This year marks my 20th year as a chiropractor. This career milestone has led to frequent reminiscing lately as I look back on my relationship with chiropractic, which has truly come full circle.
I remember sitting on Kaanapali Beach in Maui that month with my head full of exciting new plans. Staring out at the beautiful blue Pacific, my thoughts were on the start of our new life and family, the love of my chosen career path, my new practice, and my passion to begin healing the planet. The future was bright. Life was indeed good.
I have often read that when we make plans, God is laughing. He sees all and we see but a glimpse. This was my experience, because the next few years didn't quite go as I'd planned. My love affair with chiropractic was severely tested.
I followed through with opening my private practice. At the same time, to supplement my income and support the early days of my fledgling enterprise, I took a part-time job on my days off at a PI clinic several miles away. For a few months, all went well, but then I began to learn that my employers at this PI clinic were not who they appeared to be.
As I was summoned into a civil deposition, attorneys began to show me evidence that these employers were actually members of the Russian mafia! As I made my hourly wage, they were raking in millions of dollars through a host of illegal activities. Their medical clinic was a front for their schemes. Worst of all, I learned they had included my signature throughout all of their fraudulent activities (even ownership documents).
I began to cooperate in a massive federal investigation (IRS, FBI, Secret Service) and assisted in any way possible. Months later, my cooperation was cruelly turned against me by corrupt government officials, well-aware of my accidental ties to this criminal conspiracy. In reality, as a chiropractor, I was an easy target. I hope you hold no illusion that oppression and prejudice toward our profession has been fully overcome. After the information had been exhausted from me by the investigators (and despite my hourly wage), I was threatened with indictment as a member of the mafia.
Sometimes our lives can come down to choices. During our times of greatest challenge and crisis, these choices will determine our destiny. I now had two choices: plead guilty to crimes I didn't commit, receive probation and avoid prison time; or fight this injustice and risk going to prison for at least 10 years (away from my wife and daughter). The first option meant cooperating with the government and lying to put people in prison who might be innocent; the second meant doing the impossible and taking on the government.
After a very profound faith conversion, I chose to stand up and fight. As we begin to make the life choices God wants of us, however, they will rarely be the easy choices. Because I rejected the government's plea bargain, I would pay dearly. I endured an early-morning armed raid upon our home and was arrested at gunpoint by six FBI agents in front of my 5-year-old daughter (on her first day of kindergarten orientation). I was imprisoned in a personally selected jail cell with murderers, drug dealers and organized crime figures. And I faced an overwhelmingly monstrous federal trial against the most powerful institution in the free world. There was no human hope for me. In essence, I was dead.
It was at about this time that a series of seemingly miraculous occurrences began for me and my family. We were shown what courage, faith and the power of heartfelt prayer can bring to all of our lives when all else appears hopeless. Over the next year, we did the impossible. In this nightmarish true story that could happen to any of us, our family walked victoriously out of that courtroom into a world of freedom we had been deprived of for six years.
Shortly thereafter, I began to receive requests to share my story and its message of faith and redemption with churches, conferences and various organizations. Through the years, many people have expressed great appreciation for sharing our family's story. Last year, a book followed, which has become a popular seller within the Christian market. However, one area of my life still remained increasingly unsettled.
After my acquittal, I walked back into my life and attempted to resume my private practice. I soon began to grow very disillusioned with chiropractic. Certainly due to my traumatic legal ordeal, I saw chiropractic as the cause of all my problems. This was easily reinforced by the daily headaches and hassles of growing managed-care regulations, paltry insurance reimbursement for my hard work (one insurance check was for 1 cent), and an increasingly growing patient population seeking a cheap co-pay versus valuing chiropractic. The love affair was over. I'd had enough and I wanted out.
As I sat down with the headhunter at a local employment agency, I poured out my troubles and intention to get out of chiropractic. He listened to me with an increasingly sad look in his eyes. After I'd finished, and after a most uncomfortably awkward pause, he replied, "My son is in chiropractic school. He's about to graduate."
I felt terrible. I instantly remembered that time in my life when all things seemed possible with chiropractic and the excitement I carried to go heal the world. In my state of self-pity regarding chiropractic, I had unknowingly visited my darkness of bitterness and resentment upon this proud father. My relationship with chiropractic hit bottom that day in his office.
But things changed after that point. If I was going down, I would go down my way. With help from mentors, I mapped out a radical vision to recapture the passion and excitement I'd held for chiropractic on graduation day. I quickly got to work. I refocused my practice on serving others and improving their lives with the greatest health delivery tool available today, the chiropractic adjustment.
As a chiropractor, I had lost my appreciation for this gift to mankind. I wheeled my therapy machines to the curb. I resigned from my managed care networks. I focused on continuously improving the quality of my services to my community and adopted fair and affordable cash plans. I downsized my office and overhead, and I began to share our revolutionary chiropractic message with my community. Chiropractic became fun again. This excitement was contagious; new patients began to show up who made chiropractic their priority.
This was the vision I'd had on graduation day, before life got in the way. I'd allowed the dream to die, but now I had a second chance. Our legal ordeal and practice transformation taught me to defeat fear and doubt, and step out in faith with courage and hope. When we do, we are rewarded beyond belief.
It has been a difficult 20 years, but my love affair with chiropractic is back. It inspires me daily. I hope it does for you as well.
Dr. Michael J. Norman has been in private practice in Dallas, Texas for 20 years. He is the author of Unbridled Grace: A True Story About the Power of Choice. For more information about Dr. Norman, visit www.unbridledgrace.com.