Those who have read our book know what a raging alcoholic mess I was as a teen. After landing in major legal trouble induced by drunken stupidity, which nearly ruined my life, I continued to drink. Even after my father, a busy PhD student, rescued me from teen suicide, allowing me to come live with him, I STILL invited alcohol into my life. Most people likely think my face planting at the bottom of the miserable, sorry hell hole I’d dug for myself would’ve been enough of a wakeup call for even the most incompetent members of society. Sadly, it wasn’t for me.
What I wanted most in my early 20’s were relationships and connections. I didn’t want to be attending a notorious party school while sitting at home on the weekends alone. How would that have been fun? So, I went along with the crowd down paths of least resistance and, overtime, found myself feeling empty, back in the same miserable crap hole from which my father initially rescued me. It was during this time my father’s example provided the impetus for much needed life change.
A quick comparison of our two lives left me with feelings of internal embarrassment about who I had become—a follower of the masses heading down a predictably bumpy, dead-end road with lots of landmines and traps, many of which contained life-altering consequences. All the while, my father exemplified true leadership, working his tail off to achieve goals and contributing to the betterment of society. It was abundantly clear my father didn’t need alcohol infused friendships for validity like I did. In fact, none of his friendships were predicated around substance abuse and using people for a good time. They were founded on mutual respect and love. Over time, this began to bother me, causing me to want more for myself.
The primary reason for these underlying feelings of discomfort was the fact my father left a very lucrative career as an I.T. consultant in corporate America to get a PhD in psychology, working two jobs and taking a major league pay cut to pursue his love for others. And there I was… Acting like a drunken piece of trash with no goals beyond the upcoming weekend. After one becomes aware of his/her shortcomings, there is no pretending they don’t exist. As I continued to watch my father’s steadfast leadership, I grew more and more uncomfortable with my life, which prompted me to make some positive changes.
One of the first things I did was eliminate the “friends” who weren’t really friends at all. This was one of the toughest things for me because of the void it left in my life. Loneliness, a topic I recently blogged about, crept in and I began to feel the need for human connection. At this point, I referenced my father’s friendships and concluded I wanted mine to mirror his. I reached out to my neighbor, Ezra, a smart, substantive individual with whom I shared value congruences. In lieu of spending time downtown drunk, I began to cultivate a deep friendship with Ezra, a salt-of-the-earth person I am now proud to call my lifelong best friend. I can’t imagine what life would be like today had I not changed my approach to friendship.
My father’s powerful and effective leadership caused me rethink and reexamine what true friendship really was. After comparing his life (and friends) to mine, I became embarrassed of the life I lead. This was extremely uncomfortable and caused me to feel loneliness at first, but resulted in me taking swift action, eliminating the toxic friendships and fostering new, healthy ones (like Ezra) who make my life rich and meaningful.