by Dr. Craig
PROLOGUE: I began this essay in the third person because it was intended to be a voiceover for a video trailer for which I was playfully preparing. However, after writing several paragraphs, I felt a profound, deeply healing sense of my life purpose and history, illuminated at a new level. I sobbed as the writing flowed, helping me feel more real and free than ever. Writing this essay in the third person provided me with healing I have yearned for my whole life. This article was originally published in November of 2010 in CoSozo magazine, and a few dates have been modified to make it more in accordance with the publication date on THE HEALERS website. There have been other minor modifications.
Other Ideas in Mind
When given the “death sentence” of ALS nearly eighteen years ago at the University of Michigan ALS Clinic, Craig was devastated. The experts warned him away from the “false hope” of becoming one of the rare cases of ALS reversal. However, Craig had other ideas in mind; he never returned.
When Craig was four, his father was electrocuted by 440 volts of electricity while swinging an ax into a wall at the Hercules Steel Plant. He was trying to get some free wood to fix up his poor family’s home. The factory employee, who had told him the power was turned off, had made a mistake. Robert Oster caught on fire, receiving third degree burns over much of his body. Little Craigie answered the knock on the door, and was the first to see the solemn look on the face of the police officer coming to notify the family.
In the hospital that night, Craig’s father overheard the doctor say he would not make it through the night. Much like his son 26 years later, Bob had other ideas in mind.
His father would return from the hospital after being gone for over seven months. Hearing this story over and over, and remembering the photos of his father’s charcoaled body, Craig would come to see his father as a kind of Hercules, an ironic nod to the name of the plant where the accident occurred. Could this little boy ever live up to his father’s Herculean accomplishment of miraculously standing up to death itself? Later in his life, he would do that very thing.
The internalized image of his father’s suffering, riddled Craig with guilt. He was a sensitive boy who vicariously carried his parents’ traumas. The boy’s powerful emotions affected his developing body and mind. He developed a psychosomatic skin condition, and was plagued with a deep existential anxiety.
His child’s mind had concluded that he must justify his right to exist. To be, or not to be? Craig’s soul would fiercely yearn to be, no matter what. Craig became driven to be a super- achiever. His hands would perspire during exams leaving embarrassing puddles of sweat on the desk. These hands cried out the tears of his panicked nervous system.
Other children teased him for having “old man hands.” Ashamed, he would habitually hide them. If the youngster had possessed a crystal ball, he would have been overwhelmed and bewildered to see that in his 30’s ALS would whither, twist, gnarl, and cripple these little shame-ridden hands. Craigie would have found it unbelievable that he would display these ALS-sculpted hands for the entire world to see, modeling loving self-acceptance and perseverance as a gift to the world.
Determination to Help Others
The child admired his Herculean father, who used his hands to work hard to give his son possibilities he, himself, had never had. Craig’s destiny to become a clinical psychologist, who would help many suffering people, was perhaps foretold in his tendency to reach out to insecure or unpopular children. In kindergarten, Craig felt proud when the teacher, seeing his sensitivity, asked him to stay after school to help teach an unfortunate boy who had worn pajamas to school.
In his late teens and early twenties, Craig endured near constant exhaustion, while working full-time to put himself through college, while carrying a full-time course load. He worked with people diagnosed as having mental illnesses. He saw them as terrified but beautiful souls who needed deep connection, understanding, and meaning. Craig’s difficult experiences, and the way he chose to confront them, were training him as a warrior, helping him develop an ever greater understanding of the power of the mind to achieve happiness, no matter what. The realization that he could use his understanding of, and overcoming of, his life traumas and hardships to help people gave him strength.
Craig was given the ALS “death sentence” diagnosis when he still had two years of doctoral work remaining, but he would not quit. Each week Craig also had to drive 90 minutes to another university’s counseling center nearDetroitto complete his remaining 1,000 hours of clinical internship as a psychologist. Exhausted, he would often pull over on the side of the road to nap. In good weather, he would take his nap in the back of his red Chevy S-10 pickup truck in a way that he imagined a soldier might nap, trying to remain alert to strangers who might approach.
The truck had ALS related “battle wounds” and Craig, himself, would end up in the hospital’s E.R. “bump shop” more times than he would like to remember, getting stitched next to his right eye on one occasion, and taking it on the chin and the top of his skull multiple times. Craig would also require plastic surgery after falling on a metal bar, breaking his nose and fracturing his cheekbone. Still, his focus on helping people was so relentless, that he always gave the E.R. nurses and doctors his business card, even on the day he broke his face. Perhaps, that was his way of saving face, in response to a disease that was stripping away how he wanted to be seen. It was his way of keeping hope alive in discouraging circumstances.
A Voice for the Homeless
When Craig was 12, a person close to his family stabbed someone in a dispute while attempting to defend himself. The youngster heard frightening talk of homelessness, because their house was used for the bond to free this person, who was being charged with murder. Later, in graduate school, with this formative experience in his subconscious, Craig comprehensively reviewed research on homelessness and worked long hours as a research assistant on a 1.5 million dollar homelessness grant project.
