Born and raised in suburban central New Jersey, I was a playful and silly kid (and mostly still am) with a huge heart and an insatiable curiosity for life. My family was great, and as normal as any other mildly dysfunctional modern american family. I grew up playing team sports and eating too much fast food. My sister and I fought over the remote control occasionally and played outside a lot. My parents definitely passed on some less-than-awesome familial patterns and belief systems (like most of our parents), but overall, I’d say they did a pretty good job and instilled in us some amazing values that have helped shape the awesome people my sister and I have become. Suffice it to say, it was a pretty good childhood growing up “in the swamps of Jersey” ( I didn’t actually grow up in a swamp… its a Bruce Springsteen lyric).
I did well in school academically, but struggled with social dynamics. It just always felt like there was something missing or slightly off about how most folks were interacting with each other… like what people were doing and what they were saying didn’t seem to line up. I discovered later in life that I’m super empathic and always have been. So I didn’t know it at the time, but I was picking up on the “feels” of others as well as trying to navigate my own experience. Sheesh. Looking back, I really feel for my younger self… all that confusion and emotion, and not a lot of support or guidance as far as what I was experiencing. It was tough and I feel really blessed that things didn’t get worse than they did.
As I progressed through middle, junior high, and high school, I continued to do well in school and participate in team sports, but I was becoming more and more anxious and uncomfortable in my own skin. I was introduced to alcohol and other drugs in junior high, and when I realized how great they were at making feelings and anxieties go away, they quickly became a regular part of my experience. By the time I graduated high school I was already spiraling into addiction and it only blossomed further when I went away to college. Six ugly and painful years later, after burning lots of bridges, causing lots of damage, and pushing away everyone who cared, I finally hit a bottom that broke me open. Humbled and hurting, I was ready to do what was necessary to start healing.
That was over thirteen years ago now, and its hard to put into words how amazing of a journey its been. I’m still clean and sober from drugs and alcohol, and I’ve also left behind gambling and smoking cigarettes (I’m still a sucker for caffeine and sweets though). I went back to school and received a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a master’s degree in Counseling. I’ve worked with all kinds of folks in all types of positions at rehabs and treatment centers in the mental health field as I became a licensed counselor. I’ve gotten to teach hundreds of current and future mental health professionals as a college professor in graduate and undergraduate programs. I’ve become an uncle three times over, and the godfather for both of my nephews. I’ve gotten to travel the world, and watch the sun rise and set on several continents. And with all that being said, easily the greatest blessing of the journey thus far has been trading in most of the angst, doubt, confusion, and pain of my earlier years for an increasing sense of peace and ease that’s hard to describe... and its this peace and ease that I’m devoted to helping folks remember.
To honor this calling, I’ve decided to shed the formal professor and counselor roles for now. I’m super grateful for all the experiences and growth I’ve had as a result of coming up in the education and mental health fields, and there’s no way I am who I am or where I am today without them, but I’m also ready for something new. Something fresh. Something a little more… me. I’ve tried to play a lot of parts and squeeze into a lot of boxes over the course of my life, but none of them ever really felt like they fit. So enough of that. Time to honor my free-spirited soul, hit the road, and go on adventures. Besides, how can we change the world if we’re so busy trying to fit into it?
The plan now is to travel around the country connecting and collaborating with organizations, agencies, centers, studios, and whoever else is out there helping folks remember a more peaceful and fulfilling experience of life. I’ll be offering talks, groups, classes, workshops, and whatever else we can dream up. There’s no rules to this adventure anymore and I’m pumped.
If you’re reading this, let’s connect and make some magic. Or maybe we’ll cross paths some time soon down the road. No matter what though, be kind to yourself and others… we all deserve it. Thank you for your time. I wish you a clear mind, a light heart, and lots of love and laughter.