Ever felt all alone in a crowded room?
Vegas is a busy place. It’s a place filled with tourists, strangers, and acquaintances. It’s also a wonderful place filled with love, friendships and entertainment. This blog isn’t meant to be geared towards Vegas specifically, but I’ll use it as an example. It can be Palatine, Illinois, San Diego, or even Omaha, Nebraska. It can even just be in your mind.
Sometimes life just clicks. Everything seems to be going your way, and if you’re like me, that always seems to lead to some massive wreck on the horizon. I don’t want to seem negative, but when life is going great, it’s like some higher power says, “Hold My Beer . . .”
For me, my ex-wife and I had just had Kailyn. I had figured out my way through a recession. We survived the financial collapse, but I was beat up (emotionally and financially). To be completely honest and vulnerable, the recession took a toll on my family, our finances and my business, but we were alive, both physically, and literally.
This part of my life is one that I’m not the most proud of. As an entrepreneur, I had to do things that I won’t go into detail of, but I did what a man must do in order to protect his family and business.
This set the stage for an upswing in emotion for me. I was proud I figured it out and was able to take my friends, family, and business family to what I thought was the finish line. Being surrounded by friends was where I put myself and was anything but “alone in a crowded room“. I was feeling great.
This is the point where you’re riding this “high” and have surrounded yourself with people who are supposed to support you and lift you up. The problem is that this is often a “false high”. You’re now in a crowded room that you think is filled with “friendlies”, but it turns it are not. Being able to identify this situation is the difference between happening to what happened to me, and shedding a few friends on your own terms . . . but make no mistake . . . one of those two things are going to happen.
This isn’t to say that things can’t ever be good or that something bad is always on the horizon. Things can be VERY good, but it’s misidentifying these situations or not identifying them at all, that makes the difference. And after a lot of thoughtful retrospection, I think that everyone goes through these situations in life no matter what to varying degrees.
But once you hit this false high, you’re going to experience the biggest rollercoaster of your life.
Who You Surround Yourself With
One thing I want to mention is, who you surround yourself with makes a WORLD of difference in how this situation plays out. Since my divorce, I’ve worked hard to surround myself with people who will support me. This is probably the most important life-building suggestion I can blog about. It’s something you can do NOW to prepare for the rollercoaster that you inevitably will encounter. Separate of trying to prepare yourself for this situation, it’ll be better for your life, your kids and your psyche.
For me, the five people I spend the most time with are Orin, Chrystal, Dave, Peter & Hannah. If you happen to know any of these five people, they’re a solid five and I’m blessed to have them in my life. I’ll never feel alone in a crowded room if one of them (or any combination of them) are with me.
Get yourself a solid 5.
I wasn’t prepared for the rollercoaster when it took a dive down the track for me. Many of you have life experiences that make you feel the same way. I was blindsided in both my professional and personal life. In some ways, it was easier for me to have it happen all at once. I’d never wish it upon my worst enemy (who coincidentally is ofter the cause of the rollercoaster) and it’s brutal. You will feel alone when you’re alone, when you’re with friends, and when you’re in a crowded room full of people.
Loneliness is exactly what the word says. Lonely.
I’m not a licensed therapist as I’ve mentioned before, but I thought I’d share the steps it took for me to crawl out of the darkness, into the light, and then out of the hole completely. It’s a long journey that took me a half-decade, but I’m happier now than I’ve ever been, and when I was at the bottom.
At my worst, I was the saddest I’ve ever been and so alone.
Step 1: It’s All Your Fault
This title’s probably a surprise, but for me, I had to come to grips that I caused this. You can blame everyone and anyone under the sun for your problems, but this is your life. You’re the only one who can fix it, and it’s your job to do so. You have to live for your kids, friends and family. At this point at the bottom, this is your only job . . . you have to live.
For me, I had to realize that I could have been a better husband. I talked about The End in my previous blog so there’s no shortage of responsibility that I take.
I could have been better and I should have been better.
For my business, I could have done much better. I could have been a better boss and been smarter to prepare my business for what was to come. I should have been the CEO my staff needed.
This is the point where I have a duty to remind you that being at fault, doesn’t mean that nobody else is at fault. In my life, there were others who took courses of actions that led to my personal and professional demise, but you can only control yourself. This blog is how to figure YOUR way out of the darkness . . . not to place the blame on others who contributed. They’ll get their’s. Karma is a bitch.
Step 2: Try What Feels Good
This may sound self destructive, but you need to figure out what feels good. This is just a temporary fix, but doing what makes you feel good will make you feel like a human again. I say this because I remember not feeling like myself. In fact, I thought I was in control and myself despite my friends and family worrying about me. In retrospect, I was FAR from myself, but I was out there searching for something that made me feel good.
I’d never suggest doing anything illegal. I’m suggesting you find situations that make you feel good. People that make you feel good.
For me, I spent as much time with Kailyn as I could. She made me feel great. She was 2 years and 2 months old when my ex-wife and I split up, so Kailyn had no idea what was going on, or how important she was to my recovery. She’s been my “rock” and the one thing that’s kept me on the straight and narrow. I’m alive because of her today. Some day she’ll figure that out, but she was (and continues to be) my north star.
