My mother committed suicide in early 2003. She was found with about 50 pills in her stomach.
And I felt nothing inside upon hearing the news.
I had basically written her off and cast her out of my life years prior.
There’s really only so much someone can take before they reach their breaking point, and my mom had a way of pushing far past people’s breaking points.
Growing up in Detroit is bad. Being the only white boy around in a neighborhood where racism was rampant is worse. Not having any adult supervision because your dad left two years ago and your mom is on some month-long bender is the worst.
I remember I was leaving the house one day, just after getting cleaned up from cutting a neighbor’s yard. I had a $5 bill in my left hand, earned from the aforementioned grass cutting, which was all I needed to get some food and play some arcade games down at the local party store. I was 10 years old.
My mom surprised me, walking up the sidewalk to the house. I hadn’t seen her in a few weeks. She was obviously high and/or drunk, could barely walk straight, and was yelling at some guy who was sitting in a car waiting for her.
She walked straight at me, noticing the $5 bill in my hand.
Seeing her eye dart toward the money, I quickly tried to put it in my pocket.
But I was too late. She wrestled me for it. Although I put up a good fight (I was both hungry and excited to play), she won. She took the money, grabbed a few things from her room, and got back in the car. I was crying my eyes out.
I wouldn’t see her again for a couple more weeks.
This is just one example of many memories I have of my mom. So you can imagine why I later wrote her off completely.
I barely spoke to her at all for about 10 years – between the time I was adopted at 11 years old and her suicide just before my 21st birthday.
But I would occasionally see her. Her drug use would become increasingly more dangerous over the years. When I waved goodbye to her and the house I spent my childhood in at 11, she would mostly use marijuana and cocaine.
However, she later became a heavy heroin user. And that ultimately would be her undoing, rapidly exacerbating her physical and mental deterioration.
Her Steady Deterioration Motivated Me To Never End Up Like That
Nobody wants to write off their own mother. I mean, my mom gave birth to me. Without her, I wouldn’t exist. There’s an innate appreciation there that’s hard to ignore.
However, she unfortunately made it impossible to have a good relationship. And the gap between us only widened over the years as she continued to deteriorate.
It’s perhaps this that was her greatest gift of all. Well, besides life itself.
Seeing someone that close to you slowly die is the ultimate motivation to live.
I saw firsthand what it was like to see someone who had at some point in time lost their will to live. And it was something that scarred me for life, providing a substantial amount of the motivation I have today to live a purposeful life.
Not only do I not want to die, I want to live while I’m alive.
I pursue happiness with every ounce of my being. And that’s because I got to see what misery was like up close – a misery that could only be lessened via a constant stream of chemicals and compounds.
It’s a desperation that I’ve been determined to avoid for as long as I’m alive.
However, we do share something in common here.
My mother sought to escape darkness by pursuing the happiness that drugs and alcohol provided.
I seek to escape darkness by pursuing the happiness that owning my own time, becoming a better version of myself, and making the world a better place provides.
Her Addictive Nature Was Passed Down To Me
I remember studying nature versus nurture in college. Impossible to know exactly how it breaks down (I personally believe it’s 80% nature and 20% nurture), but I do believe that my mother passed down, through nature, her addictive personality.
I see it as a gift and a curse. But I’ve done my best to maximize the gift side of the equation.
So instead of becoming addicted to drugs, I’ve become absolutely compelled to escape the rat race and live life on my terms. And I’ve made it a bit of my mission in life to inspire and motivate others that are looking for a similar lifestyle.
I’m essentially addicted to freedom.
There’s a single-mindedness I have that I can crank up to a level 12 when I really want to go after something. There’s this focus and intensity I have that allows me to completely eliminate all other thoughts other than what I’m going after. And it’s allowed me to quit my full-time job at 32 and become financially free at 33. It also compels me to produce great content, as inspiring others to be the best versions of themselves is another addiction of mine.
Well, I think my mom had this same single-mindedness. How else could she have left her children to fend for themselves in the middle of a dangerous neighborhood for weeks on end in Detroit while she got wasted? There’s no way she could have gone off to do that if she had us on her mind. She instead let addiction take over, and it compelled her to live the lifestyle she was living.
