from the sober minister

It was nice to wake this morning without the rain……
The skies cleared enough for me to see through my front window and notice the flashing red lights from the top of a nearby water tower.
And from my back window, it was nice to see the color of morning ricochet along the bottom of clouds as they moved with the wind.
It was nice to watch a trail of geese flying by in an uneven v-shaped formation.

I sat my cup of coffee beside a dish with biscotti cookies next to my computer. Then I cracked the blinds open to let in some light.
And then came my words with The Father….

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from you….”

This comes from Ephesians 2:8
It is hard for me to understand why some prosper while others perish. There has to be a reason, I say.
When I was younger, I would have answered this by telling you, “God hates me……that’s the reason.”

I felt my first epiphany of God in the basement of house on Adlin Court.
It was passed the hours of 2:00AM and after vomiting into the sink of a laundry room. I felt warm, withering on my knees, and finally, I was able to swerve into the mindset that I was hoping for.

While listening to the faint sound of music playing in the background, I stared into a lava-lamp and watched the blood-red bulbs of colored liquid move inside a cone shaped glass with a yellowish light in a golden stand. The shag rug was black and red; the walls were paneled, and it was here that I slipped into a nod for the first time.
I felt the same as the formation of  those blood-red bulbs inside that lamp. I formed into a weightless version of myself and dreamt of stained glass windows.
I pictured weeping angels falling downwards, and as I lifted through my mental atmosphere, I thought of God.
I thought about the difference between Heaven and Hell …and then it came to me

I was once told, “This is the devil’s world until the Messiah comes back.”
In my realization, I returned from my mental oasis, and as I did, I turned to my friend and said, “I figured it out.”
Of course, my eyes were halfway shut and my voice sounded cloaked from the narcotics.

My friend asked, “Figured what out?”
Like me, his eyes sunk down. His mouth was opened and his watery blue eyes glistened from the zombie-like symptoms that come with heroin.

“They say this is the devil’s world, right?”
My friend turned his head as if to feed into a conversation that could only happen when high.
“Well, if this is the devil’s world,” I explained, “Then this is hell….and if when I die, I won’t go to anywhere. I’ll just be reborn and come back here. Maybe I’ll be worse off….maybe I’ll be poor, or sick, but whatever I come back as, I’ll have to keep coming back until I get this right.”

I told him, “If I die….I won’t go to hell. I’ll just come here.”
“And what if you get it right,” he asked.
“Then I guess I go somewhere else.”
All my friend could say was, “Yeah,” as if this was the biggest thought any of us could ever have.

 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from you…”

The definition of war stories amongst people trying clean-up is defined by glorifying the life while excluding the pain or emotions. The stories lack the aspect of truth in which, they are only told halfway.
But this is the other half:

Young kids
….teased by thrill
run too fast to catch the tail of lightning

They smile their crazy smiles
and laugh at the edges of sanity

‘I just wanted to feel wild,’ I said

Try this kid….
This will make you feel more wild than you ever imagined.

Mike asked, “Do you have another cigarette.”
I opened the red top from a box of Marlboros with my cold red hands. I shook the package to expose the four speckled-orange filters, which represented the last of my cigarettes. Another cigarette; however, was turned upside down.

“Why is that one upside down?”
I answered, “It’s a wish cigarette.”     (I was always wishing for something)
I shook the package and bounced one of the cigarettes to shoot upwards.

“Here,” I offered. “But we’re gonna have to stop so I can get another pack.”
Cigarettes were a necessity to my ritual. They helped bite the edge and gave me something to do when dealing with the end of my drug binges.
As for Mike, he only smoked on occasions. But when he did smoke, it was on occasions like this one.

He reached for the cigarette with the cuff of his black jacket covering halfway down his hand. His pale skin was dry and his hand seemed to tremble.
I noticed the sap-colored scab that was just below the fingernail on his pointing finger. There was a white smear on the inside of his sleeve, and had the cocaine demons not stole my ability to laugh, I would have pointed this out.

The last time Mike wore that jacket was when we stole a bottle of Ritalin from someone’s medicine cabinet. But rather than swallow the pills and test the poor speed-like high, we chose to crush them, chop them into lines, and then we snorted those lines into our nostrils through a straw.
I remembered this because Mike wiped his nose on the sleeve of his jacket—we were so unbelievably stupid at that point—we thought we were cool.
We were living life on the edge, but more accurately; we were at the starting point of addiction.

“It’s cold,” Mike said. “We have to find somewhere to go…..otherwise, we’re gonna freeze out here.”
The wind blew Mike’s long blonde hair, exposing his wide-opened eyes.
I pulled the black hood of my sweat jacket over my head and then zipped the front of my black leather biker jacket.

“Maybe we can break into the basement of that bar again?”
I liked Mike’s suggestion. We had broken into the basement of a bar near the corner of Front and Merrick. The only problem is there were no lights in the basement. The floor was covered in dirt, and the last time we were there, I noticed shadows of mice passing through the glow of our candle.

We used a candle for light; but the candle was also a source of flame, and rather than deal with the constantly flickering my cigarette lighter, the candle helped when preparing the batches for our fix.

I suppose everyone has their own way of preparing their fix.
My way was with water, cocaine, and baking soda.
The trick is to get the proper balance of each three.
I mixed the ingredients into a tablespoon with the handle bent upwards.
Then I place the bottom of the spoon over the flame to heat the contents.