The second thing I did was to go out and party my ass off (when Kailyn was with her mom). This is my prime example of “Being in a Crowded Room” and being so alone. I surrounded myself with anyone who wanted to be around me. The unfortunate side effect of this was that I surrounded myself with people who wanted to also party. In Vegas, this meant that it was people who wanted free alcohol, to party on someone else’s dime, and people who weren’t necessarily a positive influence. Little did they know that they were part of the healing process.
Step 3: Weeding Out The Bad
With the exception of Hannah (who I’ve known since she was 19), the remainder of my “Inner Circle” of 5, I met after my divorce. There came a time where these friends would become increasingly annoyed with people “taking advantage of me”. What I’d explain to these 5 is that I was using those around me as much as they were using me. I needed them as much as they needed me. They were important to the process.
I noted in my mind who actually cared and who was along for the ride. Being in a crowded room and then be able to identify these people was my first step towards recovery.
Step 4: Finding My Higher Power
I wouldn’t consider myself a deeply religious person although my brother is a minister and the best man I know. Finding my higher power helped me realize how not in control I was. It allowed me to realize that some things just happen for a reason that we can’t explain. This is different than not taking responsibility for my previous life’s actions. You can only control what you can control . . . the rest you have to leave up to your higher power.
This is important because you need to also remember it’s not your responsibility to reconcile what’s happened to you. You need to fix YOU and let go of what happened to you. Trying to right any wrongs that happened to you isn’t your job. You need to move on. If you don’t move past revenge, hatred, or whatever else you’re holding onto, you won’t be able to fix yourself.
This was perhaps the most difficult step for me.
This doesn’t get a “step” because it’s an important point I need to make that doesn’t require a step.
Hate is not opposite of Love. They are tied too closely together.
Indifference is the opposite of Love. Once you become indifferent to the situation, you can move on to the next step. That “thing” that you used to love, needs to be something you’ve become “indifferent to”. It’s only then that you can let go and move on.
Indifference is the goal.
Step 5: Be The Boss
When I began my steps to recovery, I’d wake up each morning and say, “You’re Ben Brownback. Nobody gets the best of you. Get up and be better. Build your life back on day at a time. One step at a time.”
That sounds arrogant to some, but for me it was a reminder that nobody gets to decide who I am or how I react to my situation.
I remember how hard it was to get up in the morning. I was lacking focus and a purpose. More importantly, I was in a severe depression. I was having trouble imaging a life different than the one I was presented with. I couldn’t figure out a pathway to a better life even though in the back of my mind, I knew there was one.
At first, I would mutter those words and they were just that . . . words. The next day, they were a little more than words and after some time, they meant something.
Step 6: Find Who You Are
This isn’t just a step to recover, it’s life’s journey. You may not figure out who you are after this journey, but I promise you you’ll be one step closer at a minimum.
For me I found that I still had the ability to love. Love as a friend, an employer and future husband. This didn’t come innately. I had to CHOOSE to NOT let those who sought to destroy me win.
“Did you learn your lesson? That’s why you shouldn’t trust people so much”. Someone once asked me this. My response is that, “I WILL NOT allow those who seek to destroy me, take the best parts of me”.
Those are mine and nobody gets to take those from me. I’d rather fail at business and life and live my life with those principles. That’s who I am. That’s me.
Step 7: Wake Up
I’m not exaggerating when I say that the biggest battles I won early on were the battles to just “get up”.
I’ve counseled many of my friends who have gone through similar situations and told them this, “You force yourself to get up. Again, put yourself in that crowded room. Every day it’s a battle. You remember the pain and you feel it in your chest . . . like a ton of bricks on your chest. You can hardly breathe. Then you get up the next day and it hurts a little less. After doing this over and over again, you will always REMEMBER the pain, but you won’t “REMEMBER” the pain.
I’m living, breathing proof of this. Choose to live, choose to better yourself, choose to focus on yourself, and you’ll get out of this. At first the tunnel is dark and then there will be a tiny, pin-hole of a light at the end. Before you know it, you’ll be spinning around in the sunlight on the side of a mountain like the that girl in the Sound of Music (I love that movie).
It’s Hard, I Know . . .
I wish I could tell you this is an easy journey, but it’s one that I’m lucky to have survived. If it weren’t for my “5”, I’m not sure I would have. I will tell you this though . . . you’re a remarkable person and I know you can do it. I don’t know your situation, but if you’ve read this far then I’m talking to you.
There’s enough happiness in this world, that there’s some left for you. Put yourself in a crowded room and find those good friends. There will be a day that you celebrate because you’ve come to the end of this awful journey. Some of us are unfortunate enough to experience this journey multiple times, and it doesn’t get easier the second time. But, I promise you that the road map will be clearer and there’s the same light at the end of the tunnel for you too.
Here’s a link to a crisis text hotline: Crisis Text Line
You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If it’s not the middle of the night you’ll hear back from me IMMEDIATELY. I’m always around.
There are dark times in this journey, and you don’t have to go at them alone. Just reach out, please.
Moving On . . .
I’ll end this blog with reminding you that there’s hope and it’s an awesome thing. I’ve happier than I’ve ever been and so is Kailyn. I’m a better man, a better friend, a better dad, and hopefully when I’m ready (and find someone), I’ll be a better boyfriend/husband.
Thanks for taking the time to read this blog. I hope it helps some of you out there and look forward to hearing from you!
With All The Love In The World,
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