The YEAR OF TRANSFORMATION
The past year marked the beginning of a profoundly unexpected and contemplative time in my life.
It ultimately inspired unimaginable personal development and growth.
Exactly one year ago today, I found myself sitting in the back seat of a police car, handcuffs digging into the top of my wrists, on the way to the East Capitol Hill Precinct.
Just moments earlier, I had been standing outside my car, amidst a chaotic blur of flashing lights and commotion surrounded by one of the country’s most raucous and populated nightlife areas.
Minutes prior I had been sitting still and quiet in my car, staring unbelievingly at the white Cadillac Escalade stopped at the intersection in front of me.
And seconds before that, my car had come to an abrupt stop as I fiddled with the radio.
For a singular instant, time. stood. still.
The hood of my car had just slid beneath the bumper of the Escalade, which had stopped for the light at the intersection of Broadway and Pine. Not a high-speed collision, just a tap, so I thought, but a collision nonetheless.
“What happened here?” queried the officer who materialized at my window.
“I’m not sure,” was the best I could offer; equally perplexed at the current state of affairs.
How HAD I gotten here?
I was asked to step out of the car. Field sobriety tests were administered. They did not go well. Handcuffs were cinched tightly around my wrists, and I was transported to the local precinct for a blood-alcohol analysis… I blew.18% – more than twice the legal limit. Eventually I was charged with, and plead guilty to “driving under the influence” – DUI – a gross misdemeanor as defined by Revised Code of Washington section 46.61.502.
Few people are aware of the unexpectedly serious and life-altering months that transpired following these events.
The shame. The stigma. The disappointment. The fear.
Court dates. Bail bonds. Attorneys. Breathalizer. Drug and Alcohol Evaluation. License suspension. More court dates. Jail time.
All of this requires money. Lots of it. I estimate, conservatively, that so far I’ve spent over $20,000.
What is left to do once you’ve crossed over the edge? What is your self-worth?
I had no idea what to do next, as captured in a what now seems like a particularly bleak essay penned a couple of months after my arrest.
I felt like the life I knew was over.
I had no way of knowing how right I was.
What a Difference a Year Makes
So why am I sharing this now?
The tragedy and humiliation of my DUI triggered the need for profound shift in my life.
I am reminded of a similar life-saving tragedy that occurred a decade prior.
In 2006 I was assaulted on my way home from work resulting in a bilateral mandibular fracture. My trip to the ER to mend my broken jaw uncovered a heart that was precipitously near cardiac arrest. This was due to unmanaged high blood pressure, compounded by brazen use of the stimulant ephedra, which would certainly have continued if not for the necessary intervention that led to this discovery.
The DUI served as a similarly jarring interruption and became the catalyst for a series of major changes. A year later, I want to take stock of who I’ve become, what I have gained, and how I have grown.
- Incarceration is punishment for a reason. The night before I turned myself in to King County Jail, I began to write an essay about the ordeal so far. I glibly suggested that it was needlessly punitive, and self-assuredly waxed about the interesting new adventure upon which I was about to embark. I didn’t finish it, intending to follow up once I was released. About eight hours into my lock down, I had absolutely zero interest in finishing that essay. I just wanted out. It wasn’t that it was scary, or threatening, or filthy; it was just extremely uncomfortable, and mind-numbingly boring. There was nothing to do. No books, no puzzles. The little sleep that I did manage to get was constantly disrupted as new arrivals were marched in or old ones transferred elsewhere throughout the night. And no pillows! Pillows for prisoners, I say! Nobody in jail is special. Some of the inmates like it that way. I however did not, and pledged to do everything in my power to avoid ever seeing the inside of those walls again. I have gained insight into how much I value my freedom.
- I have a new appreciation for how easy it is to fall on the wrong side of the law, and how challenging it can be to emerge on the other side. I saw so many heartbreaking instances of people conscripted to an endless cycle of incarceration and marginalism largely for the crime of poverty. You can’t afford to post bail? You go to jail without a trial. I was lucky enough to have a 401K that I was able to cash out to cover most of the expenses and a support network which kept me from slipping between the cracks. I was treated very respectfully every step of the way by all of the law enforcement personnel. Had my skin been a different shade it might well have been another story. I have gained immense insight into my privilege.
