Living Joyfully After Losing It All

My story is simple. I was a lawyer for almost 25 years. For most of that time I was a good lawyer. I had a loving family and a good life.  After years of struggle, I received a financial windfall. It went to my head. I thought I could do no wrong. I started handling matters I didn’t like for people I didn’t like.

I made a mistake in a transaction. I fixed it myself. It went downhill from there. My judgment eroded, accelerated by unexpected personal crises like deaths in my family. Before I knew it I was trapped. It was just a matter of time before I was found out. I kept the balls in the air for several years until it all blew up many years ago.  I was living in chaos, living to keep situations at bay Monday through Friday; relaxing Friday night and Saturday; and stressing again on Sunday, wondering what was going to happen the coming week. Too often I was medicating my stress and worry with excessive spending and alcohol consumption.

When it all ended I turned in my law license, faced multiple lawsuits and criminal charges.  I lost my possessions, my marriage, my freedom and most of my friends. I was frozen out of relationships. No longer was I part of the “in crowd”. No more this. No more that. No more of anything that I thought was so important.

As I began to face and accept the consequences of my poor choices I found LAP. For years I thought I was alone, that no one would understand me or accept me if I was found out. I thought the only way out was to check out. Permanently. A friend told me about LAP. I went to a LAP discussion group that first evening over 7 years ago. The first time I shared I felt relief. Even though my circumstances were unique, I was not alone. I’d found a surrogate family who accepted me despite my flaws and who cared about me – including holding me accountable when I fell into self-pity, blaming or negotiating.

I’d always had a faith, my parents instilled that in me, but it had lapsed. My participation in LAP, and the relationships I forged with other participants, showed me the importance of living by spiritual principles, not to bargain or evade responsibility, but how to live a content and fulfilling life no matter the circumstances. My own spiritual growth led me to learn to “let go and let God.” I learned, as so many others have, that I’m not in charge. I learned the value of service, of gratitude, and of humility. I found that strength comes not from me, but from relying on God as I understand him.

It wasn’t easy or fun. Divorce was horrible; worse even than prison. But the principles I learned and refined, and my friends in the program guided me along the way. My first night in prison I truly let go and accepted that I was not in charge. I sat down by my bunk and said, “OK God, I did it my way and here’s where it got me. Now I’m going to try it Your way.” And I did; and you know what, it worked. I began a consistent spiritual study based upon my faith tradition, praying and meditating. Those disciplines sustained me and carried me through my prison sentence. I’ll always regret my poor choices, but I don’t regret my journey through them. I regard my many months in the penitentiary as a time of fulfilling service to my fellow inmates and personal and spiritual growth.

Don’t get me wrong, my journey was not fun. It was hard. But, through it I’ve found so much more. I wouldn’t trade any of the friends I lost for any of the friends I’ve made – in or out of prison. I keep up with a lot of my buddies: men I would have written off or looked down upon in my prior life. Now, I consider them my brothers.

LAP helped me accept my choices and forgive myself; it helped me not to be bound by the un-forgiveness or rejection of others. The lessons of LAP enabled me to live in joy and in freedom of spirit despite my incarceration.

The greatest gift LAP gave me was forgiveness. My group showed me love and forgiveness and showed me how to love myself. How was that displayed in my life?  In the most amazing way. During my first months in prison I received a note from a former colleague. He would have been fully justified in ending our friendship and never speaking with me again. Instead, he chose not only to forgive me but also to stay in contact with me.  We stayed in touch and remain friends. We socialize, pursue spiritual study and do service work together. My friend showed me forgiveness. Thanks to LAP, I could recognize and accept it. Life is good. I am grateful for the many blessings poured over me in my renewed joyful life.

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