Tips for Surviving in Real Life

In 2009 I had a predisposition for making poor decisions, and because of this I ended up becoming homeless. I was married at the time (no children but two dogs,) when I talk “homeless,” I mean the whole shebang!

Sleeping on the concrete, finding whatever nook or cranny, building or wooded area we could find to settle in with our animals. Our only belongings we had left were a sleeping bag, comforter, a bag of clothes and a bottle of vodka.

A very sorry state of affairs, especially since it was on the cusp of winter. Well, I did have some other house whole items that I was able to store at a friend’s house temporarily but I eventually lost those too. Wow, now it was just us day to day, wandering from one location to the next. You never want to stay in one location for too long because it attracts attention from the police, you see I was homeless in the city of Hopewell Virginia, and a lot of our time was spent downtown.

I never panhandled though, well once I did and made $7.50. Most of the time is spent interacting with the most unsavory characters you could imagine and some very colorful ones also. Such an amalgamation of personalities is experienced in situations like these, there were times where we were able to camp out behind people’s backyards, a graveyard (yikes!) abandoned stores, etc.,

Each day though you learn a new skill set, if you want to survive, cleaning up in hospital bathrooms, if you smoke, digging out butts from sand filled pots outside of store fronts (they get very annoyed with you,) finding that lucky “good one” on the ground, picking up change off the ground as you walk the streets, it adds up.

Humiliating yourself to no end in order to eat and feed your family (wife and dogs,) falling ever deeper into a spiraling depression because PTSD is starting to really kick in now, (a side effect from my military service.) My PTSD at that time was undiagnosed and untreated. I spent 4 months on the streets here in Hopewell, I had several major mental episodes until a gentleman from a local gym, who was also a veteran and provided dog food from time to time, drove me to the veteran’s hospital here in Richmond Virginia at the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center.

To this day I am truly thankful for that moment, I tried to commit suicide before this happened, it was just becoming too much, but now there was a way, a light that hadn’t been there before and I grabbed on to it for dear life and I never let go.

Fast forward now to the present day, I’m divorced now and I live alone but that’s ok, I’m good with it because I know who and what I am. My ex-wife just wasn’t on board with the new and improved me, and decided to have an affair with a drug addict, man I’ll just leave that there.

The point of my back story is to illustrate the purpose of the title of this writing, “Tips for Surviving in Real Life”.

The first thing I learned was; Accountability, my situation occurred because I had NO coping skills, I blamed everyone and everything else for my dilemmas. Sure, I was smart and had a few really good jobs after the military, but couldn’t hold on to them for more than a few years, why?

I blamed other people for my problems

I was an alcoholic

I denied I was

I had PTSD and never knew it

I had no coping skills

I had no accountability

I had no respect for authority

I had no respect for myself

I hated myself and everyone else

I acted like I cared but really didn’t

I just felt beat down and completely numb

Get the picture here? Yeah, all these things I finally had to come to terms with in therapy at the VA hospital, thank the lord for that. I have a greater self-esteem and self-image now, I still have to attend therapy because PTSD doesn’t just go away but it is treatable and I feel a whole lot better.

Now if you’ve read this far you’re ready to dive even deeper, surviving in real life is not simply being handed a manual at birth by your parents and sent off on your way, it’s a path of experiences that are imprinted in your brain from your first conscious thoughts to your present situation. Yes, it is a complicated path, that should be tended to by our parents or parent whichever is the case, that’s not real life though, there are models though that we can draw from that can be used as our guides as we try to navigate our way through all this mess.

That model is experience, why experience? Because it is the greatest teacher, I would much rather pay attention to the words of a former drug addict and alcoholic who turned their life around and is now a success than listen to a university professor with a PhD in theoretical psychology who’s’ only real experience in life was when they stubbed their toe in grad school and were rushed to the emergency room and had to receive therapy afterwards.

The meaning of experience is interesting; “practical contact with and observation of facts or events.”

synonyms: involvement in, participation in, contact with, acquaintance with, exposure to, observation of, awareness of, insight into

I present these definitions for a very specific reason, one is, observation; Observe those who have “been through it” believe me they know what they’re talking about.

Insight; These people will have the real-life skills and tools you will need to have a successful life.

Exposure; Man, this is really a big one, this also coincides with participation, you cannot learn about life without experiencing the real thing, you can’t learn it in a text book and a professor certainly cannot teach it to you.

