Me: 22 years old.
Grammar doesn’t matter. It’s a painting, not a medical journal.
Being on the rebound from pathological religion was the most vulnerable place I’ve ever been, but it felt absolutely fantastic. Fixation on unswerving dedication to an exacting moral standard had given way to a blissful awakening, and everything positively vibrated with newfound optimism. This sounds amazing, and it felt incredibly peaceful, but in retrospect I will tell you in no uncertain terms that, because of the intense wounding that had occurred under the previous ministry, and because of my consequent inability to place healthy trust in authority, this existential bliss was unfortunately a perfect inroad for a different flavor of deception. My former pastor had been a raving maniac, eyes agleam with insatiable thirst for the blood of God’s perceived enemies. His ability to make one feel like a little worm on the end of a great big hook as he pronounced the intolerance of the Almighty toward all manner of transgression was a talent that knew no bounds. My new pastor pantomimed a fun-loving, peaceful, New Age good vibes grandma lady, but the much welcomed emotional reprieve that I experienced under her leadership led to ensnarement in an equally damning deception of near-apathetic complacency.
It was this complacency, coupled with having been previously so tormented and driven for so long, that led to my relapse.
It wasn’t that I didn’t know better. It was just that, after the previous seven years of absolute agony…I don’t know…it was like I wasn’t able to care anymore. It was like the desperation for escape from reality was equal to or greater than my awareness of how badly addiction had ravaged my younger years of their potential, and how dangerous it would be for me to re-open that portal (especially considering I was now a husband and a father.)
Twelve years later, probably just about to the day, I sit here in more pain than I’ve ever experienced, with my wife’s words from the other day echoing through my mind.
“I’ve printed out divorce papers. I need you to sit down and sign them with me…”
Our unofficial separation has hung in agonizing limbo for almost two years, and I have spent that time primarily hoping against hope that something would change her mind.
Indescribable amounts of that feeling that happens when you’ve messed something up too badly for words, and you can never go back and change it. Just, all that regret and remorse, and the way you can’t even barely notice anything that’s going on around you because of the abject horror.
It feels like drowning. I know this because I’ve almost drowned to death before.
The physical ability to breathe is actually impeded somehow. It’s like even the part of the brain that subconsciously controls breathing is actually distracted, even though it’s not supposed to have to think in order to do what it does.
This is what it took to wake me up, though. Before she left I had still been drifting along in that apathy, nursing multiple addictions in a controlled way that I’d learned to operate in out of necessity, failing at fatherhood, failing at being a husband…I really can’t blame her for leaving. Not even a little bit. I was absolutely checked out for so long, and she was dying inside. People need to be loved, and I had stopped loving her a long time ago. It wasn’t that I didn’t love her…it was that I couldn’t love anymore. I was in too much pain. Deep down inside, there was a lie of unworthiness eating away at the very core of my mind, and all I could do was drift on. The blissful enlightenment and existential hyper-awareness of that latter ‘awakening’ had been a demonic gimmick and ruse, just like the hell of scrupulosity that had preceded it, and the substance abuse had come back in to mask over the pain that was truly at the bottom of it all. Believing myself to be genuinely unlovable, I was unable to give her real love. You can’t truly give what think you don’t have. I had been lobotomized, and she had burned out on trying a long time ago.
Now I look back to the beginning of it all, to before the confusion began. There was a place of simplicity, and of authentic affection shared between my and my creator, between whatever it is that constitutes what I am, this hybrid of physicality and self-awareness, and the God who knit me together in my mother’s womb and somehow called me by name before time began. There was a place of peace there that goes beyond human thoughts, and I left it behind for a lie. So many lies. He still calls to me, though, and still invites me to live in that place, above the fray and protected from all harm in the realm of reality that overshadows and permeates all things. Ashamed now, like the prodigal in the story, I return to this Love, only to be overwhelmed by his joy, and his incomprehensible indifference to the folly of times gone by. This is the only place for me now. I am rendered at peace only here.