Everything Felt Outside of My Control, Until Now

(Photo above by Amy Lombardo / Très Bien Photography)

William Moody, of New Orleans, learns how his actions for others also heal his own life.

I was a teenager when my parents began the painfully long process of getting divorced. They fought almost daily, arguing late into the night. Sometimes it would even become physically violent. Many nights I would stay awake, fearful of what they would do to each other. I felt helpless, sad and troubled by the uncertainty of my future.

Although I was offered full scholarships to colleges in my home state of Louisiana, I wanted nothing more than to escape my circumstances, so I decided to attend New York University, even though it was beyond my financial means.

I believed that moving 1,200 miles away from home would help me escape my problems, but that was not what happened. My parents continued to fight with each other as they navigated the daily challenges of our post-divorce family. My twin brother, John, faced many traumatic events of his own, which included overdosing several times.

It was as if life were happening to me. No matter what I did, I felt that things were outside of my control.

Consumed by my family’s problems, I began having severe panic attacks and attempted to cope with alcohol and drugs. In my junior year of college, I was studying abroad when I was robbed at knifepoint after consuming too many substances. I was in a foreign country with nothing on me, alone and completely lost. My life had reached a new low.

Although I felt guilty for being far away from home, I was convinced that my brother and parents were to blame for my unhappiness. My anxiety was so debilitating that I had to seek professional help.

Even with therapy and medication, my problems didn’t go away. I became severely depressed and began to truly hate my life. It was as if life were happening to me. No matter what I did, I felt that things were outside of my control.

During this time, a friend introduced me to Buddhism and the SGI community, which teaches the dignity and preciousness of each person’s life. I was suffering so much that I decided to give the practice a try.

When I studied from the Buddhist philosopher Daisaku Ikeda’s books, I was profoundly moved to learn that if I wanted to change my environment, I needed to first change the fundamental tendencies in my life that were causing me to suffer. This was a completely revolutionary idea to me.

As I began to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, I realized that checking out of life was an attempt to shield myself from feeling pain, and that the world I was trying to escape to was an illusion. What I really wanted was to overcome my suffering and to embrace life to its fullest.

When I studied from the Buddhist philosopher Daisaku Ikeda’s books, I was profoundly moved to learn that if I wanted to change my environment, I needed to first change the fundamental tendencies in my life that were causing me to suffer. This was a completely revolutionary idea to me.

A couple years after graduating from college, I moved home to Louisiana, where I started participating in my local Buddhist community. I began to feel something I hadn’t experienced in a long time: hope. One of the first goals I accomplished with my Buddhist practice was to quit smoking, drinking and using drugs. I was learning to bring out my inner strength and wisdom to persevere over my struggles.

Before my Buddhist practice, I would push away my brother because I felt that his life choices were causing so many problems, and I didn’t have the time or energy to deal with them. Now, for the first time, I felt like I had the means to help John transform his struggles, and I began to share Buddhism with him.

In January 2015, he decided to start his own practice and connect with our Buddhist community in his local neighborhood. Today, John is healthier and striving to realize his dreams. He has a partner, a stable job and is pursuing more education to advance and establish a meaningful career.

Each year he grows more and more, and I am filled with appreciation for our relationship and the opportunity to grow alongside him. I’m now focused on improving my relationships with other family members as well.

Ikeda shares:

By helping other people become happy, we too become happy . . . How can those suffering in the depths of hell, who have lost the will to live, get back on their feet? Merely thinking about one’s own problems more often than not causes one to fall even deeper into despair. However, by going to someone who is also suffering and offering them a hand, the person is able to regain their will to live. Taking action out of concern for others enables us to heal our own life.

The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, vol. 5, p. 259

Embracing this Buddhism has not only enabled me to heal my own life but also develop a vision for the future. I’m currently working as an assistant teacher at a kindergarten, where I’m able to positively affect the lives of young people. My dream is to become an educator who can embody the principles of valuing each student’s life to create a shift in our educational system and country.

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