that makes you come alive. If you’re miserable, please. Put down the shovel and stop digging. Instead of digging, start looking. Look for the thing that brings you true joy. And then go do it.
And I’m never turning back. My kids don’t ever have to see me struggle again. I get to show them how to really LIVE. Not just exist. They now know that they too, can do whatever they set their minds to, and that this world is indeed fucking beautiful. They’ve seen their mom’s soul catch on fire, and they have full permission to go explore what’s going to catch theirs on fire as well.
The cycle has been broken.
Happy Birthday to me.