Before I resume this story, I would like to take a moment to thank my friends, coworkers, associates and even strangers, who have reached out to me in an unexpected outpouring of love. Your response to Part One was gratifying and appreciated. Sharing a story as painful as this is not an easy thing to do but if I can help even one person escape the same pit of self-destruction that I was trapped in, it will all be worth it.
At the end of our last post, I had bumped into a friend who seemed ‘different’. When I finally figured out what the difference was, it scared me. She was happy, and I had no idea why someone would feel that way.
She and I had come from similar backgrounds of abuse, but it appeared she had found some magic bullet of happiness. When I asked, she shared it with me – she had been through The Hoffman Process. It was a program that took you to the middle of nowhere for seven days with no cell phones and no communication with the outside world. It had given her a new start.
Impulsively, which will come as no shock to anyone who knows me, I signed up. A few weeks later, I was boarding a plane to Hamilton, Ontario. I had no idea what I was getting myself into but I knew my life needed a drastic change. Although The Hoffman Process is also conducted in a beautiful setting here in Alberta, I decided to go east because I didn’t want to bump into anyone I knew. As broken as I was, my ego still had a lot of pride.
At the airport, I kissed my kids goodbye, then locked eyes with my husband Gary. “I promise you,” I said, “that I won’t come back as the same person.” Hours later, I was on the other side of the country checking into The Hoffman Centre and wondering how anyone could undo a lifetime of fear and negativity in 7 days. It didn’t take me long to find out.
The Hoffman Process is unlike anything else I have experienced. You work on your emotional wellbeing for sixteen hours a day. Literally, from the time you wake up until the time you pass out, exhausted, you are ‘in’ the process. Out of respect to The Hoffman Centre and the work they do, I am not going to share much about the profound methods they have developed but I would like to tell you about the two turning points that aided my evolution.
For me, the first breakthrough happened on day three. We were given plastic bats and told to take our anger out on pillows. It wasn’t just a matter of minutes; it went on for hours. We were batting, and yelling, and screaming, and frankly… it felt ridiculous. This was not how I expressed myself and I just didn’t get the point. So, being a smart girl, I positioned myself beside the loudest, angriest guy in the room and just did whatever he was doing. Yeah, I was smart but they were smarter. They caught me and they called me out.
“Why aren’t you mad,” they asked me. “What happened? What happened to you? What are you not letting go of? What are you not dealing with?”
They pushed and they pushed and, as you’ve no doubt guessed, they pushed some more. They pushed me to a place I didn’t want to go. They pushed me to the deepest recesses of my darkest memories. For years I had managed not to dig that deep into my own devastating cave of horrors.
I never wanted to reach that level of pain and be forced to deal with it.
But when it’s the only thing you can think about, as your will and your spirit and your body begin to tire, you get there. I got there. And I lost myself in my anger.
My own emotions consumed me. Something inside of me exploded and I began to rage. This time, I wasn’t imitating anyone; I raged and felt the fury build until I was drenched in sweat. I raged until I broke and at the moment of breaking, I had no choice but to embrace the truth – I hated myself.
I did not have an ounce of self-love, and if I didn’t love myself, how could I expect anyone else to love me? How could I love anyone else? It was the most humbling moment of my life. I hit bottom.
I had tried so hard to hang on to everything I thought I knew about myself. Even though I hadn’t loved that version of me, it was all I knew. But, I wasn’t able to. They had broken me. Now, the question was – in the four days we had left, could I possibly heal?
Understand that while the process has its devastating moments, The Hoffman Centre is a powerful home of kindness, wisdom and strength. There is a spiritual element that lives through the program and the staff. Never for a moment did I feel unsafe, and I thank them for that. It aided tremendously in the healing.
My second profound experience happened a few days later. We were instructed to ‘bury ourselves’. I was sent into the woods alone, in the dead of winter, to find a clearing, lie down and cover myself with a sheet of plastic. Lying there in the bitter cold, it was easy to imagine myself as a corpse. The next step in the assignment was determining how I would have died if I had never sought help. As difficult as this is to write, if I’m being completely honest, I felt I would have killed myself by the time I was 44.
