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Success Stories from the Heart: Passionate and Caring Stories to Open the Heart and Energize the Spirit to Succeed in Life and Love

Success Stories from the Heart: Passionate and Caring Stories to Open the Heart and Energize the Spirit to Succeed in Life and Love

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Success Stories from the Heart: Passionate and Caring Stories to Open the Heart and Energize the Spirit to Succeed in Life and Love

397 pages
5 hours
Feb 5, 2019


To commemorate HCI's 40th anniversary, many of its most loved and revered authors  have contributed personal stories of lifechanging events in Success Stories from the Heart. Poignant and inspiring from cover to cover, these authors generously share their personal journeys to find truth, the unexpected discoveries they made along the way, and the spiritual renewals they experienced as a result. A brave and mighty volume, Success Stories from the Heart bares their souls and tells the stories of not only their own lives, but of the many lives they've touched.

Each contributing author in this extraordinary book has played a pivotal role in the advancement of mental health services and personal transformation. They coined the phrases, they made the discoveries, they are the vanguards who brought us a deeper understanding of the issues that affect us, our families, our communities, and every one of our relationships. They are the true, indispensable guides and mentors who rescue us from ourselves and each other, that teach us better, more fulfilling ways to live.

These stories chronicle experiences that go beyond the educational realm, past office visits and therapy sessions, and brought them deep into the tender realm of the heart. They are the encounters that blurred the lines and made their work personal, the hopes and tears of their careers, the indelible scars that belie their commitment to do whatever it takes to make a difference. It is this blending of personal and professional life that births wisdom, that connects people, and heals a hurting world.

Let Success Stories from the Heart  inspire you—it's a celebration of 40 momentous years and a thrilling celebration of life!
Feb 5, 2019

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Success Stories from the Heart - Gary Seidler



Changing the lives of our readers and the people

they touch, one book at a time.

WHEN WE HIT THE ROAD IN THE MID-1970S IN A Volkswagen Beetle in Toronto, Canada, en route to South Florida, we never could have imagined the amazing places our journey would take us. Far more than the warm weather and breathtaking beaches, we embarked on a move that would bring us personal and professional success while bringing messages of hope and healing to people around the world. Success is not necessarily measured by what is in your bank account but by the lives that you’ve touched and the difference you’ve made in the world. Ours was a true Success Story from the Heart.

In 1976, we were two young men with a dream to start a business that would make a positive impact. That year, we opened the doors to the US Journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence, Inc., printing a small newspaper and informational pamphlets for professionals who deal with addictions. Drug and alcohol addiction has ruined people’s lives and torn apart families, and we hoped to be part of the solution by sharing the most current research information to the forefront. Along with working long hours and dedicating ourselves to our business, we followed fateful taps on the shoulder and took risks when they felt right even if the odds were against us. It was of the utmost importance that we follow our vision, operate with integrity, and place the highest value in loyalty and personal connections.

Eventually, as you will read in more detail, our company grew from its humble beginnings into a family of companies: Health Communications, Inc. (HCI), US Journal, Inc., and US Journal Training. While staying true to our beliefs, we grew into a powerhouse: publishing self-help and life issues books; publishing magazines on personal growth and trends for professional counselors; and providing quality training experiences for front-line practitioners in the fields of addiction, mental health, education, and related helping professions. We are a pioneer in the field of recovery book publishing, having produced classic New York Times bestsellers such as Adult Children of Alcoholics by Dr. Janet Woititz, and John Bradshaw’s Healing the Shame That Binds You and Bradshaw On: The Family. We are also the original publisher of the international publishing phenomenon, the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. We introduced readers to Dave Pelzer through his poignant New York Times bestelling memoir A Child Called It and the follow-up The Lost Boy, which revealed the horrors of child abuse and the strength and courage necessary to survive it.

