The men formed a circle and then the man leading our group asked me, “Are you ready?”
Across the room a man was lying down puking into a trashcan. His body shook and twisted which caused him to slowly drag himself across the floor. Standing above him was a Native American quietly chanting a prayer in his own tongue while burning a stick of sage.
On the other side of the room, a man with a bodybuilder physique stood naked weeping over his insecurities about his body. His back was so thick I couldn’t see the facilitator on the other side of him.
In front of me, a man cried and yelled about how he felt powerless in his marriage. He knew it was coming to an end. He mourned the loss of the life he’d known for the last 15 years.
Thirty men had volunteered to gather at a cabin in the woods for a weekend to talk about their biggest fears and insecurities in life. The vomit, yelling, and tears were all visceral reactions to the baggage we had carried and left unaddressed their entire lives.
I was here because I was tired of living my life on repeat. The drinking, sleeping with women to fill the void inside to settle my own need for approval, the playing small and not living to my full potential. I wanted to change.
We formed a circle around a carpet square the size of a small boxing ring. The man leading our group looked me in the eye and asked, “Are you ready?”
For years, I wanted to know what it felt like to walk into the depths of my own personal hell and confront the demons I had been hiding from. This was my opportunity to finally change my life forever. It had all come down to this final moment where we were guided into an emotional ass beating.
“Mark, who are you?” The group leader asked.
At any other time in my life I would have answered with my job title. Instead the question sent a feeling of weakness surging through my body. I buckled at the knees and tears started running down my face.
Over the next 45 minutes, I was guided through a visual representation of the pain I had carried for the last 10 years.
It started in highschool with me being absolutely clueless on how to talk to women. My fear and insecurities had felt so intense that alcohol was the only way I could find a mute button for the endless loop of negative thoughts in my mind. At first, it felt like a small self-sacrifice. I would give up a little bit of dignity and pride to have a few fleeting moments with a woman.
As I dug the hole deeper, I became dependent on the validation from women. But the only way I felt comfortable enough to meet women was through using alcohol. A lethal combo that would send me into a downward spiral over the years. My “normal” became drinking alcohol to feel comfortable around women. I knew it was unhealthy, but I couldn’t stop.
“Mark, who did this to you? Who caused you to have all of this pain in your life?” The leader asked.
I did. I had stuck the knife in and twisted it all by myself. No one was telling me I had to live in a such an unhealthy way. I ended up here because I had chosen to, one decision at a time.
Now I could begin to heal.
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