Interview with a Pathwaynian – Rodney Francisco

Every now and then, we find someone who exudes such joy and passion and we wonder… where does that come from and how do I get some. Rodney Francisco shares where his passion comes from and where you can find it too!

General Info: Rodney Francisco

Graduation Month: March 2013

What brought you to Pathways (how did you hear about it)?

The thing, for me, that ultimately brought me to Pathways was hitting bottom in my life, again. I had been clean for almost a year and a half and moved to Dallas for school. At the time, I thought that being clean was enough and that as long as I stayed clean things would just fall into place. I found out very quickly that wasn’t the case. I didn’t have the tools or discipline to manage my life effectively and fell on my face time and time again. I carried a mask with me everywhere I went, terrified of what would happen if people knew what was really going on inside of me.

Before coming through Pathways, I had been in a relationship with a man, Andrew, for a number of years. Our relationship ended, almost three years later, the day he took his life. He called me 14 times the day he died, and I ignored every call. In my own selfishness, I pulled away when he needed me. I found him that night, hanging in the closet. For years, the “why” and “what if” questions played through my head on repeat. After Andrew passed away, I really struggled connecting with people on a heart level. The way I saw it, the more I let people in the more I would end up being hurt in the long run. I started to carry a guilt and responsibility for his death that warped my perception of what love looked like.

I didn’t feel worthy of genuine love and compassion and months later, settled for an abusive relationship. I accepted it because I believed that I deserved it. How he treated me was less important than what he said, and he told me exactly what I wanted to hear. When I finally made the decision to walk away, he beat me, raped me, and left me to die. The night I was raped, the final piece of my heart died. The emptiness I felt that night was unlike anything I’ve experienced since then. I became completely disconnected from the world and the people around me. I gave up and life was no longer worth living.

Over the next few months, several failed overdose attempts lead me to hate myself and God more and more. All I wanted was for the pain to go away, and every day I continued to live, my anger towards Him grew. In N.A. we talk about the gift of desperation. At this point in my life, I had finally become desperate enough to try anything, and I reached out to my mom for help. That same day I checked myself into a rehab center and started taking steps to turning my life around.

After being clean for a year I moved to Dallas for school. I first heard of Pathways from other people in the fellowship but was resistant to the process. Fear of judgment kept me stuck in my comfort zone like it always had. Months went by and nothing changed. I still felt empty, I still felt alone, and I still wished that each day would be my last. One night Heather Zipper, who is now a good friend, asked me if I was willing to do something different. Tired of fighting and once again desperate for change, I committed to the weekend and signed up that night.

What has been your greatest challenge, since graduation and what tool do you use the most to overcome the challenge?

My greatest challenge since graduating has been opening myself up to romantic relationships. I’ve come a long way since I graduated, but there is still more work to be done. My “not good enough” tapes can still flare up every once and a while and I still struggle from time to time allowing myself to be vulnerable with men and trust that I am safe with them. Graduating didn’t fix all of the broken pieces for me. It gave me the tools to start doing something different with them.

The tool I use the most for this is asking for the medicine I need. Asking for medicine has been one of the hardest parts of my training, but has also been one of my most valuable tools. I learned quickly after graduation that in order to feel safe with men, I had to ask for what I needed. When I was raped, and my “No” had been disregarded, I felt like I’d lost my voice. By asking for the medicine I needed, I was able to get my voice back and with that came self-worth and confidence.

What has been the biggest change in your life since graduating? 

I’d have to say courage. The definition of courage is the mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty. Before I went through the training my fears were all consuming. They paralyzed me. Today I have the courage to walk through my fears. They say that growth begins at the end of your comfort zone. Today I’m willing to step into my discomfort and face my fears head on. That’s not to say it’s easy, because it’s not, but I play hard today because I know what’s waiting for me on the other side. Crossing that thresh hold has given my life love, joy, passion, purpose, adventure, and so much more.

How has “living your training” in the outside world affected your relationships?

