TO MY MOM

The Night We Met

 

Dear Mom,

I know we’ve met before, but I am sorry that I don’t remember you—I was very young when you died. I think you visited me later when I was about ten years old.

I was awakened out of a dead sleep and was compelled to turn around and look toward my door. A woman stood in the doorway, casually leaning against the frame with her arms crossed. I was instantly frightened at the sight of a stranger in my room—I’m sorry I didn’t recognize it was you. I felt conflicting emotions of immense fear and a surreal calm at the same time. I lay perfectly still, staring at you. I was too scared to scream or close my eyes. You, on the other hand, had a peaceful look on your face, with an ever-so-slight smile out of the left corner of your mouth. You didn’t speak a word. You didn’t move an inch. When I finally summoned the courage to blink, you were gone.

Why did you leave so soon?

A few months later when I was looking at old family pictures, I came across a picture of a woman. It was at that moment I realized the woman in my room that night had been you, my mother. Chills came over my entire body with this revelation. I sat there for several minutes staring at the picture, wondering why you came to see me. Now I think I understand the purpose of your visit.

Thank you, Mom, for checking in on me that night. My only wish is that you hadn’t left so soon. Even at that young age, I had so many questions for you.

Perhaps if you had not been taken from me so early, my life would have been completely different. But I want you to know something— I am okay. In fact, I’m the opposite of what I could have become. I have faced pain and challenges along the way, but that is all right. I am a stronger person for having overcome adversity. I have no regrets—the lessons I have learned have made me a better person. I hope I am a man you would be proud to call your son.

You have two grandsons, Trevor and Jayden. They are growing up so fast and are well on their way to becoming amazing young men. I am so proud of them, and I know you would be, too. I am working hard to be the best father I can and to be a good role model—to teach them, love them, nurture them, and create a successful path for them. I’m trying not to make things too easy for them, but instead to teach them how to be good men and take responsibility for their lives and outcomes. I longed for such a teacher when I was young. I want to prepare them for life and lead them in the right direction to find contentment and happiness. One thing is for sure, they will never travel my same path.

I have so much more to learn and have even more healing to do. I will make more mistakes along the way. I will trip and fall, but I promise I will always get back up and move on. I take nothing for granted in this life because I have worked hard for everything I have attained. I ask for nothing because I love the lessons in the labor. I have you to thank for this. When you were standing there in my room, although you said nothing, your expression and your eyes spoke to me. You knew the path I was on would test all of my strength and at times I would want to quit, but you also wanted me to know I would be all right. That has always stayed with me.

Thank you,

Your Son

A MESSAGE TO YOU, THE READER

You Will Be All Right

 

I wrote the above letter for my mother, who is obviously no longer with me. I suppose that means that I really wrote the letter for myself. I didn’t understand the purpose for my mother’s spectral visit. The path I travelled after her visit was not something I could have prepared for. But years later as I look back, the message I got from her that night was clear. I would be all right—meaning I would survive and rebuild, and I would thrive. I would consciously change my path and break away from the stereotypical victim response of my childhood trauma.

When things happen to us, we sometimes don’t understand what they mean. Sometimes it takes years to understand the meaning behind what took place. Today, I understand that no nightly visitor could have made me comprehend that the path I was on would test my every ability, although I still wish I could have heard her speak. Perhaps she stood silent because she couldn’t find the words to prepare me for what lay ahead, or maybe she thought warning me would do more harm than good. Sometimes the anticipation of hell can be greater than the experience of it. Maybe she didn’t have the ability to speak even if she wanted to. Regardless, her presence alone reassured me that I would be all right.

That is my message to you, the reader—you will be all right. It doesn’t matter where you are on life’s path, the road will eventually smooth out and you will see your way beyond the fog. It is okay to hurt and be in pain—that’s the body’s way of processing adversity. It’s okay to stumble and fall—we all have our moments of weakness. But what is not okay is to continue victimizing yourself with the torment of your own thoughts. It’s not okay to burden yourself with the weight of past events and to carry that pain into the present and future. It is not okay to destroy yourself because of the toxicity others have brought to you. What is all right is to break away from the stereotypes of the victim role and become what I call the Opposite Man.