I do wonder whether I would have been able to seek out financial freedom with such resolution had my mother not passed down her addictive nature.
Her compulsion to ruin her life became my compulsion to improve my own.
Her Desire To Live Life On Her Terms Is Something I Share
It was one last conversation I had with her – the most real and honest conversation we ever had – just a few months before she died that still sticks with me today, and it made me realize that we had more in common than I ever thought.
It was Christmas 2002.
Looking at my mom, I realized that she wasn’t going to make it much longer. So I decided to tell her how I felt. I advised her that she was going to die soon if she didn’t change her ways. I asked her how she couldn’t want to change, how she couldn’t want to be free of these drugs that had a hold on her. Did she not want to live? Did she not want to be happy? Did she not want a normal life?
Her response still sticks with me, although I couldn’t believe what I was hearing at the time.
She told me that she was already living the life she wanted. To her, everything was normal. She instead challenged me, advising that it was me and everyone else that was crazy. She told me she’d never want to be stuck in a normal life, where one has to work and be stressed out all the time. She didn’t want the responsibilities of everyday life that everyone else decided was normal. She asked why it was that this kind of insanity – being overworked and overstressed – was deemed to be normal and acceptable. Who decided that? Her last point was that she actually felt sorry for me.
I shook my head and walked away. I’d never speak to her again.
Although I thought at the time that she was truly lost (a point of view that I felt her suicide mere months later validated), I realized, years later, that she actually made some good points.
I never thought I’d take any kind of valuable insight from that rather twisted conversation, but I truly have.
See, I also have no desire to be stuck in the rat race until I’m too old and used up to compete any longer. I don’t want to run a hamster wheel, stuck in place, chasing a piece of cheese that doesn’t actually exist. And I also question why it is that this craziness is deemed to be normal.
However, while we desired a somewhat similar end result (freedom), we vastly diverged in our approaches.
Her approach was to escape responsibility to herself and others. It didn’t matter if this hurt people. As long as she could do whatever she wanted, the ends justified the means.
I instead use financial freedom as the means to pursue happiness and live a purposeful life, which I believe puts me in a great position to help others pursue happiness and live purposeful lives of their own.
My mother sought to live life on her terms regardless of how it hurt or impacted others.
I seek to live life on my terms in hopes that it improves not only myself but also everything and everyone around me.
I write this not to defend my mother. I’m not looking to come to peace with anything. I have no regrets about the way I handled our relationship.
Instead, I hope that by sharing this intimate detail of my life, I’m able to show that we are all one people. Even those that may seem to come from a totally different point of view or have a perspective that’s irreconcilable with our own may have more in common with us than we think. It’s an approach to relationships that’s helpful in all aspects of life. Finding the good in someone may be difficult, but finding common ground may not be as hard as you think.
Moreover, part of becoming a better me involves constantly learning and reflecting. I’ve learned through this experience that there’s always something valuable, insightful, or otherwise good to take from any situation in life. If we’re able to make the most of any situation and figure out how to distill moments into what can be used to improve us, we become better.
My mother is long dead. Nothing was going to change her fate. But I’m more thankful than ever for who she was and what she gave me.
While her nurturing left a lot to be desired, her deterioration motivated me to blossom. It was everything she lacked that gave me abundance.
Meanwhile, the addictive nature she passed down produced in me a drive, to the point of addiction, to go after the things I want. She gave me an intensity and focus that have proved to be incredibly useful throughout my life.
And we actually shared a similar outlook on life (I’d learn later), which I’m very thankful for. Although our approaches diverged about as much as they possibly can, her last words to me perhaps secretly lit a fire in me that wouldn’t start to burn brightly until years later. We both wanted to be free. I simply decided to go after freedom in a manner that’s not only healthier and more viable but also far more constructive to my world and the world around me.
What do you think? Ever had an experience or conversation that later turned out to change your life?
Thanks for reading.
Image courtesy of: Tuomas_Lehtinen at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.