Every Day Miracles –How the Ordinary Became ExtraordinaryNov 08, 2020
I’ve always wanted to write this blog. I never believed in miracles, but I do now! I thought they were curious and that you had to “have religion” in order to see them. I always thought miracles happened in the bible, in the movies, in art or in books. I have heard people talk about them, but rarely did I experience them on my own or see them occur in people close to me. Until my own life fell apart and I finally opened my eyes.
We live in difficult and overwhelming stressful times. The world seems to be in regular and rapid decline, and over a quarter of the world’s population is struggling with depression and anxiety. Where there used to be rays of hope, there now exists those many with hopelessness and despair.
So, today, I want to tell you a story that will bring you to tears. It is my story, and it turned out to become my own personal miracle. It was through this very gift of desperation that has led to a regular stream of daily miracles that continue to change my life. In this new blog series, I will be exploring stories of miraculous change through the tools of self-discovery that I have both learned and used to rebuild my own and the lives of those who still struggle around me. I want to share with you these stories of hope and possibility that things can become better and that you can redeem yourself from seemingly impossible situations. So, now, it’s time to share my story:
Everyone kept telling me, including my parents, that I had all the ‘right stuff’: Life is all about winning – we just need to make our own success. With hard work and unyielding effort, perhaps, life can be really good and we can make the best of it on our own willpower. I thought these to be immutable truths, but I was sadly mistaken!
I bought into a good part of this lie: The first sentence proved to be true. Life is beautiful and a gift – which took me far too long to understand and appreciate. But, the rest of this paragraph led me down a garden path that nearly killed me. My all too boastful pride and ego, collective fears, overwhelming insecurities and a general addiction of “more” drove me to leapfrog my inertia as a kid and catapult myself to what I thought was personal & professional success. After an initial burst of “success” during my 20’s and early 30’s – I believed that my forward momentum would simply last forever; that I could do no wrong and that this inflated balloon of “success” would never burst. I also convinced myself that I could and would continue to accumulate more toys and money, and make my parents and family proud. Little did I know, my definition of “success” was an illusion, and would never bring me to real and lasting happiness?
I tell this painful story and bare my soul to you in the hopes of helping others who also struggle making their own lives and success work. I am confident that my own tornadic, chaotic path to happiness will resonate with many others. My illusion of “success” finally turned on me and forced me to face the music.
Life was just happening to me. Sure, I thought I was the driver, but didn’t have the knowledge and equipment to navigate it on my own. Before I understood what happened to me, I ended up very sad, addicted to drugs and alcohol, broken in jail, miserable, angry, anxious and very confused. I’ve done and accomplished so many wonderful things: Education, career, family, journalist, published author, successful entrepreneur, family children, house in the choice burbs, great schools and all the many trappings that go along with a “successful” life. Just how exactly could all this have happened to a guy like me? Beatles legend, John Lennon, reminds us that “Life is what happens to us when we’re busy making other plans” He was so very right!
This year, I turned 60. Sadly, I paid dearly for this misguided stupidity during my 50’s. This past decade proved to be a first class and stunning disaster, with me jumping off the cliff of life with no rope, except just enough with which to hang myself. I don’t remember much of it now, as I ended up living in an utter haze on 15 medications, drunk, disabled, penniless, homeless and hopeless. I became an incurable Alcoholic & Addict, was terminally pissed-off and anxious, and fell into a deep and disturbing depression. My kids and ex-wife were afraid of me. I became riddled with anxiety, full of rage and cratered into an incredible and hopeless state of sadness. I eventually became the kind of guy and neighbor you would NOT want to hang around with on most social occasions and at cocktail or dinner parties at your house.
My fall from personal and professional grace was swift. Alcohol had become my master and gravitational pull downhill. At 56, I ended up in Federal Prison. Around this time, I nearly died twice from acute alcohol poisoning and was no longer able to cope with life. I wished for the end to come fast as only the dying can know. I was bitter and angry. I lost my family and friends, my wealth and status, but mostly I lost myself to my untreated misery and disillusionment.
One of my many problems was that I chose to live in the problem, in an incredible state of denial, not understanding that my life had become an out-of-control ping pong ball — without purpose or direction. I kept chasing after the holy grail of fame, fortune and success. Despite all my hard work and best efforts, I was simply lost and clueless as to how and why things didn’t work out as planned. I must not have been given the instruction manual as a child on how to live a good and happy life. I certainly did not choose many things wisely!
When all things failed, I blamed my parents, my wife, my children, my career, the government, and my business partners – everyone but myself for my failures. I falsely believed that good intellect, keen instincts and unending drive would get me where I needed to go: Upwards and onwards, rich and famous, happy, successful and accomplished. Again, I was dead wrong.
