Joe Kissack: Finding Freedom in the Hollywood Hills
By Dory Nissen
The 700 Club
CBN.com -- “That’s all I really have wanted is acceptance, and acceptance from my dad, that what I was doing was enough. It was good enough. That I was good enough. That I didn’t have to perform in order to be loved.”
From an early age Joe Kissak felt like he couldn’t please his father. Even in his 20’s when he married, and launched a career as an executive in Hollywood, his father was critical. “I would sit with my Dad and still not hear ‘Great Job’. And it’s almost like on the inside I would say, ‘This is as good as I can make it. I can’t do it any better, or work any harder than I’m doing. And if I can’t get you to say ‘good job?’ - It was just very deflating and defeating to me.”
No amount of awards or number of promotions made Joe happy. “I was miserable on the inside. I had gotten what I thought what I wanted but it didn’t satisfy me.”
His doctor prescribed medication for depression. “He evaluated me and started me on depression medication. And that was the beginning. It was a couple of years of experimenting with the right chemicals that were supposed to help with producing the right balance in my life.”
Joe began taking larger doses than the doctor prescribed and even traveled to Mexico to buy drugs without a prescription. “As the pressures would mount, the more I would take just so I could feel normal again. So I could feel like I could do my job.”
His wife Carmen, knew something was wrong. Joe denied it. “When I had these moments of clarity, there was guilt and shame. I was so sad about what I had put Carmen through.”
Joe and Carmen got together every year with their close friends Howard and Mary to celebrate the wives’ birthdays. One year, Joe was so high on prescription drugs he was incoherent. “I was stumbling and falling down, and had to be held up. I was oblivious to how severe and how bad things had gotten.”
The drug abuse eventually cost him his job. At the peak of his career, he was fired. Howard came over to have a serious conversation with Joe. “He simply said to me, ‘You need to get help. You’ve got to go someplace and get help. You need to go to whatever kind of hospital, psychiatric hospital and you’ve got to get help for this depression. And, get whatever this stuff is that is taking you out, get it out of you.’ And I just simply said, “OK I’ll do that”.
Then Carmen found Joe’s stash of prescription drugs. “I didn’t deny it. Deep down inside I was glad that she found it, because it brought an end to it.”
Joe agreed to check himself into a psychiatric hospital. “I felt like I had failed. I failed at life. I’d failed the ultimate failure. It was life. I was never going to be that guy that my dad could say, ‘I’m proud of,’ because I was going to go check into a psychiatric hospital with depression. It was the biggest failure of my life.”
The day before he was admitted, another friend paid Joe a visit. “He was saying, ‘I’m sure there is some good that can come out of this hospital that you are going to. But I cannot sit back and let you think that some method of saving yourself is the answer.’ He said. ‘There is one solution for what it is that you need.’ He said, ‘It’s a relationship with Jesus Christ.’ And I said, ‘OK, how do I have that?’ He said, ‘We are going to pray. We are going to pray this prayer where you are going to accept Jesus as your Lord and as your Savior.’ And we did that.”
“The most incredible sense of peace and joy and this calmness felt like it was filling my body; that it was being poured into me like cool water being poured into me. And it felt like it went down to the bottom of my feet and it started to fill me and fill me and fill me and fill me until it got to the point where it felt like it was flowing out of me and out of my pores. It was absolute pure joy.”
Joe successfully completed the program in the hospital. When he got home, his enthusiasm for his new found faith was even stronger. He had finally found acceptance through Christ. “It was unbelievable. It was the greatest time in my life. I could be anywhere filled with joy. I could be sitting in traffic filled with joy.”
Joe wrote a book The Fourth Fisherman, comparing his life of feeling lost, to fishermen who were lost at sea. His book helped him launch a new career as a motivational speaker. “For people who would say that this is not possible for them because of their past, because of their baggage, because of what they’ve done, that they’ve been too bad, because their life has been too messy, I know what that feels like. That was me. I’ve been there.”
“Without Jesus Christ I’d be lost. I’d be living a life of absolute struggle to find any purpose, to find any meaning. I am a completely different person with Jesus Christ in my life.”
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