The Spark: Learning to Put the Past Where it Belongs, In the Past

By Jo Pat Ozambela

My name is Jo Pat Ozambela. I’m a 50-year-old suburban housewife living in Austin, TX, with my husband of 19 years and our 15-year-old daughter. I have a great marriage, a beautiful, academically gifted child, a lovely limestone home in a sought-after neighborhood, a healthy, slim body… you get the picture. It seems that I have it all and that I’ve been blessed by the gods. One would never imagine that at 10 years old I witnessed the murder of my mother and sister by my sister’s husband, who then committed suicide. Nor would you guess that I struggled for years with drug and alcohol abuse, an eating disorder, sexual recklessness, depression, and anxiety.

Whenever I finally give the “Big Reveal” people are shocked and almost always ask, “How did you end up so…normal?”

I’m always flattered by this question because for so long I considered myself “damaged goods.” Really, I considered myself an abomination. Now I’m seen as well-adjusted and normal? Wow! It blows my mind every time, although I’m certainly aware that I have changed.

The answer to this question can be lengthy, for it’s been a long and tumultuous journey; one that I’m still on and that I will always be on. Ideally, we all continue to evolve until the day we die. However, in order to give a concise answer, I point back to a time in my early 20s when I experienced “the spark” that led to significant change in my life. It was a revelation!

First, let’s go back to the time right after this tragedy. I went into shock, and I stayed there for some time. I was in a kind of altered state. At 10 years old, I had just lost my mommy and my 2nd mommy (who was my older sister by 12 years), at the hand of a person I loved and trusted, and then I lost him as well. I lost my “normal” childhood; I was no longer a “normal” kid. Gossip about my family and what had occurred spread through our small town and, when I finally went back to school, I was either avoided or tormented by my peers. Adults, stunned by what had happened, didn’t know what to say to me either. This included adults in my own family. This was the early 70s, which was not the era of communication and therapy that we live in today. The visits from extended family stopped, parties and gatherings that my parents (who made a living in the entertainment business) frequently hosted came to a halt as well. Strangers had to move in to help my father raise me and my sister’s 2-year-old child, who would now be raised as my brother. Life as I knew it—as we knew it—was over. We had experienced an apocalypse.

Reality eventually started sinking in, and I went into survival mode, drinking and using drugs of all sorts: pot, Quaaludes, coke, LSD—whatever I could get my hands on to stop myself from feeling. I also became obsessed with food and my body and developed bulimia. I would fast on fruit juice for weeks at a time and then binge on cake, cookies, ice cream, and candy. My weight went up and down as much as 40 pounds. I started having sex at 15, so that by the time I was in my early 20s I had a long list of dysfunctional relationships with boys and men who were just as disturbed as I was. I wasn’t even having sex because I enjoyed it; rather, I was desperately seeking someone to love me and save me from my nightmare. I was an absolute mess.

Then came The Spark…

I was around 22, in yet another horrible relationship with another addict who cared very little for me. I was going from one miserable job to the next, while on yet another starvation diet trying to make my body acceptable since I was sure that was the reason men treated me poorly. One desperate day I decided to go to the ocean to gather my thoughts. I stretched out on the ledge next to the Intracoastal Waterway, staring up at Florida’s perfectly blue sky, and I asked whatever God was out there, “WHY?”…“Why is this happening to me?”

Surprisingly a voice answered me. Call it God, call it angels, call it my higher self or my intuition. Call it what you will—it came.

“This is happening to you because you believe it should. Your life is a mess because that is how you envision yourself.”


A bell went off. Suddenly it all made sense. An event that I had no control over had come to define me. I told myself that I was “damaged goods” and, therefore, I made choices that proved this was true over and over again. At 22, this was an epiphany!

So what did I do?

I immediately went to work on changing my self-perception and focusing on that which I desired. I had to put the past where it belonged—in the past. I accomplished this through four practices: Prayer (my own version), meditation, visualization, and affirmation. My life immediately began to change—really! I’m not going to lie and say that everything was perfect from that moment on. Focusing on the positive and possibilities for my life was a big shift in thinking and being for me, and I had a lot to overcome. But I engaged in those practices consistently, and little by little things changed—I changed.

I still think about what happened every day. Although I’ve created a wonderful life for myself, I am still overcoming things within my personality that are a result of the tragedy. That’s okay; I still work on myself every day and I still continue to realize new goals for myself. I consciously create the life that I want each day (along with my husband and child, whom I also enlisted). It’s not always easy, life is chaotic, things still happen that are out of my control, and negativity still tries to insinuate itself; I’m not perfect by any means. The horrific event that I endured will never leave me, but now I know that it’s not who I am. Because of the practiced awareness of my thoughts, I’m conscious of when I start to go down the rabbit hole, and I get right back to work: prayer, meditation, visualization, affirmation. They really do work. I’m living proof!

Deciding that change is possible—that’s The Spark.


Jo Pat Ozambela became a survivor of domestic violence at 10 years old; she witnessed the murder of her mother and sister by her sister’s husband who also killed himself. Since then Jo Pat has worked to overcome this horrific event and reclaim her life. Now at the age of 50 she is happily married, raising a talented 15 year old daughter, and is writing a memoir about navigating her motherless adolescence during the 1970’s in a drug ravaged South Florida neighborhood. In addition to her memoir, Jo Pat blogs, is working on a  social media project called “The Midlife Makeover Project” on Facebook, is an esthetician specializing in holistic skin care, and has an Etsy business offering vintage and eclectic wares called “My Bohemian Rapture”. Check out her blog:; contact her on facebook: midlife makeover project; and visit her etsy page: MyBohemianRapture.

This article is a chapter from the book Transform Your Life! written by 60 real-life heroes and experts and available at,, and all ebook formats.


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