I want to throw up. It’s Sunday afternoon, and I need to get to a 12 step meeting—fast. I believe in God. I attend church regularly. But today I’m anxious, and the cravings for a drink or a drug consume me. Christian, you say? Certainly. Addict, too. The fact is I encountered Christ long before I encountered hash or vodka. But then came adolescence and an insatiable desire to be totally free.
Sitting in an uncomfortable pew contemplating the pros and cons of getting drunk or high, a gloomy feeling of despair comes over me. Just then, the choir breaks out into a jovial rendition of “Oh Happy Day.” Why do people congregate in religious theaters anyway? Perhaps it is the safest anesthetic one can find-a place where suffering can’t hurt us, at least for one hour a week. An ideal place for protecting, covering up.
I am not a saint. I am a believer in exile. I am in here with the faithful but somehow relate better to the addicts out there. It is not an easy thing to do, entering the doors of abstinence and staying put. I have a medical disease which I can truly call my own. Practice. Practice. Practice.
French writer Marguerite Duras shares intimate insights of her own struggle with the bottle: “Alcohol’s job is to replace creation. And that’s what it does for a lot of people…it helps us bear the void in the universe-the motion of the planets, their imperturbable wheeling through space, their silent indifference to the place of our pain. A person who drinks is interplanetary.” (p.17, Practicalities).
For a few years, the drugs helped me bear the void, temper the pain of my interplanetary existence. But then something went awry. I could no longer confront reality with the personal bravery that is required to triumph over escapism. My need to retract and distract are deeply rooted. The natural course is to blot out my mind. Instead, I pray when I can and enlist others to join me: “Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain” (1 Chronicles 4:10).
Self-ordained junkies always go hand in hand into the arena of chemical composition; they overdose alone. There’s a break in the service. The minister invites members of the congregation to approach the microphone and share prayer requests. I resist by counting the time on the clock until I can get to an AA meeting on Church Street (ironically), which begins in two hours.
I am not healed by dogma alone, but also by the love and non-judgmental circle of my anonymous 12 step friends. These are people just like me-wasted but willing to start over if someone will give us the chance to go on living, to bear the void (with faith as our guide) in an alcohol and drug free fashion.
I make no claim to know God fully. But, He knows me. I speak to Jesus the way I play-impractically. He has an aptitude for tenderness. No furious yelling or condemnation. He simply comes alongside me and baptizes me with tears. I feed on the tears.
Today my brain is clear. I am a faithful junkie staying sober on love. Now I can dream.