For as long as I can remember, I knew that I was adopted. The adoption happened when I was six months old and I was fortunate to be raised by a family who gave me opportunities for a good life.
I enjoyed school but struggled academically. Becoming the class joker helped me hide my lack of ability from an academic perspective. Outside of academia, there were elements of school life that worked for me. I loved, and was good at, sports and I was really popular with the other kids. The teachers warmed to me as they could see I was a good kid with a warm heart. However, looking back, even in my childhood years, things didn’t feel ‘quite right’ and, in retrospect, I believe this was partly due to my adoption.
At 16, I went to college but my heart wasn’t in it so I spent a lot of time hanging out with my friends and smoking a lot of cannabis to escape from my feelings, compounded by the fact that my family had moved to a different location, away from my friends. From the ages of 18-21 things went further downhill. I drifted around and became severely depressed about life and my prospects. At the age of 21, I realised I needed to do something different and decided that moving somewhere new would give me the impetus to make some changes.
Fortunately, my dad’s sister and her husband lived in Canada and invited me to go and stay with them. I moved into a household which suited me and my personality better. That move was the best thing I could have made at the time and I credit my auntie for helping me become the person I am today. Prior to the move, I was leading a very unhealthy lifestyle and I was very overweight. When I arrived in Canada, I had one of those lightbulb moments when I realised that, to be happy, I’d need to make some serious lifestyle changes. In short, I joined a gym, got fit and healthy and had the best time ever. I felt like I was ‘being me’ for the first time in my life.
In my 20s, I returned to the UK and had a really mixed experience. I initially went to Uni to get a degree, but mainly drank my way through those three years. I was on an emotional rollercoaster throughout this time. After University, I returned to my real passion for sport and set up as a personal trainer. Aged 28, Canada was calling again and I returned there to work at a gym called The Granite Club. It was here that found my true vocation. I worked 15 hour days, I quickly became their top trainer, I helped to change the culture of the gym and I ‘smashed it’. Looking back, I was channelling all the pain from my past into helping others get fit.
At this point in my life, I was so happy. I was being a ‘man’, I was living life ‘on purpose’ and I was supporting myself. It really felt like I was at the top of my game. Of course, all of those hours came at a price and, ironically, I didn’t look after myself mentally or physically. I became anxious and I was numbing pain with drugs and women.
Then the pandemic hit and I moved my business online. It was very successful but I began to realise at this time that I was both lonely and that something was missing in my life. It was then that I decided to look for my biological family.
To cut a long story short, a trip to Montreal social services and a Facebook posting led me to my biological family at the age of 35. This was a bittersweet experience as, sadly, I discovered that my biological mother had passed away. Unsurprisingly, this brought up lots of different emotions for me. On the one hand, I’d found out who my mother was but, on the other, it was too late to actually meet her.
However, I discovered that my mother had a sister and that I was going to be able to have contact with her. From that first phone call, I felt I’d know her all my life. She told me lots of things about my mother. That she was a very loving person but suffered from schizophrenia and had had a hard life because of this. I also found out that I had three uncles, two aunties, a grandmother and a half-brother. I was over the moon.
We arranged to meet and I can’t begin to describe the happiness and joy I felt on that occasion. I had the best hug ever with both her and my grandmother. It was just magical. Later on, I met the rest of the family and was delighted to see that there was a clear family resemblance and an immediate connection.
The icing on the cake, however, was visiting my mum’s grave. It was in a huge graveyard and a lone butterfly showed me the way to her gravestone – it was the first gravestone I saw. I felt such huge waves of emotion but the overriding feeling was one of peace. I could really feel my mum’s presence with me in that moment. It felt like the missing piece of the jigsaw I’d been unknowingly searching for all of my life.
Meeting my biological family and learning about my mum brought up lots of emotions for me. I also went back to see my adoptive family in 2022 and this stirred up old feelings in me that I felt I needed to work on. A friend mentioned Hoffman and I liked the idea of having a week without distractions to process what I’d been through and work out who I really was. Before I knew it, I’d signed up, done my pre-course work and I was off to my Process venue.
When I reflect on my Process week, I only have great memories. It was a week spent with the most amazing, supportive people in a fabulous location. It was definitely an emotional rollercoaster but in a good way. I recall being able to cry and really let things out which was hugely cathartic for me. I also remember moments of intense happiness – there were definitely fun parts on the course as well as the tough bits.
The sessions I recall most vividly are the visualisations. They really helped me feel my emotions. I cried a lot and felt physically sick. My body was telling me something and, for the first time, I listened to it. I was facing up to things: it felt good to cry and to allow the sadness in. The best thing was that I got to really feel and ‘be with’ my biological mother throughout the week.
There were many lightbulb moments over the course of the Process. One of the main things was realising how much emotion I’d stored up about my biological parents, how good it was to work on this and finally release the tension I’d held in my body. There was huge sadness in relation to the loss of my mum, but I was able to deal with this in a safe and supportive environment.
And the icing on the cake – all of the Hoffman community were, and are, so loveable – participants and facilitators. It was just perfect for what I needed at the time.
Prior to the course, I had a challenging two months with my parents in the UK. The Process helped me get clarity on my past and on the behaviour of my adoptive parents and how I responded to them.
Overall, I now feel more positive about myself. Getting in touch with my biological mum helped me realise that I am loved and loveable. I don’t feel the need for as much external validation as I did. I generally feel more self-love. I feel that I’ve made enough peace with the past to move on and look forwards rather than backwards. The result of this is that my depression has lifted and this has been noted by my sister, my mum and my dad. I’m generally not as hard on myself as I used to be.
I do recall that after I left the Process venue that I felt as ‘high as a kite’. I felt a lightness in my body that I’d not felt before. I drove to the hotel with no radio on, just enjoying the feeling of peace I had. Like lots of people who do the Process, I was concerned that I would lose this feeling over time. This was definitely tested when I met with one of my family and I could feel myself being triggered by them. The difference this time was that I had better awareness of what I was responding to and tools to help me deal with the situation. I’m much better at evaluating situations now and also better at setting and sticking to boundaries. Of course, there have been ups and downs since the course. Everyone’s life is like a rollercoaster, but I’m much better at dealing with them than I was.
I’ve already recommended the Process to a couple of friends. I’ve told them that it’s a 7-day course where you can be really present with yourself: that it can be scary but that it’s so worthwhile. Also, that there is something very special about going through your journey in a group setting. It allows you to be supported in your vulnerability and this helps develop incredibly strong bonds with the people in your group. You end up with an amazing group of friends and allies from the course who you can lean on and get support from going forward in your life.
Attending the Process and finding my biological family were real turning points in my life and both of these events pulled me towards a search for real happiness and fulfilment. The Process visualisations helped me get a sense of where I wanted to go/who I wanted to be in life.
Despite the pull and appeal of Canada, I decided that Montreal held too much pain for me. I made an impromptu decision to drive across America, looking for where my soul would take me. My calling was to a place called Laguna beach and I’ve ended up living and working there. It is place that is close to paradise in my eyes. For the first time in my life, I feel like I’m really on the right path in the right location. I’m building up my PT business and life is great.
‘I’m living the dream’ as they say, or in Hoffman terms, I’m definitely on the ‘Right road’.
Thank you to Dan for sharing his Process Story. You can find out more about his PT training on Instagram here.
To read more stories from Hoffman Process participants, click here, or if you’re wondering whether the Process is right for you, why not try our self-assessment quiz here.