By Michael Vos and Jackie Acho

Shame lives in the dark and becomes a bully, internally then externally. Shedding light is the way out. We hope many more conversations like this are taking place.
Maybe with you?

razaan-shrestha-393565-unsplash (1)

From:” <>
Date: Saturday, September 29, 2018 at 12:29 PM
To:” <>
Subject: Catch up

Jackie, found your email on the McKinsey website and may not be the right way to reach out to you on a personal matter but all I had (besides Facebook…and a post to you probably was not the right way!).  I also have looked for excuses not to reach out to you in the past like “not having right email, Facebook messenger not the right way of communicating, etc.

So getting down to the reason for the reach out:  I’ve been sober for over 2 years with the help of AA and therapy. Without boring you with all the details there is a step where you address those you have wronged in your past and make amends. It is extremely difficult because you have to be brutally honest with yourself in the process.  It is step 4, the first 3 being addressing that you have a serious problem with alcohol and are an alcoholic.  There is a saying “1,2,3 it’s not about me” since many do not get to step 4 which is a “ruthless moral inventory”.  It took me a year.  Next step is amends to those you have harmed.

As you are painfully aware I was a binge drinker and my behavior was at times unacceptable. The event at the Christmas party was awful and frankly the worst on my list of amends.  And the only one I had not addressed.  It has followed me around and always been “buried”.  The recent stuff going on in the news has brought it painfully back.   I tried to convince myself I did not have to make amends, wasn’t that big of a deal.  But it was.  I didn’t even remember it (the event yes but not the details since I had blacked out) but I wanted to let you know it has haunted me for years.  I have two daughters that have had their issues like this and it was really hard for me to guide them.  Once I broke out sweating noticeably and it was confusing for them.  With everything in the news it has raised up the one item I had not yet made amends for out of a dozen. I am truly sorry for what happened. I make no excuses and I do not ask for forgiveness or understanding. I simply want to let you know that (and I hope you believe it) I am truly sorry.

You were amazing and smart and fun and I really liked you!  We had a lot of fun together and that closeness of the two of us working spun my head around.  That was still the highlight study of McKinsey for me!  I obviously confused myself in my highly inebriated state between a friendly affection like a sister and something else.  While I didn’t physically attack you (I think?) you I certainly was inappropriate (from those that explained it to me including yourself).  I remember like it was yesterday you coming in our team room, explaining it to me and myself covering my face in embarrassment.

I should have been fired for it.  Pure and simple.

The last two years have been incredible.  My ego had to be taken down to nothing and I had to rebuild from the ground up.  I practice meditation every day, eat well and carry myself well.  I have learned the difference between contentment and happiness.  I am content.  My materialism is gone.  I am divorced and live alone in Michigan.  My girls are in California.  That said I am closer to them than ever.  Just spent two weeks in Europe and unbelievably great trip.  I help them with homework twice a week.  Not the distant, exhausted, traveling, money driven, binge drinking (because I deserved the relief) consultant.  I do not say this for pity or to imply I got what I deserved just to let you know I treat the world better and the world treats me way better!

I have a great gal I’ve been seeing for awhile.  As the saying goes (and please excuse if I am sounding to self-help preachy) “you are only as sick as your secrets”.  I have told her about this which was very hard.  Suffice it to say she was very unimpressed and impressed at the same time but has accepted it.  She encouraged me to reach out.

I really appreciate your empathy in business concepts and try very hard to apply those in my current role at Spot Imaging.  VERY hard given the challenges of running a profitable business but I now believe its not what the results are but also how you get them that counts in the end.  I think these concepts are gradually taking hold and frankly you can have both of them.  It is really hard, takes extra work, but you can.

In any event thanks for listening and no expectation that you accept or respond.

All the best!



From: Jackie Acho <>
Date: September 30, 2018 at 6:13:58 PM EDT” <>
Subject: Re: Catch up

Hi Michael,

It’s nice to hear from you. I’ve been thinking about you during these last few days too. I remember connecting with you around the time my daughter was born about this same topic. Unless it was a premonition? In any case, please know that I do forgive you. Other than that moment, I enjoyed working with you too. You were not a bully or a mean person. You were drunk and mixed up. I felt as if we sorted it out afterwards, so I’ve not harbored any ill will.  To become sober is hard. It’s wonderful that you have been for over 2 years.

I’m so glad to hear that you’re doing well and connected to your daughters. Girls need their dads! I know my relationship with my own dad helped me keep my head straight many times, including at that holiday party….and with other men throughout my career. Our culture is so mixed up about sex, so it’s no wonder that men and women working closely together get confused.

I’ve been married almost 20 years. A great guy and partner. Our kids are 16 and 14, girl and boy. I worry about what’s wrong in the country and the world – which is toxic emotionally and physically – but our home is peaceful. I made partner in Cleveland in 2000 but left to start my own business in 2005 so I could be with the kids more (John shifted how he works too). It changed a lot about how I work and what I do. I’ve co-written a book called Empathy Deficit Disorder: Healing from Our Mi-xups about Work, Home, and Sex that will be published next month. I work with clients like the Cleveland Police on issues like empathy. So…it’s a far cry from the work we were doing, but it’s also similar in some ways 😉

My mom is a therapist who specializes in substance abuse btw. Her dad was an alcoholic. Although I never drank to excess, I realized a few years ago how we’re all being played by addiction and recently let go of drinking too. It just wasn’t doing my liver and the rest of my body any favors…..despite the bogus research, paid for by the wine lobby….

Whatever happens with these hearings, it’s great to have this virtual conversation with you. This is the kind of healing we need as a country. I hope there are many more conversations just like this happening right now. And, if you were ever up for the Supreme Court, I’d back you up! It takes courage and wisdom to move honestly through struggle as you have done.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Take good care of yourself and your girls.

Warm regards, Jackie


Photo by RaZaan Shrestha on Unsplash

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An Antidote to Our Empathy Deficit Disorder


An Antidote to Our Empathy Deficit Disorder

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