Before we go forward, this is not about religion.
This might not be for everyone. However, this is written for those who find themselves “out there” and without any hope.
This is a little piece about hope and salvation but not the typical kind.
This is about redemption and forgiveness and the doubt that forgiveness could ever be possible.
There are those who’ve asked why people do what they do or live how they live.
There are those, too, who doubt that the ideas of affliction are actually a sickness and more accurately, there are those who think addiction is a choice.
“You chose to live this way.”
“It’s your own damned fault.”
I’ve heard this more times than I can count.
Maybe there’s some truth to this. But maybe, there’s more to it than meets the eye.
Maybe this comes from an internal wiring that’s wound incorrectly.
Or I can take this back to me and as I see it, I understand why people fail to get out of their own way.
I know this because I did this for decades; whether it was drugs or alcohol or bad relationships or bad life-choices, all of this was a symptom of my misguided belief system.
I think of the quiet sound of midnight mass. I think of the warmth of dim lights glowing softly as ever. And more, I think of the gentle hymns and the peacefulness of the choir.
I think of a time when the world was cold and my fingers were numb from the outside air. I was dirty in more ways than one. I was sick yet there was something hopeful and enigmatic about this; as if there was a contradiction in my reflection; as if somehow, there was hope that a person like me could find peace and suddenly, all could be well again.
But it was like I said. I was dirty in more ways than one.
In that case, I was filthy. But how could I be washed?
How could I ever be clean or cleansed from the stains of my past? How could I be washed or rinsed from my past self – or as it is said, how could I be washed in the blood of the lamb and in spite of my own pollution; how could I be absolved and forgiven – or healed?
I had moments like this throughout my life. I was down and certainly out. I was in the midst of my own craziness. In the weight of my hate and outrage, there was something, like a light or a beacon which shone upon me as a means to illuminate my truths.
But I was so sick. I was cold.
I had blisters on my lips – another gift and noticeable characteristic of the glass pipe and its effects.
I was pale as ever. Sick as ever too.
My stomach was empty but food was far from my mind.
I had cuts on my fingers.
I had the empty remnants of tiny white packages which acted as the host of my new infestation.
I remember the visions in my head. I remember when the beast took hold and the opiates blended through my bloodstream.
I recall the nod and visions of angels falling from heaven, inverted and upside-down.
I remember the presence of mind because I knew who I was.
I knew what I became. I knew that I was a scavenger.
I was the serpent and I was moving by a church. From what I can recall, I heard the congregation singing the song Silent Night.
But me, I felt unworthy.
I felt unholy and refused, like a segment of trash not even worth the time to discard of properly.
I can relate this to the young drummer boy who came when Christ was born.
Ever hear the song about the young drummer boy?
Come, they told him, pa rum-pum-pum-pum.
The funny thing is I never listened to the words of the song until decades later.
The boy was poor. All he had was his drum.
He had no gifts to bring but he could play his drum . . .
if that would be okay?
They smiled at the little drummer boy.
They loved his gift.
It was perfect.
I had no gift to give
I had no drum to play.
I had no song to sing.
All I had was my sickness and my lies, my thefts and the scars from my hell.
Yet, had I walked through the door or had I entered the church, I know that I would have been welcomed. I would have been accepted.
These were good people, not like me.
I would have been washed and cleansed in a way that no one could ever tarnish me again.
But how could I believe in something like this when all I ever had was doubt to keep me company.
I could have been absolved; however, I was told that in order to be absolved from sin, I had to have true sorrow for my sin.
And me, I had to regret and repent for my sins which if I could have, I would have – but how?
How do I get away from myself? How do I stop this train that I was on?
I was too sick and too lost to possibly be found, right?
It is clear to me now, decades later, it wasn’t my fear that no one would ever forgive me.
It wasn’t that others would see me as a blemish or as a scar, or as a constant thread of imperfection.
It wasn’t that others would see me as defective.
It wasn’t that my need for forgiveness wasn’t there or that I couldn’t see that what I was doing was wrong.
I knew exactly what I was doing.
I knew that it was wrong. It was me.
I couldn’t forgive me and since I couldn’t forgive me, it was beyond my comprehension that anyone else would forgive me.
Why would they?
I remember scrounging through my little town and passing by a Church. It was after midnight and all I had were the demons with me.
All I had were the tools of my own self-destruction. I had the nod that kept me dangled like a drowsy puppet on a string. I had the contaminants beneath my skin and still I wished I was clean. I wished I was better.
I wished that I could have been someone else. I wished that I could have been anybody else – anyone but me.
I wished I was someone good.
Someone who could fit or coincide with the world and not be this dirty, filthy secret.
I wished that I did not come with stains and scars and blistered lips from a glass pipe or with dope in my veins.
And there they were inside.
People were singing about God.
They were humbled in prayer – and humbled or not, they gathered in perfect unison to sing for the Newborn King.
I know the story about the little drummer boy.
He had nothing to give
But he played a song
And they smiled at him.
I have been asked countless times why people can’t “give it up” or why people don’t believe in themselves.
It’s because we are like the little drummer boy.
We think we don’t have much to give and that what we have is not enough.
So, we deal with these unmerciful bouts of shame.
We deal with doses of regret.
It doesn’t matter what someone else would tell me.
I could be told that I was more valuable than gold or silver, diamonds, pearls, and even emeralds.
It was the reflection I saw.
It was the invisible stains and the reprehensibleness of my life, as it was, that stood in my way.
Why do people quit on themselves?
Why do we give up?
Or worse, why do we euthanize ourselves, one day at a time?
The answer is this:
It’s a problem with our worth system . . .
We don’t know who we are or what we deserve. Even worse, we think that all we deserve is the punishment for our sins
But which came first? Was it our sins? Was it our problems? Was it trauma? Was it the way we treated people?
Was it the things we said or did out of haste or hardship?
No, the core of our reasons come before all of this.
This is from before, before.
Before all of this was a kid – just a little kid who wanted to laugh and live and smile and have fun.
That was me.
Yes, there was trauma.
Yes, there were scars that perpetuated more scars to the point where this is who I believed I was.
I wasn’t worth anything else or anything better,
This is what I deserved.
I remember that Christmas, back in 1989.
I remember passing the Church and hearing the sound of people singing.
It was beautiful.
In fact, it was the most beautiful thing that I had ever heard.
I know that people don’t like to read this stuff . . .
But there are people who need to read this stuff.
So, I write this for them.
I remember being deployed to a hospital on the night of Christmas Eve.
She was a young homeless girl.
She had overdosed on heroin as the miracle would have it – she was brought back to life.
I was the first person to speak to her after her overdose reversal.
After talking for a little while, I told her about my memory from the church.
I get it, she told me.
My eyes were leaking with tears.
I hope you do, I told her.
Because YOU are a Christmas miracle.
We never kept in touch but from what I heard – after a few bumps in the road, she is alive and well.
And clean too.
If I do nothing else in my life, at least I did this.
Since I never thought I had very much to give, I guess you can say that just like the little drummer boy, this was my drum –
This was all I had to give.
Please, dear Father,
I’m poor too.
Smile at me, for this is all I have.
In memory of my friends
Until we meet again