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How I went from a janitor to the founder of a multimillion-dollar business

To: People who want to change their life

From: Larry Fagan (As told to Lauren Brill)

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To those who want to change their life, 

I hugged the toilet hundreds of times and cried to God, “Stop this and I’ll quit.”

But this one night was different. I cleaned out my bank account, buying an eight ball of coke and paying for drinks for everyone at the bar – like I was a big shot. Out all night, I came home at sunrise. When I walked into my house, my then-wife was across the kitchen buttoning her blouse and getting ready for work.

Expecting to get my ass chewed out,  she just looked at me with tears running down her cheeks and said, “Thank God you’re alive.”

Then, she turned around and walked away. It was the lowest moment of my life. But I am grateful for that moment. 

See, all of my drinking and drugging days, I blamed everybody else for my problems. 

I grew up fast and hard. My parents got divorced when I was eight years old, leaving my mom to raise three boys on her own. She barely had time to sleep. I hung out in the alleys with older kids, drinking and getting high off of anything. I sniffed glue, popped pills, and smoked weed.  At twelve years old, a woman raped me and gave me an STD. A year later, I got someone pregnant. Our parents arranged a back-alley abortion. Shortly after, I was labeled incorrigible and sent to a juvenile detention facility. Upon my release, my behavior only got worse. I stole, cheated and lied and got sent away to a tougher place. When I got out, I started doing harder drugs and I quit school. 

As a kid, I watched the show Leave It to Beaver. It was about a family that consisted of a mom, a dad and two boys. They lived in a house with a white picket fence. The father had a good job and the mom stayed home and cleaned. Their home life had everything mine was missing. Deep down, I wanted that life. I wanted to be a good person, but I had no idea how to do it. 

I wanted to be a good person, but I had no idea how to do it.

Early on, I had many jobs, including installing kitchen cabinets, driving a truck and landscaping. I even worked for a garage company picking up garbage.  I was always a good worker, which I learned from my mother. 

After I got married and we had our first child, I got a big job in the steel mill. But the mill eventually closed and I lost my job. During Thanksgiving of that year, I remember standing in a food bank line in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, where I broke down in tears. 

I thought to myself, “I will never, ever, ever, under any circumstances allow me or my family to be put in this position again.”

So, I took two jobs as a janitor and discovered that I love that type of work. I was good at it, as I’m a very organized and neat person. Ultimately, I got approached by a chemical company that sold cleaning products. I was kicking ass, as I had this nobody can beat me type of an attitude. To be successful, I read every book. I went to every seminar and I listened to every success-driven person I could find. 

But my addictions continued to get in the way of the Leave-It-to-Beaver life that I subconsciously always wanted. 

That morning after I was out until sunrise and spent all of our money, I went it into the living room, got on my knees and cried out to God, “help me, please!”

From that moment until now, 33 years later, I’ve never had a desire to take another drug or drink. The power addiction held over me was lifted.

Looking back, I finally understand why that day and that instant was different from all the other times I prayed and pleaded to God for help. 

This time, after seeing I could achieve some success,  I finally realized that no one was holding me back in life. Everyone else was not the problem. Instead, my failures and my sickness were on me. 

So, after that day, I went to Alcoholics Anonymous.  They read the 12 steps and it was like a light bulb went off in my head.

 I’ll never forget sitting there thinking to myself, “This is what I’ve been looking for – directions on how to do life.”

After that, my career in sales took off. I am the only person in the history of that company to be the Salesman of the Year two years in a row. Money didn’t drive me. Winning motivated me. And for a moment in time, I had the wife, the kids and the house – just like the show Leave it to Beaver. 

I worked for that company for about 20 years. As my kids got older, I started to want more. That’s when I decided to start my own business. Thanks to my work ethic, relationships in the industry and knowledge, it quickly became a multimillion-dollar distribution company.  

Today, I am retired and enjoying my life in Florida. However, since starting my company, I have faced many more challenges, including getting divorced, battling illnesses and selling my company.  But no matter what I face, I never give up. 

That’s because my lowest moment taught me that regardless of the hand you’re dealt, if you want to change your life, you first have to take responsibility for it. 

Larry Fagan
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