Monday, July 10, 2017

Why I retired

Some may wonder about my sudden departure from my career. So here's some of the story. Please understand I feel an obligation to not share all personal details of my life on a forum such as this because my family is entitled to their own privacy. So I've tried to be discreet with consideration of the feelings of my family and loved ones.

A few years back (I'm not going to try to create an accurate time line) a series of trauma events began occurring in my life.  I was already getting a burned out and needing time off.  Kim and I had purchased and remodeled a mobile home in Clearwater, Florida and enjoyed spending time there several times per year.  I trained Kim's brother Tony to operate certified batterers intervention programs and helped him start the Amends Program in Evansville. During that time Tony and I became best friends and spoke to each other daily. We became each other's confidant, advisor, sounding board, etc.  And he was covering my business allowing me to take badly needed time away.  My time away was so pleasant and enjoyable that Tony and I were making options for me to take extended time off on a regular basis.

Things were looking good. My company was doing amazing, running very smooth, revenues were continuing to grow and income seemed very solid and secure. And the revenue was diversified because we had programs running in numerous areas and our eggs were not in one basket...I didn't think.  So in addition to our vacation home in Florida, we were living in an amazing condo in a woods in Lawrence Township. It was awesome with a two story sunroom that looked like it was in the middle of the Brown County forest. During that time I was also making maximum allowed contributions to my 401k, IRAs, etc.

Kim and I were actually in Florida taking some time off when we got a phone call in the middle of the night....Tony had suddenly passed from a heart attack.  I knew this was going to be a big blow but to be honest there is no way I could have anticipated the struggle in store for me over the next few years. As I write about this I certainly have no intention to minimize the pain and struggle of others as it was a very, very difficult time for all involved, not just me. But in this story I'm simply attempting to describe what happened to me, how it impacted me, and how it is shaping my life now and in the future.

I felt morally obligated at this point to step in and take over the Amends Program because honestly there was no one else qualified to run the program.  I wanted to keep the promises and commitments Tony and I had made to the community when we started the program and I knew Tony's family needed income. So I stepped in to operate the program and I gave what money I could to the horse rescue and Tony's family. I really did the best I could and it was excruciatingly emotionally heart wrenching when some family implied I was exploiting the situation. This became even more exacerbated when my entire business statewide had a sudden and unexplained drop in referrals and revenue. My revenue statewide dropped 75% in one year. I had no idea why or what the heck was going on.

The drop in revenue, as it turned out, was mostly due to some changes in state law and how policies were being implemented for courts to refer offenders for services. It's 2018 and the company is just now recovering to the previous levels.

During this time Kim's mother got ill and began consuming more and more of Kim's time and attention. So Kim's obligations increased a lot as well as mine trying to keep the business afloat, pay for our condo, help Tony's family, etc., etc., etc. With money suddenly tight and every dollar counted, some major adjustments had to happen and they had to happen quickly. We were in a serious negative cash flow situation. To stop losing money I needed to do the following:

1. I was locked into office space leases on locations which were no longer referring sufficient clients to generate revenue needed to pay the rent.
2. We were obligated to our monthly expenses of the Florida home even though we could no longer spend time there.
3. Our condo was way more than we could afford with the huge drop in our business income.
4. I was worried because I needed to notify Tony's family that my ability to continue to support them was ending. This was the most difficult thing because I'm sure they had no idea of why the business dropped so much and blamed it on me....though it was really not in my control (I later learned).

So Kim and I talked it over and implemented a plan.

1. We decided to sell our place in Florida and to sell our condo to get out from the monthly obligations of each.
2. The equity from selling our home in Florida and our condo was enough for us to pay cash for a smaller, but nice, condo in far south Perry Township. We also had enough cash to remodel most of the condo and make it ours.
3.  I had to actually let go of part of the business. I turned over the Lafayette program to a younger man who had trained with me for years and was wanting to do this work for a career. It turned out very well. He relieved me of the lease I had in Lafayette and was able to reinvigorate the program there and restore it to financial health.
4. I was able to secure better locations for the programs I still had left Nonviolent Alternatives and the Amends Program in Evansville.

This stabilized our financial situation and we are financially healthy again but we are indeed spending a lot less money than we were 4 or 5 years ago.

