In many ways, Bill Westerman is like many other people who go through a mid-life career change – he started back to school in his 30s, has dedicated himself to his studies in his new field, and is set to graduate in December of this year. But he’s taken a rather roundabout path to the success that he is now experiencing.
From the age of 13, drugs were a part of Bill’s life. The years of that life caught up with him in 2002, when he was arrested having four syringes of cocaine in his possession. In 2003, he was convicted and sentenced to six years in prison. He lost everything – his wife, his house, his freedom, his self-respect.
Bill knew he had to make changes in his life and was determined to become a better man. Almost immediately after he started serving his prison term, Bill participated in a class that introduced college to inmates. That class led to more classes, with Bill completing a Human Services Certificate program from Louisiana State University and earning 12 business administration credits from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. As the date of his release neared, he applied to the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and chose to major in psychology.
Now eight years sober and approaching graduation from UW-La Crosse in the coming months, the appreciation that Bill has for his life now and the people in it is unmistakable when you talk to him. He’s also considering going to grad school. Bill’s goal is take all the experiences he had and help others by becoming an alcohol and drug abuse counselor.
So why is he so open about his past?
“I want to bring hope to anyone who is struggling,” Bill says, “I am willing to help however I can to spread that message.”
I share this story with you not to have you draw comparisons from Bill’s life to yours or to debate his choices, but to allow you to witness his resiliency and determination, and to give you hope.
We all have made mistakes in our lives, and sometimes those mistakes have led us to lose jobs, friends, and other things that are important to us. But, for all who have been there, how hard it is to commit to ourselves to learn from those mistakes, to forge a better future!
Yes, it’s tough when you feel like you have hit rock-bottom and can’t see a way out; but even in those dark places, we can learn to use our other senses to figure out our surroundings and make meaning of what is happening. And it is possible to make it back out of that hole.
If you find yourself in one of those dark places, think of Bill’s story. Use it to inspire you to make the choices that will help you succeed, and to give you hope.
Image courtesy of pol sifter
Does this article resonate with you? Imagine what could happen if I was working for you and your career!