In the more than four decades since we opened the doors to HCI, we’ve welcomed a remarkable group of authors into our publishing family; people with heart, compassion, and skill, who have touched and improved the lives of others. They’ve inspired readers to achieve their dreams, live lives of abundance, find solace and comfort, as well as the healing power of laughter. They, too, have stories of success that transcend the traditional definitions. In Success Stories from the Heart, you will read their personal stories of life-changing events. They generously share their own journeys to find truth, the unexpected discoveries they made along the way, and the spiritual renewals they experienced as a result. They tell not only the stories of their own lives but those of others they have encountered who exemplify what it means to be a better human being.

Each contributing author in this extraordinary book has played a pivotal role in the advancement of mental health services and personal transformation. They have brought us a deeper understanding of the issues that affect us, our families, our communities, and every one of our relationships. They are the true, indispensable guides and mentors who teach us better, more fulfilling ways to live. These stories chronicle experiences that dive deep into the tender realm of the heart. They are the encounters that ignited the fire to light the way for others.

Through their shared wisdom we connect and understand the meaning behind our mission statement:

To change the lives of our readers and the people they touch, one book at a time.

We hope you enjoy this book and find inspiration to find your true calling.

—Peter Vegso and Gary Seidler


The only real valuable thing is intuition.

— Albert Einstein

IN LIFE AND BUSINESS, I’VE ALWAYS FELT IT WAS important to read between the lines, to listen to how people say something as well as what it is they tell you, and to pay attention to your dreams and to your intuition. Doing so can change your fate—and in some cases, save your life.

Many years ago, my wife Anne, my two daughters, and I were visiting with Anne’s parents on a small island just off Victoria, Canada. My in-laws offered to watch the girls overnight so Anne and I could enjoy some relaxing time by ourselves on the other side of the island. The island was very scenic, and our drive would be interesting, taking us on roads where logging trucks once went, along the hillside, with rivers on the other side far down the hill. It was a nice break from the heat, humidity, and flat terrain of South Florida, the place we now called home. Still, while I looked forward to our alone time, I kept having a recurring and disturbing vision that started when we first got on the island: I was trapped under-water, and I couldn’t break through to the surface because it was covered by thick glass. I couldn’t figure out what this was all about, and the unsettling feeling stayed just below the surface of my consciousness.

We had rented a car in Seattle and took a ferry to the island. The car was fine when we left the rental agency, but when we landed on the island and began our drive to the other side, the vehicle started feeling strange. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it; the brakes and engine seemed to be working—which was good because we would be driving up and down mountainous roads—but something about it just didn’t seem right. I, too, started feeling out of sorts, but we continued along, looking forward to our mini vacation.

We hadn’t made reservations for a place to stay, thinking we would find lodging there easily. When we arrived at our destination, we were surprised and disappointed to discover that not a single hotel had a vacant room. We had no choice but to turn around, so we started our journey back.

Traveling along, we discussed how sad we were that we couldn’t stay when an enormous black bear came bounding across the road, seemingly out of nowhere. I slammed on my brakes to avoid hitting it. Anne and I were momentarily speechless—though afterward we laughed about it, wondering how we would have explained hitting a bear!

My heart was beating at a fast and furious pace, and all my senses were heightened. The foreboding feeling came back, now even stronger. A short time later, as we were heading up a small incline in the roadway, I lost control of the steering and the car began to fishtail, drifting wildly from left to right. My wife was totally scared, and I fought to control the erratic movement as we were coming up to a hairpin curve. I suddenly got control back, and Anne and I both breathed a huge sigh of relief. It was short-lived because the next moment I lost control again. Just as that happened, I had my recurring vision of being underwater, under glass. That thought caused me to react. I followed a strange gut instinct that, on any other day, I would’ve considered insane: I turned the steering wheel hard to the right, causing the car to crash into the ditch on the right side of the road.

Seconds later, an enormous semitruck loaded down with logs came barreling around the curve. Driving far too fast for this narrow part of the road, it was halfway in our lane. If I hadn’t driven into the ditch, we would have been smashed to smithereens, and likely would have ended up tumbling down the hill and into the frigid waters of the river below.

