Earlier in the year the company reached a milestone - 25 years in business !
That should have been cause for celebration.
Instead I wondered if we could make it through another year.
By now I was also the father of 3 small children.
The photo (below) was taken in Thanksgiving of that year.
On the surface it shows me together with them - enjoying the changing leaves.
What the photo doesn't show is what I was feeling inside.
What I was feeling was fear. Fear, and a sense of complete failure.
Fear about losing the business, and maybe my home along with it.
Fear about what would become of my family if this happened.
I felt failure - both as a husband and as a father. How would I provide?
I felt failure also as a businessman; and as a boss.
After all, I didn't like having to lay people off for lack of work. They had families too.
And almost most painfully of all I felt failure as a son, to my father, for being the one at the helm as the place he created slowly sank.
Things were slipping from my grasp, and it seemed there was nothing I could do to stop it.
What made matters worse was the sense of feeling alone with it all.
Sure, I talked with my father to let him know what was happening, but despite his pep talks and words of encouragement I could also sense his disappointment and concern.
I was supposed to make him proud.
Instead, I was screwing up royally.
Teresa, meanwhile, had her hands full being a full time Mom to our 3 kids.
It seemed the last thing I needed to do was dump my problems on her.
So, I decided the best course of action was to simply suck it up, and keep my mouth shut.
In retrospect that probably wasn't the wisest thing to do.
At some point things spiralled down to absolute rock bottom for me.
One night I was sitting alone; mentally anguishing over what to do and what else to try. I had been going through this exercise already - night after night after night, for months on end, trying one thing after another after another - all to no avail.
On this particular night I had finally come to the realization that I was completely out of ideas.
There was nothing else to do; nothing else to try.
I had tried everything, and nothing I did or was going to do would make any difference.
It was humbling to say the least, because the smart guy who always had an answer for everything - who could always find some solution to any problem - was now totally tapped out.
It was done.
For the first time in my life I came to the realization that everything was totally out of my hands.
What happened next is probably the most difficult thing I have ever tried to describe.
Upon reaching this place of abject despondency, I found myself literally surrendering inside.
Somewhere deep within I simply "broke", and in that moment it felt as if my soul cried out for help. There is no other way to describe it - it felt as if I broke inside.
In that precise moment of feeling complete helplessness and surrender it felt as if this huge door swung open inside, and I just "knew" things were going to work out. I didn't know if, or when, or how; but somehow I just knew things were going to be OK.
Some people might describe this as a religious experience, and maybe it was.
While I have always believed in the existence of a God, or higher power, I've never considered myself to be particularly religious. So maybe the feeling was more spiritual, than religious.
Regardless of what that moment was, or wasn't, things didn't change for the better overnight.
But several weeks later the phone rang and someone paged me to say that a guy named J. Wade Beam from Brueton wanted to talk with me.
"Yeah, right", I thought. Someone must be playing a practical joke.