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The homeless multi-millionaire: The impossible is only the untried

by - 29 November

My interview with the addict-turned-millionaire and author of the book "I Forgot To Die" Khalil Rafati.

Meet the man who forgot to die! 13 years ago, Khalil Rafati was homeless, addicted to heroin and living in Los Angeles' notorious Skid Row. He was covered in ulcers, and 106 pounds. Today he's a millionaire. Rafati is the owner of SunLife Organics, a juice bar chain with six different locations in Los Angeles. Stars like the actor David Duchovny and Red Hot Chili Peppers frontman Anthony Kiedis are regular guests at his bars.
Rafati grew up in Ohio. He escaped a childhood scarred by physical and sexual abuse by moving to Los Angeles, but there was no escaping his demons. He started using and selling drugs. That led to a his descent into heroin addiction and homelessness. "There was no more digging left to do, all of my shovels were broken", he said. "I was done". Rafati became dedicated to his health and sobriety, but the real moment his life changed was when a friend introduced him to "juicing and superfoods".
Rafati began making his own juices for patients and staff at the Riviera Recovery Center, a sober living house he opened in Malibu in 2007. It was there he created a smoothie he dubbed the Wolverine, a date and banana concoction that would eventually become Sun Life's signature drink. 

Khalil, your book is called I Forgot To Die. I don’t know if you are aware of the book Man’s Search for Meaning of the famous psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl. In the book he claims that people who have a 'why'/a reason to live, can live with any 'how'/ any circumstances. So what was your WHY to live and to Forget To Die?
Well, it’s two parts. The first is, ironically, having to do with my mother and how much suffering I was putting her through, and how much I knew she would suffer if I followed through with my selfish action of a death wish. The reason I say it’s ironic is because during World War II, my mother was in a work camp. The second part—and I don’t think I’m much different from anybody else in saying this—is that I enjoy feeling good and derive great pleasure from serving my friends, neighbors, and people of my community (and each new community where I open a new shop). Employing people, helping people to get and stay healthy, as well as the constant interaction with my employees and customers makes me very happy. It is the anti-depressant I had always been searching for.

What drives people to be self-destructive? What were your reasons to act against yourself?
Early trauma from childhood, neglect, and abuse cause people to become self-destructive and these were my reasons to act against myself.

If you could give an advice to your younger self who just had reached the "the bottom of all bottoms", what it would be?
Congratulations, for finally having reached the bottom because now there is only one way to go: up. Forgive yourself for your selfish actions and forgive those who have harmed you. Cut yourself some slack and give yourself permission to begin dreaming again and dream big. Your success and accomplishments will be intrinsically related to your thought patterns and belief system.

Again Viktor Frankl writes: When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves. What was the exact moment when you realized that you should change something?
The exact moment I realized I needed to change something came about eight or nine months into my sobriety. Once the novelty of being clean and sober wore off, I reached an emotional bottom. Within that emotional bottom and emotional turmoil, I found enough clarity to realize that everything going on in my life, both good and bad, I was 100% responsible for.

What gave you strengths to stand up right at this moment?


What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned during this period?
That the impossible is only the untried.

Do people appreciate things and friends more when they’re down?

No. They don’t appreciate things and friends more when they’re down because they’re caught up in playing the victim and feeling sorry for themselves.

I guess the path you undertook after that wasn’t always easy. How did you stick up to your goals and didn’t go back to drugs?
The pain that I experienced at my absolute bottom was so great and so intense, so visceral and all-consuming that to this day, it still haunts me. Therefore, my memory is not remote. My memory is fully intact—of not only what I went through and felt, but how quickly I could return to that state of incomprehensible demoralization.

If you could mix the right cocktail with the best advises to people who feel down now, what would be the necessary components? Why people should stand up right now?

I don't know if people should stand up right now or change. Most people say they want to change, but they do not. Most people want their toys back, or their girlfriends and husbands back. Most people do not want to change. So, I don’t know if they should change. It is a personal choice. And some famous writer once said, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.” If people get in enough pain and are realistic with themselves, then they can and hopefully will change, but it is not up to me to make that call. I am only here to do my dance. Everyone else must do their own dance. I am here to do my dance and if it pleases you, then it is great, and if it does not please you, that is great too. I am only here to do my dance.

And what was the mix that turns you from a homeless man to millionaire entrepreneur?
90% of it is definitely getting off the drugs and alcohol, because if I hadn’t, then I would be dead. Probably 99% of it, but that would be obvious, so let us just assume that people understand that if they have a drinking or drug problem, they will never amount to any type of success unless they stop and stay stopped. Setting drugs and alcohol aside, and assuming one is on the right path, the rest of the answer to this question is simple: I created small habits which I followed and repeated daily, over a long period of time. These small, simple, daily habits produced massive results. I go to bed early, I wake up early. I am careful to save as much money as possible. I invested as much money as possible. I worked 7 days a week. In the beginning, I was working four jobs, and working most jobs 18-20 hours a day. People say I’m lucky. I say I am blessed. Sure, if you want to call me lucky, please understand how I got lucky. I got lucky by working 18-20 hours a day, 7 days a week, for many, many years in a row.

Who was your inspiration for the transformation?
My business partner and best friend, Hayley Gorcey.

Why did you decide to write a book?
I wanted other people who were suffering to understand that they could change.

What exactly contain your juices to be so successful?
100% certified organic ingredients, integrity, intention, and a lot of love

What was the most difficult thing trying to do a successful business?
Understanding that not everybody wants to be successful and dealing with employees who simply wanted to get a job for the sake of getting a job, rather than to make an incredible life for themselves.

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