I thought I was the king of tough love, but boy was I wrong. I read this best-selling book by David Goggins and holy shit. If you want to learn what you’re capable of, read this book. This dude went from having a traumatic childhood to failing in school and not amounting to anything into someone who became a Navy Seal. He has insane stories in there like when he ran for miles during seal training with broken legs.
What I wanted to focus on in this piece, is something that really stuck with me in his book that was reignited in me. It’s a truth I knew for a long time that helped me overcome my addiction and start taking responsibility for my mental health. Something David often had to tell himself to keep pushing forward is, “Nobody is coming to save you,” and this is so true.
“Maybe You Should be Homeless”
When I share this story, it’s difficult to explain. Although my mom was an alcoholic and my dad was a workaholic, I could count on them. It was difficult to get them to help me out in the day-to-day stuff like emotional support, helping with homework and just being there for me, but when I was desperate or dying, they were there for me. Even in my active addiction, I was enabled for a long time because I could always count on them to “loan me money” (and I put “loan” in quotations because I’d frame it as a loan and never pay it back because of …well…drugs.)
A great example of how my mom was there for me when I needed her the most was when I got sober. She was 7 years sober when she got the call that I might not live through the night because my addiction led me to have congestive heart failure and a myriad of other health issues. She dropped what she was doing and came straight to Las Vegas to be there for me. After getting kicked out of the hospital for not having any money or insurance, she brought me back to Fresno, California, and forced me to get sober.
That first month of recovery, she treated me like I was a baby again and did everything for me. She went to the California welfare office to set me up with Medicaid and get me a food stamp card. She wouldn’t let me live with her, but she paid for my sober living home. I didn’t have a car, but she’d let me borrow hers. After living in sober living for 4 or 5 months, she let me move in with her rent-free, and she took care of everything.
I was a 27-year-old man-child being taken care of by his mommy.
After a little over a year sober, I made the terrifying decision to move back to Las Vegas to start being a father to my son again. I came back to Vegas with $200 in my pocket and a couch to sleep on. All my eggs were in this one basket of hoping to find a job and get on my feet, and I pulled it off.
Amazing things just started happening. I bumped into an old friend, and he told me a buddy we knew from high school owned a computer repair shop and would probably hire me, and he did. I ended up moving off of my friend’s couch and getting an apartment with a roommate, and things were looking up.
Well, then it all came crashing down. I got fired from that job within a month of getting my new apartment. The job didn’t pay well either, so I didn’t have any money saved up after putting the deposit on the apartment and to turn the utilities on. I was fucked.
All I could think was, “I just got this apartment, and I’m going to get kicked out on the street!”
This didn’t do any favors for my anxiety. I was freaking out. I called my mom and begged her for help because like I said, when I’m desperate, she’s there for me. I only needed a few hundred dollars to pay rent, and I’d be able to buy myself some time to get things figured out.
I called her with high expectations, and she knocked them right down. She said she couldn’t give me the money. I begged her to figure something out. “Mom, I’m going to be homeless!,” I said. “Well, maybe you need to be homeless for a little while,” she replied.
Are you fucking kidding me? Your baby boy was dying a year ago and is doing everything right to try and get on his feet and stay sober, and you’re not going to try to help him?! Maybe I should be homeless?! What kind of mother are you!?
I don’t know what emotion was stronger when that happened: my pure anger at my mom or my feeling of hopelessness.
We All Have a Choice
As everything came crashing down, this was when I came the closest to relapse that I’ve ever come. I made a promise to myself when I got sober that I wasn’t going to stay sober if I was miserable. For someone like me, to consider relapse is to consider suicide. I’m the type of addict who doesn’t stop once I start, and the damage I’ve done to my body can’t take another relapse.
Luckily, I made it sober through that difficult day and went to sleep instead. I woke up the next morning and realized that I had a choice. I realized that we all have a choice.
We can lay down, give up and die. Or we can fight.
Although I had this anger towards my mom for not figuring out a way to save me, much like David Goggins’, I had this clarity, “Nobody is coming to save you, Chris.” It was at that point that I stopped relying on other people and decided to take control of my life from that moment forward. If anyone was responsible for saving me, it was me.
This fire was lit in me like I never felt before, and I was determined to make something happen. In my book, I dive further into this story, but the cliff’s notes are that although I felt overwhelmed, I broke things down into manageable pieces.
I called my landlord and got over my pride and fear, and I asked him if he could work with me on rent. He said he’d give me an extension. I called the power company, and they were able to delay my payment. I took what little money I had to buy a 7-day bus pass, and I asked a friend if I could use a computer at the business he owned to look for jobs, and he graciously let me.
Within a couple of weeks, I had more job interviews than I could afford to get to on the bus.
What’s All This Mean?
On a regular basis, I thank my mom for not helping me out during that time in my life because if she helped me, I don’t know if I ever would have discovered my own strength and perseverance. This was one of the worst times in my life, but it was also something I wouldn’t change for anything in the world.
I was able to prove to myself that I’m not weak, and when my back is against the wall, I’ll figure some shit out, and so will you.
This is one of the most liberating things all of us can do for a variety of reasons. So many of us are waiting for someone to save us, and this became extremely apparent in my relationships. How often do you look at your own life and think, “My problems would all be solved if I just found someone to love me.”?
Waiting for a relationship to save us is no different than waiting for our friends or family to save us, and this keeps us in a place where we’re not taking responsibility for our life. You may remember from my blog Jealousy is Your Problem. Not Theirs where I discuss internal vs external locus of control. We should constantly be working towards an internal locus of control where we realize that happiness and strength come from within. We need to stop expecting others to give us strength and support and start working on developing it on an intrinsic level.
Now, don’t get it twisted, we all need support. We need friends, family and other loved ones to be there for us. We’re a social species, and we become depressed and anxious when we don’t have social connections, so I’m not telling you to be a hermit.
The point is that once we start taking responsibility for our lives, our mental health, our happiness, our success and our failures, we become more resilient. The people in our lives are supplemental to the strengths that we’ve built within ourselves. And this can take some work. Sometimes, it’s the people in our lives like my mom was or a therapist can be to remind us how strong we are to get through things on our own.
Once we start realizing the awesome shit we’re capable of because nobody is coming to save us, we realize that we’re stronger than we thought. In fact, you’re already on the right track because you’re reading this. If you’re reading this, it already means you’ve taken some responsibility for your mental and emotional well-being. Nobody is forcing you to read this. Now, think about what else you can do to become a self-reliant badass.
If you’re looking for affordable therapy from the comfort of your own home, I personally use BetterHelp online therapy. I have a badass therapist, and I highly recommend this easy-to-use service. By clicking here to sign up, it helps support the work I do as well.
Originally published at https://www.therewiredsoul.com on November 8, 2019.