Anne and I had a few bumps and bruises, and the rental car was worse for the wear, but we were alive—and thankful to be here, ditch and all. I held Anne tightly, tears of relief and gratitude filling my eyes, thinking about all that could have happened but did not.

The police officer who arrived soon after to sort out the incident told us we were lucky to be alive, but then in the next breath wrote us a ticket for parking illegally—in the ditch. We were dumbfounded, but at least she apologized for having to do it. Rules are rules, apparently.

When we returned home, I shared our story with one of our authors and conference speakers, Jane Middelton-Moz, who has great knowledge of native people’s spirituality and symbolism. Peter, the bear was a warning of danger, she told me. It saved your life. I knew that it was true; I was trying to push away my vision of being in the river, but the bear wouldn’t let me. The next time I saw Jane, she gave me a gift: a talisman from a Native American who said I should carry it with me if I ever visit the island again—which I haven’t done, nor will I ever.

Since this experience, I knew for certain that even if your head tells you something that is logical and makes perfect sense, it is your heart that will always lead you in the right direction—and that just might be into a ditch (better than the alternative)! We need to listen to our guardians from above. While they cannot help directly, they can create thoughts, feelings, visions, etc., that we need to pay attention to, and let our gut (spiritual instincts) guide us to do the right thing.

Peter Vegso

Peter Vegso is an entrepreneur and pioneer of self-help publishing, best known for being the original publisher of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. Many years ago, Vegso made a commitment to be a conduit for good—for improving the lives of others in every venture he would undertake. Health Communications, Inc., the company he co-founded, is a leader in the field of mental health information. In addition to publishing books at HCI, his dedication to advancements in mental health care encompasses the experts who provide invaluable services to those in need and can be witnessed throughout the pages of the indispensable Counselor—the premier magazine for addiction and behavioral health professionals. U.S. Journal Training’s conferences provide top-notch speakers, workshops, educational opportunities, and more to professionals in the mental health field who share his heart for humanity. Originally from Canada, he now lives in Boca Raton and Ocala, Florida, where he enjoys life with his wife of forty-seven years, Anne, their children, and five very active grandsons.


Actions are the seed of fate deeds grow into destiny.

— Harry S. Truman

AIR TRAVEL CAN BE FRUSTRATING, ESPECIALLY when you are a frequent flier. There are the delays, cancellations, and sometimes lost luggage. I’ve learned you have to take things in stride and accept that these things just happen. On one particular occasion, one of these irritating incidents proved to be something much more than just a random event and, in fact, changed the trajectory of my life and countless others around the world.

I met Janet Woititz at the lost and found at Seattle’s SeaTac Airport in the spring of 1982. Neither her bags nor mine had come onto the luggage carousel. As we filled our respective forms describing our bags, it turned out we were both headed for the same conference, an annual meeting of the National Council on Alcoholism. Since we were going to the same place, we decided to share a cab.

Janet had meetings scheduled with publishers to discuss her doctoral dissertation titled Self-Esteem in Children of Alcoholics. I was attending the conference as an exhibitor for our fledgling publishing companies, Health Communications, Inc. (HCI), and US Journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

As it happened, I was familiar with the term children of alcoholics. Before immigrating to the United States from Canada in 1976, my partner, Peter Vegso, and I were young executives at the Alcoholism and Drug Addiction Research Foundation of Ontario, Canada. There, we knew an elderly social worker, R. Margaret Cork, who had conducted a study of young children who grew up in alcoholic homes; The Forgotten Children was published by the foundation in 1969.

As the taxi approached our downtown Seattle hotel, Janet gave me her card and a copy of her dissertation, which described the most common characteristics among the estimated 28 million Americans who grew up with at least one alcoholic parent.

