The Backstory To My
Miraculous Awakening on 9/11
Anyone who knows me or has spent any amount of time with me will agree with the general notion that I am a man who loves to tell stories. If you ask me a question, I’m as likely as not to answer you with a bit of a yarn that places my response in the proper context of a larger story, leaving you with no doubt as to the origin of the answer and, if appropriate, its more compelling dynamics.
I have found that telling stories is a great way to teach. And the A Course In Miracles tells us that if we want to learn something, teach it. I have also found that if I use my own personal experience as an example, the story is much more believable and the lessons are much more learnable.
I may be kidding myself and my propensity to tell stories may only be the result of my Boston Irish heritage, but never having kissed the Blarney Stone, nor even been fortunate enough to have placed a foot on the soil of the Emerald Isle (both are items on my ever expanding bucket list), I think that my fondness for stories comes from my desire to place a foundation under the answer and give it the framework that provides you with a much better understanding.
I am, for the most part, giving you the backstory in my answer because I LOVE TO TEACH, and wherever possible, I use my own vast inventory of experiences to illustrate the lessons. I teach this way because I am not afraid to open myself up, even if I need to show you the warts (Especially if I need to show you the warts) because I believe it gives me more integrity and authenticity in your eyes, while I gain a greater understanding of the lesson.
On the static navigation bar of this website, you will find a page called: “My 9/11 Miracle.” If any story requires a backstory, that one does. It is a very accurate recounting of a miraculous enlightenment that I experienced on 9/11/2001. My experience was the antithesis of the emotional, intellectual, and spiritual reactions that rocked the foundations of so many people on that day of days.
I sincerely believe that it would help you to better understand the nature of my experience, which became the beginning of my personal ministry, by understanding what happened to me two years earlier, and the nature of the work that I had been doing on myself as a result. I have given this a lot of thought and I really don’t believe that the two events can be extricated, one from the other. The first miracle set the table, if you will, and made it possible for me to experience the second miracle. It gave me two years to prepare for what was to come, and I needed every blessed second of it.
In thinking about those events today, I believe I was as ready as I could have been. I had done the preparation work and the wall had been made ready to cleanly accept the wallpaper, and the rolls had been cut to very exacting measurements. The fact that it came to me on 9/11/2001 was not an accident. I think God knew what He was doing and exactly what He was getting me into. How could He not? After all, He’s God! I am grateful that I am the one who received such an amazing gift and I have been humbled by the miracles that have already come out of it. But it is not enough. There are many more changes I need to make and many more miracles will result from what happened to me on that day.
The Back Story
You can lead an alcoholic to the bar, but you cannot make him drink, neither can you make him not drink,unless you place the nozzle of a loaded .357 Magnum in his ear, but that isn’t a done deal, either.
Through 16 years of continuous sobriety in the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous, countless numbers of meetings in which I always raised my hand to speak because that’s what my first sponsor told me to do, at least 10 weekend spiritual retreats, 6 AWOLS (intensive immersions in the 12 Steps of Recovery), 2 State Conventions, one International Convention, and a player to be named later, I believed I had my stuff pretty well together, especially around my inability to get someone else to either drink or stop drinking. All of the above earned me an enormous amount of stability in my life, which makes the extent to which I became such an enabler in the upcoming story so puzzling.
I was powerless over alcohol and I knew it. I don’t have a problem with the “powerless” thing. In fact, if you drank the way I drank, you wouldn’t either. I was absolutely clear, that no matter what the circumstances, alcohol would beat me to a bloody pulp, and leave me to die by the side of the road, even if I was already dead! This would be a rather appropriate way for me to go because I had developed quite a penchant for driving my car in alcohol induced black outs, very often waking up behind the steering wheel (or under it) of my car, not knowing where I was or how I had gotten there. Here it goes:
The night I walked into my first meeting of Alcohol Anonymous, I possessed not one cranial synapse that could adequately enough fire up to communicate with another one, thereby creating that which would pass as an actual thought. Eleven years and a ton of hard work later, I had enough confidence in myself and the strong personal relationship I had built with my Higher Power, as well as the unconditional blessing of my wife, Elaine, that I emptied out my entire 401(k) plan to start my first business from scratch, without having even one customer or investor. You can call such actions abject insanity, or you could call it the willingness to live in and embrace the unknown, because that is where the magic is.
