A few months ago I heard from an old friend of mine. Well I say friend, we were more like drinking buddies back in the day when I was young and foolish, able to drink the clock around over a weekend and still manage to make it to work on a Monday morning. My problem was that my weekend benders became a 7 day a week feature of my life. My drinking cost me a marriage, several jobs and of course a small fortune that I pissed up the wall over a few years.
Drink wasn’t the only demon that haunted me, I also put enough chemicals into my body to compete with ICI. Everything came to a head one day, while living on the streets as a homeless drunk I found another drinking buddy dead in his sleeping bag in the abandoned garage we shared. It shocked me so much that I woke up to the fact I was wasting my life away in a drunken haze and would in time end up being found in the same way. Thankfully I still had a network of friends who were prepared to stand by me and help me climb out of spiral of self destruction.
Anyway enough about me, my old friend, let’s call him Chris used to match me drink for drink, drug for drug but where I had managed to step away from the cycle he hadn’t. He became more distant from me when I turned my back on that lifestyle. He continued to party and party hard! Many times coming to me for “a couple of quid to get me through the day” or picking up his tab at the only pub in his village he wasn’t barred from to save him getting a beating . Last time I had met up with him was about 3 years ago. He was a shadow of his former self. A painfully thin, grey skinned hollow man. He was a fully fledged alcoholic and drug addict. He didn’t want to help himself, he didn’t want my help, he just wanted another drink, another fix. I found it difficult to communicate with him as we now had very little common ground. I knew his time was limited. He couldn’t last much longer abusing himself in this manner. That meeting, I had resigned myself, would more than likely be the last time I’d see Chris. I wanted to reach out and pull him through but I was scared he’d pull me back down to the dark depths I escaped all those years ago. I felt selfish and useless but knew it was now up to Chris to either ask for help or become another statistic.
So imagine my surprise to hear his voice on the telephone. Suddenly 20 years rolled back. The voice on the other end of the phone was that of a sober man. He was now 18 month clean and loving life. I could not hide my delight and wanted to meet up face to face but at the same time was cautious. Was he really clean or just trying to fool me into believing he was in an attempt to extract money out of me (I’d used the same tactics myself once or twice during my addiction).
We arranged a meeting in his village. I arrived early and sat in the only cafe I could find on the high street and sipped a hot cup of black coffee with the rising anticipation of meeting up again with Chris. As I aimlessly glanced around the cafe I did notice one or two posters on the wall that you wouldn’t normally see in your typical greasy spoon establishment. Posters proclaiming Christ the son of god is risen and the like. As I was just taking all this in a familiar voice sang out from behind me. It was Chris, standing tall, looking fresh and healthy. The transformation from when I’d seen him last was nothing short of miraculous. In fact in all the years I’d known him he had never looked so good. He didn’t waste any time with his proclamation, “I’ve found Christ” he said. “I didn’t know he was lost” I quipped in reply. “No, really I’m born again, and my heart is filled with the holy spirit” Chris declared. Was it the holy spirit he was filled with or the spirit of drinking days past? Either way he wasn’t making much in the way of sense to me. “I was lost but now I’m found” he continued ” and I want to share the joy”.
For the next 10 minutes Chris told me about his road to Damascus and how Jesus has saved his soul and delivered him free from drink and drugs. OK look, I don’t have a problem with a person having “faith”, whatever gets them through the day, I even gave it a go once myself during my own recovery, but to hear coming from the mouth that used to pour away a pint in under 3 seconds was truly another thing. Chris had, it appeared, turn his life around in the past 18 months. He had been taken in by a local Christian outreach group, given somewhere to sleep and food. He was offered a place at their outreach retreat, providing he also underwent “spiritual cleansing” to rid him of the demons that were plaguing him. Now I know from my our experience that suddenly stopping the drink and drugs is no easy thing to do. I fell off the wagon a few times before I could claim to be clean again.
Chris told me he hadn’t had a problem because the group at the retreat had prayed with him, healed him, made him whole again with Christ in his heart, he was strong enough to fight the urges that tempted him back to the bottle. It was truly amazing to see the transformation in Chris. “So tell me more” I asked. “What are you doing with yourself now?” He told me that he had recently left the retreat and got himself a small flat, although he attended meetings at the retreat on a daily basis. During the day he would read his bible and share the word with whoever he met. And this is where my problem arose. Chris may have been clear of drink and drugs. He may have found new meaning to life BUT he was now totally obsessed with his new found faith. It was all he wanted to talk about, it was all he wanted to do. In the past during many a late night bottle of whiskey debate we had actually come to blows over our different opinions on some random drunken subject matter. I was getting the same feeling of impending rage as I questioned Chris about his faith. He was not going to listen to what I had to say. My arguments were not valid. His word was the word and nothing was going to change that. I offered to agree to disagree but that was not an option. Chris wanted me to accept his blind faith, without hesitation, without question, without reason. He was sat in front of me praying for my salvation. He confessed he was troubled by his own weaknesses and temptations but told me the power of pray cured all. From what I could see, far from being free of his troubles, he was mentally beating himself up with remorse and guilt, hiding behind a smile of religious indoctrination.
He was now free from his past addictions, his body slowly healing from years of self abuse, but was now addicted to his new found faith. I didn’t see Chris again after that meeting in the cafe.
I heard last week Chris had taken his own life. He left a short note to say he could not lead a life demanded by Christ as he had too many faults and weaknesses. His body was clear of drug and alcohol but his addiction finally did kill him. I’m not going to apportion blame. I just hope that people will learn that when dealing with an addict there is enough self resentment festering inside that person that cleansing the body needs to be combined with cleansing of the mind, not brain washing.
Chris, may you now rest in peace.