Align yourself with one who has the real-life experience, who actually has been there and done that and is successful, this is the role model, the only one that matters. I could drone on about the ills of our social dilemmas facing our society today and provide some alchemist brew on how to fix it all, but it comes down to the foundation of what I am writing about here, self-awareness, accountability for one’s own actions and not blaming others for something going wrong in your own life.

Solutions, now there’s a new concept, a road certainly far less traveled than should be. We have to break this down in sections because it starts with yourself first.

That old saying; “Know thy self?” well, truer words were never spoken. You have to know who you are and be comfortable with it completely.

Once this happens then you will start to build self-esteem.

Then you will start to have small success in your life.

You will build up more self-esteem.

You will acquire more success in your life.

This will start to become a process of reciprocation that you will begin to enjoy, and other’s will begin to notice a definite change in you. I say this because it all happened to me. I speak from utter experience, not from the side of my neck. My approach here might at times seem blunt, but it affords no room for any ambiguity.

Life is about risk taking, but risks have their unique consequences, if your mind is muddled in the mire of past trauma and unresolved issues then the risks you take will be disastrous. Now when you start to understand yourself and learn a new set of skills to cope with real life, then the risks you take become minimized and you are more in control. I take a risk even writing this article, why? Because I am an electrical engineer and builder, why am I even bothering to post personal things like this when I might run the risk of damaging my website.

I know myself and I am quite comfortable with myself. I think it is important not only in my walk as a student of Zen, but from a perspective of my own experiences in life and the successes I have had. I came from an era apart from this digital one, so I know the difference. I observe what’s happening and I feel compelled to present my own life experience as a model of success.

In our universities and colleges what is occurring is a clear violation of intellectual ethics, no one has the right on any level to impose their particular belief, whether it be political, religious or whatever, on anyone, especially our youth. They are the most impressionable, and these so-called professors know this. Freedom of thought is a free-flowing street of action, it’s not to ever be controlled with a levered mechanism as to what the “right” form of thoughts should be flowing forth.

This is why I emphasize the alignment to the people who know what they are talking about. The ones with the practical experience, the real thing. These are the real tips to surviving in the real world, fix yourself first, I mean really get the help to fix your issues and get that confidence and your filters will be removed and life will be your own again, and you can make your own judgements and decisions about things.

Making up your own mind and choices, that’s what it’s about really, choices. Everything you do in life is a choice you make, it truly is as simple as a good or a bad choice, its what will determine your fate at any given moment.

These are the top ten tenets of success in my opinion;

Definiteness of purpose is the starting point of all achievement. Without a purpose and a plan, people drift aimlessly through life.


The Mastermind principle consists of an alliance of two or more minds working in perfect harmony for the attainment of a common definite objective. Success does not come without the cooperation of others.


Faith is a state of mind through which your aims, desires, plans and purposes may be translated into their physical or financial equivalent.


Personal initiative is the power that inspires the completion of that which one begins. It is the power that starts all action. No person is free until he learns to do his own thinking and gains the courage to act on his own.


Positive mental attitude is the right mental attitude in all circumstances. Success attracts more success while failure attracts more failure.


Self-discipline begins with the mastery of thought. If you do not control your thoughts, you cannot control your needs. Self-discipline calls for a balancing of the emotions of your heart with the reasoning faculty of your head.


The power of thought is the most dangerous or the most beneficial power available to man, depending on how it is used.


Teamwork is harmonious cooperation that is willing, voluntary and free. Whenever the spirit of teamwork is the dominating influence in business or industry, success is inevitable. Harmonious cooperation is a priceless asset that you can acquire in proportion to your giving.


Sound health begins with a sound health consciousness, just as financial success begins with a prosperity consciousness.


Developing and establishing positive habits leads to peace of mind, health and financial security. You are where you are because of your established habits and thoughts and deeds.

You can use this as a guide but remember, interpersonal interaction and cooperation with like-minded people will greatly add to your on-going successful path in life, it worked for me.









3 thoughts on “Tips for Surviving in Real Life

  1. PTSD is a huge victim of intolerance at so many levels, individual as well as social. Its severely misunderstood as ‘a’ veterans incapability. Atleast, thats what I believe.
    Many countries get affected by war, but how many treat soldiers as responsible for a national initiative? But then they have a different label or rationalization for the parallel experience.
    I am glad to hear of your recovery!


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