The year is 1991. Great things are happening for me and my fast-growing business. I am getting more comfortable as a business leader, though it was all new to me. I was learning by trial and error, and I made more errors than good decisions. I was never a high-ranking officer in any company before starting my own business. I was learning “on the fly.”
The company had been nominated for a few awards in 1991. Because of the level of the competition and my own self-doubts, I never dreamed we could ever win a business award. I didn’t have a Master of Business Administration degree or any business training. I had faith, desire, a willing to work hard, and family support at home. I was too naïve to know I couldn’t make it.
We were one of the finalists for the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year Award in 1991. My wife Karla and I and our guest attended this big event. I never in a million years believed we would win.
Well, guess what? They called my name as the winner. I am not ashamed to say that I actually started crying tears of joy. I don’t cry easily, but that night the tears came out of nowhere. I gathered myself and gave my speech.
That is still one of my greatest moments in business. To be in business 30 years makes me feel pretty good.
Later in 1991, I was nominated for a national award. I won and traveled to Washington, D.C. for a ceremony at the White House. I will never forget Karla and I entering the White House for the very first time. We were wide-eyed and in awe. We kind of shied away and watched everything unfold as we ended up winning one of the awards.
We have been to the White House under four presidential administrations: George H.W. Bush, Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama. When I went the third time, I was no longer intimidated. I sat in the first row for the program. (More on our White House visits later.)
Well, 1991 was huge a success. We won two prestigious awards, one local and one national. We were soaring! I felt like nothing could stop us now. Little did I know how wrong I was.
In early 1992, my whole life changed by saying a few words for the first time in my life. I really don’t know why it happened the way it did, but now I know God had a bigger plan for me to be a spokesman and advocate to help other adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
I had planned on dying with my childhood secret but because we had found out someone we knew had been sexually abused, I blurted out to my wife, “Karla, I was sexually abused as a kid by a babysitter.”
It came out of nowhere. I couldn’t believe I said those words to anyone. Saying those words out loud made it real for me. I always felt that if I never said it aloud, it didn’t really happen. Deep down inside, I knew that this secret was slowing ruining my spirit.
Anyway, I thought things were okay. But within a few months of saying those words, I felt myself changing. I started getting more nervous and anxious than usual. I had trouble sleeping and felt out of sync.
Finally it happened — something that I had never experienced or heard of before — a full-blown panic attack, then another one, and finally a complete nervous breakdown. I was now a broken man. I had no idea at the time that childhood sexual abuse was the reason for all of this.
I will say God’s grace and mercy, great therapy, my wife Karla’s hard work and my inner drive pushed me to slowly recover and heal. A very select few knew what was going on. Rumors were spread that I had a heart attack and all kinds of other stuff.
As the owner of a small but growing business in 1992, I couldn’t disclose everything. In those days, people had trouble understanding childhood sexual abuse survivors and the impact on the physical and mental health of the survivor.
Somehow I was able to keep the business afloat and win some big projects, all while trying to heal in secret. The year 1992 was the toughest year of my life. No one should have to suffer in silence. That is why I speak now for my fellow survivors.
As I mentioned earlier, we went to the White House in 1991, and we were in awe. I went back for a business committee meetings under the Clinton administration, then back again when George W. Bush announced the new African-American Museum project on the National Mall. That was an awesome experience because I got to meet some of the original Tuskegee Airmen, Dr. Dorothy Height of the National Council of Negro Women, and others.
I had learned the sitting was “first come, first served” in many White House meetings and ceremonies. I went to the front row right in the center of the room, in an aisle seat right where the president and all of the dignitaries marched in. I got great pictures, including a picture with then-Senator Obama, First Lady Laura Bush, and many others.
During Obama’s presidency, we went twice to the White House. I was fortunate enough to have my younger brother working there as a presidential appointee. My brother got to bring my parents in on his last day on the job and we all hung out with the president for a quick photo op.
We all have stories to share. We can recover from “brokenness” and meet with presidents!
Never give up on your dreams. Regardless of our pasts, we can still achieve great things. If you are suffering in silence, remember you are not alone and you are strong.
In my book “Fighting Through the Fear,” there are many stories like this as well as my journey in life and business. Buy it on Amazon in paperback or on Kindle. You can also purchase autographed copies here from Moodyspeaks.com