I believe everything happens for a reason. For instance, my book debuted #1 on the New York Times bestseller list on September 11, 2011—that was the actual print date. But this story you’re about to read is about September 2001, also known as 9-11.
With the recent terrorist attacks weighing heavily on our minds right now, both abroad and on our own soil, I decided to share this story with you, a personal email that was written by a reader of Nothing to Lose and sent to me in May, 2015. Until now, I’d kept this email private, but I reached out to her recently and got her permission to publish it. She asked that I omit her name for privacy purposes, so if you happen to know who this person is, I ask you to please keep it private. Thank you.
I get a lot of fan mail from readers of Nothing to Lose, but I have never received a story as incredible as this one. What you’re about to read is an email from a reader thanking me for saving her life—but I really think she saved her own.
Please read it. And prepare yourself, it’s powerful.
From: ChaCha Fiorillo
Date: Tue, 26 May 2015 12:38:51 -0400
Subject: NTL was an influence in saving my life
I believe a ViSalus Promoter already shared my story with you but it was important to me to thank you directly. And me thanking you is very much overdue! I wanted to thank you for shining a light in my life at a time I needed it more than you could imagine. My story is very private to me, I don’t talk about this hardly ever and I am a little embarrassed by it. But every time I see your book on my bookshelf, I say to myself “I need to write him and thank him.”
One morning I rushed up the subway stairs in lower Manhattan and my heel on my right shoe broke. I was on my way to see a new client and didn’t know Manhattan well enough to know if there was another shoe store close by that was opened so early in the morning. I remember my best girlfriend, whom I had planned on having lunch with after my client meeting, shared the same size shoe as me. I frantically dialed her cellphone and said “I need to stop by your office and steal whatever shoes you are wearing today.” I couldn’t find an available cab during this morning rush hour so I hobbled quickly five blocks to her office building. I got about a block away from her and she called me to say “I’ll meet you in the lobby so you don’t have to waste time on the elevators.” I replied “I actually need to use a lady’s room so stay where you are and I’ll come up to your office.”
I made the decision to end my life. I thought about the best way to do it. The less messy way for someone to find me. I decided booze and sleeping pills were the way to go. I took a few pills and had drank about 1/2 bottle of whiskey when I found a baggie of cocaine I forgot I had. Score. I laid out the lines on the cover of a book that had been sitting on my coffee table for a few weeks – one of my girlfriends who worked for a PR company brought over the book to me and I paid it no mind. Until that night. I did the lines that were covering the title of the book “Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain.” I dozed in and out of a stoned-out consciousness and at some point I picked up that book and started to read it. All I remember is I read it from beginning to end that night.
I didn’t think I could ever pull myself out of my situation in life. I didn’t think I could ever be free of drugs and alcohol. That last decade of my life was now part of my past I could never foresee myself climbing out of and having triumph over. And most the people in my life couldn’t see it either. I decided after reading that book that maybe, just maybe, I could conquer this. At one time I had all these dreams of being successful, in both business and relationships, and for the first time in a decade I could somewhat see I might be able to accomplish my dreams. I know I needed a lot of help though! It was then that I called 911 and said “I’ve taken some pills, drank some booze and did a few lines of coke. I wanted to end my life. And now I don’t. I want to sleep for a while but I’m afraid if I close my eyes I won’t wake up.” Help came. And then after spending some time in the hospital and rehab, help came from people I had loved and really let down. I think when they saw I finally decided to take life seriously and fight for what I wanted, then they came back to my corner of the ring and started to help me fight my demons.
I’ve been sober and drug free since 2012. It’s been tough at times. I beat myself up a lot for wasting a decade of my life. Honestly, still sometimes the thoughts and memories make me feel like I am not worthy to keep going. I’ve been following you via social media for a few years now and I always come back to a quote you use, “Whatever situation you find yourself in, it’s easy to allow it to become the lens through which you define yourself. Don’t.” I hold onto that a lot when I start to lose hope.
Thank you for taking the time to write your book and share your story and giving me hope for my future. I am still working on my “Told You So” chapter.
We don’t have control over our lives as much as we used to. Terrible things are happening— stabbings, bombings—the attack at the Pulse club in Orlando touched my community, personally. And none of us are immune to this. You’ll see in my other LinkedIn articles I’ve addressed some of what I see as America’s biggest problems right now, criminal justice reform, the erosion of the middle class—but this third article, I wanted you to read about a brave woman that took a tragedy, hit bottom, and turned her life around from it. I want to focus on the solutions, not the problems. And I ask you to do the same.
That one decision will haunt me to the day I die.
I caught an elevator in her building, it was me and six other people. I pressed the button for my bestie’s office floor – she worked on the 103rd floor of the north tower of the World Trade Center for a wonderful company called Cantor Fitzgerald. That morning when I was in the elevator is when the first plane hit the building. It was September 11, 2001. The elevator was knocked off its axis and it was completely dark. I honestly cannot share the emotions that went on in the elevator, it’s just way to difficult to even think about. Some time had lapsed before we obviously made it out. We were rescued by a NYC firefighter who heard our screams and was able to pry the door open enough so that we could climb out. He led us to a staircase – we went down and he said he was going up one more floor.
Getting out of the building was just as challenging as surviving the elevator. By the time we left the building, the south tower had already collapsed. We all had major injuries. We also saw a lot of things – gruesome things – that no one could have ever prepared me for. The north tower collapsed about 10 minutes after we left the building. I still get a raw chill when I remember I was only 10 minutes from dying.
It was a very long time until I remembered everything from that day. But the worse realization was knowing if I had let my amazing bestie meet me in the lobby like she wanted to, she would still be alive today. That is pain that hurts the core of my soul.
In addition, me and my fellow elevator survivors went to look for our hero firefighter and I’ll never forget the pain when I saw his name and picture as being one of the firefighters who was among the missing. Come to find out that his wife was pregnant and went into premature labor a few weeks after 9/11. Their daughter survived thank God but unfortunately she grew up w/out her dad. He gave his life to save ours.
Because of my injuries and the pain I was in, in addition to the mental challenges from PTSD and the guilt I felt knowing two people were dead because of me, I was taking a major amount of pain pills and sleeping pills to get through each day. Unfortunately, I developed a serious addiction to those meds and when they stopped working as well, I just mixed vodka and whiskey into the equation to get that numb feeling again. And when I became immune to that combination, I added in cocaine and heroin. I spent a decade stuck on a roller coaster of booze, pill, hard core drugs and self-pity. Always on a quest for that numb feeling.
Fast forward to the beginning of 2012. I pretty much lost everything. I ruined all my relationships, including my marriage. I ruined my career. I spent all my savings on partying and drugs. There were two days I couldn’t get a hold of my main dealer which means I went without hard drugs for a few days. What this did was clear the fog. And when the fog cleared many emotions took center stage. Hopelessness, despair, disappointment, embarrassment, guilt. The darkness was darker than dark. My soul hurt. And I decided that the world was much better without me than with me.