|Hippies sharing a joint via Wikimedia Commons|
A human being opens his or her eyes and sees a new world. And it's a world they don't fully understand. Yet the joy of childhood, at least for some of us, was quite elating. Many did not even have that. Why? Well, because crazy things happen in this life, don't they? Just when we think we've constructed a semi-good little world around ourselves, something conspires to mess it up.
Yet suffering seems to be the only thing that makes us wonder, and ask hard questions. Suffering is the megaphone God uses to rouse a deaf world, as C.S. Lewis wrote. Maybe that's true.
We all have a story. We all have a saga through life. I'd like share a few pieces of mine with you today. I've often discussed my spiritual saga, from rise to fall, through the darkness and twilight. But I don't think I've taken this angle yet.
It was 2008, and I was a student at the university of Wisconsin ext. I was living in the dorms, and working on the college newspaper as one of the staff journalists. I was the gonzo journalist of the crew, employing a blunt new journalism style of writing to what I was doing then. All my coworkers were potheads of course. I was clean and sober at this time in my life, but I smoked a lot of cigarettes.
We liked to write edgy editorials, and I recall we wrote a great deal on the election that year, tearing into Obama and McCain, and we ran a full page ad for Ron Paul. I was kind of floating through life, do you know the feeling?
I just kind of floated. I had little thought of what I was doing. I knew I liked having fun, smoking cigarettes, writing articles, writing stories, sleeping with cute girls, and thinking about politics, philosophy, and spirituality. I was the typical idealistic college student.
I'd gotten into some trouble, ended up in jail a few times, I'd gotten charges, and had to get into treatment. That had finally settled down, and I was doing OK for a while. I had a close friend named Kyle, and we would go for walks almost every night. It was the oddest thing, but we loved it. We would often be up until 5:00 AM or earlier, walking along wooded streets in the forests of Wisconsin. Woods everywhere. Almost every night.
And then I met a girl named Gabbie. Oh boy she was trouble. She was one of those girls who said she likes to just be "one of the guys." I've never trusted a girl who has said that ever since. I think it's synonymous with "I'd like to size up your guy friends for an upgrade." Hard to say for certain. In any case, the whole thing ended in disaster and her and Kyle got together. I refused to let it go, after all, who would?
About a month later I picked up my drug of choice, a substance called dextro-methor-phan. It's the primary ingredient in cough medicine. When injested in large amounts, given the proper brands, or through purification, it would trigger a powerful high. The high would last from 4-6 hours. DXM as we called it, was in the realm of a drug group called "dissociative hypnotics." The drug would keep the user awake, jittery, yet also relaxed, and it would trigger mild hallucinations, mainly light effects. The interesting thing about the dextromethorphan drug is that the area of the brain it targets is the same part of the brain that lights up during religious worship. The enemy knew exactly where to target me with addiction. He knew I was destined to be a minister. Crazy, just crazy.
This began a curious descent in my life. There were several strands in the situation that all folded together to form the descent. First, there was the love affair with DXM. Second, there were my dreams, of which I recorded in great detail. I was prone to have premonitions of future events, and highly symbolic dreamscapes would unfold. And I would use those dreamscapes as inspiration for my books. Third, there were my writings at the time, during which I wrote thousands of pages. Many of those works were published, in online journals, Yahoo! News, Yahoo! Voices, the university newspaper, magazines, and even an indie journal in the U.K. I was messed up, but I was also a pretty good writer. Fourth was my spiritual journey. My spiritual journey took a very circuitous route. That happens when your looking based on preference, and intentionally evading a certain worldview that starts with a "C" and ends in "anity."
It's so hard to understand at this point in my life, but I'll share with you the situation: I was an artist in the area of self destruction. I was slowly destroying myself, and taking pleasure in the process. I was painting a tapestry of the entire affair with my writings, my dreams. In the end I wasn't just addicted to DXM, or alcohol, I was addicted to the desperate fast lane, the strangely appealing lifestyle of the meandering vagabond. I had become obsessed with the thought of joining the 27 club. I believed I would die in 2012, in November, or December, right around there. I had read that the world would end in 2012 somewhere.
As 2008, 2009, and 2010 passed Kyle my old buddy and I were both addicted to the sauce, using it as often as we could. Around that time I attempted suicide several times. I went to many rehabs, detoxes, and counselors. I kept asking them one question: How can I want to want to be better?
I'm not making this up, I asked that question to every counselor and social worker I met. I asked it again and again, and no one had an answer.
Today it reminds me of what Jesus said to the man at the well,"Do you want to get well?" (John 5:1-5).
I know the answer to the question I was asking for all those years. "How can I want to want to get better?" The answer is: You can't. You need to get on your knees and beg God for the willingness to want to be better. But a secular social worker or counselor isn't going to say that. Their approach is almost always based on the individual pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps. They instruct the client by having them set goals, and achieve them. Seems logical enough right? Maybe so. In fact that may work for some, but I think for the truly lost, the issue is not as simple as not having the tools. It's not wanting to use them.
Yet, why? The lifestyle of addiction causes so much destruction. I worked at a Salvation Army homeless shelter for over a year. I've seen people waste away, step by step, month by month, in and out, in and out. It's shocking. And you try to help, but there is nothing you can do. At the very heart of the human soul is this leaning toward destruction. It has baffled nurses, AODA counselors, and homeless shelter staff since the birth of such professions.
I could ask the same question of myself: Why was I like that? Why was I destroying myself? Why didn't I care?
I thought I needed a girl. I thought I needed the perfect high, maybe. And eventually when those fixes failed, I stopped wanting anything and just did what I knew.
I was obsessed with the book of Job for many of those years. I read it in jail more than once. A book on suffering. Interesting isn't it? Oscar Wilde himself, a hedonist felt most closely associated with the book of Job. Why does pleasure lead to so much suffering?
The most amazing fact of this story is this: I was right. I did die in 2012. I did join Club 27. I died. And I was reborn.
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