I Love Life: I Dated a Stripper and Found Jesus!
I was obsessed with being a success. It consumed my thoughts morning, noon, and night. Every day, I had been racing against every moment of every waking hour, struggling to achieve.
I couldn’t sleep for more than a few hours a night. My mind was preoccupied with planning events and appointments for the following day.
I had only one purpose: making it to the top, even it if killed me. My family was secondary to me being Number 1.
While working as News Director of KXRB Radio in Sioux Falls I became one of the nation's most successful radio reporters. Seven days a week non-stop, I sold the networks interviews and stories about blizzards, grasshopper invasions, droughts, you name it! I packaged up the audio and fed to the networks’ news desks in New York City.
My radio reports caught the attention of the program director of the Grand Ole Opry’s WSM Radio in Nashville. He offered me the position of news director for the 12 person news staff! I eagerly accepted and moved along with my family.
I was now a broadcasting executive in Music City USA! As the station’s news director, I did whatever it took to be a step ahead of the competition. I loved it! I had the freedom to create programs and radio campaigns about a host of community concerns, including child sexual abuse, violence and drugs, AIDS, and missing children.
I was taking care of everyone except the people closest to me.
I was on top of the world. I earned dozens of major community and broadcasting honors, including three national Edward R. Murrow Awards and the coveted George Foster Peabody Award to prove it. I was even honored at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. for overcoming childhood speech impediments.
Yet, my wife and three sons were not part of my life. I took each of them for granted. I wouldn’t take vacations with them. I always had an interview or station meeting to attend. I was caught up into the “Me, Myself and I Addiction.”
Instead of cutting back my news commitment, I added to my duties by creating a daily international radio program. I called it the “Grand Ole Opry Minute.”
Aside from running the station's news department, I was now in charge of finding country stars seven days a week for the program. This meant spending even less time at home and more time at work.
After 23 years of marriage, my wife had had enough. Susan told me “I don’t love you anymore and I haven’t loved you for ten years.”
I had ignored her and it caught up with me. I told her she was my foundation, but that didn’t matter. The years of avoiding a committed relationship had taken its toll.
I fell apart emotionally, spiritually and physically. I had taken advantage of Susan and our three sons. Now, I was alone.
Ironically, my work at the radio station was no longer important. My love of work collapsed. The damage was done.
Instead of being my wife, Susan fell in love with another man.
Not long after our divorce, I was knocked down again. WSM’S management fired the majority of my staff, including me. After making the job my top priority, I was now out of work. If that wasn’t enough, I then ended up in the hospital with health problems.
Looking back I think God was knocking me off my pedestal. Divorce, job loss, illness: it was as if God was teaching me a lesson as He did with Job!
Right after the divorce, job loss and illness, I was hurting and blaming Susan for dumping me.
That’s when I become embroiled in a world of darkness. I was totally lost. I wasn’t prepared for what was about to happen. I thought of myself as a loser and as a broken man. I had hit rockbottom.
The darkness grabbed me by the throat and wouldn’t let go. No longer living with my wife and three sons, I was now isolated in a small apartment alone.
I wanted immediate relief. For some unknown reason, I really thought I could find it in a strip club. I was searching for relief and sought out unhealthy relationships. A part of me was ripped open and exposed to the world.
Although I knew it was wrong, I frequented strip clubs throughout Music City! At one of the clubs, I connected with a dancer who goes by the name Amber. I wanted someone to talk to and she was willing to listen.
While at the strip club on a Friday night, I was talking with Amber when I got a call on my cell phone. It was from a minister who I had known for years. He was aware of what I was going through.
I told him just hours ago I had put a gun to my head and wanted to pull the trigger. I was a broken man - physically, emotionally, spiritually - crying for help!
During the phone call, Pastor Jason told me: “I know where you’re at Jerry. We need to pray.”
That’s just what we did. As unbelievable as it sounds, I will never forget sitting in the strip club with an exotic dancer and both of us accepting Jesus Christ in our lives.
It is true: without faith nothing is possible! With faith, nothing is impossible!
I excused myself from Amber and drove to the local mission to meet Pastor Jason. Once together, he told me something I have not forgotten.
"If you dwell on the darkness you will never see the light.”
That one statement literally transformed my life. I was wallowing in self-pity and constantly obsessing about past regrets.
“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 of darkness. The two cannot dwell together.”
Those words hit me like a ton of bricks. Instead of thinking about the blessings of life, my mind was consumed with failures, doubts and lots of negativity.
That night I decided it was time to make some 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 to others in need of spiritual support.
It wasn’t until I returned to South Dakota from Nashville that I finally accepted responsibility for the marital break-up. I admitted to myself that I am a workaholic and realized the addiction devastated my relationships.
Although two of my sons have severed contact with me, my middle son Jeff has forgiven me and is now a part of my life.
Instead of lashing out with anger and the PLUM (Poor Little Unfortunate Me) Syndrome, I finally was able to move forward with a renewed love for life. Only this time, God was my foundation.
It was during the dark times when I made a life changing spiritual commitment, a commitment that carried with it HOPE!
“I will rejoice and be glad in your loving kindness, Because You have seen my affliction. You have known the troubles of my mind.” - Psalm 13:7