I read her paper and found it captivating — clear and concise and something truly unique. I shared the information with Peter, and both he and I resonated with this landmark work, not only because of our familiarity with Margaret Cork’s study, but also because we both identified as adult grandchildren of alcoholics. We surmised that the vast majority of people — especially lay readers — had no knowledge of this term. This was a watershed moment; we knew the world needed to hear Janet Wotitiz’s message, and we were the messengers.

In 1983, our fledgling company, HCI, published Adult Children of Alcoholics: Common Characteristics, by Janet Geringer Woititz, EdD. I’m being generous when I use the term published because at that time we were printing pamphlets and a magazine, not books. We had one small printing press that cranked out the 112-page book. Now we just had to get word out to the rest of the world that we were going to change people’s lives for the better. Despite our optimism, the book was not exactly an overnight success.

In the early days of our company, HCI had no distribution beyond mail order. Bookstores of the day, including the chains B. Dalton and Waldenbooks, were uninterested in the subject matter. Based in South Florida, we were far from the publishing mecca of New York, making us virtual unknowns with no track record or contacts in the industry. How is anyone going to find this book? we wondered. As fate would have it, it was almost like that famous line from the movie Field of Dreams: If you build it, they will come. In our case it was, If you print it, they will read it. What happened next was magical and democratic in the truest sense: word-of-mouth marketing and a confluence of events. Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACoA) support groups, mostly derived from twelve-step Alanon meetings, were sprouting all over the country. People who had issues that had never before been labeled could now identify with something concrete and, thanks to this book — and Claudia Black’s similarly timed released It Will Never Happen to Me — actionable. We are not alone! they would tell each other, and soon The National Association for Children of Alcoholics (NCOA) was formed.

We soon developed a conference division, US Journal Training (USJT), offering professional and personal-growth conferences. We held our first Children of Alcoholics (CoA) Conference in San Antonio, Texas, not long after the book was published, and USJT, along with NCOA, held the first National CoA Conference in Orlando, Florida, in 1985. This major event attracted over a thousand people to Walt Disney World. Janet Woititz, Claudia Black, Bob Ackerman, and Roxy Lerner were among our top speakers. The enormous success of this inspiring event lead us to organize scores of events across the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. It was a true grassroots movement that was happening — something much larger than we could ever have anticipated.

Book sales swelled and in 1986, Adult Children of Alcoholics arrived atop The New York Times bestsellers list. The book maintained its position for almost a year and put HCI on the map. Most important, it was rocket fuel for what became a very significant social movement that paved the way to our understanding that alcoholism is a disease that affects the entire family and needs to be treated as such.

By the time Janet wrote her expanded edition in 1990, Adult Children of Alcoholics had sold almost 2 million copies in the United States, Canada, England, Australia, and New Zealand. It was translated into Norwegian, Finnish, Danish, German, and Russian. This was the beginning of an international recognition that the impact of alcoholism on children is similar regardless of culture, race, national origin, religion, or economics.

The Adult Children movement paved the way for a broader discussion of dysfunctional family systems, healing of the so-called inner child, and the identification of codependency. Scores of books, television programs, films, professional conferences, and personal growth workshops followed.

The period between 1980 and 2000 was full of revelations about addiction and mental health issues, personal growth, and individual healing. We were proud and honored to have been a part of that positive movement.

I often reflect about my move from Canada to the United States. Peter and I drove my Volkswagen Beetle from Toronto to Miami in October 1976 with no more than a dream to make a difference. We could never have imagined this journey of enlightenment. We have been blessed many times over with several bestsellers, most notably: Healing the Shame That Binds You by John Bradshaw; Learning to Love Yourself by Sharon Wegscheider-Cruse; A Child Called It by David Pelzer; and the phenomenal worldwide bestselling series Chicken Soup for the Soul.

