In 1978, Mike and I moved into a home on a little canal in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It was there that I met Judith, the next woman to have a life-changing impact on my life. Judith lived across the street from me, and as our friendship blossomed we began to meet several mornings each week at 5:30 a.m. With coffee in hand, we drove to the beach just in time to watch the sunrise, jog, and discuss various spiritual literatures.
If it was EST that cracked opened my armor-plated heart, it was Judith’s influence that replaced the confused and punitive worldview I held with one of infinite spirituality. When I learned that she was studying to be a minister, I was deeply intrigued. Spiritually, I felt like a babe just awakening and ravenously hungry.
While jogging on one of those glorious, sun-filled mornings, I was suddenly struck with a profound knowledge: that the God of my childhood understanding was not the God I was awakening to. That long-held image of a jealous, judgmental, controlling God who lived in a far-away sky could never again be the God of my understanding. On that hallmark morning, I came to believe that God, as Mystery, lived within each of us, inviting our participation in a direct relationship. The beauty of that moment was stunning.
Before long, Mike and I began attending classes at Judith’s church, where we were introduced to “New Thought” teachings by such spiritual giants as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thomas Troward, and Emmet Fox. Along with their writings, we studied Varieties of Religious Experiences by William James of Harvard University. In the midst of all of these amazing insights, I was shown the thrilling truth, once again, that I could change my very life experiences from the inside out by choosing to view the world through a different set of beliefs.
I began keeping a record of every negative thought I held about myself throughout the day, and I was shocked at how relentlessly I beat myself up over every conceivable mistake. By always expecting the worst, I attracted harmful people and thus harmful experiences to myself—or, at the very least, I diminished the potentially positive experiences I might have had. While I didn’t feel I deserved for bad things to happen to me, I certainly had believed that if a bad thing was going to happen, it would most definitely happen to me—and all too often it did.
Within the atmosphere created by Judith and her church community, I continued to awaken to the power of my internal spiritual life. I became like a kid in a candy store. I read every metaphysical and philosophical book that I could get my hands on. As my new perspective on God and myself grew, the world began opening up in exciting ways.
Acting upon my growing sense of self-confidence and general competency, I began working as a fairly successful insurance agent. I also enrolled in night school two nights a week, working toward an associate degree in the arts. Me! I was going to college! I was emerging from a life of self-loathing and self-condemnation! Unfortunately, however, my drinking—which had served for so long as an escape— continued to haunt me, threatening to undermine my progress.