Once more into the fray. Every great battle starts with crossing lines. I am tired, sick and more than a little agitated. However, I am thankful to be alive.
I gaze down the long, winding road that leads from my house. Dark clouds, heavy with rain, threaten to burst while I consider the battle for my sanity. It’s been a hard fight to keep from slipping into the darkness. Depression, anxiety, and at times, a complete lack of control has hindered my progression. “At least I am not what I used to be.”
“What I used to be….”
I was raised in church from the time I was a small boy. Every time the church doors were open, my family and I visited the house of God. I received the gift of the Holy Ghost at age 12. My teen years had the same hiccups every teenager faces. It took war to make me lose my faith. The horrors I witnessed and committed paved the way for my addiction to drugs and alcohol.
“You’re not what you used to be.”
I’ve always thought redemption was only for bad people. You know, rapists, murderers, pedophiles, etc. Never, did I think my life would take me to the lowest place I’ve ever been. Drugs didn’t lift me out of the mire, it dragged me deeper. Alcohol took the pain away and replaced it with a hangover. There was a void in my heart, and in my soul. I didn’t know how to fill it. I had turned my back on my faith and parts of my family. “I will do it on my own or die trying.”
I nearly died trying.
Still, I continued to try to carry the burden on my own. Until one day, I heard a snap. It shook me to my core. It wasn’t a bone, it was my mind. Everything sped up. I had a complete loss of focus. I would start speaking and then just fly into another conversation. It felt as if I was on the outside of my body, watching myself sporadically leap from topic to topic. People would stare at me. As if, I was some type of new lunatic which had just been discovered.
My thoughts zipped through my mind, and like bumper cars, they often collided into each other. I remember going home to visit my parents, and the looks I received from my family. They had no idea how to help me, and I had no way to tell them.
Slowly, with time and therapy, I was able to begin the healing process. The process made me angry. Internal turmoil led to outward bursts of frustration, but eventually the pieces came together.
In 2016, I moved home to Mississippi. I had been retired for 4 years, and living in Colorado had become increasingly difficult. Rent kept going up, the cost of living exceeded my money, and I was out of options. The bus ride home gave me plenty of time to consider what my ‘life’ would be like in Mississippi, and if I would ever find redemption.
“There is that ‘R’ word again. Am I worthy of redemption?” People told me throughout the years that God would forgive me for what occurred in Iraq. In my heart, I knew it was true. God is faithful to forgive us, but my problem didn’t lie with the Almighty God. My issue lay closer to home. I couldn’t forgive myself.
Time passed, and I met wonderful people in the small town I moved to. To help fill the void in my heart, I had started college while in Colorado. Because of my intense hatred of all things mathematical, I postponed my math courses until last. I barely passed Algebra I. I was failing Algebra II. After ignoring the course (because that is what mature people do), I called the local college for a tutor.
With the help of my tutor, I passed Algebra II. She invited me to church. After saying no several times, I went. As I sat on the pew, I felt out of my element, but I also felt at home. I clapped my hands to the music, and I stood when the Scriptures were read. When the altar call was given, I went home. On the way home, I noticed the void in my heart seemed smaller.
“Is this what I’ve been missing? A return to my roots?”
I went back. The more I went, the more complete I felt. At the bottom of the barrel, I found Jesus. As I developed my relationship with Him, I found something else. Redemption. Come to find out it’s not a matter of worth.
Thank God, I’m not what I used to be.