In July of 2004 a new chapter of my life was opened. I might even venture as far as saying that in that year it wasn’t a new chapter in and of itself, but quite possibly the only chapter that ever mattered. Today marks the nine year anniversary of the first day I spent free of heroin. This is a day I am eternally grateful for. While it’s not like a birthday that is celebrated with cake and ice cream surrounded by friends who are all happy for you, it is a day I give gratitude to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. A short summary of that day might go like the following.
Awakened in a precinct holding cell in Lincoln Park, MI., sick as a dog, I grew annoyed by the relentless questioning of the case detective and angry at his sarcastic banter that was making fun of my withdrawal symptoms. The bones of my body began to ache from the inside out and nausea was quickly setting in. The fear of withdrawing from heroin that kept me using for so long was finally a reality I was going to have to face. My future was on my mind and I was not thrilled about becoming a felon and spending time in the county jail, but it was now a reality. I was transferred to the county jail and began a week of withdrawal that I’ll never forget. A portrait of a junkie I was, and to a junkie I’ll never return. Worries of what my life will become became overshadowed by the sickness setting in, I accepted my new reality, and in some sick way, was happy that I was finally going to ‘kick’ the dope.
Mingling and living with drug dealers, killers, rapists, and child support evaders was not something I thought I would ever end up experiencing. Sobering hardly is a fitting label. It was a safer environment than the one I had been arrested in. One week in that unit was what I spent and was eventually transferred to general population. I could actually walk better and was getting over the puking that is typical with heroin withdrawal. After a week I finally felt human again. I could smell, taste, touch, talk, and see again. The first week was spent without glasses, and I am essentially half-blind. I was starting to remember what it was like to be alive. Six months in the streets masquerading as the living dead had finally ended.
Never did I think about being saved by the Lord Jesus. Nor did I ever ponder the thought of living a life of righteousness and holiness that can only be had through His Holy Spirit. That week, He revealed to me in salvation that it could be a reality. That week, He chose to save me from my sin and deliver me unto Him. Praise God for His infinite mercies. The previous description barely scratches the surface of the things I endured and experienced up to that day. The journey following was not a bed of roses either, but all of it pales in comparison to the climax of light and perfection of the Lord’s pardoning and sufficient sacrifice for me. Nine years is a long time for an addict to not do heroin.
In comparison to ten years of heavy drug and alcohol abuse, nine years clean is starting to seem like dream. I’ve lost many friends to heroin and drugs over the years. I’ve also seen a great many more people fall victim to it and suffer physical consequences in their latter years. Every day I hold my children, I think of new life. I think of being born again and a clean slate. I think of how my family would not trust me with a dollar let alone my precious children. I think of forgiveness and the gift of eternal life that instills gratitude that runs so deep tears hardly justify the emotion.
I think of my family who tells me how great I’ve done and how quickly I get to tell them It isn’t me, but Christ that lives within me (Gal 2:20).
Several years before being called to Christ, I sat in a dank and dark basement with a cocaine dealer carrying on about religion. He shared with me why he thought we were doing what we were doing. He shared Romans 7:19 with my heart was rent. That verse was the only one I knew after my arrest. It was the only one I could remember in my head until I had a Bible given to me. I now also see how the Roman epistle served to convert a great many a men and now count myself as one of them.
Thank you Lord, for being merciful to me, a sinner.