The long and winding road to rebirth

Opinion: Columns

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By John Rice

Columnist / Staff reporter

Some people say they've been "born again" spiritually. Recently, I was "born again" emotionally. I can't tell you how great it feels. Well, actually I can. But before you can be born again, your old nature has to die. I hit bottom the night I was sitting alone in my basement watching the White Sox. I had no life and was concerned whether the fans behind home plate were enjoying the game. 

My emotional problems started in childhood. Kids from big families can become starved for attention. My parents could be harsh in disciplining me. I asked for it, though, because I was the only kid in the family who rebelled. I defied my parents, even though my siblings wished I would back down.

I carried this behavior to the classroom. I was constantly in trouble and received poor grades. I also alienated my fellow students. They didn't find my antics entertaining because sometimes I got the whole class in trouble.

Meanwhile, I was overdosing on Catholicism, a faith that can shame its followers. (As an adult, I OD'd on Calvinism, which was even worse in the shame department). Plus, I was growing up in a shaky family business, not knowing when we would see the next check. Financial insecurity can be stressful for a kid. 

Working in a family business has another downside. Weekends, holidays and evenings didn't exist. Work was all-important. If we were asked to do a job on Christmas Eve, we did it. We became grinders. We didn't pay attention to seasons, we just ground our way through. 

Another trap was being a middle child. I became a people-pleaser. I let people bully me. My needs came after the needs of others. Then there's the nature of detective work, the most co-dependent profession I know. I hate the term "co-dependent" but can't find a better word to describe it. We go to extraordinary lengths to complete difficult, sometimes dangerous assignments.

I used to tell my workers not to get out of the car if they were uncomfortable. I always got out of the car. I felt that completing the assignment was more important than my personal safety. Crazy! I was good at detective work, though, and started to make some real money.

Money can mask many problems. I felt I had overcome my rocky childhood. We were never rich but we were comfortable. We could afford family vacations, trips to Europe and season tickets to the symphony. We didn't think twice about eating out. I felt like a good provider for my family.

All of that disappeared about 11 years ago. Through no fault of my own, I lost several jobs I loved. I lost 75% of my income. I went from averaging 15 detective assignments a month to 30 for the entire year. I was no longer bringing home the bacon but I could fry it in the pan. I took on cleaning and cooking. I even did the laundry until my wife stopped me.

I changed from a fun-loving Irishman into a miserly Dutchman. My wife and I reversed roles. She became the breadwinner and turned into the happy-go-lucky Irish person. I shifted into survival mode, grinding harder than ever. I stopped going out and spent my evenings watching mindless TV.

I'm telling you all of this, because many people have suffered the same setbacks that I have — or worse. 

Next week, I want to get to the good part — the rebirth — and how I got here. But I have to stop for now. 

The Sox game is starting. 

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.

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