Failing to Succeed: A Journey of 10,000 StepsApr 03, 2021
I really struggled with the idea of becoming a guide. I couldn’t help but think, “Who am I to be guide anybody?”
I’m not famous. I haven’t climbed my way to the top of the proverbial ladder. I haven’t won any awards or been recognized among the Who’s Who. I thought to myself, “You should only begin to guide after you’ve become fully successful.” Successful. That is a term that has taken on different meaning for me throughout my life.
In the beginning getting up the guts to jump from the high dive was my idea of successful. However, I quickly found upon hitting the water that such a heroic act did not bring on feelings of success.
I was told that getting good grades while in school would lead to success, so I studied hard, did my homework, prepared thoroughly for tests and remained on the Honor Roll as I climbed to the summit of graduation.
Then I was told a high GPA wasn’t enough. I also needed to be a “well-rounded student”, so I joined sports teams, athletic clubs, theater, student council and everything in between. After years of working hard to reach this prescribed level of success I was informed it, too, was not enough. I must also get into a good college and obtain a scholarship to boot. Applications and thoughtful essays went out. Denial and acceptance letters came in. There - I got into college with a scholarship - success!
Success shifted once more into utilizing my time at university to gain the skills needed to get a “good job”. I knew my major going in and persevered diligently to obtain my degree. Within 4.5 years I had a degree with honors in-hand and was ready to be acknowledged as a success.
“You must get a respectable job with sufficient pay and quality benefits” I was instructed. I had been working since I was 14, so I was no stranger to honest efforts. The job hunt began. It took several months, but I landed a good job with sufficient pay and quality benefits in my career field. I had done it!
Or had I?
On top of this I apparently also needed a husband in order to have a full life. Well, after six months of dating (combined with my abandonment issues, low self worth, years of shame and dreams of this perfect future I kept hearing about) my boyfriend and I became engaged. So now I had a husband to be, a good job with sufficient pay and quality benefits earned by having a college degree which had been obtained with a scholarship after working hard as a “well-rounded student” with a high GPA and the ability to jump off of the high dive.
Whew! I had made it. Success was mine!
Only problem was I didn’t feel very successful. In fact, I didn’t feel happy at all. I had completed society’s formula for success but felt quite empty inside. I thought surely something must be inherently wrong with me. Not wanting anyone to know I was born with such a detestable defect, I resolved to simply paint a smile on and get in line.
Little did I know the Universe had very different plans for me. A mighty storm was headed my way which would send me to depths that would take years to climb out of.
In 2012 I came up against enough trials to last a lifetime. I ended things with my fiance, I had to file bankruptcy after years of pouring out money to try to keep up the appearance of said perfect life, I spent a good deal of time and money at doctors’ offices for a medical issue that was thought to be cancer, someone close to me attempted to commit suicide while I helplessly listened on the other end of the phone, I sought refuge in what I now know is a dark and cunning disease known as addiction, I lost most of my closest friends after they grew (understandably) tired of the person I had become, and right at the end of the year I lost my job.
My “successful life” came crashing down.
I spent the next few years doing anything I could to maintain the image of success and stability. As a survivor of sexual abuse I had lived a double life since childhood, so doing it in this regard was not difficult. Over the next several years I would sink deeper and deeper into a life of lies, manipulation, danger and addiction. I grew to hate myself in more ways than I knew possible. As a result, I let others treat me however they saw fit. I pushed away my family because I was ashamed of who I was and the life I was leading. I lost even more friendships as more and more people became tired of my selfish, egocentric, destructive behavior. I believed at the time that this was proof of my inherent defect and that I would only cause more pain to myself and others if I continued living. I had no purpose, hurt those around me and lied to the rest, I felt I contributed nothing to society and was destined to be unhappy. I came to the conclusion that the most sensical thing to do would be to kill myself. Right away I started constructing plans for my suicide to ensure it would be done in a way that would affect the least amount of people. I began getting all of the pieces together.
I had another big change coming my way that I had no way to prepare for or even anticipate. It would not only save my life but alter it forever.
A question popped into my head seemingly from nowhere, and I couldn’t help but find the answer, “If sexual activity involves the same brain chemicals as drugs, can it be just as damaging?” The answer - a resounding YES. Within minutes I was reading descriptions of the condition and stories of those who suffer with it. More importantly I found proclamations of a healing from it. These strangers on the internet somehow knew me better than anyone in my life. They were telling my story and experiencing my pain. I was surprised and intrigued by this thing called Sex Addiction. I decided my suicide could wait a few days, and I went to a meeting of a recovery group.
It was a Thursday night in June 2014 when I awkwardly entered a room within a local church. I thought surely I had gotten lost and invaded a meeting of the church council. The people who occupied the circle didn’t appear anything like I expected a sex addict to. They looked like friends and neighbors. Parents and professionals. They were warm and welcoming. The meeting began and so did my tears. The pain I had been carrying with me for so long poured out of me. My story spoken out loud filled the room though I never opened my mouth. These people had been experiencing the same things I had. They, too, were believed to have been born with that terrible defect. I could not hide from the fact - I was a sex addict.
Addiction is a very scary disease because it is the only one that convinces you that you don’t have it. It alters your brain in a way that makes it impossible to function the way others do. It consumes everything in its path and leaves you with the bill. It is the only disease society will shame you for having OR treating.
However, addiction is the only disease that once dealt with head-on can result in you being healthier than you’d ever imagined. It is the only disease that affects nearly every family in America and binds us all together. There is no other disease in which the recovery for it teaches you to be a better human being.
Active addiction reveals the darkest, most painful aspects of humanity. Active recovery empowers you to elevate it.
Finding recovery was only the first step on a very long path to changing who I was and how I was living. It is all of the other steps on that path which I will share with you through this website.
You may be wondering if I ever did reach success. To be perfectly honest, I’m still not famous. I don’t make a ton of money. I don’t drive a fancy car. I left the corporate world before reaching the top of the company ladder. I’m not married. I don’t own homes for every season. Heck, I don’t even own one home!
So who am I to be guiding anyone?
My name is Jace Downey. I say yes to life’s adventures and move forward regardless of fear. I truly love (and like) myself. I live with purpose. I work hard at everything I do. I never give up. I stick to my word even when that means I cross the finish line last. The people in my life trust and rely on me. I hold myself accountable for the things I say and do. After a life of selfishness and dishonesty I am now regularly described as a person of integrity. I wake up with a song on my lips and spend each day working toward my dreams. I have regained the respect of many I once injured. I accept others as they are and where they’re at. I have such an abundance of love that I must give it away constantly or risk exploding from it. I genuinely live every moment with a joy so deep inside of me nothing has been able to shake it yet.
I realize this is not society’s definition of success. But shouldn't it be?
Here's to defining success on our terms!
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