If you could go back in time, what would you change in your life?
Often I am asked this very question. Upon inquiry an inventory of memories begin flooding through my brain.
Would I erase that evening at twelve years old begging for my mother’s affection, which I was denied—the point where I defined myself unlovable.
Or the dark period where I was showering with a garden hose in my dirty New Orleans apartment—a period in my life that was plagued with shame, disgusted with the man that I had become.
Maybe I should remove the time in New York City with my six-figure salary? Grinding away at soul sucking work twelve hours a day. Highlighted with frequent anxiety attacks knowing that I had a larger purpose that couldn’t wait.
People always want the definitive moment—a scene that if erased, I would have never have embraced a world of drugs, alcohol, sex, porn, and gambling. And without that definitive moment or scene, I never would have relied on these vices to fill the loneliness and lack of self-worth that consumed my life.
What people forget is that they are doing exactly what that question was asking—and what I was doing for many years—they are removing my past.
Being the youngest in a household filled with backstabbing and manipulation—I saw everything. To cope, I created four rules for life:
1. Emotions will only hurt you. Shut them off.
2. Love and admiration comes from perfection. Build a life others envy.
3. Always, always stay busy.
4. When at home get to the basement as quickly as possible. The basement is where one can be alone.
Alone was safe—an internal haven where nothing could hurt me. Connection made me disconnect. Touch made me quiver. Love was nauseating. Unfortunately, “alone” never works for the soul. So, I found comfort and connection in the things that made people define me as an “addict.”
At the core of my intentions was a continuous need to run. Keep relationships superficial. Always be switching cities and neighborhoods. When things got “real,” I got out.
The result of always running away was a chronic need to chase something down. To fill the ego with validation for what I had become, I wanted to create a mantel-place filled with trophies for everyone to see. “Look at me! See what I built all alone! I don’t need anyone!”
That was unless we were talking about the bottle. I always needed that. My Cleopatra. When she held me I could bear my soul to her. Tell her how alone I felt inside. How shameful and ugly my existence was.
Unlike my mother she always listened. Told me that I was beautiful and smart. That I would always be loved. All I had to do was keep coming back.
And coming back was exactly what I did. Every chance I could. While there was a voice inside telling me to loosen from her grips—I couldn’t. Like Caesar, Cleopatra had seduced me to the point where I lost control.
The most powerful force in life is defending the person you believe yourself to be. For me, that was being a lone solder. My ego thrived on this notion. My ego. The protector from two things: not feeling worthy, and not being loved.
To break free from the ego and the vices fueling it I knew where I had to go—my story. The very thing that I was desperately avoiding. The tales I told myself and allowed to define who I was for years.
So instead of running away from the story, I decided to run into it. I got present with those past events. Relived each scene multiple times to feel the pain, regret, and shame that came with them. Had the necessary conversations with its characters. Built a community that helped me find the truth when I still wanted to listen to the lies I was telling myself.
The result was a rewritten history. A story that was more truthful, more realistic, and more uplifting. I was loved. I was beautiful. I was worthy. The story that I hated more than anything I began to love. All of its moments. All of its characters. All its pain. Who I really was and, more importantly, what I was becoming.
Through this process I was able to take control of my life. Put the power back in my hands. Life was no longer riddled with shame, but intoxicated with joy. I began walking through life not fearing who was going to hurt me, but started embracing the opportunities that come from leaning into uncertainty.
It was at that point that I could let Cleopatra go. Long before she could become the catalyst to my death. Unlike Caesar, I didn’t wait too long.
And by letting her go I reclaimed life. Clarity and purpose started to fill my soul. I left that “great” job to pursue my passion of inspiring others to live bigger in their own. I left the city that attracted me for its money and women to move back to my hometown to be with family. A place I ran away from for ten years.
Snapping back to the initial question, “If you could go back in time what would you change?”
Not one thing.
BIO: Benjamin Tyler is a transformational speaker and creator of Unleash Yourself—a program that has changed the lives of people across the world to stand in their potential. He believes that the path to living a fulfilled life is found through the meaning you derive from the work you do, relationships you build with others, and the relationship with one’s self. You can learn more about Benjamin and his work by heading over to Benjamin-Tyler.com.
You can find more stories like Benjamin's in The i’Mpossible Project - Volume 2: Changing Minds Breaking Stigma Achieving the Impossible, now available for pre-order (click here). 50 authors. 50 inspirational stories of managing and overcoming mental health obstacles.Read a few sample chapters HERE.
The first 200 people to pre-order will get a “thank you” in the front of the book, a free ebook copy of the book The Gospel According to Josh: A 28-Year Gentile Bar Mitzvah, and a free ebook copy of The i’Mpossible Project - Volume 1: Reengaging With Life, Creating a New You.