I didn’t learn this lesson until much later in life, it’s an important lesson for all of us: Smart people learn from their own mistakes, wise people on the other hand, learn from the mistakes of others.
I have always been driven by the ideals of compassion, justice, equality, and a level playing field for everyone. I was raised in the beautiful state of South Carolina, in a two parent home, with what appeared to be the makings of a successful life. By my junior year in high school, I served as a Page for the late Senator Strom Thrumond, who was actually the first and only U.S. Senator to have been elected as a write in candidate. During my senior year, I was the recipient of two Congressional nominations to the Service Academies; West Point, The United States Military Academy and Annapolis, The United States Naval Academy.
The cracks in the future that looked so certain, just a year before, started appearing by the end of my freshman year in college. During summer break between freshman and sophomore years, my identical brother, David and I came out as gay men. I didn’t know it then, but as I reflect, I never regained a firm footing in life after that process. I just didn’t know what help or tools I needed; of course, I never bothered asking because I didn’t have those skills either. I became what I like to refer to as the King of Great Starts; finishing, well, that was a different story entirely. I spent years going from cause to cause; providing me enough direction to at least allowing me to project the appearance that I was doing something. However, looking back, I can see that there was something that was just off, like I was out of sync. I always excelled at work but struggled with managing my personal life.
By the time I began working with Service Employees International Union (SEIU), I believed that I had found my place, finally. I was a talented organizer and it appeared that this was the place where I would grow. However, all of that changed on July 13, 2002, when my brother, David, my identical twin passed away. Reminiscent of my coming out experience, this loss, shook me to my core. I began questioning everything I believed in and became increasingly judgmental and negative-a morose engulfed my existence. I was frantically search for some relief with the coping skills that I had; which was to find the solution and “fix” myself. In the last few years of his life my brother, who had been vehemently anti-drug, had been using meth-amphetamines, at least “recreationally”. The curiosity of “what the attraction”finally won out the weekend following our 2003 birthday in October.
What followed would be a nine year journey of losing myself and finding myself again, but for the first time. What I have learned is that I experienced at least two crucial moments, while in an existential crisis, I lacked the knowledge or the skills to have made better choices. I retrospect, I was in active addiction way before October 2003, my first drug of choice was work or a cause. My mother profoundly ask at some point, “Dean, what are you going to do when you run out of causes?” A huge red flag that we both had missed, or weren’t sure if it meant anything at all. Today I have the awareness to pay attention to those subtle signals and immediately check in with the appropriate professional to find out what unresolved issue is pushing its way out. My journey is far from over.
Since coming into recovery, I have earned my credentials as a Substance Abuse Counselor, have engaged in spiritual practices which challenge and stretch me, and continue to educate myself in a broad range of subjects. I have continued to experience this prompting or urging-some internal push to do more with what I have been given. Which brings us to this moment.
I have, with the help of many friends, supporters, and family become a Certified Self-Talk Trainer by Dr. Shad Helmstetter in addition to the Business and Life Coach Certification. These only remain steps to a greater purpose. A purpose that intersects your life with mine.
As a strategic thinker who’s strength themes include achiever, connectedness, learner, input and intellection, combined with the diverse work experience with non-profit and labor organizations; ll in addition to the very personal odyssey of tragedy, loss, and the gift of redemption, I bring unique insight and a profound understanding of systems to individuals, leaders, and organizations.
My purpose and meaning is to help you find yours through working together to find synergistic solutions to your business and your life.