Speaking of magic, the very week I resigned from a company I worked for over the span of 22 years, and started a brand new company, with no customers or investors, Elaine and I found out that we were newly pregnant with twins! My understanding is that He never gives you more then He thinks you can handle.
Over the next five years a very successful small business had been built. We had about ten people working in the office, give or take, depending on the day, and My lead customer service person could do the work of about 10 people and get it done right. Obviously, you want to keep people like that around, so I paid her well enough to do just that. However, her behavior made it clearer and clearer over time that she was getting herself in ever deepening trouble with alcohol and drugs. Indeed, the handwriting on the wall had turned into a bright green neon sign that kept blinking an ominous message across the inner wall of my conscious mind, saying:
“This is not going to end pretty.”
By the time the following story took place, I had about sixteen years of continuous sobriety, knew and lived the Twelve Steps of Recovery inside and out, and had been studying “A Course In Miracles” and applying its principles to my life for approximately five years. But all of that, as you will see, cannot stop me from getting in my own way and behaving like an absolute fool, thereby placing my most self-destructive inclinations on direct display for the whole world to see.
A Course In Miracles has taught me that the ability to make our own decisions is something we come wired with. It is a birthright, not a guarantee of quality. We possess the ability to make enormous blunders on our own behalf, as well as to make awesome, inspired decisions that have an immeasurable positive impact on thousands of people for many years to come. While I certainly prefer to do the latter, I sometimes default to the former.
I have also learned that we are all human and subject to the folly of human error. Applying that lesson to myself, it appears that no matter what conditions I am facing, I retain the right to stick my head firmly up my butt and choose to ignore everything I have ever learned about self sabotage, allowing the ego to take charge instead of listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit. Damn the torpedoes, and full speed ahead.
That is how I convinced myself that there was something I hadn’t thought of yet, something more that I could say or do, SOMETHING, that would prove to be the magic pill that would restore one of my employees to some semblance of sanity. My God! Talk about being an enabler!
The problem was that until I found whatever would prove to be the ultimate cure, everyone in the office had to grow some very thick skin, wear a fool proof set of ear plugs that could induce an instantaneous state of complete audio lock-out, and hide under their desks in order to work in safety. They had done nothing to earn such a monstrous level of hatred and hostility directed at them by our very own in-house Hydra, but they had to live with it until the owner of the company found a way to pull his head out of his ass!
On the personal side, whenever I turned my car into the direction of the office, I would begin to get a strong feeling of nausea in the pit of my stomach, and my head felt like it was slowly being shattered into a million different pieces by the unyielding jaws of a cast iron vice. And this was when I was going to the office of a business that I owned. Talk about the tail wagging the dog! All I can say is God Help Me.
Then one fine day, the straw and the camel’s back did meet, and my office would never be the same again. Something very small occurred that on any other day I might not even have noticed. But notice I did and I knew, with every fiber of my being, it was over. I made a hard and fast decision, the type of decision I talk about in the section of this Weblog titled; “Make A Decision.” I decided that I was going to have peace in my office, no matter what. I didn’t care how much of my business she was able to steal. I didn’t care how much it would cost me – I simply did not care! It would be a small price indeed for such a positive, long overdue, and wonderful outcome.
The most important part of this tale, besides setting up the story of “My 9-11 Miracle,” is that I made a decision to have peace in my office. I had made a very important, very personal commitment that I would have peace in my office, if it killed me and everyone else to get it!! This is a very important point.
MY DECISION WAS TO HAVE PEACE IN MY OFFICE,
NO MATTER WHAT!
