Sunday. Let me explain as I have been to prison twice, county jails too many times to count, years tangled within my own web of addiction – heroin, meth, pills, cocaine, hash, drink, anger, lust – all this with a family of 4 children, a co-addict wife, living where ever available like friends, unfriendly folks, the dope house where more things were being sold other than dope, the car, shelters, parks, on and on and on where there seems to be no time as hours blend into days, days blend into weeks, weeks blend into years, and it all blends into life. Acceptance can be so evil.
One day a family member told me that on Sunday their church was going to have a potluck and we should come. I couldn’t remember when the last time the kids ate anything, let alone a meal. Let’s face it, there were more important things to do with the money I was able to con, steal, or borrow. Now having already taken care of the morning fix I thought “Why not?” so off we go, not knowing what to expect. Hey, there might have been an “opportunity” – I’m sure you know what I mean! I don’t even remember what was said during the service. I do remember folks were welcoming and nice, introducing themselves and making a fuss over the children and it felt good. I did get the feeling that some of them might have been educated on our situation, but I felt safe. And the food. I know I was hungry which could make anything taste good but even to this day I can smell and visualize the spread consisting of bowls and platters of meats and side dishes and casseroles and desserts. It looked as though there was enough food to feed a small army. Did I mention the desserts?
At some point, not exactly sure when, the Pastor introduced himself, welcomed us, and started small talk about the kids, the weather, the church, eventually asking whether I was working or not. Not wanting to explain how busy I was just getting together the daily coinage to ensure my wellness, I said no, at which time he explained that they were looking for someone to clean up the church and would I be interested. “It would only take a day, maybe two after Sunday services and possibly another half day or so after Wednesday’s bible studies.” So many thoughts quickly ran through my mind… “I really don’t want to work, I don’t have time to work, how much could they pay, and then the real line of thinking…. do you see the amount of equipment in this church? TV’s, computers, mixers, musical equipment, stereos, speakers, monitors, DVD players, DVDs?” And like a master closer in a high stakes real-estate venture the Pastor says “We will just get you a set of keys and you can do it on your own schedule!” Keys? Thinking to myself “Do you have any idea who I am? The only thing I know about trust is I don’t trust myself.” Let’s face it, I know a good opportunity when I see one and this was a good opportunity. When can I start? Something I just could not shake from my thinking that evening was why would someone, let alone a pastor offer me an opportunity to gain access to the building and all its bounty? I know he knew who I was, I know he knew I used drugs, I know he knew we were homeless, I know he knew I had been to jail, I know he knew I couldn’t be trusted, I know he knew the misfortune I was capable of. So why? I can’t remember when anyone, especially anyone who knew me, offered any trust let alone the keys to the Kingdom with all its gold and silver. A different feeling was encompassing my whole being. I was stumped but also had a feeling that I hadn’t felt for years – a feeling of achievement, a good feeling, mysterious but good. Oh don’t get me wrong! Being in the depth of addiction there are many achievements but they usually tarnish, stain, and even hurt your inner self – guilt and self-pity among them – negative scars, harmful, and destructive type of achievements. Very different from what I was feeling after accepting this new opportunity. You know, like a picturesque fairy tale type of euphoric feeling. A pleasant feeling, a safe warmth had overcome my core.
My thoughts raced. “Maybe I should give this a chance. I am good when I put my mind to doing something. There is no way I can let this person, these people down, who have placed a trust in me when no one for many years has shown an interest let alone given me an opportunity to achieve, to build, to value, all foreign yet so different in my model.”
There is a question I get asked often when discussing addiction in general, the effects, the causes, the history, the stories. Mostly I get asked “What works? Where was that turning point in your addiction?” So, I tell the story above of “The Day I Was Trusted” and yes, there were many variables that followed and yes, it may be hard to understand why this was a turning point in not only my life but those under my care, and the countless number of people that have crossed my path over the years to follow, associated in one way or another with addiction. I heard once where God is in the multiplication business and now I understand. It was like that scene out of a movie where there is no life, no breathing, the heart has stopped as death sneaks in and you see that aggressive powerful picture of a downward fist slamming into the chest and a sound, a gasp, a new beginning, a fresh start, a total do-over as the breathing starts and the heart beats. Yes, guarantees are few but people every day will walk away from addictions, that I can guarantee.
(See Part 2 – The Day I Was Trusted – Continued)