Taking responsibility for your actions is the first step towards changing your life’s path, and yet, after those first few steps, there is life – staring you in the face again. Tomorrow, next week, five years from now – you alone must continue to make good decisions to stay on your new path. Along the way, you will face let downs, failures, and setbacks. Don’t let those times define you or your future.
Life After the Army
My Army friend from the last two blog posts is now retired. When the structured life of the Army became a thing of the past – his deployments were over, the men he was responsible for were home living their lives – he found himself looking for a new identity in his life. One day, he started looking for that identity in a bottle.
Many people turn to a bottle of alcohol, pills – prescription or not – or even food as a means to numb pain. The familiar mind dulling power of alcohol was a choice my friend made because it allowed him to temporarily forget the pain of the past and blur out the struggle ahead of trying to return to a “normal” life after his life of service. The problem is, each day brought the same problems and the same pain.
He explained to me that after his retirement from the Army, he was depressed. He thought about ending it all at his lowest point. Statistics show that every single day 20 veterans commit suicide.
Thankfully, his survival instincts kicked in and reality hit him. He had a loving family, he had lived through deployment, and yet there he was, feeling sorry for himself. He sat there and was completely honest with himself. He was at one of those places where the next choice he made would again affect the rest of his life.
Looking back on his life, he realized that when he was given things. he always ended up failing in the end. But, when he worked for something, he always succeeded. He knew the path to overcoming depression and creating his new identity would be hard, but he knew it would be worth it to recover.
A Champion’s Identity
One day a few years back when I lived in California, I walked into the gym to get a workout in with the fight team. At the gym, that day was a man named Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal, a professional Mixed Martial Arts fighter. He was not well known in America at that point, but internationally and in Japan, he was a big star in the fighting world. My coach told me that I was going to train with him that day.
Mo and I became friends and we used to go get something to eat together after fight team practice. He signed with Strikeforce MMA, and after one fight he was going to fight Gegard Mousasi for the light heavyweight championship belt. He took his training seriously.
He won that fight live on network TV and a few days later we were enjoying a meal together. I was surprised by his calm demeanor. He had just won the championship belt in a major promotion, so I had no idea what to expect. He was the same man I knew before, except he had become a world champion.
Mo lost his championship belt in his next fight, handing him his first loss as a professional fighter. Once again we were out eating a few days later, and he was still no different.
“Losing is no big deal, sure I want to win, but everyone loses. In my life, I have had more wins than losses, so I never worry about it or feel sorry for myself. Tomorrow is another day. I think about all those who will never have a chance like I have in life. When I win I just go to my hotel room and watch TV, I don’t want to be out celebrating. If I lose, I go out and share the time with everyone else. It is the losses that make you, not the wins. The wins are easy. It is coming back and picking up the pieces and getting right back to what you love.” – King Mo
He explained that all those titles he had won didn’t mean anything. He has no idea where any of the belts or medals even are at this point. What he cares about is the ability to compete, because that is what he loves, that is his identity. And, in the bigger picture of life, what he believes really matters is your family and those who are close to you. He then went on to say that having compassion for other people is another part of his identity.
He walks it like he talks it. We had another conversation a few weeks ago, just after he lost a fight to Cro Cop in Japan, and he told me he was already back working on his craft.
My Identity Crisis
While I had wanted an out from the increasing pressure of wearing a wire for the FBI for eight straight years, there was still a part of me that was crushed when the FBI told me I was not going back to Brooklyn, my days undercover were over. The Mob was my identity, I didn’t know who I was without it.
I had a few weeks alone in Canada to really let the reality of life sink into my mind. I was frightened, not at the prospect of someone coming after me, but because the real world was an unknown. I had not been around regular people much since I was a teenager.
I would then have another two years in protection to really think over my life. I sat alone for most of those two years, thinking about my past and worrying about my future. I was determined to take my fresh start and make life work the right way this time.
I have fallen, I have made bad decisions along the way, and I will fall again. Each time I learn from it and I become stronger. I was only able to change myself up to a point. Then the day came that I let God into my heart, and now I no longer have to make the journey alone. He has the power to change and guide me. Now I live with faith instead of fear.
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone, and the new has come.
God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing. – C. S. Lewis