About Me

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I write, mostly to keep my head from exploding. It threatens to do that a lot. My blog is the pixelated version of all the voices in my head. I tend to dive into what connects me to God, my community, my family and my doubt. I do a lot of searching, not as much finding. I’m good with that. I have learned, finally, to live comfortably in the gray. In the meantime, I wrestle with God, and my doubt and my joy.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Grace, revisited

There was a day, long enough ago that I can look at it with the comfort of time, near enough that the colors are still sharp and unblurred. On that day, I sat in my living room in the late afternoon, so that there were more shadows than light. My cat threaded between my legs and I stared at the bottle of vodka I had bought earlier that day. I wanted it so badly, the sweet burn and liquid fire of the alcohol, the thirty seconds of absolute release that it always gave. I stared at that bottle, and I sank to my knees. I had every intention of drinking. I wanted it, wanted the release and the blankness. I could taste it, for God's sake! And yet I sank to my knees. And I cried out in utter despair: "I give. I can't do this anymore. I can't be so alone. Please help."

That was a shocker, that prayer. Here’s the thing: I have a couple issues with God.

Of course, anyone who's known me longer than, say, five minutes, can pretty much figure that out. I have run the gamut from at-one-with-the-All, to being convinced that my Higher Power is God's evil twin brother whose sole Divine Purpose is to mess with me and my life. I struggle with God's blessings as much as with God's capriciousness.

My journey with God has been rocky at best. At thirteen, I announced my intention to become a rabbi. By fifteen, I declared my apostasy –god was dead, orat best, immaterial. I had a God-sized hole in the middle of me, and it ached to be filled. I filled it with anything handy: sarcasm, contempt, cynicism. Throw them all in there--- anything that would make me not feel quite so empty, quite so lost.

Anger was good. If I stayed angry enough, sneered with just the right curl of the lip, I did not have to feel. After anger came alcohol: emergency spirituality in liquid form. I loved drinking. I loved the way it made my fingertips buzz, an electric pulse that made me want to dance and move and breathe. The noise in my head got quiet and I could think. I could float, and feel beautiful and connected and almost human.

Once I found them, anger and alcohol were my boon companions. They kept my demons at bay. If I stayed angry enough, drank enough, I could almost believe that they filled that hole, filled me. I could tell myself that they were enough, and that I was enough.

And then they stopped working. I couldn't get to that floaty, breathy place anymore. I couldn't find any quiet space. All that was left was this deafening white noise and a brittle coating of despair. In the end, there was a night in August, filled with heat and humidity and the smell of tar and sweat. I crawled into a bottle and some man’s bed, fully intending to pull the cork in after me. Instead, I woke up just as empty, just as alone.

So I got sober. I stumbled into the rooms and meeting places of Alcoholics Anonymous, totally spent. All those shiny happy people sitting in those shiny happy AA rooms told me: “Don’t drink, go to meetings and find a God of your understanding.”

Great. Give me a task that I have been failing at for decades. I'll get right on that.

Strangely enough, I did. Twenty plus years later, I still don’t know why – perhaps even the smallest kernel of hope can trump despair. And thus began the great God quest. I had my eyes peeled for The Answer that would explain away all my doubt and uncertainty. I looked, and I read, and I looked some more. The more I looked, the more I struggled, the more desperate I became to find solace.

I saw my friends get it. I was happy they all learned to sit comfortably in their own skins. I just wasn't getting it. After 2 years, I was sober, technically - I wasn’t drinking, but I was miserable. God may be real for everyone else, but I was pretty sure that God would never be real for me.

I told myself it didn't matter really. So what if I was a little raw? So what if all I wanted to do was drink? I couldn't sleep anymore. I stopped going to meetings - couldn't bear to listen to those shiny happy people who had found God - some Higher Power who carried them and loved them and healed them and redeemed them.

I just wanted a drink. I sat in my darkened apartment, staring at a bottle of vodka. I could taste it, I braced myself for the burn of it, and the tingle and the blankness that I knew would come.

"I give. I can't do this anymore. I can't be so alone. Please help."

That was my prayer. The only prayer I could offer. It spilled out of me, and I sat on my knees, and I didn't drink. There were no angels to dance on the head of a pin. There was no clap of thunder or heavenly choir. But I didn’t drink, even though I wanted to, even though I ached to. I didn’t. And I slept-- the whole night through. For the first time in months, I slept, deep and uninterrupted.

Redemption. I have no doubt that this moment was nothing less than the gift of redemption with a touch of grace: with no angels dancing, no thunderous choir, I finally lay down my struggle with God. I was redeemed, at last. The miracle was for me, at last. And I slept.

Twenty plus years later, trough the grace of God, I’ve still not taken that drink. I’ve found a faith that carries me through those long dark nights of the soul. I still have them. I still tend to box with God. I struggle with the idea of God still. I struggle with God still. We are locked in an eternal embrace, God and me - intimate, connected, bound together as blithely as light, as strong as love. I rail at God and demand to be carried, to be loved.

To be enough.

And I am still given grace, because I know that when I ask, I am redeemed. When I love, I am enough. And, wrapped in that blanket of grace, I sleep.