I never thought much about the different concepts of God. All I knew is the lessons I was raised with. I was told there is a God and I was taught about my religion. I assigned myself to the religion of my upbringing, but at the same time, I never knew what to believe and aside from this, I never examined my thoughts on God.
I was raised in a Jewish household in a mainly Irish/Catholic, Roman/Catholic, anti-Semitic town. I was told I was different.
We were Jews and I mean this in the negative sense of the word. When I say we were Jews, I mean were part of a race that when the word was said, the pronunciation made this description sound dirty, as if it were an adjective instead of a noun. I never understood why this was. All I knew is I never felt comfortable being who I was, a Jewish kid with an Irish mix.
As far as me and my thoughts on God, I never paid much attention to the teachings o my family’s belief and I only knew one kind of prayer.
Also known as Foxhole prayer, mine were the prayers that were said when the world was against me. I saved my prayers for the bad times.
I said things like, “Dear God, please get me out of this.”
Perhaps on drunken nights my prayers sounded more like this, “Oh God, please stop the room from spinning,” or “Oh God, please let that be the last time I throw up.” And usually, it wasn’t.
I remember feeling sick. And I mean the worst kind of sick. I mean the kind of sick when you drunkenly lean your hand against the wall to stop the world from spinning—only nothing stops; the earth spins uncontrollably and so does the floor beneath you. Everything spins and next, your stomach empties while screaming the loud retching sounds that come from the gut and shoot through your mouth, often echoing in the mouth of a porcelain god, otherwise known as a toilet bowl.
Oh, but I prayed.
I prayed when I found myself in trouble. I prayed when I ran and I prayed when I wanted to get away. Sure, I knew all about God. I knew Him as a Man in the Clouds with a long gray beard. I envisioned God to look something like Charlton Heston when he played Moses in a move called The Ten Commandments back on October 5, 1956.
I never knew anything about the spirit or the word of God. All I knew is that I felt uncomfortable in chapels. I never liked walking into churches or temples. I always felt awkward as if I were sat before an uncomfortable presence; as if the presence could see directly through me and deep down; somehow, I felt completely exposed. No, I never thought I would come to grips with this. I thought I was irredeemable. No God if any God would care to save me.
No way . . .
I was a few months into my time in treatment. I had finished 30 days in one facility and 42 days in another. There were no real challenges for me in either of the first two places. These were short-term places.
They call them “30 day wonders,” because somehow, the patient is said to be magically cured after 30 days of treatment. Only problem: this isn’t the case.
Sure, we were taught a few tools on how to clean up. We gained a few days between our last date of usage and we found some temporary moments of clarity. But tools are meaningless unless we know how to use them. And since treatment for addiction or alcoholism is not one of easy remedies, since the disease concept is so painfully accurate; the relapse problems are ongoing. Life on life’s terms are difficult and same as it is with any chemical imbalance of mental illness; addiction and alcoholism is not something that can be cured in 30 days. with a few helpful hints.
I was young. I was angry and unwilling to change. I had no real intent on staying clean. More accurately, I was only in treatment to abide by a court sentence handed down to me by a judge of good standing.
I was just there to beat the time. My reasoning for treatment was less about the lessons on sobriety and more about beating a sentence and stay out of jail. Besides, I was “Too light to fight and too thin to win,” is what I was told. I was scrawny and puny, weak, and too “Light in the ass,” is what I was told.
No . . .
Penned up in a small cell with me being as scrawny as I was; my skin was a pale, pasty green, and my eyes were sunk in my face with dark black circles beneath them. My bony face was skeletal at best and my weak arms, legs, heart and spirit could have done nothing better than cower in the corner and pray that I wouldn’t be scraped from the ground after a severe beating.
Rather than stand the fears of living in a cage; I chose rehab. This seemed like the right idea. I thought I would find a way to work the system and gain some kind of freedom. I thought could get over—but I was wrong.
After my first and second placement; I was sent to a long-term treatment facility. I was sent to a farm in a small upstate town. I was far from everything I knew or understood. I was living across from a barn where early mornings began the day with slop-fed pigs, pigpens, and a loud barn boss shouting at me to move faster.
I hated this place. I hated the rules and the people who enforced them. I hated the prayers we said before each meal. And I swore I would never say them.
I swore I would never give in. I would stay rebellious to the very end. I swore this would happen but whatever I was determined to do was met by the counterweight of the farm’s determination to strip me of my image, change my way of thinking, and introduce me to this thing they called sobriety.