The Opposite Man (or Woman, if that applies to you) is the identity we achieve when we reverse the negative expectations for our future that our background or life events might have assigned to us. Maybe we were dealt a poor hand as children or in later life. Circumstances may have overwhelmed us for a time. But we always had a choice. We still have a choice, no matter how long we’ve been living under the cloud of low expectations. We can become the Opposite Man. This book will show you how.

While we may have no control over the events that have happened to us, we can control how we respond to those events. We control whether we see the adversity as a moment (or many moments) in the past or if we allow it to consume us for a lifetime. That is our choice.

This book is about emotions and how the events of our lives sometimes steal our innocence. It is about how we process those events and their impact on our future. But what it is most about is making sure you understand this message: If you move beyond the adversities of your past, you will be all right in the future. We can’t control what someone took from us yesterday, but we can control our response to it today. We have the absolute ability to choose our path in life and to determine our final outcome. We can all be the Opposite Man.

PREFACE

The Past Doesn’t Have to Rule the Present

I can’t believe you went through all of that abuse and came out of it normal.

 

The quote above is far and away the most common feedback I get from my book Decoding Your Past: A Guide to Happiness and Success through Self-Understanding. People often apologize to me for their response to what they read in my book. They are shocked at some of the events I described, almost as if they can’t believe anyone could survive such things. They are equally shocked when I say to them, “I am thankful for the events of my life.” How can I be thankful for being abused as a child? The truth is I have had a rough life—and that is all right. I wouldn’t change anything about my life. I am who I am today because of those events. They shaped me into the person I have become.

I’m obviously not advocating for the maltreatment of children. However, the reality is I am a stronger person for having endured those events. I am more independent, determined, and strong-willed, a smarter and better father, and a more caring man.

I’m convinced that the best way to deal with adversities is to treat them as past events instead of allowing them to consume one’s current life. You must also learn to face your fears and not let them control you. In order to overcome your fears and change your direction, you need to face those fears head on.

These lessons obviously did not come easy for me. I spent years sorting through my troubles and emotions. But I learned something key. We are not defined by our adversities—we are defined by how we respond to them.

You can’t always control what happens to you, especially as a child, but you can control your response to those events. In that way, you control the outcome. It’s important to understand that you are who you are because of what you’ve experienced in the past. Those events can be either good or bad, positive or negative, but you can turn them all into strengths if you learn how to respond accordingly.

I have watched people destroy themselves because they could not learn how to deal with past adversities. I almost destroyed myself at a young age when I contemplated suicide. I have watched people turn to alcohol, drugs, or self-destructive behavior as a means of coping. This only prolongs the problems. This is why people stay mentally unhealthy for years, sometimes even a lifetime.

The key to surviving is to categorize your adversities properly and not allow them to control the path you choose. Managing them properly means that once you’ve experienced an event, you need to deal with it completely and then move on. You are not dealing with your adversities when you turn to alcohol or drugs or other self-destructive behaviors as a means of coping. You are doing the opposite by prolonging the healing and growth process and making the problems worse.

Writing Decoding Your Past was a huge step for me in the self-healing process. It was cathartic to get all of my emotions and feelings out and onto the pages. I didn’t have a defined purpose when I sat down and began writing. I had always wanted to write a book about my life, but that wasn’t what I initially set out to do. I just started journaling about my life in a self-cleansing way, from my earliest memory to that present moment.

It took over a year to complete. At the end, I had over 60,000 words on paper. I also had a sense of relief. I had put down some of my deepest thoughts and emotions onto those pages. I had let it all out. In doing so, I felt like I grew immensely with the process. I spent many nights typing and going through a wide range of emotions. I cried, I laughed, I felt anxiety, and I certainly had anger. In fact, I didn’t realize how much anger I still had inside of me toward some of the people in my life. But through the process of writing, I began letting go of that anger.

