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My life, my drive, it came from pain

I came from a challenging childhood. It was painful growing up with the chaos, fighting, survival mode, abandonment from my father, bullying, emotional neglect, and more. But I have grown to realize that the pain I experienced from growing up, that pain gave me much of my drive, my motivation, life, and to some extent my love. I was focused, and I think somewhat successful, into turning that pain into something positive that helped me grow and succeed.

While many kids had it worse, my childhood was challenging. I carried a heavy burden growing up as a kid. I wanted and tried to be perfect, was afraid of making mistakes or having attention put on me as I did not want to be in the “line of fire”, and I “beat myself up” for every single mistake. I was always the good, kind, quiet kid who caused no trouble and tried to be perfect. I was afraid to open my mouth, and I was never taught how to express or emote myself.

My dad was not a warm person, and he did not give me any attention. Now, as an adult, I realize he really taught me nothing. Not how to shave, nothing about girls, not how to stand up for myself or to a bully, fix/repair anything, shake a hand, dress as a young man or express myself…he really taught me nothing. I do not even think he ever hugged me. He was not a role model, and he was a “rejecting parent”. And when he left (and prior to that) my mom went into “survival” mode.

As a kid growing up, there was fighting, arguing, and more in my home. My dad was a bad alcoholic, who went into rehab a few times. Each time he left rehab, he went right back into drinking, and I even recall he even turned to drinking mouthwash a few times as it contains a little alcohol. He lost a couple jobs, and eventually walked out on the family when I was around 13…but he was checked out earlier. He rarely/never game me attention, as he loved the bottle.

I never spoke to him again after he walked out, and he never even tried to reach me. That is until I was in my late 30s and he wrote me a sob letter asking me for money.

All of this led to me facing a form of emotional neglect, which I now have learned how important it is for kids to be talked to, to made to feel safe and developed while they are young. Especially when a parent walks out on a kid and abandons them, it is important to talk to the kid when and after that traumatic event occurs. I now realize, through the painful and self-reflecting therapy process, that my childhood was a period of my life in which my emotional needs were not met, my feelings were dismissed, there was fighting and chaos, and I also took on adult levels of responsibility in an effort to compensate for my parent’s behavior. In fact, I was probably acting like, and expected to act like, a grown adult as a 13 year+ old kid. This speaks nothing to the verbal fighting and hurtful/harmful words faced growing up. My childhood was painful as I now know.

My mom struggled with money. She worked when she could and held multiple jobs over the years. Many of them were in the afternoon/evening or even some night jobs. There were jobs she held that she was not there when we came home from school, and it would be just me and my younger sister who I would try to care for and watch out for. Somehow my mom always had some type of dinner made for us (that I often had to heat up). She always did the laundry, shopped, and kept the house in the best “order” she could.

The money was tight. My mom cut coupons to save money. We had to turn the heat way down to save money, and sometimes even turn the heat entirely off during the night at winter time. And Syracuse NY weather can go down to single digits if not lower so as you can imagine that was tough! We just bundled up and of course there was some “left over” warmth in the house from the heat being on low during the day. She bought items in bulk and on sale, with coupons…our pantry had months worth of “free food” she acquired!

We did not have a lot of clothes, but they were new as my mom once again found great sales. Only my mom could buy shirts for a few dollars! Our house needed a lot of repairs, was drafty, and our tools were old. Her car was often rusty, falling apart, and it was tough to fix it. It was a low income family. And really, without my grandmother Bop helping out to pay the bills, who knows where we would have been.

Turn pain into drive

That financial situation, and everything else I faced growing up such as the neglect, also helped gave me my drive and motivation. I had a drive, that was both instilled from the work example my mom showed as well as from the dire financial straits I was raised in. I also think my drive was trying to prove myself to my dad who left, trying to get attention from the emotional neglect, and trying to prove myself to my peers. I tried to, and I think did my best, to turn the pain into “power“. That led to my life of freedom and tremendous professional success that most people can only dream of.

Everyone wants to avoid pain, but the pain from my childhood, with assistance from professionals and others, has allowed me to grow. Over the months and years (and in particular this one) I have been learning to, and trying to let things go. There are still many dark moments I face, but I can see how letting go can be powerful and benefit me in countless ways.

People do not like to talk about struggles, their frailty, depression, anxiety and other challenges. Most people only talk about themselves in a positive manner…their strengths and accomplishments. In fact most people just love to talk and not listen to others. I try my best to listen to others, and I am usually told I am a good listener. But as I have been trying to do through this blog, I have been trying to talk about the pain and life challenges faced by many people (including me) as well as the positive, growth, and accomplishments. As most people have challenges they are facing…but they just do not talk about or acknowledge them. As I have been fighting all my life, trying to turn the pain into a positive.

I have, and continue to learn, important things about myself through those past and current painful experiences. After all, I think if it wasn’t for all the issues, challenges, pain I experienced and more as a child, then my professional success, what I worked for all my life, every day and night, those businesses, investments, etc. would never have existed.


Jon McNamara is the CEO of needhelppayingbills.com, a company that he started in 2008 and that specializes in helping low income families as well as those who are in a financial hardship. He also found NHPB LLC, a company committed to helping the less fortunate. Jon and his team also provide free financial advice to help people learn about as well as manage their money. Every piece of content on this website has been reviewed by him before publishing and many of the articles he has personally written. Jon is the leading author for needhelppayingbils.

2 thoughts on “My life, my drive, it came from pain

  • January 11, 2019 at 3:42 am

    It’s 2:31am. As a Mom, I found your info that sounds like my 45 year old Son’s words. It’s breaks my heart to think that my son is saying this, but I’m sure it is true. His father was an alcoholic, addict and bipolar. I thought I was doing the right thing. All the time, hurting them so much more than if I had just left him long ago.

  • July 10, 2019 at 12:02 am

    You seem like an incredibly strong person. I know someone just like you, and greatly admire him.


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