I remember that early morning when I stepped out onto the lawn of a main house on a farm where I lived for a 11-months. I had just completed my time in treatment and was about to return to the world.
It was the month of September and the sky was as blue as I could possibly imagine.The trees in the mountains around me were changing color, which made the mountains colorful, like weaving hills that ranged from shades of orange to yellow and red.
All of my past was behind me. I had friends in my life. I had love in my life.
Most of all, I had my family back in my life. I had pride and I had purpose in my heart. I looked around at the farm. I looked at the big red barn where I had spent countless hours, working hard, and learning what it means to actually work for a living. I looked up at the sky and watched the outstretched wings of a hawks, turning in big circles, hovering and flying high in the heavens above me. I looked at the hills behind the main house and thought about the memories I will have from this place. I looked at the dorms and I looked at the view, which I grew to depend on because the view was always there for me. In the toughest times and hardest of losses losses, I underwent change and felt the aches of my growing pains.

I looked around to see this place that I originally saw as a place of regret punishment. And I saw myself there. I had survived. I had grown. I had overcome certain demons that I never dared to talk about and more; I looked around and felt the success of my achievement.I rebuilt myself from the ground up. Although I had help and although there were others around to push me when I wanted to be still, I looked around and saw my accomplishment,I was 18 years-old at the time. I looked around and I thought to myself: This is my best accomplishment.I remember the time when I went backwards and fell back into my old routines. I found myself in bad places doing bad things. And it was true that my blood was clean from any substances. But I was not living a clean life. I was tainted in some way. I had given in to the inaccuracies in my head. I found myself wrapped up in my insecurities. I was lost in my own thoughts and once again, I volunteered to become a victim to the disorders that nearly ruined my life.I remember going backwards and hearing someone tell me, “Sometimes you have to go backwards in order to go forward.”

At the time, I wasn’t sure if I believed that. At the time, I wasn’t sure if I believed anything. At the time there was a problem with my belief system. There was a problem with my value system because I had no idea what I was worth.
I remember falling backwards. I remember the shame and how punishing this was.
There I was, supposedly rehabilitated, and yet there I was, back at it again and walking into a room of like-minded people to explain how I had to go back to the beginning and start my count at zero.

I never saw the victory here. I saw this as defeat. I saw the surrender to my sickness as a symbol of my weakness and I saw my disappointment as an incurable virus that would plague me for the rest of my life.

More than the people and places and things, the problem was me. Me at my best would never do the things I did at my worst. I wouldn’t even think of things like them because at my best, my thoughts are in a better place. However, me at my worst, my thoughts were equal to the way i felt about me.

I found myself back to the beginning. I was not only beat; I was defeated. I was broken in ever sense of the word. I was broken hearted. My spirit was broken. The repairs to my character I had made over the last year, the trust I rebuilt and the feeling of dignity and pride, the feelings of better consciousness, better awareness, which led to a better sense of understanding; all of these things were broken and gone.

I suppose at this time; I thought to myself this must be my worst defeat.

When I woke up on the bathroom floor in the room of a treatment center after trying to hang myself; I swore this was my worst defeat.
I lost myself several times since then. I lost girlfriends. I lost jobs. I ruined myself financially. And when I looked around at the people I knew; I saw them as better than me. I saw everyone as better than  me. When I looked around and saw others and what they had, no matter how small their earnings were or insignificant their possessions were; I thought to myself that they will always BE BETTER THAN ME!
And when I thought this way; I swore to myself, this must be my worst defeat.

There was an evening when I was a younger adult. I came home to find a letter that was addressed to me. This was a letter from The Department of Education. I struggled to open the letter because I knew that letter was in reference to my High School Equivalency exam. After years of putting this off and after years of believing the lies in my head; after believing I was stupid; after believing that my learning disabilities were too much for me to overcome, I finally took the exam.

When I saw the envelope, I remember the rush I felt of blood beneath my skin. I suppose this was fear. Perhaps this was fear of my own personal rejection that worried after all this time, the lies that I believed about me being stupid were about to be proven true.

I looked at the envelope, which was no different from any other standard envelope. The address was typed to me. The return address looked official.
I knew that I had to open the letter. I knew the news would be bad and I assumed the opening statement would be something like, Dear Mr. Kimmel, we regret to inform you,” or something like that.
I swore the news would be terrible,

I mean, I already believed I was stupid. The last thing I needed was The Department of Education to send me a letter and prove I was right.