Relationships have easily been the area I have put the most work into since I graduated. It has not always been pretty and has definitely come with some bumps in the road. Living my training in the realm of relationships opens the doors for the real good feelings that my heart really wants. By living my training, I was able to let go of relationships that were unhealthy, set boundaries, and put my energy into building healthier relationships. My relationships today are real and have shown me what acceptance and unconditional love really look like.

A few years ago I never would have imagined that I would have a healthy, loving relationship with my parents, and that’s exactly what I have today. I did a lot of harm towards them as a teenager and a young adult. It took some hard work and brutal honesty for me to see the extent of the damage I had done. Living my training gave me the tools to approach my family dynamics differently and I was able to slowly build my relationship with them back up. This has definitely been a work in progress, but I would go through it all over again to have the level of love and respect I have for my parents today.

I’ve also had some big changes in how I see myself and God. Working on my relationship with myself and my relationship with God have kind of gone hand in hand. I use my relationship with God to build my relationship with myself. When I would struggle with feeling worthy of success and self-worth and I would ask myself if I was worthy of it, my answer was usually no. So I started asking myself if God believed that I was worthy of success, or what God’s favorite things about me were. Changing the questions drastically changed the answer. Living my training has changed my relationships so much, and this is really just scratching the surface.

Have you ever refreshed p3? Thoughts?

I have not refreshed P3 since I graduated. At two years out, some of my classmates have refreshed twice already, but I haven’t joined any of them yet. What I just discovered this past month, though putting even more focus on relationships and vulnerability, is that I have been afraid of refreshing. I have been allowing my fear of being vulnerable and transparent with a group of people that I do not know keep me from getting back into the rooms as a refresher. So being who I am, with awareness comes action and I am planning on refreshing P3 this month. Everyone I have ever talked to about refreshing says that it is so much better the second time around. I don’t have any experience with this, yet. So ask me again when you see me next.

Any tips on sponsoring?

When I first started my training, I was asking everyone I knew to come through the training. I was so excited and I wanted everyone to have what I had started to find for myself. Unfortunately, asking people over and over again didn’t work. It was more off-putting to them than anything else. I believe in living the training. When I am living my training and sharing my authentic self with others, people notice. They will ask questions because they see and want something that I have. Sometimes they follow through, and sometimes they don’t. I don’t take it personally, but I don’t give up either. Today, my philosophy is to live by attraction rather than promotion.

How do you stay involved in Pathways?

The biggest way that I have stayed involved with Pathways has been through volunteering as a TA. It’s one of my greatest passions and there a few things that give me that same level of fulfillment in life. I was also fortunate enough to help out with the Gala this past year and recently I’ve helped take pictures at some of the events, which my inner child loves! I do everything I can to show up and be of service. If I’m not working I’m at every clap-in, turn-around, graduation, and P-Party possible.

What’s your contract?

I am a loving, caring, accepting man who is trusting, faithful, and comfortable in God’s arms!

What do you want people to know about you?

Suicide is off the table. I say this because I feel it’s important to say. When I tell my story as a TA, I feel like I don’t put enough emphasis on this and that’s something that I plan to make different. Every time I’m in the rooms, it breaks my heart to hear trainee’s talk about wanting to take their life. It hurts because I know what it feels like to think that’s the only way. To the TA’s that were a part of my training, if I haven’t said it already, I want you to know that it’s off the table for good. To anyone who may be reading this that still has it on the table, I want you to know that I found something that worked for me and I was able to take it off the table for good. I believe that if you’re willing to try something different, you can take it off the table too.

What are you doing now…?

Well, the thing I’m the most excited about right now is being back in school full time. I got re-enrolled into the culinary school of my dreams last year and I’m chasing my passion. I’m setting up an externship when I graduate to spend a couple of months in Italy and I plan to travel the world from there. Ever since I was a kid I’ve always wanted to travel the world and see, and experience, as many different cultures as possible. I want to live my life today to its greatest potential. I’m dreaming big and fighting for what my heart wants.