I recently watched the movie Garden State. It is a very well-done film that revolves around a young man who returns home for his mother’s funeral. One of the central themes of the film is brokenness. The protagonist of the film, played by Zach Braff of Scrubs, has traveled home, but he has also embarked on another journey—an inner journey. For most of his life he has been medicated with pharmaceuticals that numb him to real feeling. On this trip home he goes off his meds in a desperate attempt to “feel” again. He forges deep bonds with others who struggle with their own inner pain.
As I reflected on this film, I realized that my generation is a wounded generation. Much of this wounding has taken place in homes where disinterested parents abandoned us either physically or emotionally. We choose to deal with our wounds in various ways. Some of us, like the characters in Garden State, choose pot, alcohol and fleeting sexual encounters to try to numb the pain.
Others of us sadly succumb to the lure of addiction. Some of us become victims of our addictions and never recover. Others make it out somehow. I dealt with the pain from my past through a sexual addiction that robbed me of many things. My addiction made it impossible to be a whole integrated person. I lived a life of stark plurality. What you saw was not what you got.
At the height of my addiction, you would never have guessed what I did when no one was there to judge me or praise me. I thought I was living parallel lives of darkness and light. My public life was public, and my private life was private, and never the twain shall meet. But they did meet. My “separate” lives collided head-on when I suffered a nervous collapse at the age of 27. My exterior life was going great. I was doing well at my job. I was well liked.
But my addiction was killing me. I was suicidal. I had lost all hope. Finally, my parents, my boss and my doctor all concurred that I needed to come home and get better. So just like the protagonist in Garden State, I left the coast (Vancouver for me, Los Angeles for him) and came home (Saskatchewan for me, New Jersey for him).
I entered therapy immediately and was prescribed medication for my severe clinical depression. For the first time in my life I realized that I am completely at the mercy of God. I had always held onto an illusion of control. But God, in His grace, brought me to the end of myself so He could do His work of healing in my life.
It took me a full year of counseling, group therapy and medical supervision to begin to have a life that resembled wholeness. It was a year of grief and pain as I took off layer upon layer of emotional scabs in order to deal with the real pain. Too often we only treat the symptoms of the pain in our lives and not the actual source of the symptoms. But finally I began to see that a life of wholeness and integrity was indeed possible. My disparate selves could finally be integrated.
Today I am happily married and have a beautiful baby boy, who brings me more joy then I ever thought possible. I have good relationships with others. I can be honest with myself. I still struggle with sexual temptation, but I am no longer a practicing sexual addict. I am sexually sober, by the grace of God.
I never thought I would ever discuss my sexual addiction publicly. Indeed it has taken seven years to finally be comfortable enough to come “out of the closet.” I do so because I know that there are others who are living secret lives of shame right now. On the surface you are well liked, respected and looked up to. But you are haunted by self-loathing because of a compulsive addiction that you cannot stop. It may be an addiction to sex, alcohol or food. Whatever it is, I write these words to let you know that there is hope. There is healing. I am living proof.
If you struggle with an addiction of any kind, there is no reason to continue to suffer in silence. There are a myriad of resources that are available to help you. There are counselors, support groups and medical personnel to help you.
I have not discussed the role that the church has played in my recovery and that is because I was too ashamed to ever confess the depth of my addiction to anyone in the church. Why would I want to destroy the positive perception that others had of me by actually exposing my real self? I also now see how my pride prevented me from confessing my pain to others. I hope that the church will be a place where broken people can be real with each other. Within the church walls, I have always felt an intense pressure to be something other than who I really am. But I am broken; I am wounded; and I know that there are others like me. Will you speak the truth in love to yourself and walk with me into the light of forgiveness and grace?
My prayer is that we can journey together in truth and light, wearing our wounds as reminders of His grace. One day we will arrive at a place where there will be no more weeping and no more shame. This will be a time when Jesus will come down from the throne and wipe every tear from our eyes. I hope to see you there.