Swiss philosopher Alain de Botton once said, “It is in dialogue with pain that many beautiful things acquire their value.” While Botton meant this in the context of architecture, the same may be applied to how tragedy can put life into perspective. For Devin Wills, President of A&W Contracting, one of Georgia’s largest Roofing Companies, the loss of his father and subsequent battle with sobriety jump-started his path to a purpose-led life despite being in his early 20s.
Before this pivotal point, Wills had not given much thought to his future. His dad had founded A&W Contracting from humble beginnings and through sheer grit, grew it into a company that collaborated with the nation’s largest residential construction home builders. On Labour Day in 2017, his father, who he considered his best friend, suffered a massive heart attack and Wills’ best attempts to revive him were unsuccessful.
Even while Wills, who grew up without a mother, was coping with the grief of losing his father, he had to deal with the reality of taking over his family business. The burden was overwhelming and he turned to alcohol and drugs to cope. This became a lifestyle and on any given night, Wills could be found at bars, clubs, and events with a bottle in hand and a smile as if he had not a care in the world.
“What sent me down that path was the fact that at such a young age, the only thing that made me happy was being intoxicated and surrounded by other intoxicated people. I hated being sober because it would just remind me of my depression and sadness,” he recalls.
Wills remembers going on non-stop binges and recognizing that he was on a dangerous path.
“I used to say to myself if I did die, at least I would have gone out having fun, those were dark days,” he says.
After struggling with this for a couple of years, he hit rock bottom which led him to a conference in Miami hosted by Grant Cardone. There, while listening to the speakers talk about how they overcame their own demons, Wills found the inspiration and clarity he needed to pick himself up.
When he returned to Georgia, he committed himself to kick his addiction on his own. He started by replacing old habits with healthy ones like mountain biking, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, windsurfing, and snowboarding. He also became an avid reader and discovered that reading books has both humbled him and given him a second chance at life. Another painful but necessary step was distancing himself from friends.
“I had to isolate myself from everyone. Literally. It wasn’t them, it was just my association with them that would trigger my desire to do the things I shouldn’t. This was the key to overcome the withdrawals. It was very hard to not see a lot of my good friends for a while. But it had to be done for my future’s sake,” he says.
Wills spreads positivity to his following of over 300,000 people across social media platforms including his Instagram account @thedevinwills where he posts life-affirming and motivational content. After not stepping up initially, Wills has now found the drive to fill the void his father left and works alongside his board of directors to take the company to greater heights and diversify business with real estate investments.
Without ever going to rehab, Wills has completely transformed his life by sheer determination and this has created the space for his life’s purpose.
“The opportunities that have opened up for me because of my ability to eliminate distractions and focus on the meaningful aspects of my life have been extraordinary. Life is all about sacrifices. Ask yourself: What are you willing to sacrifice today for a better tomorrow?” he says.