Walking with What I Cannot See
“I surrender.” Those were the two most important words I ever said in my life.
But let me start at the beginning…
“Why aren’t the birds singing?” I wondered. It must be morning. I felt like I had been asleep for days. But there was nothing but darkness. And a thick, heavy silence. I hate silence; it had never brought anything good.
Voices, whispers, permeated by a tone of concern. But I never knew the names that went with the voices. A few days passed, and all I remember were doors opening, closing, slamming, lights going on and off, burbles and mumbles, touches on my arm and hand, the smell of disinfectant and stringent. Waves of a dull pain washed over me and then subsided. At first, I dreamt of beautiful beaches and meadows filled with vibrant flowers that were touched by moments of excruciating nausea and a taste of salty vomit.
I was told that on my sixth day, I tried to get up and walk. On the eighth day, I asked for a cigarette, but I don’t smoke. Then the dreams changed to moments in a dark cave with sharp, pointed stalactites and stalagmites, black bats, drowning in a dark pool, reaching…but no merciful escape was to be found. My skin burned like a cinder doused in gasoline.
To this day, I have no memory of how I ended up in this state, and those few dreamy days remain like an unfinished quilt in my mind, patchworks of cloth loosely pieced together, empty spots that may never be filled. I do know now that I unwittingly accepted the devil’s invitation to dance. And I barely survived.
In 2012, life was so good it hurt. A husband, friends to spare, living in a house a stone’s throw from one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. I was a partner at a large, international law firm pulling down an annual salary no one my age should have had the right to. Lavish vacations, days and nights filled with laughter. The sea breeze harmonizing with the waves lulled me to sleep.
How I ended up four years later in a homeless sober-living facility in the pit of Charlotte, North Carolina, is beyond my comprehension. I could blame the divorce, the abusive ex-boyfriends who followed, the loss of jobs, house, car, dog, health, dignity (and the list goes on ad nauseum). At the end of the day, the common denominator in all of that was me.
“How did I fall so far?” I asked myself every day. “Why me?” “What did I do to deserve this?” “I’m a good person. It’s not fair!” I never got a response. And the hits just kept on coming until nothing was left. Absolutely nothing but a dirty hotel room, one small suitcase of clothes, and enough booze to drown a battalion.
I know now that my best friend, my constant companion, my apostle, my sole sanctuary in bad times and fellow carouser in good times, only wanted two things from me: (1) everything and (2) my life. So after everything was gone, I went to sleep one day, took too many sleeping pills and drank a gallon of wine. I didn’t want to kill myself (I say now); I just didn’t want to live like that anymore. My friend agreed, so off we went together on a journey to an expected eternal slumber.
But God had other plans for me: “Not yet,” I heard as I drifted off to sleep that night.
Six months later, after the emergency room, hospital stay, 32-day treatment program, and long-term recovery center, I know that my good friend alcohol is actually a cunning, baffling, and powerful foe. I am not normal. I have a disease that wants me dead.
Although for years I fooled myself and others (or so I thought) that I could control myself, quit whenever I wanted to, or just lay off now and again, the truth is that, eventually, I will succumb to the darkest corners of the disease. The only way to redemption is not self-control, as I hoped. That is like trying to control a wildfire with spit. The answer was surrender, without reservation, to a conscious companionship with something I cannot understand or explain: Faith.
Salvation, for me, comes from waking every morning and ending every night with a prayer that asks not for what I want, but for peace when someone angers me, insults me, despises me, or praises me.
And in order to that, I must forever walk with what I do not see.
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