I ended my last book with a sad story about a family I met in the course of my work as a police officer. The family had a huge fight just before the father left on a business trip. Horrible things were said during this fight. The teenage daughter told her father she hated him. The words were only said out of anger, but she would never get a chance to take those words back. He died in a car accident on the way home from his trip. The daughter would spend the rest of her life knowing those were her last spoken words to her father.

That story to me was about regret. I didn’t want to have any regrets in my own life. One of the epiphanies I came to was about my relationship with my father. I last had a relationship with him when I was twelve years old, just before he walked out on my adoptive mother and left me and my two sisters behind. He started a new life with a new family. I continued on with my life, but mine was down a path of self-destruction. The anger and resentment I had inside me began to bottle up.

To add to my anger and resentment, my adoptive mother began abusing me when my father left. In part I blamed my father for not protecting me and leaving me in that environment. Today I realize he wasn’t responsible for her actions, but as a child those lines aren’t so clear.

For years I remained in a self-destructive pattern while my abuse continued. That was until I had a life changing event at the age of sixteen. I wanted it all to end. I wanted the emotional pain to go away. I had no way to make the hurt stop—I lived with it every minute of every day. I couldn’t bear it anymore. So I stood in my bedroom and put a loaded gun in my mouth. The pressure was too much, and that was the only way I knew how to fix it.

I did not pull the trigger. Instead, at that moment I knew I had to change my life. I had to take my life in a different direction. For the next couple of decades that’s exactly what I did. I worked hard to heal myself and change my path. I fought and struggled and overcame so many obstacles. It was the hardest journey of my life. There were many days I had to fight against wanting to give up—to just quit. Returning to that bedroom and putting a gun in my mouth again would have been such an easy fix. I battled this demon often, but I didn’t quit or give up—I fought to keep moving forward.

Writing my first book was the final step in my fight, or at least I thought so at the time. As it turns out I was still dealing with many unresolved emotions. With the closing of the final chapters in that book, I realized I still had more healing and growing to do. I also discovered a new emotion—regret.

One of the regrets that began to emerge was not having a relationship with my father. I am in my mid-forties now, he is in his mid-sixties, and life is moving forward rapidly. I don’t want to wake up one day when it is too late and regret that I didn’t have a relationship with him. I don’t want it to be that I could have tried but chose not I don’t want to live my life with those types of regrets.

Another regret is not being able to talk to my adoptive mother about the past. I’m not looking for answers, but I would have liked her to know that I forgive her. I’m no longer mad at her, and I recognize she was sick. This would not be to excuse her actions but to release both of us from carrying that burden. I will never have that opportunity; she committed suicide before I had the chance.

I am continuing to grow and heal. That’s how life works. We never have all the answers, nor do we ever know everything there is to know. Our lives are a journey of lessons. Our emotional injuries never go away for good. Our wounds may heal over, but the scars remain with us every day. There are obviously setbacks in life that cause us to plateau or even dip downward for short periods of time. However, we must always strive to get back on the path of upward growth and healing. We must fight forward and survive.

You will read many of my life stories in this book. Many of these stories surround my childhood years. I share these stories because those events created the person I am today. Without those events I would likely be someone completely different. Some of these stories don’t shed good light on my parents, specifically my father. I mean no harm to my father through these stories. Likewise, there is no blame on my father for the decisions he made—remember, we are all learning and growing.

Even the title of this book, Opposite Man, has an underlying hint relating to my father. But let me be clear, this book is not about my father. This book is about me. This book is about my struggles in life and my continued growing and healing process. You see, I’m the Opposite Man. I’m opposite of what I could have become. I have struggled for years to break the cycle and turn away from the model that was shown to me as a young boy. I have struggled to change my direction—to break free from victim stereotypes.