- I gave up drinking altogether. I was never really fond of the effects that alcohol had on my brain and body. Drinking and driving is so utterly unconscionable to me now. Even after my arrest, it took me a while to see how reckless my actions had been. I remember telling people that while I definitely shouldn’t have driven that night, that I felt like the dangers of driving while intoxicated were overblown. What I now realize is that I was playing Russian Roulette every time I got behind the wheel. It would have been so easy to have gotten killed or seriously injured, or arguably even worse, have killed or seriously injured someone else. I have gained access into weight of those consequences.
- I stopped eating most forms of meat. This was the year I started to acknowledge the peculiarity of consuming the bodies of highly intelligent species. This unexpected discovery occurred as I was researching the Belgian Blue breed of cattle, and found the reductive descriptions of a living creature into its fat content and meat tenderness grossly unappealing . I made the declaration in an earlier post and have a maintained this choice in my life since. I have gained compassion for other living creatures.
- I have learned to see value and potential of everyone in the world. My previous strategy was to throw people away whose viewpoints I didn’t share, or who slighted me in some way. I now have an access into the fear and uncertainty that underlies the way people present themselves. I now see ways to shine a light on these areas and be a contribution. I have gained a much greater insight into how to look beyond these roadblocks and establish relatability in the face of breakdowns.
- I recently launched the first phase of a new social experiment website which aims to shift the conversation about isolation and alienation in relationships, and want to share the insights I have gained to create a better world for everyone.
- I have a greater sense of who I am and who I want to be. I no longer feel imaginary pressure to conform to the me from the past. For years I had been so intimidated that anyone might see my flaws that I invented elaborate stories and affectations about who I was and where I came from. Always on stage, but never truly present. How many people only remember me as a perpetually 37-year-old divorcé from Halifax, Nova Scotia? For years, decades maybe, I always told people that I was 37-years old. I had intended to maintain this obscure reverse Dorian Gray narrative for the rest of my life. No particular reason behind it; I just wanted to appear quirky and avoid acknowledging who I really was. Other varied ornaments and embellishments were added along the way until very few people around me were quite sure exactly who they were dealing with. The year that I actually aged into 37 coincided with my DUI. In a way, I was right about being 37 for the rest of my life. Of that life. When I turned 38, I killed off the swells of inauthenticity that I had lead up to that point, and was left with a blank canvas to design. I have now gained being a person of authenticity and integrity.
- I hold people to a higher standard. I no longer have patience to listen to peoples’ complaints about their lives when a solution exists. I take a stand for everyone’s power and ability to grow beyond their self-imposed limitations. I have gained the ability to empower others to do good for themselves and those around them.
- I recognize the power and importance of community. We are all connected and truly in this together. There is no reason to pretend that I can do it all myself or have all the answers. There is so much wisdom and knowledge to be gained, and resources to be shared by simply asking for assistance and advice. I have gained a greater sense of humility and respect.
- I am ready to be open, honest, loving and generous with the world around me.
I find it remarkable the distance I have travelled in the course of a year.
Today marks another important milestone in my life, one that I credit with having transformed who I am and given me a renewed sense of purpose, direction and insight.
Today I complete the third and final course in the Landmark Worldwide Curriculum for Living.
I started the Landmark Forum in October, 2015, and have been steadily learning and growing; transforming further through the Advanced Course in December, and most recently completed the Self Expression and Leadership Program.
Landmark has propelled me through such an amazing trajectory of self discovery and contribution to the world. I now feel well equipped to take on greatness in my life, and to do so with a confidence and grace that was unknown to me until now.
I share these revelations with the world freely and openly. I do not fear what people may think about the events which have transpired. This has been my journey, and this is who I actually am, and it is through honesty and authenticity that I will continue to develop.
As a leader, I believe it’s important to be transparent about who I am and the struggles I have gone through. Pretending I am anything else dishonors and disrespects those I am tasked with influencing.
This was a long, and certainly unexpected path to this point and I am thrilled to be here. Without a DUI, I don’t know that I would have seen how much I needed this shift in my life. We all have our blind spots, after all, and each of us are on our own journeys.
I owe a great deal to all of the wonderful people who helped me through the challenges of this period of my life, without whom I honestly can’t say whether I’d be here to pen this essay. My dear friends and family, new and old; everyone in my communities who have supported me and helped me gain a new perspective on living. I acknowledge and thank you!
At this moment, this is it, and it’s perfect. Without further ado, I’d now like you to become acquainted with the newly transformed me!
If you’re looking to make a change in your life, don’t wait for a tragedy to force it upon you. Be the cause of change in the matter. Don’t hold yourself back. I believe in you and I’m happy to help! I love you all!