This a real live example of how on the other side of chaos and crisis there can be a world waiting for you far greater than the one you had before. I have often said that crises don’t happen to you, they happen for you. They either creep up on you and then you get suddenly slammed or you get slammed without warning or t-boned. Either way, they are meant to either get you into or out of something and they certainly get your attention. They force change, they force decision and they absolutely cannot be avoided or ignored. A crisis is not an overdue phone bill or an irritated email from your boss. A crisis is about as in your face as you can get and there is no head in the sand option available on this one.
When I made the decision to change the focus of my career from general coaching and counselling to helping clients who are in crisis I made another very important and difficult decision at the same time.
And that decision was to be completely transparent, open and honest about my own journeys through my personal crises. This was a difficult decision as one of the first things they drum into you at university is to maintain professional boundaries around self disclosure. Essentially what that means is that you as the therapist reveal little to no information about yourself, your life or your experiences as this can compromise the integrity of the client/therapist relationship.
However, how can I possibly expect you to take me seriously as a crisis coach or even consider asking for my help if you don’t know some of my own journey (or crisis resume put another way). Which is why I have chosen to completely go against all the protocols and advice and opt for complete self disclosure.
Surprisingly, I have found that the sharing of stories from my own past where relevant have had a far greater impact on helping clients towards their own breakthrough moments than anything else in my career.
So what you are about to hear is absolutely true and this story is to let you know that on the other side of whatever you are going through, something far better is waiting for you.
Stay tuned for Part Two
The bizarrely wonderful and unexpected world that exists post crisis. Part 2
It may be very difficult to believe if you are in the middle of a crisis that this is one of the best things that could happen to you and that after the dust settles, your life and the lives of those other affected and involved will be magically transformed into new lives you never imagined.
I am going to use myself as a case study of why this is true.
Early in 2018 I went through the last crisis I would ever endure however, it was highly unpleasant for myself and everyone around me. I survived stage 4 cancer in 2013 and was having my 5 year (off the hook) check-up. The results came back and it was not looking good. Everything was pointing towards the cancer had returned and it was aggressive. In the same week, I decided to go cold turkey off the prescribed medication I was taking to control my symptoms of the original cancer which was an opioid so it was like going through heroin withdrawal.
In desperation, I turned to alcohol in an attempt to alleviate the pain I was going through emotionally, psychologically, mentally, and physically. This was a complete disaster as you can imagine and I ended up in hospital with alcohol poisoning where I stayed for 5 days. I was then transferred to a detox unit for a week and then given an ultimatum from my family. Either go to rehab and sort yourself out or the family is done with you. So, with little choice, I went to rehab full of confusion, fear, anger, resentment and denial. 6 weeks prior to this crisis, my life was completely normal. What the hell had just happened?
As it turned out and as I realised, it was time given to me and time I needed. I had two choices. 1 - Kick, scream and fight and plot my escape or 2 - Embrace and accept where I was and recognise this as an opportunity to confront and heal the demons that had shadowing me my whole life and sabotaging everything good. I chose the latter.
I was already a counsellor and a coach with a thriving practice in person and online. I made the decision to refer all my clients on to colleagues and dedicate the time in rehab to becoming insatiably curious about myself. I read countless books, journaled, listened to lectures. Anything that would help me learn about myself and find solutions as to why I was at times my own worst enemy. I went on a journey into self and a journey of self discovery. It was in this journey that I discovered the 5 step plan (stop, ground surrender, trust, believe) that would get me out of this mess and prevent any further repetitions of the sequence of events that landed me there in the first place.
The result of all this soul searching was that I slowly found my authentic self hiding in the middle of all the chaos and crisis. I was cut off from the world and I realised that I was totally on my own. Slowly, I began trusting myself and making decisions that only involved me. I became my own best friend.
Then, this crazy and bizarre intuitive feeling began and it kept getting louder and more persistent. It made no sense. That intuitive drive was I had to go to Cambodia. I didn’t know why or how but all I knew was I had to go. This was an insane and I dismissed it was foolery and the pipe dream of someone stuck in rehab in the depths of a Melbourne winter. However, this feeling grew louder and clearer and more insistent and could not be ignored. At that stage I was not allowed contact with my family so I really was on my own on with this one. I was 10 weeks though what was meant to be a 16 week program and I was seriously considering leaving early, risking being totally disowned by the family and spending the last few thousand bucks in the process. I had gone mad or so I thought.
So what did I do you may be wondering?
I will save that for the third blog and conclusion
The bizarrely wonderful and unexpected world that exists post crisis. Part 3
I had made a decision with myself that I would watch, listen and wait for the signs. I was essentially waiting for the green light. That green light was an unexpected call from one of my two best friends, a person I had known for 25 years saying he suddenly had a spare room and if I wanted to come and stay for a short while, that would be no problems. There were other factors involved as well however, for the sake of making a long story short, that was the green light I was waiting for.
I told the staff I was leaving (with their blessing I feel it’s important to add), went and picked up my car, drove from Melbourne to Queensland where my friend was. I spent 15 days in Queensland making my arrangements and I then on the 16th day, I flew out to Siem Reap, Cambodia.
I was now operating on either pure intuition or pure insanity. Fortunately it turned out to be the former. What happened on that first trip to Cambodia was incredible, magical and left me in no doubt there was a reason I had been led there. Suddenly all was revealed and I fell to my knees and thanked whatever is up there for the courage to listen to the intuition and to follow it.
I stayed for the 30 days my tourist visa allowed and during that 30 days, my life purpose became clear as a bell and I knew exactly what I had to do. Also during that time, the demolished relationship with my family had been restored and I returned home to Australia to pack up my life there and return to Cambodia to continue what I had started.
As I had had no contact with my parents for a number of months I was unaware of the the radical decisions they had also made. When I was in detox, they decided to sell their house they had been in for 25 years and move to a retirement village. A decision they had been toying with for some years however, this crisis had also forced them into a decision point and they acted. They are now extremely happy in their new home and are making many new friends. Their health has improved physically, mentally and emotionally and they are loving their new life.
As for me, I am for now a resident of Cambodia and am also extremely happy and firmly on my life path. I am working with my clients in crisis all over the world via Skype and also donating some of my time working with the local Khmer community particularly those who are experiencing substance abuse problems.
Other incredible things have happened as well which I will not go into otherwise this blog would go on forever.
None of this would have happened if it were not for the crisis beginning with my cancer scare. A cascade of events occurred, beginning with something truly horrible for everyone but it sparked a journey and a chain of events and forced decisions that led to bliss, happiness and contentment for all of us. The reasons became so incredibly clear why things had to happen the way they happened and the reasons why. This crisis pushed all of us to make decisions we never would have under normal conditions and the results of those decisions have put us all back on our true path. I am truly grateful for my final crisis.
So as I said at the beginning of this story, if you are in the middle of or heading towards a crisis, hold onto the hope that this is all happening for a reason and on the other side, is something truly wonderful. You will get through it. All you have to do is Stop, Ground, Surrender, Trust and Believe.