Then I so rudely discovered that I would be going to prison. It was like a bad dream – a nightmare actually. It came on top of nearly 10 years of living a life and doing so many very important things wrong and unconsciously that landed me there. I finally came to the end of my “old” life with this massive crisis looming over my head and decided to change; to change everything I thought important to me and how I went about living my life. My life had finally gotten so bad that finality struck me as a possible reality. So, in an act of desperation, I chose to make a new beginning and to scrap the life that I once thought so wonderful, successful, important and precious and start anew.
The truth is that I was never truthful about my real problems and addictions with all the medical doctors, psychiatrists, addiction counselors or therapy professionals that tried to help me. Yes, they saw my pre-cirrhosis liver numbers and rapidly declining physical, mental and emotional state, looking on in horror as my condition and symptoms failed to improve. It’s not their fault. They tried valiantly to fix me. But, how could they ever help me to get better and “recover” from whatever I said ailed me if I never told them what my problem really was: I didn’t really understand what was causing my problems in the first place!
Dishonesty and Fear were my M.O.. I wasted so much of mine and my family’s precious time chasing bogeymen down rabbit holes. Those days are over and I just ran out of time and people to complain to and take hostage!
That’s when everything changed for me – from the inside out! It was time for a complete overhaul and to reexamine everything – to create a new beginning as if it were going to be my last. At least, that’s how it felt to me. I finally took an honest look in the mirror and realized that I didn’t like what I saw. Strangely enough, for me, prison saved my life, because if I didn’t receive what I refer to as my “Adult Time Out,” I clearly was doomed to a sad and painful death of my own.
Prison was my rude and necessary awakening. My “bottom,” and the accompanying pain that hung on to me like a bad smell, had not yet gotten unbearable. I needed to suffer some more, to go out and do more research and development on life until that “aha” moment finally clicked following my arrest.
Through the serendipity of ending up in prison, I discovered that I no longer had to live my life this way any longer – as an insane person who could no longer distinguish right from wrong, truth from deceit. I began to transcend all the pain I was experiencing, because, quite frankly, I just couldn’t take it anymore and my life skills and strategies, including over 20 years in and out of 12-step recovery and lots of therapy and spiritual exploration simply weren’t working.
So came the beginning of the end of my old life and the beginning of something entirely new. I discovered that I actually had a choice – that there really was a way out of this mess for good and that I didn’t have to struggle and suffer the way I once did. As I began making better choices and surround myself with willing mentors, advisors and coaches, my fear and anxiety began to subside. Finally, I began living in the solution and slowly the problem began to fade away!
The choice to change everything in my life proved to be the best decision I ever made. Following an emotional, physical, mental and spiritual breakdown, I finally awoke to my own truth. In a fit of repeated humiliations and desperation, I discovered that the answers to my happiness had nothing to do with external factors, but I that I could change my life and its many outcomes by choosing to be happy from the inside out. I came to realize that with better choices, and a lot of re-education, there was nothing I couldn’t handle or do.
This realization came at a stiff price, however, and therein lies my story and a far happier ending. I learned to live life in the present moment, in the here and now – as if this 24 hours were to be my last. I came close to experiencing my final 24 many times and that was NOT the way I wanted it to end. With this huge shift in focus, suddenly, the game changed and so did all the rules and assumptions. It was finally time after 60 years to write a new script for my life. The jig was up and it was now time to sail in an entirely, new direction.
If I was to be truly happy and free from my mangled and unhappy past, I had to drop the corrosive rocks of anger, resentment, doubt and self-pity which had been formidable and painful roadblocks to my happiness. I had to focus on the recovery of not just my alcoholism and addiction problems, but also my dysfunctional personality and life. I had to relearn everything I thought important, take a hard and serious look at myself and start all over with a clean slate. I had to forgive myself and others, clean house of my dysfunctional and old beliefs, attitudes and behaviors. What’s more, I had to take responsibility for and ownership of my life and actions, and no longer live in my own fantastic and delusional head. This was the beginning of a long, windy and strange trip I could not have possibly anticipated nor planned for.
After 22 months in a grueling Modified Prison Therapeutic Community that I voluntarily opted in for, I learned that my life and the ways I had been dealing with it were dysfunctional and misguided. I discovered that I was dishonest, selfish, full of fear and stubbornly grandiose. My goals and aspirations in life were an oasis and unrealistic. My super optimism typically and often got the better of me. Yes, I had some wonderful and redeeming assets, like compassion and empathy and the ability to give and accept love. I had a quick, resourceful mind and knew how to get things done. I was an accomplished and respected “entrepreneur.” But, my negative attitudes, twisted beliefs and unhealthy behaviors clouded and disarmed most all the positives. The way I went about living my life was just so warped and off the mark. I wanted you to think I was great and successful, but deep down I wanted to die and could never tell you the truth about how I really felt. How inadequate and uncertain I really felt. I had been slowly dying for many years without realizing it. At the end of the day, I was miserably unhappy and discontent with my lot in life.