I took a seat in the reclining chair in the living room. I leaned back parly to lift my feet. I looked at the envelope for good portion of time until I finally worked up the courage to open the envelope.

I was partially right. The opening line did begin with Dear Mr. Kimmel. However, the word “Regret,” did not appear in the first sentence. Instead of, “We regret to inform you,” the letter read, “We are pleased to inform you.”

I passed . . .
In spite of the inaccurate voices in my head- in spite of the lies I told myself- in spite of any learning disabilities and insecurities; I passed and earned my high school diploma..

I was somewhere around my mid-twenties. I had always lied about my education because, of course, who would want to talk to someone like me, a high school dropout. But I was no longer a dropout. I was a graduate.

I wept for a while. I cried for several reasons. And as I sat there in my own personal victory I swore to myself: This must be my best accomplishment.

I remember how much my life changed after that. I remember that my skills as a salesmen were not enough to earn me a substantial income. The reason is at the time, I lacked the drive and tenacity to continue my pitch.
I was in a bad space with some of my friends and found myself in an argument that somehow quarantined me from the group I hung around with.

I quit my job and went into an entirely different field. I became a helper in a union. I was at the bottom of the ranks. I had to start all over again.

Meanwhile, my friends (or so-called friends) were earning big money (or so I thought) and buying new cars. Some of them were owning homes, Some were getting married. And me, I was living in the basement of my Aunt’s house. I had no drive or direction. I felt deflated and defeated. And I looked around me and swore to myself; this must be my worst defeat.

I remember when I finally moved out on my own. I remember when my daughter was born. I remember when I earned my credentials to receive better pay and I swore to myself, this must be my best accomplishment.

But then I was divorced. I lost my financial stability. I lost a lot of my social influences. I went from a big home to a small, upstairs apartment in someone’s house.

I went back to my old neighborhood, defeated and broken, and I swore to myself, this must be my worst defeat,

The depression hit so hard that I found myself contemplating the ultimate departure. I was ready to go. But through whichever way one defines this; whether it was divine intervention or it was as simple as me getting up from the couch to put the shotgun away; I went over to my computer and I started to write my first journal.

Eventually, I filled that journal. Eventually, I filled the empty rooms of that apartment. I learned to fulfill my dreams. I wrote a short story that was published.

I recall speaking with a therapist about this, to which she recommended, “Don’t get your hopes up, kid.”

I stopped seeing her after that session. I stopped listening to others tell me what I can and cannot do.
Months later, after preparing me for a rejection letter, I was sitting in a bookstore behind a table with a sign that red, “Meet The Author,” and who did I see? It was my therapist. She walked by without saying anything. But I know she saw me. She saw me with a girl she told me to stay away from (Because it wouldn’t last more than a week) and  she saw my signing copies of a book she said would never be published.

I watched her pass by and swore to myself, this has got to be my best accomplishment ever.

Over the years, I have seen incredible things. I have felt incredible losses and with each, I swore they were either the worst or the best.

Now I understand
I get it now

Life is filled with best and worst things that happen. But no matter how bad the worst thing is, nothing is so bad that  I will not overcome.
Also, of all my accomplishments, I see how they grow. No matter how devastating my losses may be; I know that I have bigger victories ahead of me.

I know that loss is disappointing. And I know pain hurts. I know this very well. I know how it feels to fail due to my own self-fulfilled prophecies and I’ve seen myself sabotage my way with self-destructive behavior.

Sure, I’ve lost.
But champions lose all the time. They lose sweat and blood. They lose skin from the fight, They lose sleep because they are up early, training harder each day because one push-up, one sit-up, one more time around the tack, another rep, another step, all of these things put them one step closer to the dreams of their victory.

If this is the case, then I want to be a champion. If loss is part of life, then let me learn my from my losses so that I can find myself in the winner’s circle because of anything I want to be in this world; I want to be a champion.

I have my fair share of battle scars, both internally and externally. I have my fair share of defeats. But I am not defined by them.

No, I am defined by the fact that no matter how many losses i’ve taken, I have always been able to wake up the next day, and that above anything is a success.

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