I swore I wouldn’t give in.
There was no way I was going to pray like they told me to do. There was no way I was going to believe in God or the spiritual benefits of having a higher power or a power greater than myself.
There was no way I would get on my knees or do the Stations of the Cross. And while others in the house made a decision to turn their will and their lives over to the care of God as they understood Him; I was determined to hold my will and never allow anything to take its place.
No matter what~
It was cold day out. I remember this happened sometime in the month of February. The Old Man had just passed and I was still too close to the ledge of loss to feel comfortable. I was in too much pain and too confused to understand what had happened and why. For the first time, I was introduced to and understanding of the word, “Mortality.” And more to the point, I was beaten into submission. I was weak and needed strength. I needed hope. I needed something—or anything just to get me through but my usual methods were stripped from me.
As a means of service and charity, one of the jobs I was given was to accompany a cleaning crew over to a church in the town of Callicoon. The church was small and old. The heating system was off, which meant the room was nearly as cold inside as it was outside. It was the kind of winter day when the sky is brightly blue with no clouds and a bright sun with no warmth to warm the hands. It was the kind of winter day the caused the heavy winds to whistle and crack the empty tree branches.
Inside, the churches walls were tall and white. The pews were aged by a somewhat glossy, light-colored oak. The carpeting was green and at the altar up front was a large wooden table with a white cloth on top, a large old bible opened up to a specific page, a gold cup for the wine and a golden plate for the host.
I had finished my cleaning duties and found myself alone. I was waiting to be picked up with no one around and no one there to break the uncomfortable silence. Behind the alter was a tall, large crucifix positioned in front of a stained-glass window with the Son of Man pinned to the three stations.
His arms spread out across the width. His feet nailed into the lower station with one foot over the other. A crown of thorns sunk into his forehead with blood dribbling down and there was a gash at his rib. He looked so pained and sad—yet there was something beautiful. And I never understood this. How could something so terrible be beautiful? How could there ever be such a wonderful solace in such a terrible sadness?
I looked at the cross. His head was sunk down and off to the side; eyes closed as if to prove The Son of Man was gone, but yet oddly, there was still life in Him. There was life in the room too. There was a presence and I felt it. I felt alone and cold. I felt uncomfortable in my flesh and uncomfortable with the reflection I saw in my imaginary mirror. There was no place for me to hide and now way for me to leave.
I was stuck there with no place to go
I read these words out of one of the pages in a bible with sat in the pocket alongside the back of the rear pew.
“That if thou shalt confess with thine mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believeth in his heart the God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, whosoever believeth in Him shall not be ashamed.”
And just like that, I read this and felt the pour of emotions well up behind my eyes. It was here that I felt there was no hiding from the truth. It was here that I felt humbled and vulnerable.
I thought of the scriptures I had heard on other occasions.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. That whosoever believeth in him shall not walk in darkness but have the light of life.”
I thought of the line, “I have come to give sight to the blind and to take from those who can see. And since it is you who can see; therefore, it is you who have sinned.”
I was able to see. I always could. No matter how I tried to deny this; i always knew the truth.
I felt the presence of something more now than ever before. I wanted to cry. I wanted to scream and get out of there. I wanted to run away and no matter how I tried—even when I left the main room to wait in the small room at the back of the church, I could feel the Son of Man staring at me from His place on the cross.
I never thought much about the concept of God until this. Other times, I would have run. This time; I had no choice. I had to stay and sit in the true discomfort of my own soul. And for as long as I could comprehend, I would always run from the truth. Or more accurately, I would run from my perception of truth. Unfortunately, no matter where I went to hide from myself, there I was, right behind me.
The bible says, “I am the light of the world. He who believeth in Me shall not walk in darkness but have the light of life.”
But me, i was in darkness and too afraid of the light because the light would shed truth upon me and my sins.
In truth . . .
I wasn’t ready to give in. I wasn’t ready to feel or process the loss I had just received. I was too frightened to face myself in the mirror and too scared to change into an unfamiliar lifestyle. And whether I was ready or not to confess my sins with my mouth, I knew they were seen.
Of any day I spent in my young adult years; this day was more intense than any. I never thought much about the concept of God, —at least not until that day.
Ever see yourself in the reflection of your imaginary mirror?
I have to admit, it’s a tough thing to do when you don’t like wat you see