Hey everybody, welcome to another episode of Recovery Talk, brought to you by the SHAIR Podcast. Today we’re going to be talking about leaving a legacy.
How many of you have actually thought or given time to what you will leave behind? The reason why I bring this up is because now that I work at Costa Rica Recovery as an addictions counselor and I have an opportunity to teach classes and get feedback from the patients one of the questions that I had asked them when we were talking about core values and core belief systems about themselves and about the world around them is what is the legacy they want to leave behind? A few of them said, “Well, I’m going to be dead so who cares what I leave behind?” And I got to tell you, I took a step back. I was actually just very surprised at that answer.
But then if I think about it and I go back in time and I think about what it was like when I was using and what it was like when I first got clean and sober and I spent so much of my time hating myself, so much guilt, shame, and remorse. So much wreckage, no self-esteem, no self-worth, and there was a big part of me that just wanted to die. If I would have stopped to think about the legacy I was going to leave behind it was bleak at best and even if I would have died within my first year of recovery the legacy I would have left behind was of a man who was shattered and broken by addiction who had wrecked his family, ruined his life, and was just another cautionary tale of addition.
One of the things that saved my life was sitting in the delivery room after my daughter was born and my ex-wife had just completed her C-section so she was out cold and there I was in the middle of the night, alone, holding my daughter and this overwhelming need for help just came over me and I remember just crying on top of her and just begging God for help, just “Please, God help me. I don’t want to be this disappointing drug addict father for this beautiful little girl.”
I had lost my business, lost my wife, lost my friends, was in very poor shape, very poor health. I had basically lost it all and there I was just holding this beautiful little baby in my arms and just asking God to have mercy on me and help me get clean because my worst fear was what I was going to leave being, that one day she would be a teenager in high school and her friends would say,
“So what does your dad do for a living?” And she would have to say, “My dad died of a drug overdose,” or “My dad’s in prison.” Or “My dad was shot.”
These were the thoughts that were going through my mind, so if you would have asked me what is the legacy I want to leave behind…I don’t know if I would have been able to project something positive. I think at that moment I would have been hopeful that I wasn’t going to be just another cautionary tale. I will go as far as to ask people,
“If you were to die tomorrow what is it that people would say at your funeral? What is it that they will remember about you?”
This is a tough subject and it’s a bit dark and a little bit scary, just to think about where you’re at right now in this present moment, what mark does that leave on your family, on your friends, on your loved ones?
If I would have died right there in early recovery that is the legacy I would have left behind for my daughter and I just wasn’t prepared to do that. For the first time in a very long time I was prepared to fight, I was prepared to fight not only to keep her in my life, but to leave a legacy, whether I knew it or not at the moment was irrelevant. I knew what memory I wanted her to have of me, I wanted her to be proud of me. I wanted her to love me. I wanted her to be able to say, “That’s my dad and I love him and he’s awesome.”
Many years later when I was five years clean and sober my sponsor was pushing me very hard to make amends to my father. We hadn’t spoken in two years and I was very angry with him about the divorce that my parents had had and how it went down. So I was angry, I was bitter, I was resentful, and I didn’t speak to him and my sponsor kept pushing me to make amends. That was on my list of amends that I hadn’t made yet.
He said, “What happens if one day you get that phone call and you haven’t spoken to your father and it’s too late?” And he used that as the tactic for getting me to call him and I finally did and I spoke to my father and the minute I got on the phone with him and we started talking it all just dissipated. It all just went away and I started crying and we connected all over again and my dad immediately booked a flight to come see me in Costa Rica. That’s how fast things changed. He came here to spend two weeks with me, he ended up spending two months with me, and we had one of the most amazing times ever. It’s a time in my life that I’ll never forget. I took him with me everywhere and I was just so grateful and I thanked my sponsor for that.
Then a year later I get that call, I get that call that I never would have expected. My dad was only 66-years-old and I get the call from my sister and she’s crying on the phone and she said, “It’s dad,” and we both started crying, we broke down, and she said, “O, I need you.” At the time my sister had just given birth, she had two children, my two nieces, and there was no way that she was going to be able to take care of a newborn and my dad. My other sister is one of us and did not have the coping skills to do this. She goes, “I went to go see dad and the house is a mess and I need you. I can’t do this alone.”
So I quit my job, I put the brakes on my life, and I took care of my dad for the last year of his life. As painful as it was to watch my dad go through what he went though and then ultimately pass away I was the one who took care of him, I was the one who fed, I was the one who took him to the doctors, I’m the one who programmed his pills, I’m the one who suffered the most and I don’t regret a moment of it. I remember the words that were said at his eulogy and how many people loved my father.
As you listen to this recording and you look at where you’re at in your life today and you ask yourself, how will I be remembered? What is the legacy that I will leave behind? And if you’re anything like me where I was in my life 14 years ago, that is absolutely not the legacy I wanted to leave behind and I had a choice. I could either fight and do whatever it takes to change the trajectory of my life or I could just give up and just say, “Well, I’ll be dead anyway so who cares?” I don’t care who you are and even if you say that I choose to believe that nobody wants to leave a legacy of wreckage behind them. The question you have to ask yourself right now is, “How do I want to be remembered and what is the legacy I want to leave behind?”
The thing is the legacy I want to leave behind is the legacy I’m going to leave behind and if you were to ask anyone of my friends, “What do you think about O?” They would tell you, “He’s a loving, caring husband, son, father, a man who gives, a man who cares, a man who’s dedicated his life to recovery, a man with values, who has character, who has spiritual principles.” I live my life today the way I want to be remembered. Every single one of us is a beautiful child of God and has an opportunity to leave an amazing and beautiful mark on this Earth. Think about how you want to be remembered and if you aren’t already that person become that person.
I’ll end with this quote,
“Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.” Shannon L. Alder.