The mixture bubbled and sizzled.
Then it quickly solidified in the basin of the spoon, which is what we called, “The hit.”
Then I scraped the hit from my spoon and loaded it into the mouth of a glass pipe—and I would repeat this action, all night, until there was nothing left to smoke or cook.

Mike’s idea about the basement was good. It was warm there. There was no wind to blow out the candle, and while the crowd on the floor above us laughed and drank to the music from the jukebox, we could hide below and finish our stash.

After getting through the rear gate behind the dumpster at 7-11, I was able to open the cellar door to the bar and grille.
Then, we snuck down the concrete steps, and then we hid in the basement behind a pile of dusty old boxes, which were filled with empty bottles.
Our plan was simple; if we heard a noise, or thought someone was coming, we would blow out the candle and be hidden from sight.
The idea made sense; however, we did not account for the paranoia.
We did not consider the nervous whispers that crept in our imagination. We forgot about the locked or grinding jaw and the unbearable fits of paranoia.

Every sound in the basement was a trigger. Every creak in the floorboards above, and even the flickering shadow from the candlelight would trip the alarms in our mind, and cause us to blow out the flame and curl in the dark.

We fell into the bottomless fall of a binge…
This is the part no one sees. This is the part I was warned about. I was told about the chaos. I was warned about the paranoia, and of course, I was warned about the fiend…..and the fiend is the worst.

The fiend is the most lifeless, possessed feeling imaginable. The fiend comes when you want more but there is none.
My stomach was empty and growling. My heartbeat pounded. I felt the opposite of my perfect high.
I felt my nerves fray like the ends of a tattered rope. I became another frantic piece of the cocaine machine.
I was worse than rat looking for food.
I was worse than a cockroach as it scatters across the floor.
I took to the lowest form of life and crawled on the ground, searching on my hands and knees, hoping to find a piece of something I dropped from the spoon. This way, I could smoke that last hit and hopefully find some reprieve from the desperateness.

I was warned about this.
I suppose I saw the warnings like the caution signs on a roller coaster, or a ride at an amusement park.
Perhaps, I saw the warnings as an attraction rather than frightening. I suppose, I thought it wouldn’t be that bad.
I saw this as death-defying.
I thought I could handle it.

But that’s what everyone thinks

One night, the paranoia was so bad that I shoved my bedroom furniture against the door because I thought someone was in my house. I created an escape route in my head, and then I crawled along the floor with sweat beading down my face; my long greasy hair was drenched, my skin was pale, my lips were white, and worst of all; while I was crawling along the hardwood floor like a scavenger, I kept saying to myself, “I’ll never do this again….I swear to God! Once I get through this….I’m never doing this again.”

But I did—

Powder fades into blood
 and Thoughts disappear in dream

  Your only shelter is a palace without windows
Your only exit is through a maze of extravagant lies

  The sun moves to its last moments, and you
…… frequently gone
  whither into the waves of gentle chaos
and dangle with the wasted like a lost child of God…..

Months later….
I opened my eyes and the hours that passed felt like minutes. The weekend, which began like any other, started with a binge that began on Friday night.
Then came Saturday, and of course, Sunday followed with more of the same. I could smell the aroma of burnt hair. And of course, it was mine. I singed the ends of my long bangs while nodding as I lit a cigarette.

The season bordered on springtime, but the cold refused to let go. The winds blew heavy, and while sitting with my back against the wall of a delicatessen on Prospect and East Meadow Avenue, I watched the traffic lights sway like colored pendants, hanging from a chain.
I was across the street from the town park, which was a place where I used to feel welcome. I was alone. The street lamps hung over the two-lane avenue like aluminum arms and the lampposts around the deli began to come alive….

I gathered myself to the best of my ability and walked over to a small cemetery, which was behind the Church on East Meadow Avenue. It was not the prettiest of places, but it was quiet, and I could nod off without any interruptions.

This is the part no one discusses; the loneliness, the sad desperation.
Trying to become something and feel better, I became nothing and felt worse.
I was thin and my skin color was sickly. There were no friends around me, there was no one to trust.
I switched from the speedy cocaine demons, and instead, I found a warmer climate beneath the wings of heroin’s dragon.

As I hid in the back of the small cemetery, amongst the graves from a previous century, I closed my eyes and felt as I did in that basement on Adlin Court.
I imagined the sound of breaking glass, tinkling, and then fading into an almost noiseless vapor.
I envisioned weeping angels falling downward and thought to myself, “Please God, get me out of this….I don’t want to live like this anymore….”

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from you…”

I sometimes wonder why the will of God the Father works as it does. Why do some live as others die; why is there good, and why is there evil?
Why did I turn left when everyone else turned right, and why was I picked up by the police when everyone else got away?

I’m sober almost 23 years now. And had I turned right…..maybe I wouldn’t be here to tell you this story.
Had I turned right, maybe I would not be sitting in the warmth of my home, looking through the blinds of my window, and waiting for the rest of my family to wake up? But I am
So there must be a reason

For it was by grace that I was saved, through faith—and this was not from me.

No matter how good or bad things may seem….
Mo matter how sick or how strong….

There is a purpose for all of us.
And if you ask me, I believe I am living proof




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