In 2016, I felt like I was having a nervous breakdown.
Even though I had checked off all of the boxes society told me to, I felt stuck and out of place in my own life.
On the internet I was a successful speaker, writer and coach who was happily married with newborn twins.
But my real life was a completely different story.
I was feeling more stressed than ever as a new husband, father and business owner. More was being asked of me than ever before and it seemed like I was committed to self-sabotage.
My evenings were spent drinking alcohol and binging Netflix in an attempt to sedate myself and drown out life.
Due to emotional eating, I had gained nearly 30 lbs. and I grew a big beard to hide my weight gain (spoiler alert: it didn’t hide it).
I started avoiding family and friends, not returning their calls, texts, or emails.
I even found myself in a hospital emergency room and had to wear a heart monitor and undergo a cardiac MRI.
As if all of this wasn’t bad enough, I started secretly smoking cigarettes.
The irony was that since I was a kid, cigarettes were something that I hated. There were many smokers in my family and every day I saw the power of nicotine addiction. I even saw the tragic byproduct of smoking, cancer, which took my Grandmother’s life.
Still, I had become a smoker.
Almost every day, I would hide in a Los Angeles street alley and wear a bright green gardening glove and smoke. I wore the glove to keep the cigarette smoke off of my hands so my family and friends wouldn’t find out about my new habit.
One day, when I was smoking a Camel Crush Menthol cigarette, a homeless man asked me if he could bum a cigarette. It was obvious that he’d seen better days, so I gave him a few.
After he lit his cigarette, he asked me about the bright green gardening glove I was wearing on my hand.
When I explained to him that I wore the glove to hide the smoke smell from my wife and friends, he looked at me as if he felt sorry for me.
He took a slow drag from his cigarette and said to me, “Hey man. You gotta figure that shit out.” Then, he walked away.
That moment crushed me more than the Camels.
That brief encounter, and his simple message, set me on a mission to course-correct my life and recommit to what was most important.
It was time to stop running away from life, and face what I was experiencing head-on. It was time to stop living on autopilot.
The journey started with a series of difficult questions, all of which I share in my book.
Along the way, I came to realize that my dreams had an expiration date. If I didn’t act on them, they would be lost forever.
I had to accept that no one owed me anything, but I owed myself everything.
Can you relate to this at all?
Many people, maybe you or people you know, have stories like mine. Those of outward success while hiding an internal struggle. The good news is that we don’t have to go through this alone. In fact, we shouldn’t.
No matter where you stand today, I want you to know that your story isn’t over yet. A new chapter can begin right now.
The best thing to happen to you hasn’t happened yet. When we truly believe this, things slowly begin to change.
By the way, I haven’t picked up a cigarette in years.
Learn more about Stop Living on Autopilot: Take Responsibility for Your Life and Rediscover a Bolder, Happier You.