My story. Part 6A: Florida, the dark times

What I am about to share is proof that I am human.

It is proof that we all make mistakes and we all pay the price for those mistakes. I don't believe in bad luck or good luck, but I do believe that the choices that we make always come back to either reward or punish us in the end.

This is the story of my first 6 years in Florida. These are, by far, the darkest days of my life.

I hope you get value from this, but understand that it is both hard to write about and hard to relive; even if it's just from typing on a keyboard.

This is my story and it's not all sunshine and rainbows.

They say that you aren't defined by what happens to you but what you do next. I believe this and the dark days of my life have helped to craft me, for good or bad, into what I am today.

If you are going through dark days always remember that the light is out there. All nights end; the sun always comes up. Trust me. It will.

I left the fitness industry in August of 2005 and I wasn't part of it, in any way, for close to two years.

Why would I do this?

I guess the easy answer is that I was having trouble carving my path. I wasn't earning the money that I wanted to earn and I wasn't getting the life satisfaction that I felt I needed.

I was also getting some family pressure. It was time to be a man and support my family. This was a decision that I made and I would live to regret.

When I moved to Florida I decided to utilize my skills as a painter and become a paint contractor. Originally it was going to be a partnership with me ex wife's brother but he bailed so I was on my own.

We were debt free and I had some money saved up. I bought some paint brushes, put an add in the paper, and I was in business.

I was also training hard to be a professional triathlete. The fall that we moved to Florida I even competed in the XTerra (off road triathlon) World Championships in Hawaii. I finished 7th place in the 30-34 age group.

Moving to Florida was supposed to be a 5 year adventure. I was supposed to become a pro triathlete. That race in Hawaii was the best that I would get and I have been in Florida going on 16 years now.

The best laid plans....

Being a paint contractor was going well for the first year. I had lots of work and I had hired a crew of guys. I was training hard and life was pretty good. That first year was a good one for the most part.

Fresh starts always start out well. The excitement, the exploration, the joy of doing something new and finding your way is something that I have always embraced.

I was happy. We were happy. It was the life change that we had desired. Life was good.

We travelled a bit that first year like we had planned. I travelled to San Francisco, Utah and Hawaii to race. We also went to Lake Tahoe and on a couple of cruises.

We were living life we wanted. Again, life was good.

Until it wasn't.

This was 2007 in Central Florida. One day I had a crew of 12 guys working. The next day the phone stopped ringing.

It was amazing how quick it happened. Jobs that I would bid $1500 on, and make a good profit, were gone. Guys were doing it for $800. Something bad was happening.

We all know what this was. We were all affected. The recession really hit me hard.

We made a couple of bad decisions around this time.

We bought a new upgraded home. That was really stupid because we still owned the original home that we build when we moved here. The decision to buy a new $500,000 home, a year and a half after building a modest home I still, to this day, scratch my head at why we did this.

I took on a big paint job for a contractor with low moral character. Within a matter of weeks this guy stiffed me out of $17,000. That was the true turning point.

We went from living in a really nice home with a good life and a promising triathlon to career to losing literally everything.

We walked away from that home and I walked away from my business.

We had a foreclosure and $50,000 in business debt.

Those were some hard times. There were other things going on as well. My ex wife's daughter had herself two kids that ended up in our care. So, while everything was crashing down, we were trying to raise a teenage boy and an elementary school boy in addition to two little girls. The youngest was 4 months old and not even sleeping through the night.

It was truly a nightmare.

In the midst of all the chaos I was approached by the director on the YMCA about starting a "running club".

I had been a member of the Y since we moved here. I did the boot camp class and used the pool. One day the Executive Director saw an article about me in the local paper and realized that I was a member.

I was offered the 2 hour per week gig and I jumped at the opportunity. This turned into a job on the wellness floor while eventually led to the position of Wellness Director.

In 2007 and 2008 things happened pretty fast. I got buried financially with my painting business so I walked away from all the debt. We were fostering the kids then we weren't. I was completing and then I stopped because I couldn't afford it. In 2008 we lost our home and moved back into the original home.

It was tumultuous time.

Thank God for the YMCA. They gave me a job and helped me to get back to where I needed to be, which was in fitness.

Once our new house got foreclosed on we moved back into the original house and our finances got back in check and I started to train again after missing a year.

The dark days weren't over; not by a long shot. There was so much more suffering to come on every level.

More dominoes needed to fall.

As my comeback to triathlon was in full gear things were getting a little better. I had some sponsors and I was super fit until I broke my leg.

Breaking my leg sucked. As you could imagine it led to challenges in all areas on my life. I did my best and recovered a lot quicker than anyone ever would have anticipated.

As I was recovering my marriage was going in the other direction. Often hard times can bring people together. Sometimes hard times bring people together in all the wrong ways and when the hard times are over you realize that there is nothing really left.

I was the Wellness Director at the YMCA for a year and I was miserable. It wasn't her career path for me.

In late December of 2009 I walked away from the YMCA.

I started a boot camp program at a local church that I called "Your Best Fitness Coach".

I didn't make a whole lot of money but I enjoyed it and it truly gave me hope and purpose.

As I was growing my business my marriage continued to fall apart.

The dominoes just kept falling and it would be much worse before it got better.

In June of 2010 I walked away from my 10 year marriage.

I went from being a full time father and husband living in a nice house, in a nice neighborhood, with a pool, going on cruises, having a solid retirement, and being financially secure to, literally, overnight living in a one bedroom apartment and not having enough money to pay the only bills I had which were my car payment and my rent.

I made $16,000 in 2010. This wasn't the life that I had envisioned.

I had also gotten addicted to Monster Energy Drinks. (I will discuss this in a future post!) Ugh.

This was truly a gut check time.

Could it get worse? Yeah. It actually did.

A few months after I moved out on my own I fell in love with a girl who I thought was the love on my life.

For a couple of months that was good.

The dominoes kept falling.

In November of 2010 my dad died. He was my best friend and the one person in my life that I was really close to and spoke with just about everyday. I was devastated.

In December of 2010 the girl that I loved dumped me.

In February of 2011 I got into a car accident and totalled the one thing that I got from my marriage. (OK, I actually got three things. I also got a mattress and a TV... which I couldn't use because I couldn't afford cable.)

I had no money or credit so I had to accept, from my ex wife, her old car that she was going to haul off to the junkyard.

The dominos were now done falling.

It was time to pick up the pieces. Thankfully, I met a girl named Autumn who would help to facilitate this process.

It was time to rebuild me life.

I've written a lot over the years. One thing I wrote during the tumultuous times in 2010 still stands as one of my favorites. It's called "Marbles".

The metaphor is that my life was like a bucket of marbles that got spilled on a wood floor. While this was a challenge to do, the marbles are still there. They just needed to be picked up.

In the winter of 2011 that is what I set out to do.

During these dark years I made some bad decisions. I had some bad luck as well. In the end though I own every bit of what happened; it was my fault.

With the exception of the passing of my father, all the darkness was my fault.

I learned over the years to not dwell but to learn and fight on.

I fought on and I designed the life that I now lead.

I share with you this message today not to make you feel bad for me. It's not to make light of anything. It's simply to show you that I have been where you have been or perhaps are now.

The struggles in life are real. Trust me, I know. If you are struggling with challenges in life I hope you understand now that I have been there with you.

It gets better. It always gets better.

Thank for for reading. The next decade in Florida is a much better story; I promise you this. It got better, it got a lot better.

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