“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”—Mahatma Gandhi
For years, I had heard about Lane through his dad, Tomas, a good friend of mine. Tomas, who to me so beautifully embodies the essence of his hero Mahatma Gandhi, had confided in me that it was difficult to watch his son struggling with addictions throughout much of his life. I didn’t know the extent of those struggles until I had an opportunity to meet and talk with Lane on a few occasions.
Once Lane learned about the message of my book Love Is the New Currency, he openly and generously shared his personal story. It took place a few years ago and is told in his own words:
“It was yet another futile attempt to run away from myself. Being a full-blown, active alcoholic, I couldn’t stop drinking. I kept coming up with just one more bright idea, and that usually involved going to a new town, a new place, where no one would know me, where I could start fresh. However, no matter where I went, within two weeks, “I” would show up, and all hell would break loose. Within days, I found myself surrounded by the same people, just with different names.
My last attempt at a geographical cure took me over two thousand miles, from Dallas to Oregon and, within a few days, I found myself handcuffed and on my way to prison for two full years. It was not the first time I awoke to find myself behind bars.
Upon arrival at the maximum-security prison, dark and depressing, the smoke clearing as the booze wore off, I finally got in touch with the terrible, deep-seated loneliness that I had been trying to escape from all of my life.
As I sat in a concrete six-by-nine, two-man cell, feeling all alone in the world and many miles from friends and family, I met my “cellie,” a Spanish guy who spoke very little English. We were so different that I felt even more disconnected and lonely.
As crazy as it might sound, the words to the song “It’s Just Another Day in Paradise” kept running through my head. Could there really be someone living in Maui or some island paradise who feels as miserable as I do? Are there actually people in prison who can envision themselves in paradise? Is it really all just a state of mind?
A few days later, I was in the deepest depression. The only way out that I could come up with was to do away with this self that I couldn’t seem to escape. I knew I was considered “government property,” and that any suicide attempt needed to be successful or I would suffer dire consequences—namely “the hole,” a cold, damp, steel room in solitary confinement—and I didn’t want to find out if I could survive that.
While I was contemplating the best way to go about this, my cellmate, Juan, approached me with a letter he’d received from his girlfriend on the outside. I spoke practically no Spanish, but I understood from his broken English and creative sign language, that he was asking me to help him write a letter back to his girl to let her know he was okay and that he loved her very much.
Although I was consumed with self-pity and remorse, I reluctantly decided to take a few moments to help him out. We began at 6 p.m., right after dinner. The next thing I knew, there was a guard coming by the cell for the midnight count.
A second in prison feels like a minute, a minute feels like an hour, and an hour like a day. Somehow six hours had passed, and during those moments, I had perfect peace. I was free.
During the following two years, there were many people who didn’t give up on me, especially my family and people at the AA meetings. They loved me until I could love myself. Through A Course in Miracles and the twelve-step program—plus a lot of soul searching—I learned many valuable lessons during that time, forgiveness being the greatest of those.
And I’ve never forgotten how such a small act of kindness could be transforming, even in such harsh conditions. A little love went a long way and was a bright light in a very, very dark place.”
Lane is now living the life he previously could only dream about. He and his wife look like they just stepped out of the pages of Glamour magazine. Deeply in love, they are first-time parents to a happy and healthy baby boy. An observer would never guess that Lane has lived anything but a charmed life.
While enjoying personal and financial success, Lane gives back by volunteering at a local prison—an activity for which he had to undergo intense scrutiny. “When they took me to prison, they weren’t being so picky,” he joked.
He regularly shares the Twelve Steps with inmates to offer hope, and to give them a hand out of their own black hole. He sponsors some of the guys, who’ve completed their sentences and are ready to re-engage in society. He’s especially proud of one man, now a friend, who has not only stayed sober, but is getting married and will be a dad soon.
Speaking of proud, Tom has been thrilled to witness Lane’s transformation, particularly the way in which he has become such a good dad himself. Friends and family recently helped Lane celebrate a major accomplishment: three years of sobriety. And he’s working on fulfilling another dream. He’s writing a memoir with the intention of creating a piece of work that can help others.
Lane never forgets what it feels like to be on the other side of his luck, and he knows firsthand what it means to live on the street. “I don’t have any grand illusions,” he said. When someone asks for money, I don’t judge the person or assess their need. It’s real for that person, and it takes a lot to be able to stand there and ask for help. I can’t turn down another’s request.”
And then he reaches for his wallet.
Editor’s Note: This article is an excerpt from Linda’s book Love is the New Currency.
Linda Commito, author, speaker, entrepreneur, consultant and teacher, is passionate about her vision to leave this world a kinder, more loving, and interconnected place. Her award-winning book of inspirational stories, Love is the New Currency, demonstrates how we can each make an extraordinary difference in the lives of others through simple acts of love and kindness. Linda believes that in order to inspire a kinder world the place to start is with children. She recently volunteered at a Title One elementary school, working with over 500 students, to create and facilitate “Kindness Starts With Me,” the results of which include a website (www.kindnessstartswithme.com) and a book for children. Also visit www.loveisthenewcurrency.com for more information and/or to sign up for an uplifting monthly newsletter.