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Ten traumatic experiences that changed my life

Moat of the people who know me have heard bits and pieces of some of these stories but very few people have heard all of them at once.

My life is a lot different now than it was when I was growing up and I never could have imagined things turning out the way they did back then.... but these are some of the things that made me who I am.

    1. Being homeless

    My parents weren't married and they split up when I was 18 months old. My mom and I spent the next couple years going back and forth between sleeping in our car and staying with whatever relatives would take us in for a short period of time. I don't remember this part of my life very much because we had finally gotten our own apartment by the time I was about 4 years old but I do remember feeling like I was somehow "different" from most of the other kids I knew. Whenever anyone asked me why I didn't have a dad I would tell them that he died because I didn't know how to explain what had really happened.

    2. Being abused

    When I was a little older my mom and I were physically and verbally abused by her ex boyfriend for around 6 years. It started when I was about 8 years old. I thought about running away from home a lot but never did because I was afraid of what would happen to my mom if I left. None of my friends, school teachers or anyone else knew what was going on but after a while people started making comments about how quiet I had become. I just didn't want to talk about anything.

    3. My cousin committing suicide

    I was 11 and he was a few years older than me. He lived in a different state so we weren't particularly close (although his family were some of the relatives my mom and I stayed with for a while when we didn't have a place to live). This was the first time I had to think about someone my age being gone forever. 

    4. My aunt dying from a drug overdose

    My aunt Barb was my grandpa's youngest daughter from his second marriage. She was only about 10 years older than me so she always seemed more like an older cousin than an aunt. She was always getting in trouble and most of my family looked down on her considered her to be a black sheep.... but she also seemed to be the only person who wasn't afraid to talk to me about some of the things I was going through and she was never afraid to be open with me about her own issues. She told me how she wished she had never started doing hard drugs and how much she was struggling to stop and put her life together. With the way I grew up it would have been really easy for me to go down the same path she had and she probably never knew that the talks we used to have were the reason I didn't. She died of a heroin overdose when I was 15 and I've missed her ever since.

    5. Finding out my dad had died

    My mom and I never heard from my dad again after they split up. When I got a little older and got access to the Internet I tried to see if I could find out where he was and was able to submit a Freedom of Information Act request to get a copy of his death certificate from the social security administration office. It turned out that he had died a few years earlier. I told people I didn't care because I never knew him anyway. It wasn't true. 

    6. My wife having two miscarriages

    These were both caused by a medical condition we didn't know about at the time. They were extremely hard to deal with and it turned out to even be a miracle that my daughter was born healthy.

    All of this made me feel that much more fortunate to have her and that much more proud of everything she's accomplished so far in her life.

    7. My mom passing away

    My mom died when I was still in my 20s. I didn't have any brothers or sisters so I had to take care of all of her affairs by myself. This was also only a few months after my daughter was born so I had to deal with the emotions of losing my mom and having a new baby all at once. Add in the stress of having a full time job and spending most of my nights and weekends trying to sort through all of her things and deciding what to keep or not keep and it was a pretty dark time.

    8. Realizing that my dad's kids didn't want a relationship with me

    My dad had two sons and a daughter with his first wife (before he met my mom). I found some basic information about them after my mom died. I asked her cousin who was a retired private investigator if he could help me track them down and he called in a favor from one of his former colleagues who was able to get their addresses. I sent them all nice letters explaining who I was but none of them responded or wanted anything to do with me. I have no idea why. I get the sense that my dad probably left their mom to be with my mom but that's just speculation. Either way it felt like the final nail in the coffin of me ever knowing anyone from that side of my family.

    9. A childhood friend committing suicide

    When I was in my late 20s I found out that one of my close friends from when I was younger had killed himself. He had a pretty traumatic upbringing as well and being able to understand each other was one of the things that made us such good friends.... but our lives went in different directions when we were teenagers. He started doing drugs, got his girlfriend pregnant and dropped out of high school. I stayed away from drugs and stayed in school and over time we lost touch with each other. I don't really know what else happened to him after that but I've always wondered if I could have reached out or done something to help when we were older.

    10. Getting a DUI

    This is the only item in this list that is 100% my fault.  When I was younger I dealt with all the other things I've written about by drinking..... a lot.

    One night I got pulled over for drinking and driving and even though I only got a slap on the wrist for it, the process was still really traumatic and my life changed pretty significantly after that.

    The more I thought about it the more thankful I became that it was just a regular traffic stop and I hadn't caused an accident or hurt anyone. Fast forward to today and I've barely had a drink in 14 years. I started focusing on my job and fitness and then i started writing and went on to publish five books and become a public speaker. It's been awesome to watch my daughter grow up at the same time and now I'm thankful for everything I have.... even the scars caused by all the trauma I had to deal with when I was younger.

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