While going through these adjustments, Kim's mother became terminally ill and consumed more and more of Kim's energy to care for her. Then the next crises occurred, Kim came down with sudden onset head to toe Rheumatoid Arthritis. She suffered a bad reaction to the treatment which caused a lung disease and twice was hospitalized for Pneumonia and we almost lost her. Then the medicines needed to save her life caused her to get Osteoporosis and her bones started dissolving.  She is now over four inches shorter than she used to be.

Eventually Kim's mother passed, and my mother passed down in Texas. Kim's illness and medical condition continued to decline. She was sleeping most of the day (23 hours a day???) for months. The situation appeared dire. I took steps to pass along more of my classes to others so I could be home to watch and take care of Kim. Eventually I cut back to just teaching a Saturday class in Greenwood. This was this most difficult period of time throughout the whole struggle. Kim was so sick and I was so scared. I was constantly waking up to make sure she was still alive and breathing. I watched every step she took so I could catch her if she started to fall.

Thankfully, Kim began improving slowly but steadily. I'm not really certain what exactly happened to me. But I know my own stamina and strength began to noticeably decline around March 2017. I told Harry (my Lafayette guy) if he was wanting to take over my Greenwood program he better get things in order to do so as I was some how declining....though I had no idea what was happening to me. By July I was done. I could no longer accurately predict my ability to stand, walk, or function well enough to teach a class. Some days I had strength and some days I didn't. I had no idea why.

I was hospitalized twice trying to figure out what's happening. I've had about every type of test and scan you can imagine. All of my vital organs have been scanned, tested, and retested. I have no life threatening problems. Yet I've had severe fatigue, exhaustion, and overwhelming anxiety. Several times we thought we had a diagnosis and each time it turned out to be false.

Through very careful observation and absolutely amazing diagnostic skills, our private physician was noticed a tremor I was experiencing. He was also able to rule out that it was caused by a medical cause but was phycological. He was able to determine this because of how many tremors per minute....I have no idea why that means anything. But Kim and I were able to find behavioral adaptations to eliminate the tremors. Further exploration along this path has shown me that my primary illness is psychologically originated.

As it's been described to me, I reached the maximum level of stress and trauma that I was mentally and physically able to endure....then I collapsed. My brain and body decided as soon as it looked like Kim is in the clear and appears to be okay, it's time to shut down. I must have operated on adrenaline for months.

But the bottom line, I'm done. My career is finished. I am now in the process of recreating myself. I'm trying to rediscover some of the positive things about who I was in my youth and incorporate them into a new me for the next chapter of my life.

Right now I have minimal capability of dealing with even minimal stress.  My days now are mostly consumed with trying to calm my anxiety and re-learning how to be calm and at peace.

My private physician is helped a lot. Almost like hand holding me through this process. He worked closely with me on all medications, vitamins, my diet and exercise plans, working on creating a new social structure and support system, etc. I'm also now have a mental health counselor at the VA I'm seeing.

One other aspect of me now that many may find shocking, but those who know me well not so much, I'm a dual citizen of Indiana and Illinois. I maintain a residency in Illinois because I am a legally registered Medical Marijuana patient there.  I am very careful and cautious and aware of any quantity of cannabis I may (or may not) possess when I am in the State of Indiana....and definitely what county I'm in.

Marijuana has changed significantly from when I was young. It's remarkable how much more refined and perfected things are now. I'm systematically identifying strains that are most medicinally beneficial to me and the administering processes that work best for me. I'm grateful the State of Illinois provides me as a military veteran with PTSD (not from military combat) the ability to safely access the medicine I need to maximize my quality of life. As I stated previously I'm very cautious while in the State of Indiana to minimize my risk of criminalization and severe consequences. I can not imagine spending time incarcerated in my present condition. I think the odds of being arrested and criminally charged are small, I've already decided if it happens I'm going to need to relocate permanently to Illinois, not simply part time as I am now. So if you see pro marijuana legalization posts from me on Facebook, you now know why.

It took some time but we finally found what we hope will be the right medication and I started taking it a few days ago. Thus I should be much better within the next couple weeks for sure. There's 85% chance the medication will alleviate all of my symptoms. Plus I've lost over 50 pounds and my goal is to lose 50 more.  Most would think I'm pretty good where I am. I just think I'll be happier when I'm thin.

My focus now is to start rebuilding my support structure. And as I recover from my illness I need to work to get stronger physically. I need to find something to occupy my time and a way to make some friends to keep me company.