Saturday, December 11, 2010

Unlikely Disciple

So, as I pondered what I truly believed in I came to a surprising answer. I didn't believe in anything! Oh, I thought I did. I was a self made man. I was fiercely independent and stubborn and that tenacity brought me far in the ways of the world. A successful business, a beautiful wife, four healthy sons, respect, a strong reputation and that nagging feeling that it was all going to come crumbling down at any moment and that I would be found out as a fraud.

Now, let's back up 35+ years for a little bit. As I said before I was born and raised Jewish but I did not know what that meant. I went to Synagogue on the holidays, memorized some prayers, snuck a little wine but as a child I was absolutely and totally lost in the world. The 2 people who were to protect me and teach me and prepare me for life were too busy arguing, fighting and hating one another to care for me in the proper ways. Oh, I never went hungry or without things. What I needed was love and guidance and reassurance. The very things that are critical to healthy development. But I lived in fear. Fear of being beaten by my father, fear of love being torn away by my mother. I remember crying a lot as a child. The world did not make sense. I just wanted to be able to come home from school and play and not be in trouble for something.

My parents divorced finally when I was 13. I was thrilled! I wanted to be as far away from my father as possible. I had started to dabble with drinking beer and smoking pot. But as they separated and divorced drugs became my comforter, my friend. Then they became my controller, deciding everything I did, who I did it with and when. That went on for the next miserable and depraved 7+ years. I got arrested, went to jail, got kicked out of the house, hit the psych unit, dropped out of high school, prostituted myself, lied, cheated and stole to survive. Anything to survive. I entered my first rehab at age 14 and hopefully my last one two weeks before I turned 21. That was September 8, 1986 and I have not had a drink or a drug since that date.

People might think, "Wow! That is great! Life must have been real good since then!" Those people may not understand that although being clean and sober is far far better than the alternative there is a lot of wreckage mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually that needs attention. A lot of attention!

I was almost 21 and I was broken. Thoroughly defeated by a life I believed I was in control of. I cried and cried and cried. I knew absolutely nothing about life except how to fall farther into the depths of depravity and degradation.

I entered a long term treatment program for adolescents and remained there for 10 months and 3 weeks.  I signed myself in and could sign myself out at any time. It was a harsh place that was very strict and disciplined. I knew I was at a fork in the road; to either choose life or to choose to die. It didn't really seem like much of a choice. I believed that if I did not enter that program I was going to die.

See, by the age of 20 I was a junkie. I had been living in Miami smoking crack and when I was not high I was in heavy withdrawal. Physically sick with cramping, sinus problems, fever and headaches. One hit on the crack pipe and I was right as rain; no cramps, pain or anything. I knew it was the end. So the choice was an easy one.

This was the beginning of a spiritual awakening that offered so much hope and promise that I would walk for years in pain and confusion and depression seeking relief while staying clean and sober.

(to be continued)


  1. I don't think there are any of us that aren't seriously "underestimating" JUST HOW MUCH is going on in the life of an addict and needs to be addressed.

  2. Michael...growing up in a parallel the same town, the same synagogue...I had no idea what your life was like at home. I am so deeply sorry for the suffering you experienced, survived in the only way you could for one so young and wounded. My life has had hardships too, of course, but different ones from yours. I am so happy that you have found a way to God and that this path works for you, that you are healing...that you are opening to love more and more in your life. Because my upbringing was different, I have always felt deep connection to God through Judaism...maybe having my grandmother live with us and watching her pray shacharit each morning and shema each night...listening to my mother pray openly and recite psalms and light shabbat was just part of the fabric of my homelife. Honestly, there have been times in different Jewish communities where I have felt a bit of an outsider because I felt God's Presence so freely and talking to God and about God was just part of my experience, whereas others seemed to be rattling of prayers in a rote way (although who am I to judge their interior experienc?). I have also found amazing Jewish communities in which God is celebrated and experienced deeply by everyone in the room through prayer, song, meditation, movement...very different from the Conservative temple we grew up in! To me, it matters little how we pray, what language we send our prayers up and in with, what names we call God...there are so is simply a blessing to wake up each day and have faith, trusting that we are and have never been alone, that each breath, each moment is a gift and to thank God each morning and all day long for the preciousness of life. Your story is full of strength and courage...I am grateful to be reconnected to you, that Mitch told me your new name so I could find you. I always liked you when we were children, always saw something special in you...I'm sorry it took so long and so much pain for you to discover that in yourself.

    May you continue to open to love all the days of your life, to find renewal each morning and peace each evening.

    gentle steps,