Craig spent one year volunteering countless hours raising money and community support to make a five-hour multimedia presentation on homelessness and racism available free of charge to 2,000 people at Michigan State University. He arranged with the local media to turn the event into a fundraiser for the local food bank. Craig’s Master’s thesis ended up being on altruism.
It felt ominous to the youngster to enter Jackson State Penitentiary in Jackson, Michigan to visit. Later, his dreams would be haunted by themes of being imprisoned; a symbol that would later mean even more as pound after pound of muscle was confiscated from his athletic body by the unforgiving prison warden, ALS. Craig hoped his sentence could be reduced for “good” behavior, namely, relentlessly working on healing holistically.
From time to time he would be reprieved by some improvements. Maybe this time his case would be heard by a higher court, and the countless demanding and disciplined hours of studying (spiritual/metaphysical/ psychological/quantum physical) law books, would help Craig win his case. He sought to understand the walls and fences that imprisoned him emotionally. Craig’s determination to achieve the highest level of self-understanding and awareness became even fiercer. When you’re trying to escape from the Alcatraz of ALS, you had better find every jailbreak tool possible.
In 2008, 14 years following his ALS diagnosis, after eventually losing 45 pounds of muscle, Craig entered hospice, barely able to breathe. The ongoing feeling of suffocation felt like the greatest cross he had ever borne. For the first time since he had rejected his medical “death sentence,” Craig thought he might really be on “death row.” He needed the help of either oxygen or a BiPAP breathing machine to get through the night. How long could this go on before his life would be extinguished by respiratory failure?
Still, Craig did not give up his intense, relentless, fierce mission of healing ALS. He has left no stone unturned. When Craig pursues an avenue of healing possibility, he pursues it intensely and with persistence. With much loving support, he eventually began to improve. He no longer required a breathing machine to make it through the night, and his hospice nurse was delightfully astonished to discover that Craig’s upper arm circumference had increased. He was kicked out of hospice.
Gratitude and Gifts
Craig sometimes sobs with gratitude for being alive, as he tells people how much he wants to serve humanity with his life. He is truly grateful for the learning opportunities that ALS has given him. It robbed him of most of his physical abilities, but not his love for humanity; ALS broke Craig’s heart open at a whole new level, giving him a most precious gift to give the world!
Craig was still able to practice in his office as a psychotherapist, up until about five years ago. One of his most powerful and rewarding memories was working with one young man diagnosed with ALS, who could barely speak. Craig had to rely on his ability to see deeply into a person through their eyes. His whole body shivered when he used empathy to give voice to the veiled terror of death he saw in the young man’s eyes. When Craig saw the relief in his patient’s face, that of a person who feels deeply understood, his heart and soul felt an incredible and meaningful expansion. He was entering into exquisite pain with him, pain all too close to home.
Craig’s ability and willingness to surrender to this was a gift, not only to the patient, but also to Craig. In that moment, ALS had become a precious gift to him; he could sincerely feel this from the core of his Being itself. Everything Craig had endured was blessedly being used to help the patient have at least a special limited day pass from the mental and emotional prison of ALS. Craig was never so honored and grateful. Craig’s own horror and devastation, faced with disciplined awareness, was being used for powerful good, for a man who would be robbed of his young life in less than one year after Craig met him.
Craig’s vision of using his life to help millions is a huge motivator for him to do whatever it takes to fully reverse the devastation that ALS has wrought upon his body. Also, Craig’s desire to help his 67-year-old mother, Bonnie, fills his motivational tank with rocket fuel.
Bonnie, spent her several hundred thousand dollar inheritance from his Grandma to help Craig stay alive. She toiled 50 to 60 hours a week at a Big Boy Restaurant. She did this while taking care of Craig’s Grandma for a few years while she was dying from cancer, and she continues while also spending countless hours every week helping Craig. It pained Craig to watch her physical decline; she was in near constant pain when working as a waitress. Her relentless focus on Craig’s healing and her love for her precious son has doubtless contributed to Craig’s survival. Bonnie nearly died from aggressive lung cancer, but is now surprising doctors with how well she is healing. She has been utilizing what she has learned from being a part of Craig’s healing journey and has a beautifully strong will to live.
Craig is eternally grateful for all of the loving people whose loyalty has helped keep him alive, and strong in his healing quest. He may know how Lou Gehrig felt standing before the world proclaiming he was the luckiest man alive. Craig wants to teach others how to persevere through the worst of circumstances. When people with ALS, and others with painful lives, become aware of his healing journey, Craig feels the sweet victory of having transformed incredible sufferings into beautiful and meaningful gifts of love to help others heal.
Persevering to Inspire
Craig has miraculously found the will to persevere through unspeakable fatigue in a body that has been ravaged by the monster of ALS. He will never give up. He will never back down. He has surrendered his life, will, and body to fulfilling the vision of inspiring millions with hope and new possibilities. This vision controls Craig’s life, because he has fully surrendered to it. He is now the leader of THE HEALERS campaign, with 55 remarkable advisors most of whom are internationally recognized, and he is now working on developing an innovative television series called THE HEALERS.