What I learned from my life burning to the ground

In 2004, my life burned to the ground. Everything: my business, my marriage, my home, my sense of identity, and so much more.

I have often been called a phoenix or a cat with nine lives. My life has not been easy and yet I have found the strength and courage to rise again.

I was a naive, hopeful, happy person who always saw the best in people. I could see their potential even when they could not. I was a visionary from a young age. Even when my world would fall apart, I could still visualize a new future. These strengths have served me well.

In 1999, I married a man who had amazing “potential”. He was a survivor of a very bad childhood, abuse, bad mistakes, poverty and more. I met him when he was sober. He had a good heart and he loved me.

I used my rose-colored glasses to ignore the many red flags in our relationship. I twisted my own story. I used my visionary skills to wish us a better life together.

My first husband was an alcoholic and a drug addict. I had met him in his “sober” years, but those were not meant to last.

We did what many young couples do: we bought a house, we had a baby and we lived. But also like many young couples, we were under stress. I was running my own business and he struggled to keep a job.

It was the stress that took its toll on both of us. I was a young mother trying to run a business and financially support us, and he was an alcoholic trying to stay sober.

I was still pretty naive and couldn’t see, or didn’t want to see, how our life was unraveling.

My husband started doing drugs behind my back. I thought he was losing his mind, but I still never considered drug use. To my credit, I was running a business, waiting tables to make up for the money he wasn’t making, and raising our young child. In other words, I was rarely present to what was unfolding.

My husband graduated from other drugs to “ice”. I didn’t even know what that was then, but I know it destroyed his sanity.

He started disappearing. He became paranoid that someone was trying to kill him. He started sleeping in the car or the garage and I even found a knife one day under my pillow. The same pillow my young daughter often slept on.

It is amazing what you will accept when you refuse to be aware of reality or own your worth. I have heard flavors of this story from many of the women I have worked with. Ways we stayed in situations that were toxic and, from the outside, insane to remain in.

Then one day, I woke up! I realized that I couldn’t keep my daughter in that environment anymore. But still, you can see that I didn’t do it for myself – I was only able to make that leap because I had her.

I left my husband. I took my daughter and couch surfed until I could figure out what to do.

You would think that would be the beginning of my rising from the ashes, but there was more to burn down to the ground.

Within two weeks of that decision, everything – every one of my illusions – began to unravel.

I lost my marriage, and then I lost my business. My business partner decided she didn’t want to deal with the drama in my life and abruptly ended our partnership.

Then I lost my home. The house we owned was in my name, but out of fear I left my husband in it so I could feel safe somewhere else. He trashed the house, drug users moved into it, and by the time we got everybody out, the house was no longer in a state to be sold. The real estate professionals advised me to let it foreclose.

Within a few weeks everything had burned down. I was without work, without my business, without my husband, without my home and now I was a single-parent to boot.

I had no idea what I was going to do. I had to dig deep into my greatest internal resources. I had to find the courage and strength to keep going.

This all happened in 2004, and since then I have built the life I always wanted. I rebuilt my business on my own. I have a beautiful new partner. I have another child. I have traveled around the world. I have work I love and am destined to do. I survived bankruptcy, foreclosure, divorce and being a single parent. I survived losing it all.

What I learned from this crazy life experience is that I can survive anything… and so can you.

We are so often scared to lose things. We minimize risks and try to control all variables. We cut our “living” short so we can protect what we think we have right now.

We stay in misalignment in our lives, relationships, careers and businesses because we are afraid to lose the illusion of safety, comfort and familiarity of what we know.

Take it from someone who has lost everything. Letting go of the illusive and the misaligned is a great gift. You don’t have to burn it all to the ground first, intentionally or otherwise. You can take steps every day to correct the misalignment instead.

The lessons I learned from my life were often painful, but I wouldn’t take any of them back. I am who I am today because of those hard lessons. I trust myself because of those hard lessons. I know I can navigate anything that comes my way because of those hard lessons.

And you can too!

About Sonya Stattmann

Sonya spent the last 21 years helping thousands of leaders create more ease, alignment & success in their lives, work & business. Her personal development & leadership programs offer individuals permanent & lasting transformation that has a ripple effect on all areas of their lives. Her corporate speaking & leadership workshops transform organizations. She has two podcasts and a TEDx talk called Moving Beyond #Empowerment. She is currently traveling around the world with her husband and two children.

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