JERRY’S SIX LIFE LESSONS written by
"I Love Life" Broadcaster Jerry Dahmen
I really do love life! Thanks to adversities that have come my way, I have learned to savor and appreciate its many blessings. But, that wasn’t always the case. Right at the height of my career, I experienced an unexpected and devastating divorce. To top it all off, a sudden job loss!
My brain was on overload. It was as if the foundation of my existence was ripped from my life. If that wasn't enough, the stress and anxiety put me in a Nashville hospital with a heart condition! Here I was---one of the country’s most honored broadcasters, having received over 100 major broadcast and community awards---including 3 Edward R. Murrow Awards and the Pulitzer prize of broadcasting: the George Foster Peabody award!
I was a successful 17 year veteran radio news director for the Grand Ole Opry's WSM Radio, the proud son of 3 sons, a solid (or so I thought) 23 year marriage. Now in an instant, the life I knew and loved was gone. I was totally lost. I wasn’t prepared for what was about to happen. I was filled with remorse, guilt, shame. Like many men, I had allowed my career to overwhelm me---at the expense of my family. I was caught up in the 'me, myself and I addiction.' My wife, who I considered my best friend, was now my unfaithful adversary. That was really tough to handle.
I thought of myself as a loser and as a broken man. I had hit rock bottom!
Fueled by the losses, I soon became embroiled in an all out pity party! Guess what? I was the only one at the party. My mental outlook could best be described as a “P.L.U.M.”---POOR LITTLE UNFORTUNATE ME. Zig Ziglar would call it a case of "Stinkin' Thinkin!'"
Like a lot of men going through a divorce, I visited strip clubs in Nashville. I even found a friend at one of the clubs.
At the time, I thought that was a way to escape the loneliness that had consumed me. If that’s not enough, I also got addicted to the drug called “AMBIEN.”
I couldn’t face myself. I wanted out of my life. I was emotionally frozen. That’s when I heard about this magic pill. My doctor told me this was the most effective sleep aid on the market. What he didn’t tell me was that the drug has powerful side effects. Some people who use the drug have done unusual things while sleeping or in a sleep state.
I quickly became dependent to ambien after taking it day and night. It was my crutch. I was able to mentally escape from the depression and sadness that overwhelmed me.
But, the bottom was about to fall out! After taking the drug one afternoon and quickly falling asleep, I actually got in my car and aimlessly drove around Nashville. I remember nothing about the drive. But, once back home, I regained awareness and viewed the damage to my car. I had totaled the vehicle and remembered nothing about it. I was hooked!
Satan grabbed me by the throat and wouldn’t let go!
While in the hospital, I made a suicide pact with myself. It was my secret. I vowed to purchase a gun and end my life. It’s not so much that I wanted to die. I just didn’t want to live. I was like a character in a Bob Dylan song---‘when you’ve got nothin’ you got nothin’ to lose.’
Once released from the hospital on Christmas eve, I drove to a gun shop and bought a revolver complete with ammunition. I went back to my apartment carrying the gun with me. Once inside, I took the gun out of the box!
I put the gun in my hand! I took one bullet and placed it in the chamber and I shoved that gun to my left temple with the intent of ending my life.
I danced with the Devil and tried to kill myself!
With perspiration dripping from my forehead, I heard in the background, a friend of mine on the radio. Right then, Pastor Jason was saying…in a soft spoken voice: I know there is someone out there who needs to know God has a plan for you. God has ‘purpose’ for you.
Right then in an instant, it’s as if angels entered my apartment. I felt a sense of hope and calm. (arms outstretched)
I put the gun on the bed, got dressed and drove down to the strip club where my friend Amber worked. While there I experienced another miracle! Pastor Jason called my cell phone.
Pastor Jason told me “I know where you’re at. We need to pray. “ That’s just what we did. As unbelievable as it sounds, I will not forget sitting in the strip club with a dancer and both of us accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. It’s absolutely true: Without Faith, Nothing is Possible. With Faith, Noting in IMPOSSIBLE.
I excused myself from Amber and traveled to the mission to meet Pastor Jason.
A Christmas service was taking place inside. Pastor Jason came over to me. We sat down in the sanctuary. I told him about the gun, the divorce, the job loss, the health problems, the strip clubs and the hopelessness in my life.
Surrounded by the mission’s residents, who were joyfully opening their Christmas presents, Pastor Jason gave me an assignment. He encouraged me to listen to the hundreds of I Love Life interviews I had recorded for over 25 years and concentrate on finding out what it’s taken for each of my radio guests to triumph over adversity. As I uncover the answers, Pastor Jason told me to incorporate them into my life.
Pastor Jason also shared this one statement with me: We are and will become what we think about!
That one statement literally transformed my life. I was wallowing in self-pity and constantly obsessing about past regrets. All of my thoughts were painted with negative images.
That night I made life-changing decisions. Amber also moved forward with her life---leaving the strip club, getting involved in a Tennessee church, and sharing her personal story of faith with others needing spiritual support.
“God has a plan for you,” explained Pastor Jason. “You need to recharge your life with God’s love. Remember: Joy is of Light. Sorrow is Darkness. The two cannot dwell together.” Those words hit me like a ton of bricks. Instead of thinking about the blessings of life, my thoughts were consumed with failures, doubts and negativity. Pastor Jason put it this way: “Your mind is like a computer and has to be reprogrammed---not with criticism, but with positive thoughts, ideas and concepts. Positive thoughts, he told me, create positive results. And, if you fill your mind with the word of God, you’ll have the strength to triumph over the tough times in life.” You also need to forgive your wife. "Forgiveness," he told me, "frees the forgiver more than the forgiven.’” Pastor Dave's advice, combined with the I Love Life stories proved to be the inspiration to discard the past. With the passing of time, my life was overflowing with an attitude of gratitude!
Instead of lashing out with anger and the PLUM (Poor Little Unfortunate Me Syndrome) I was finally able to move forward with a renewed love for life. Only this time, God was my foundation. It was during the dark times, that I made a life changing spiritual commitment---a commitment that carried with it HOPE, which the Bible says is one of the three greatest gifts a person can receive. The hunger for Ambien vanished, the desire to make the rounds at strip clubs was over. The need for attention was secondary to loving the people that God placed in my life. Yes I can truly say” I Love Life In Spite Of It All! Thanks be to God for His incredible grace!
Thanks to Pastor Jason’s suggestion, I discovered (through the hundreds of I Love Life interviews) the key ingredients of turning adversity into victory! I call the winning formula: Jerry’s Life Lessons.
I’ll share the six lessons in my upcoming speeches!
Book of Psalm: I will rejoice and be glad in your loving kindness, because you have seen my affliction. You have known the troubles of my mind.
JERRY’S LIFE LESSONS
1. If you dwell on the darkness, you'll never see the light.
2. Take the focus off you and strive to help others.
3. Fill your mind with Godly thoughts.
4. Forgive and let go.
5. It’s not what happens to you! It’s how you react to it.
6. Lighten up and Savor Life!
Jerry is the host of the inspirational "I Love Life" radio programs. The award winning broadcaster is also the author of two best selling "I Love Life" books.