My relationship with my parental figures serves as a point of reference for me in my efforts to raise my own two sons. I no longer have the luxury of dwelling on my past. I must use my past as a tool from which to learn and become the best man I can be. It’s no longer about me in this life; it’s about creating value for my children. It’s about raising my two sons to be well-adjusted, smart young men. It’s about putting them on the right path in life so they can become successful at whatever they choose to do. It’s about teaching them what love is and what healthy relationships look like so they can find value in their own relationships later in life.

There are direct correlations to who you are today and your past experiences in life. You have patterns of behavior today based on the model that was presented to you as you were growing up. You are the product of those past experiences. Sometimes you have to recognize those patterns as being unhealthy or unsuitable. You have to break away from that model—from those victim stereotypes. Sometimes you have to fight and struggle with your own existence to become the Opposite Man.

My goal is to be a resource for people who are looking for help. I had no such resource growing up. I was forced to figure all of this stuff out on my own. I don’t wish that same task upon you. Allow me be a resource for you—allow me to be the resource I never had.

The recipe for happiness and success is contained in the pages of this book. It’s a complete manual if you want to look at it that way—a how-to manual that teaches you to take control of your life, break free from victim stereotypes, and become the Opposite Man. There is no upsell to another product—the next product that has all the “real answers” and “secrets for success.” That is because there are no other products. There is nothing left out, no secret that I am keeping to myself. I put my heart, soul, and everything I have on the pages of this book to be a resource for you the reader. If you want to change your life and become the Opposite Man, the answers are contained here. All you have to bring to the table is an open mind, a willingness to learn, and a strong desire to change—to be a better person and to lead a meaningful and fulfilling life. It’s all right to be vulnerable and take a chance with the lessons in this book. I have created a roadmap for you. Be courageous in the face of your fears and follow this new path. You will find freedom from your pain and suffering. A new mindset will liberate you. Remember, our minds are very powerful tools if we can learn how to control our thoughts and fight our internal demons.

How to Use This Book

Through this book, you will learn how to undo the psychological damage done to you by your abuser(s). You will learn to fight against the conditioning of your own worthlessness. You will learn what healthy boundaries in relationships are and how to seek love, affection, and attention in a positive way. Most importantly, you will learn to fight against the stereotypical victim response—fight against the statistics of failure in life, unhappiness, drug use, and depression. You will learn to pull yourself from the ruins and fight with every ounce of energy to change your path and create a life of inner peace, happiness, and contentment—a rewarding and fulfilling life. You will learn to fight back against all odds to become the Opposite Man.

This entire book is about the path we were set on by our past events; more importantly, it’s about getting the hell off that path and fighting to create a new course. It will likely be the toughest fight of your life, but ask yourself, what’s the alternative? What happens to you if you don’t get off the current path? The short answer: you perpetuate the victim stereotype and live an unhappy and unfulfilled victim life—a life of regret. This is a life that keeps you in the victim role in your future relationships and accomplishments. To me, the most tragic aspect of not breaking free is to one day sit back and wish you had had the courage to do things differently. Do not wait until it’s too late. Take action now by following the path outlined in this book. You must change the things you can change. Do not sit back and say to yourself, “It is what it is”— because it isn’t. We write the script of our own life, which means we have the ability to change the outcome. Just because we start on a particular path, doesn’t mean we are married to it. If your path is unhealthy or unfulfilling, get off of it and get onto a different path. There is absolutely no excuse not to and every reason that you should.

Most of the chapters in this book have exercises for you to do. Please do them. I have used each and every one of them at some point in my life—they work. I hope you use this book and my story to empower yourself to make change and break free from the victim stereotypes. If I can do it, so can you. You don’t have to be unhappy or burdened with pain—and you certainly don’t have to live with regret. These are all things within your control. I have broken free from the victim stereotypes and become the Opposite Man. Now it’s your turn.

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