I have come to understand that my fateful meeting with Janet Woititz was clearly guided, in much the same way as my encounters with many authors, teachers, and professional speakers. Several have become close personal friends, as, of course, had Janet. My fondest memory of her was us skipping arm in arm down 5th Avenue in Manhattan following a book signing at B. Dalton’s flagship store in honor of her dissertation hitting number one on The New York Times bestsellers list. We were filled with unbridled joy, appreciation, and gratitude — not simply for our success but for all the lives touched — and who would be touched in the future — by her life’s work. Sadly, she passed away in 1994, but her legacy lives on.

Even now, thirty-five years since the publication of Adult Children of Alcoholics, I am occasionally reminded of that book’s enormous impact. Not long ago, I was leaving a health spa in Arizona and overheard two middle-aged women in the shuttle bus remembering a conference where they had heard a lecture by Janet Woititz. I introduced myself as Janet’s publisher, at which point one of the women, with tears in her eyes, told me, That book saved my life.

This was not the first time I heard this — and I doubt it will be the last.

Gary Seidler

Gary Seidler has been one of the foremost supporters of the addictions and mental heath field for the past forty plus years as a publisher and professional conference organizer. He joined the Alcoholism and Drug Addiction Research Foundation of Ontario as Press Officer in 1970. In 1976, Gary and Peter Vegso moved to Florida where they co-founded Health Communications, Inc., and the US Journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence (later US Journal Training, Inc). He produced The Process, an award-winning docudrama, and his most recent project has resulted in The Heart Reconnection Guidebook. Gary continues to work closely with USJT in developing training conferences for professionals in the addictions/behavioral health field and is executive consulting editor of Counselor, The Magazine for Addiction and Mental Health Counselors.


"We must accept finite disappointment,

but never lose infinite hope."

—Martin Luther King, Jr.

THE BOMBS WERE WHISTLING THROUGH THE AIR. The rat-tat-tat of machine guns could be heard in the distance. She awoke, startled and alone. Her name was Ada, fairy godmother in Spanish.

The skirmish would be known as the Bay of Pigs Invasion, an armed confrontation between the Cuban National Army and a band of Cuban exiles returning from the United States.

Her husband had been hospitalized following a nervous breakdown that struck right after the government seized his business. Her children had been exiled to the United States. Her opportunities for leaving the country were running out, and she was convinced she would never see her children again.

Upon her next visit to the hospital, the doctors recommended that she take her husband home with her. The government would soon be taking control of the hospital, and there would be no guarantee that her husband could be discharged once that happened.

In addition to a visa to enter the United States, Ada needed a permit to depart Cuba, and some means of passage out of the country. The visa had arrived, but to obtain the permit she had to stand in line, often overnight. She slept standing up or laid out on the sidewalk. The waiting list for plane tickets was months long, and the only other route was a ferry ride from the port of Havana. When she learned that the owner of the ferry was Catholic, she went to see him.

He told her that there was little to no hope for passage on the ferry. He was kind but firm. She begged and pleaded, to no avail. The visa would expire prior to obtaining passage.

But the permit was finally granted. It was a Friday afternoon. She hurried to the ferry terminal to speak with the owner once again. He told her that the boat was filled to capacity for its last launching the following Monday.

She had sold all of their belongings, and she and her husband had to move to a hotel to await their fate.

On that Sunday, she asked her husband to attend Mass at a church where he had donated his time and skill. Prior to the service starting, she visited a side altar where a statue of the Virgin Mary stood. She prayed, Mary, you were a mother. You knew how painful it is to be separated from your children. Please help me be reunited with mine. She then took her seat in the back of the nave.

During the service, she noticed that the owner of the ferry boat was there with his family. When the Mass ended she told her husband that she wanted to thank the owner for his kindness. He replied, Don’t. You have bothered him enough! She went anyway.

The owner greeted her wide-eyed and open-mouthed. He said, Mrs. Monserrat, we have tried calling you at home all weekend to inform you that there have been two cancellations for tomorrow’s departure, and we wanted you to have them. She explained that she’d been living at the hotel. Go to the port tomorrow at sunrise and you will be on your way to the United States, he said with a smile.