Now the hard part. Lying there on the frozen ground, having already admitted an unimaginable ugliness about my own existence, I was to envision the people who would attend my funeral and imagine what they would say.
My husband, Gary, floated into view. “Glori, how could you do this to our family?” My body actually experienced a spasm of pain.
The next faces to appear were from Little Warriors… survivors, support staff, people I love and respect. Warriors – all of them. They appeared as floating, mournful spectres and behind them I imagined the hundreds of children we had worked with. Their message was simple and shattering. “If you can’t be healthy, how can we?”
Then, of course, my children. Bless them, they were just babies then, and in my vision they were crying with arms outstretched. “Mommy, we love you. Come back.”
I sat up, unable to take any more. Knowing how I would hurt the people I love gave me a new resolve. There was no choice – I had to get better. I had to learn to love myself.
In the following days, with the guidance of The Hoffman Centre staff, I learned to surrender and to let go of the old Glori. I learned to be present in my own life, I discovered how to look at the world as a child and how to experience joy. In my spiritual travels, I rediscovered the eight-year-old girl I had lost so many years before. She was beautiful, and I loved her.
When I completed the formal portion of The Hoffman Process, I spent two days in a hotel room mentally unpacking everything that had transpired in those long, emotionally exhausting days. It was a ‘settling in’ time, allowing your soul to absorb what had happened, and giving your mind time to adjust to a new course.
When I arrived home, my kids ran to meet me at the airport and my oldest said, “Mommy, you look different.”
She was right. I was.
But the process was far from over. I had been emotionally scrubbed raw – every sound, every word, every nuance in my life was heightened. I had gone from being a zombie to being hyper aware. As I was trying to adjust and be present in the new path I was on, I suddenly had to face another unexpected crisis. Four of my senior managers, including my best friend, left g[squared]? to form their own company. It was a devastating blow, professionally and personally. To me, they had been family.
There is no easy way to talk about a break up; it’s always complicated and there are a million reasons why people do the things they do, but I had to own my part. I had always tried to treat my managers kindly, but they had seen me treat other people poorly and witnessed me carve a path of self-destruction.
In hindsight, this break may have aided my evolution. I was already rebuilding my emotional and personal life; I might as well add my professional life and have a totally fresh start.
Most of all, it was a chance to put ‘leading from love’ into practice. I began to see everything from a new place and focused a ton of positive energy into rebuilding my team. Naturally, I wanted to find the most talented people available, but there was more to it than that. I had a vision of where I wanted to be with my life and I was determined to surround myself with like-minded people. In the interviews, I would ask questions like, “What was the toughest thing you’ve been through in your life and what did it teach you?”
I even changed my approach to finding clients – I wanted to work with people who were positive, upbeat, collaborative and, above all, respectful. I had lived in a dark pit for so many years I was determined to avoid people who could pull me back in.
As my staff and client base grew, my family life also became richer. Rather than throwing myself into my work, I established a comfortable work-life balance and encouraged the same with my co-workers. Learning to love myself meant having more love for everyone around me, and it changed the perspective from which I led my team.
Today, I share information. If the company is facing a challenge, I let the team know what it is and how we are dealing with it. It’s honest and heart-felt and allows the team to be a part of the solution. When we have success stories, and there are many, they belong to the team – all of us.
I empower my team to make their own decisions, and if mistakes happen, we deal with the mistakes. They know I have their backs, and I know they have mine. Our office is filled with laughter and people stay.
Above all, when you lead from a position of love, there is respect and engagement. No more ‘going through the motions’… now I establish real connections. I get to know each member of the staff – we celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, births and other special occasions together.
And, speaking of birthdays, my 44th birthday is coming up this spring. I am anticipating it from a place of love and optimism, not the place of fear or dread that I was living in on that cold, bleak day in the woods. The journey to love myself continues and I know I will work on it every day for the rest of my life. It’s a lot of hard work, but that precocious eight-year-old girl and the woman she has become are worth it.