John De Beaux, father of a son and twin daughters, lives in Perth, Australia. For years, he destroyed his health and relationships with his addictions. But a conversation with a coworker one day would change his life in every way possible. This is his story.
It was a Sunday night and I had just dropped off my daughters at their mother’s house. On the way home, I picked up a six-pack of beer and cigarettes. This was my standard routine.
I didn’t like the person I had become—someone heavily influenced by the negative and self-destructive people I grew up with. Although I no longer chose to be friends with them, they had already changed me. My language was so filthy it would make people wince when I talked. When I needed to get important things done, I found myself procrastinating and letting people down. When I wasn’t watching movies, I was playing video games or spending money on hardcore metal music to vent my rage and disappointment.
I also lied compulsively. Addiction teaches a person to lie and I had become efficient at it. My mind was filled with dark thoughts, and I had lost respect for myself and others. The drugs and alcohol numbed these feelings for a while, but when they eventually wore off, I felt so much worse. The cycle was never-ending.
I often thought about who I used to be as a child, and longed to recover that innocence. I remembered being honest, pure, and sincere. Back then, I always helped other people with no complaint, and I never expected anything in return. It felt like that was the true me at the core. I had been so good, and it felt really good to exist that way. Now, I had buried my true self in addiction and resentment, and made a mess of my life. I was miserable. But I couldn’t stop thinking about how I could get my original goodness back.
Searching For a Path
In spite of the drug and alcohol issues, I had practiced martial arts and Tai Chi for many years. When I discovered self-achievement and discipline in training, I managed to tame my addictions back to weekends. But the drugs still frequently took over my willpower. My mind was in constant turmoil as I wanted to be healthy and fit, but the demon of addiction also played heavily against me.
The combination of training and the drugs and alcohol wreaked havoc on my body. I had many serious injuries from pushing it to the limit, including a bad neck and a damaged spine. My doctor told me that if I had any more injuries to my back, he couldn’t fix me anymore. I had to visit a chiropractor up to three times a week.
I knew I had to find something to fundamentally fix myself, and I needed a true teacher. I always felt that my martial arts teachers just wanted my money, and didn’t truly care about my wellbeing. I wanted to find a guru that would teach me from the heart.
Finding My Way
As it turns out, finding my path, which would eventually shake me to the core and rebuild me into a new person, started with a conversation at work. In 2009, a colleague handed me a flyer and told me that he saw some people practicing some gentle, peaceful-looking exercises in a nearby park, and he thought of me.
I read the flyer—it was about a meditation practice called Falun Gong. I never heard of it but its principles of truth, compassion, and tolerance resonated deeply with me. I knew it could be the goodness I wanted back in my life. I made the choice to call the closest practice site so I could give it a try. The woman who answered the phone said the practice was held at 6:30 a.m. on Saturdays. I told her I would be there.
As soon as I made the decision, I knew my resolve would be tested; and as I came to this realization, the tests came in fast. First, as Saturday morning drew near, I had to choose whether I would make my usual stop at the liquor store after work on Friday to pick up beer. But I knew if I drank I might sleep through the early morning practice. As I drove past the bottle shop, I felt a sense of pride and excitement—I was already making progress.
But a few hours later, a friend called me, inviting me to go to the casino with him and his friends. I had been trying to get into this “circle of friends” for a long time and now was my chance. Though I was tempted, I remembered my determination and declined his offer. I was going to make it to the practice site.
But the tests weren’t over. The drive next morning was extremely hard. Drug abuse had affected my mind terribly—I suffered from paranoia, depression, and serious anxiety. A voice in my head was yelling at me the whole way there: “People are going to see you and laugh, what if someone from work sees you?” I fought against my thoughts all the way. It seemed as if I had a crowd of people yelling in my head, and they weren’t going to be quiet. At times, I wanted to pound my head against the wall in a desperate attempt to shut them up.
I arrived at the practice site at last and was greeted by a Taiwanese man and a Greek woman, who helped teach me the exercises.
During the sitting meditation, the two sat on either side of me with both of their legs folded in “full lotus” position. They looked so calm and peaceful, but I had discomfort. “What was I doing wrong?” I thought. My legs were in so much pain. I kept adjusting them constantly while struggling with my mind telling me how stupid I looked, and that someone I knew was going to see me.
Suddenly, something strange happened—all the pain in my legs, the yelling in my mind, and all the noise from my surroundings stopped! Everything became calm. A feeling of warmth came over my body, and I felt as though I was surrounded by a soft light. It felt familiar—like home. For a moment, for the first time I could remember, I no longer felt lost.
But as quickly as this feeling came, it left, and I was back to the pain, the yelling, and the noise of the background. What had happened? After the practice was over, I told the two Falun Gong practitioners that I thought this was what I was looking for. This was what I needed and wanted in my life.
Transforming From the Core
I found the next few weeks a struggle to practice, but I was determined. I read the book of Falun Gong’s principles called “Zhuan Falun.” As I read and practiced the exercises, my understanding grew. I couldn’t believe that I, such a lost and messed-up individual, was given the chance to learn this wonderful thing. There were times I would cry after finishing the sitting meditation; not from the discomfort, but out of gratitude.
As time went on, I felt that my mind was clearing up. I actually began to enjoy the quiet—something I could never do in the past. My focus grew stronger. My view on life changed completely. I learned how to behave like a human being again, something I had lost over the years. I achieved respect for myself, and most importantly, for others.
My body was also improving. I felt so much better that I was able to stop going to the chiropractor. Doing the sitting meditation was hard to begin with, not just because of the discomfort in my legs, but due to the pain in my damaged back. But my back grew stronger, as did the rest of my body. The tendons in both my shoulders that had been seriously torn were now feeling loose and comfortable. My posture also greatly improved.
But the biggest change was probably in my character. I let go of selfishness, my addictions, and many other bad habits. I actually stopped drinking. This was something I never thought I could ever do. In fact, I have now been sober for the past eight years.
I discovered compassion where I had bitterness. Hate was replaced with forgiveness.
My family relations improved, and my daughters and I became closer as they saw the changes in me. After searching for so long, my mind, body, and spirit are finally at peace.