As he headed toward the door, he turned to her and asked, Have you and your husband frequented this church before this time?

She replied, No.

Neither have we, he said.

Reverend Bernardo Monserrat

Reverend Bernardo Monserrat is the senior minister at the Church of Religious Science in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The author of HCI’s Faith It Till You Make It, he speaks at various conventions and churches throughout the year and has been published in Science of Mind Magazine. Along with his wife, he conducts workshops and seminars throughout the Southwest and California.


"Life is full of happiness and tears;

be strong and have faith."

—Kareena Kapoor Khan

AS A CONSULTANT FOR A HOSPITAL IN THE Midwest several years ago, I was invited to spend a weekend in Arizona to plan a retreat for the hospital’s board of directors. The theme was integrating complementary medicine (now called integrative medicine) into the existing practice of Western health care.

One of the retreat planning committee members, named Carolyn, generously invited us to stay as guests in her home instead of booking hotel rooms. We gratefully took Carolyn up on her offer. The drive from the airport in Phoenix to Carolyn’s home in Sedona was about two and a half hours. The scenery on our drive was amazing, and the clear blue sky and crisp air made for a wonderful journey. Carolyn would still be at her job at an area hospital when we arrived, but she had given us her address and left us a key under the mat to let ourselves in. When we arrived at the house, we found a note on the door telling us to make ourselves at home, which we did.

Walking into the living room, I could not help but notice a rather large montage of photographs on the wall that led down the hall to the bedrooms. The display depicted the family history of Carolyn, her husband Tony, and their two children. There were black-and-white photos from Carolyn and Tony’s wedding and numerous color photographs of the children. In the center of the montage was an 8 × 10 color glossy of her son. He was handsome, with blond hair and blue eyes, and I could tell from the picture that he was about twenty-four years old. He was wearing a uniform from one of the armed services. Another photo next to it revealed he was recently married with a full military wedding. Next to the young man’s photo was another 8 × 10 glossy color photo of their daughter; with dark hair and dark eyes she appeared a year or two older than her brother and, as far as I could tell, not married.

When Carolyn arrived home, we got acquainted, then made our way to dinner at a local restaurant. There, we discussed the national health-care crisis for several hours. Over steaming hot plates of pasta, we took turns describing our various experiences in the health care profession. I explained that my reason for the trip was to participate in a retreat planning session, specifically to organize a meeting for hospital board members and physicians to learn about the concepts of wellness and complementary medicine. As a nurse, Carolyn expressed a very strong interest in our efforts. She, like many people, had firsthand experience with the limitations of Western medicine.

That night, as I headed to the bathroom to brush my teeth, I again passed by the wall of family photographs. Carolyn met me in the hall and through the photographs, introduced her family to me; her husband, Tony, and her two grown children, Jerry and Lori. I had correctly guessed the ages.

That night I had a very vivid dream. In the dream, I was quite thirsty and walked into the kitchen of this house to get a glass of water. Standing by the refrigerator was a tall man, about thirty years old, with long brown hair, brown eyes, and a ruggedly handsome face. He introduced himself to me as Larry and said he was Carolyn’s son. He asked me to give her a message that he was all right, everything was all right—not to worry. Then he corrected himself and instead emphatically asked me to convey that he was GREAT. Absolutely great! He insisted that Carolyn would understand exactly. I smiled, shook his hand, and agreed to relay the message. I remember him saying a few more words to me quickly and then the dream was over.

The next morning, I awoke to the sound of Carolyn making breakfast in the kitchen. I got up, threw on some clothes, and walked down the hall past the montage of family photos. When I walked into the kitchen, I immediately remembered the dream.

Carolyn saw me and said, Good morning! How did you sleep?

Good, I answered, but I had the strangest dream.

"Well that often happens when you sleep in a new place. Tell me

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