Norm Miller:  Personal Testimony

picture of Norm Miller

Norm Miller, chairman of Interstate Batteries, shares the kind of wisdom you’re not likely to hear from many top executives in the business world. For one thing, he is a believer. He believes in the American Dream because he’s lived it. From a humble beginning as a traveling salesman for Interstate, he worked his way up through the ranks to become CEO and chairman.

Norm Miller is also a believer in God’s power to change lives, because it was that power that turned his own life around after years of drinking as hard as he worked.

That was the beginning of many changes in his personal and professional life. At the same time, there were some things about Norm Miller that stayed the same. His creative energy never flagged, and his willingness to dream up and try new ideas remained his hallmark.

As a result, Interstate Batteries is now one of corporate America’s stunning success stories, a robust company that enjoys an unparalleled reputation for excellence and honesty.

Candid about his failures, overflowing with a wealth of practical advice, and always colorful, Norm shares what he’s learned along the way in three exciting and successful decades at Interstate.

Norm Miller is Interstate Batteries Chairman of the Board. He is also a board member for Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas Seminary Foundation, and the Overseas Council. He is cofounder of the Great American Race, America’s premier vintage car event. He and his wife, Anne, have two children, Tracey and Scott, and five grandchildren.

I grew up in Galveston, Texas. My dad ran a Gulf service station and garage, so I’ve been around cars for as long as I can remember. I guess that’s how I ended up in the battery business.

But I inherited something else from my dad—drinking. On Saturday afternoons at about two o’clock, he and others at the station would set up a little bar in a back room, and all the regular customers would go back there and drink. I remember him saying he just wanted to have a little fun. Often along about eight o’clock the other men would have to carry my dad home and put him to bed. Well, I followed in his footsteps and started drinking in junior high school. I can’t remember not having “partying” as my major game plan, so I gravitated around the type of people who drank a lot. This was easy to do in Galveston, because it was a tourist spot—a big party town.

Somehow I made it to college and just went on partying, only I began to drink more. I never had been much of a student, so it wasn’t long before I started thinking about dropping out and moving on. But I realized that once I was out I would be competing against people who had finished school.

So I completed college, got married and eventually ended up working with my dad and brothers at an Interstate distributorship out of Memphis, Tennessee. Two and a half years later I returned to Texas to work directly for Interstate’s national office located in Dallas. That meant I was on the road a lot, traveling across the country. That first year I was away from home more than eight months, which freed me up to just keep life simple—drinking, partying and selling batteries!

After several years, my wife had decided that sooner or later she was going to leave me. Her father had been an alcoholic, so she knew what she was up against.

Now remember, I’d been getting loaded at least once a week for 20 years, often drinking to the point of blackout. Fridays were the worst. I would always drink and party on the plane ride home. In fact, once I’d had two or three drinks, I’d want to go until everything shut down and/or the bottle was empty. Later I’d feel bad about it, but drinking seemed to ease a pressure that would build up in me every four or five days.

One night back in 1974, I ended up drinking as usual until the bars closed at two o’clock in the morning. Afterward, as I was driving home, I got pulled over by the police. I already had been convicted of two DWIs, but somehow I talked my way out of getting arrested. When I woke up the next morning all hung over, I called in sick to work. Then as I lay there in bed, the truth overwhelmed me. I was an alcoholic just like my father. I’d lost control of my life. That was a frightening realization!

At the very instant I realized I had become an alcoholic, I blurted out in a half-yell of desperation, “God, help me! I can’t handle it!” I’ll never forget those words, because He took the compulsion to drink away completely. It was over right then. I realize it doesn’t happen that way for everyone, but it did for me, and I’m eternally thankful. The weird thing is that if you’d asked me the day before if I believed in God, I would have told you that I didn’t know—that I hadn’t given much thought to it.

Alcohol is not the only thing that can enslave a person. It enslaved me, but you may be the prisoner of something else. That something else may be gambling. I know guys who can’t get through a week without laying down serious money somewhere. Their lives are out of control and they’re miserable. But they’re hooked. Or how about drugs? Or pornography? Or even food or tobacco?

My point here is not to preach or lay a guilt trip on somebody. It’s just that I believe a lot of people can point to some area of their lives where they’re not free. They’re caught up in a life-wrecking compulsion. Something else is in control. When I was drinking, for instance, I never meant to drink too much, but I always did. The stuff had me. I wasn’t free.

Now here’s where the gift of freedom comes in. Living the way I was, you can understand that I almost never went to church. Religion meant nothing to me. But along about this time, a friend of mine began telling me what the Bible had to say about life and living it. I quickly cut him off: “If you can show me how I can buy the Bible as the TRUTH, logically with my brain, then I’ll pay attention to what it has to say. Otherwise, as far as I’m concerned, it’s just another old book, a bunch of people’s outdated philosophies or whatever, and I don’t need it.”

I thought I was throwing a big challenge at him, but he met me head on. He got me some documented books, and I began to research the validity of the data supporting the Bible as God’s truth. It was objectively overwhelming, especially in three major areas: archaeological discoveries, the history and weight of manuscript authenticity, and most of all, from the proven fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy in the New Testament hundreds of years later. I went over and over that. The supporting evidence was so strong that I began reading the Bible and attending a Bible study.

An important verse for me was, “Seek and you shall find...” I told God that if He was for real, I was a “seeker” and I wanted to find the TRUTH. So I kept studying.

The Bible says that “Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” It teaches that we’re all “slaves”—not just to alcohol and drugs, but to sin. Each of us has sinned against God and gone our own way, independent of Him. With a self-centered, do-our-own-thing attitude, all of our lives have fallen short of God’s intentions for us. Just as the Bible says in the book of Romans (3:23), “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

I knew that was true for me! But the good news is that “the Truth shall make you free,” and Jesus Christ is the Truth! So I accepted Him just as the Bible teaches: as my Lord and Savior, as God’s own begotten Son who died as payment for MY sins. In Him is the forgiveness of sins and the power of self-control in being freed from the bondage of sin. Jesus is the gift of freedom, the power for living, and He gives eternal life!

You can accept Him right now, just like I did, by repeating this prayer and making it the commitment of your heart. Just pray...

“Dear God, I want freedom from the slavery of my sin. I believe Jesus is the Truth, and I accept Him now as my Lord and Savior. I ask you for forgiveness of my sins, because He paid for them for me. Please give me the power to live a life pleasing to You. Thank you for this gift of new and eternal life in Christ! In Jesus’ name, Amen!”

If you prayed this prayer, I’d like to send you some additional information that will help you grow in your understanding of Christianity and in your faith in God. Write to: Norm Miller, “Growth,” 12770 Merit Dr. Suite 1000, Dallas, Texas 75251.