What changed? In this therapeutic community, I learned that by changing my attitude, thinking and behavior, I could create more satisfying and different outcomes. I could become more emotionally stable and sober and create realistic goals and expectations. I learned that feelings while important signposts are not facts and that they can fatally color and misguide our beliefs and actions. By adopting these “tools,” I could also keep out of and away from unwanted and frequent conflict and the ensuing frustration and heightened drama and anxiety. And, further, by practicing effective and measurable anger and stress management, relationship, communication and lifestyle re-balancing tools I could finally succeed in relationships and situations where before I had failed. Or in other words, I could get out of my own way and allow the miracle of real positive change to finally take root.
I made a commitment to myself and to those I love that I would change and change completely. I’m still and will always be on the path to learning and change. I do know with great certainty that if you suffer and struggle with life as I once did , if you live with the daily pain of repeated defeat and failure, you CAN turn your life around so that every 24 hours – whether it be just for today or your very last – will be better. Your happiness and life depend on it. You will soon ask yourself, why in the world did I wait so long? You want to live today and each subsequent day as if it were to be your last. You WILL feel a great sense of urgency to drop the things that don’t work and focus on the really important things in life. You will feel immediate relief from all the overwhelming pressure. You will yearn to understand why God put you here and to explore what exactly YOUR true purpose is on this crazy, warring and unsettled planet. You will never live alone and in fear again.
Today, things are very different: I am not the same person that was brought to his knees. I’ve changed completely! Really! Everyone I know or who has met me within the last few years recently will tell you so. Not only do I look completely different, but I am different inside and out. I’m happy and I smile a lot. I’ve lost a third of my weight. My body and internal organs have completely healed and been rejuvenated from all the years of neglect and abuse. I happily take care of my physical, emotional and spiritual health. My mind has finally come out of hibernation and the accompanying coma. I slowed my thinking to evaluate things and situations before reacting. I’m finally at peace with myself and happy most nearly every day. It’s all so different and new, I feel like pinching myself most of the time. I’ve even changed my name to M. Fenton Deutsch (from Mitchell F. Deutsch) not because I’m ashamed or embarrassed of my past, but rather because I want to celebrate the newness and wonder of this strange, different life. Really, you just can’t make this stuff up!! Besides being utterly humiliated, going to prison and losing everything is very humbling!
My friend Bill just sent me an email and had this to say: “It was really good to see you yesterday. Not only have you lost a lot of weight, but your mental state appears to be clear and focused. I know this is the product of lots of hard work. You are a beacon for us all! You are so fortunate that you have a network. It seems to really give you the support and love that we all need”. Thank you, Bill! It means a lot for me to hear that today.
Now that I’ve done my “time” and have reached the other side of that long dark tunnel, this is the true story about what happened to me and what I ended up doing about it. It is also your story, and can happen to you, if you think about everyday is if it were going to be your last. It’s an interesting way to think about your life and to re-frame and reconsider all those many things you thought important and why.
Today, I no longer take ANYTHING for granted. I stop and consider everything as to its real value and potential contribution to my current goals and values in life and their future impact on both myself and others I love and care for – which is most everybody lately. I no longer assume anything about anything or anybody. I’ve stopped judging others and myself. My thought, beliefs, attitudes and actions are, no longer misguided, superfluous and a luxury. Rather, they are finally aligned with my true values, a very adjusted attitude about how to live my life and with whom, and take on a longer-term perspective about living because I know now that I was here before and will continue to live even when I’m no longer here in this life. Now, for the first time, everything is different and all matters need be thoughtfully and consciously considered and prioritized. I am finally getting my own ducks in order. My goals and purpose are much clearer and the things that provide me with meaning today are very different than what they once were during the first 60 years of my life. I have finally discovered my own “truth,” my internal GPS, and I don’t ever want to forget it or take it for granted. You might say, I’ve started to live on purpose!
This physical, mental, emotional and spiritual transformation is a process and there is no longer any destination or fixed time schedule. It involves the WHOLE person – not just our thinking, emotions or spiritual condition. There is, however, a deep sense of urgency to make up for what I often see as “lost time.” I know that believing this statement brings additional risk, and that I need to slow down. I say this because I wasted most of my life misguided, not knowing right from wrong, good from bad. I did know that despite my successes, I was like a tornado whirling through the lives of everyone around me – causing constant friction and chaos. If only I knew then what I know now, perhaps things would have been different. But, sadly they weren’t. So, now I do know the difference and have made a conscious choice to do everything differently.
Living each day as if it were to be your last is one of those rare opportunities in life to actual live and to reconsider your own life before it is too late — while you still have the luxury of time to enjoy it and to make a difference in both your life and the lives of others.
So, here we go on this journey together. It will be uncomfortable, as everything good in life comes at a price and is never really “free.” But, as we will learn, pain is the touchstone of all meaningful change – whether you’re young or old, fit as a fiddle or ailing. Good things happen to those who wait AND are willing to do something about it today and for all the rest of the days of your life here and now and in the hereafter!
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