I did not decide to let a person go. I made a decision to have peace in my office, and letting her go was one of the most effective and immediate actions I could take toward achieving that goal. I wanted everyone to feel free and unthreatened, like they were important, not just because they were employees, but simply because they were human beings and that is what matters. Also, I wanted to create an office atmosphere that reflected all of the things I was learning about finding inner peace.
Ultimately, I wanted to turn my car in the direction of my own business and feel enlivened and excited, rather than nauseous and like my head was going to pop open if the jaws of that vice squeezed just a smidge more. In short, and I really didn’t think this was too much to ask; I wanted to have a more peaceful feeling on the way to my own office.
I also believe that if you are sincerely determined, driven to succeed in a way that makes you look like a predatory animal that you might see devouring another smaller and more vulnerable species, you need to Make A Commitment. That is where the “no matter what” comes in. So I put all of the ingredients into a pot, turned the heat up to the highest possible setting because I was so driven.
And for two years prior to 9/11/2001, I had been working very hard to eliminate everything I put in my own way that blocked me from feeling a greater sense of Inner Peace. But changes of the sort we are talking about here are not made simply by changing your mind, although it could be that simple. In order to
So I began to walk the path of creating a peaceful office environment, a place where people were encouraged to say what they thought, to have opinions about the work we were doing (we still had to remain a profitable business), the mistakes we were making, and to make suggestions as to how we could be better.
And as I moved along in the process of creating an atmosphere of office inner peace and worked to honor the commitment I made to myself, I found that I was walking into myself everywhere I went. I discovered that I was beginning to create a duality, or a quadrallity (if there is such a word) for all I was with – the office George and the home George, the gym George and the AA meeting George. There were so many Georges that I couldn’t keep track of them all. I felt like one of George Foreman’s kids, all of whom are named George.
It finally dawned on me that ultimately I was the only problem I had:
I BEGAN TO FIGURE OUT THAT IF I WANTED TO SUCCEED IN CREATING AN ATMOSPHERE OF INNER PEACE IN THE OFFICE, I HAD TO FIRST CREATE AN ATMOSPHERE OF PERSONAL INNER PEACE BECAUSE I HAD TO TAKE MYSELF WITH ME, EVERYWHERE I WENT!!!
A Course In Miracles teaches us that the world we see outside ourselves is really just a reflection of that which is happening on the inside. In my twenty plus years as a student of A Course In Miracles, I have learned that thoughts come first, followed by feelings, which become manifest in the world as our behavior. So in order for me to see a peaceful world outside myself, I first have to see that peace inside myself. And the only place that any of us is going to make positive, long lasting change that we can count on to be replicable – being the same person everywhere we go and in everything we do – is to do so at the level that is the driving factor of everything we do, the level of thought.
I always liked that popular line attributed to Henry Ford: “If you think you can, or you think you can’t, you are right.”
So I began a process of monitoring all of my thoughts. I had to be scrupulous in watching the thoughts go across the top of my brain and catch the ones I did not think were an accurate representation of who I am. I began to understand that my if I left my thoughts unchecked, they would end up affecting my behavior in ways that I would not appreciate, neither would anyone else, especially those people who are closest to me. I had to do this work one thought at a time, focusing on those thoughts that were of a more negative quality and learn that the only power they had over me came from me. Which is good news because if I am the source of the power, then I could shut the power off!! One thought at a time.
One of the pages in section three, “Personal Growth That Works and Lasts,” is called “The Power of Thought,” and it follows the above abbreviated discussion concerning the often overlooked impact – significant and lasting impact – that your thoughts have on your level of Inner Peace, which then has a significant impact on the quality of your personal life, professional life, family life, as well as the quality of the decisions you make, relationships – every single aspect of your life, everything you do, say or think, is directly impacted by the level and quality of Inner Peace, and it is this that you get to decide – YES, YOU GET TO DECIDE to either embrace it or not.
I very highly recommend that you follow up the story of “The Backstory” by reading “My 9/11 Miracle.” It will make for some very fascinating reading as well as serving as a bit of an introduction to the amazing nature of our relationship to God.