"I just hope you don't end up homeless."
Actual words said to me 5 years ago by a CRA agent while my business and personal life were crumbling down around me. Said with a serious tone and some malice, she was scathing in attacking my undeniable failure and her hope for my own personal downfall. The funny part to me then was that I thought 'Why would I be homeless? I have a family that loves me and I am pretty sure someone would take me in if I truly lost everything.' I look back at her words now and chuckle because she wanted me scared and I was so lost in the haze of having been embarrassed publicly by my failing and subjecting myself to being treated like a giant loser for doing so, fear was taking a backseat to numbness.
I took the only lifeline I could see and used (what I thought) was the one skill I had, being a low paid fry cook who wasn't worthy of any happiness, let alone hope. At the very depths of my despair, I heard her words ringing in my ears as I struggled working 70 hours a week just to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. I was turning 40 in less than a year and I had just lost everything I had worked over a decade to build, life was bleak, dark and empty. Clinging to the only route I had out of this self created mess was getting shitty drunk on cheap beer every night when I got home around midnight, rarely having a day off and even then, spending it cramming Brava light one after the other until the fear was quieted. The absolute of my end was that I would never again be happy, let alone ambitious enough to try to make life better...deeper I went.
The treatment of a failure who has to subject himself to the reminder of his downfall was in my face every day and I was constantly put down and forced to accept that I was only worthy because I could stand in place for 16 hours a day and hate myself for everything I had become. It was wearing me down, minute by minute I was losing parts of my soul, my sanity and my life. And then the break came that gave me a glimmer of hope for something better. The last thing I expected was to reach rock bottom and find a hand come out to help me up, but when it came I felt the first breathe of hope enter my lungs in months.
A friend of Kat's had a family cottage and with our constant struggle to even live, she offered it to us for a few days in August of 2013, gratis, no strings attached and we jumped at it. Money would be tight in the coming weeks if we went, but it turned out that 4 days at somewhere not around here was not only necessary, it literally turned out to be the place that saved my life.
I had been intermittently applying to other jobs, not with much hope given my many years of self employment and low self worth, but the spark was there, I just had to believe. While at work on my last day before we left for our mini vacation, I received a call from a prospective employer and actually did the phone interview just before my long shift started...was this the one?
Later that day, I received another call asking if I could come in for an interview that week and even with the 45 minute drive from the cottage, something told me to take the chance. I was nervous and with almost no experience in what to say or do on a job interview, I went in with the best thing I could bring, my open and honest way of speaking the simple truths of life. I talked of my skills in building teams, helping people realise their potential and of course, my dream of starting over and growing with an established and well known company that had a bright future. I was done trying to hold on to who I was before and it must have come through because even before I left the parking lot after the interview, I got another call to come back the next day for a 2nd one. Driving back to the cottage, I could feel a weight coming off my shoulders, my head clearing. We celebrated a bit that night and the next day felt like a step out of the grave, a sliver of hope. I once again went in with a positive demeanour and felt good as I left to return to the oddest vacation I'd ever had. We heard nothing on our final day at the cottage and tried to just enjoy our brief respite from the darkness that awaited us at home. It was a quiet time, my mind racing but unable to process if there actually was a way up and out from the hell I had created, Kat sensed it and didn't push too hard. We both were hoping against all odds that something, anything would swing our way and gives us one more shot at a life without the weight of the past dragging it down.
Coming back to the house and hearing my phone ring that Friday before I headed back into work was like a choir singing to my heart. An offer was made and while I was staring a 40 hour work weekend, I was never happier. Accepting and planning to say goodbye to the people who had helped keep my head above water was all I could think of as I worked away the next few days, waiting to sign the papers before handing in my resignation. I felt light and happy and when I finally put my signature on the line and shook my new employer's hand, it truly gave me a second shot at a life I thought long gone. My immediate superior at my then job had become a good friend and when I told him I had found a new job, he was elated for me. He had watched me slowly drowning and knew my only way up was out. Good bye came fast and hard that week and while I was grateful that they had taken me in and given me a space, I knew I didn't belong there anymore. New feelings of having some worth could be felt as I drove home after my last late night shift as a fry cook and the new day and job were starting only hours later. I was definitely a little scared at starting over, sad to say good bye to something I had been involved with since my early 20's and a little choked up because I still couldn't believe anything had gone my way.
The road to my recovery from those dark days was far from over, many valleys came before the sun broke through darkness and life still had a lot to teach me about humility and patience. But that all was at least in front of me, hope had come back to my life and that alone made this the first step in becoming a better man, one day at a time.
4 years later and I can still feel those butterflies, my world is brighter and the future keeps showing me promise of amazing things to come. I'd love to meet that woman again just so I could tell her that despite her assurances of my imminent destruction, I'm not only surviving, I am living a life with purpose and love.
Keep on keeping on and the world may just give you what you need when you least expect it. The new chapter begins when you finally open you heart to what can be. I did and now there is no limit to where I can go. Trust me, I've been there.