The disease of addiction dictates that I will lose all the things that I love in time and the “rule of threes” dictates a grim long term prognosis (jail, institution, death).
I don’t talk about the night that I went insane very often. It’s not that I want to hide the demons that I was battling, I’m well past that point. I know that there is nothing that I hide that is worth hiding. I think I keep that night under wraps because I still grapple to understand what exactly happened. I still go back and shake my head at the very nature of insanity. How far had I gone? How far gone was I, really? In the moment, I couldn’t answer any of those questions. But hindsight is 20/20 and when I look back on that period in my life, I am convinced that had I continued on, had I not been supernaturally rescued, my life would have ended sooner than it should have.
It was a freezing cold night in January, and I was determined to never drink another drop of alcohol again, because I knew that I stood to lose so much. Instead of drinking, I was taking painkillers and cold medicine to try and numb feelings. I hate feelings. And I was going through a serious season of painful feelings. Numbing obviously didn’t work, and eventually I was driven to go back to drinking something that had alcohol in it. On the night that I went insane, I thought it would be a good idea to drink something and also take pain pills and cold meds, altogether.
For my friends who have never done this, a personal note: This is not a good idea and usually is toxic for the person that is ingesting deadly concoctions.
It wasn’t deadly for me that night. But it certainly rattled my cage. It scared me more than anything that I have ever experienced and is a moment of reality hitting the fan for me. As I look back on the entire season of my life, I know that this moment was necessary to experience recovery. I know that it is a watershed moment of truth that needed to happen and that I had to experience. I have experienced it a thousand times over as I think through and take inventory of the past.
I had crawled into bed, determined to sleep that night. I hadn’t slept in what felt like weeks, maybe months. I hadn’t drank enough to black out, and I hadn’t taken enough of my prescribed medications to knock me out, but I had mixed toxins together to see if I could finally eradicate the anxiety that haunted me, at night especially. I desperately needed to sleep. I desperately needed normalcy in life, when nothing was normal. The mixture of exhaustion, medicine, and my state of mind caused a night of terror. I fell asleep beating myself up for even trying to self medicate. I knew that it was wrong. I knew that I needed to stop trying to keep the demons at bay, inappropriately. I was learning from a psychologist how to take normal steps forward. I was learning from the life circumstances that I was encountering, but apparently not really grasping the concepts fully. I fell into a light sleep, having vivid dreams that I failed to remember, when I woke up, but in the moment, knew that they were terrifying. Little did I know that my nightmarish sleep would end up turning into a complete and utter season of heart stopping fear, loss, and pain.
As a former Pastor, I still consider myself fairly religious (All my evangelical friends may groan and say something like “It’s a relationship not a religion!”) . I don’t know that I completely understood spiritual growth or a relationship with a higher power (in fact, I know now that I clearly didn’t understand it). I was religious enough to have heard stories, and even experienced stories that involved spiritual forces. I think at some point in my religious journey I did encounter what were real satanic or demonic forces that were clearly beyond what my imagination had ever warranted. I had seen people be possessed by demons. I had experienced significant spiritual acute oppression while trying to sleep. I also had experienced spiritual mountain tops as well. I had found life and love in the church, and in the religion that I had held so dear. I found life in the spiritual growth that seem to come my way and the way in which God seemed to work, supernaturally, at times.
I awoke from my nightmare, for the very first time of many long nights of nightmares. I could sense that someone was in the room with me. My spouse was clearly there and I reached out to see if I could somehow get their attention and confirm my suspicion that indeed someone was in the room with us. I could sense it. The blood in my veins and heart was pumping so hard that I was getting dizzy, laying in my bed. I squinted so hard trying to peer into the darkness to see who was in my bedroom, in my sanctuary where everything seemed to be safe. A dark figure loomed at the end of the bed, and as I followed the figure with my eyes, I could never quite center my focus on the figure that lurked. It was always just outside of my vision, and I followed it around the bed. The figure disappeared under my bed and eventually came out the other side. I could hear something breathing, something speaking and saying something. I was immobile. I couldn’t move. I was afraid to move. I was shocked that someone was present in the room with me. And I was terrified. My hand didn’t seem to move correctly, and I couldn’t get my spouse to wake up. It was sometime in that sequence of events that I determined to do something that I knew to be a ‘tactic’ in getting out of this type of situation.
I started praying.
I hadn’t really prayed like that for a couple of years, as I had significant disillusionment with prayer in general. But in that moment, I prayed like my life depended on it. And my life may have depended on it. As I prayed, it was clear that my eyes were not responding the way that they should have been. I was seeing images that were clearly not present in reality.
Later, I would learn more about what I was experiencing.
What many have experienced before me.
I learned about something that I have joked about with folks in the past.
Hallucination is crazy and I had never experienced it before and hope to never experience it again.
The other thing that I learned that night was that prayer works. Or at least it did that night. I don’t know everything about the theological constructs of prayer, and don’t plan to ever start trying to figure those out again, but I know this. I was rescued that night from whatever it was that was lurking around my bed. My family was kept safe, and I lived to see another day.
But the hallucination continued. I came out of the bedroom, and saw one of our cats up ahead of me open the basement door, and go down the stairs. My mind wasn’t comprehending exactly what was going on, and when I walked past the door that had just opened and shut via a feline, I realized something was very wrong. Someone was in my house. I went back into the bedroom and grabbed my bb gun. I’m not sure what I was going to do…plink someone in the eye maybe? I went into my kids room and cleared the room. I went into the living room and cleared the room. I went to the basement and found both felines locked away where we left them several hours before. I came upstairs rattled, and laid down on the couch. I drifted in and out of sleep for what felt like hours but was probably just moments. I can remember seeing my spouse walk from the bedroom to the kitchen, but I didn’t see them walk back to the bedroom. I got up off the couch to see what they were doing. No one was in the kitchen. Had I completely lost it? Yes.
Frantic, and believing that someone was still in the house, I turned on all the lights, only to discover everything was at it should have been.
Terrified, I went and sat on the couch again. Waiting for the night to pass, I listened intently to all of the sounds around me. I carefully evaluated each one. Nothing seemed to be out of place. The sun eventually came up and all was well in the world again. I was exhausted. Afraid of the next night. Fearful of new experiences with hallucination. Unfortunately, I still had a lower depth to dip, before I was willing to go to any length to experience freedom from addiction.
The night I went insane is not anything that I am proud of. There was nothing that was glamorous about it. Alcohol and seeking to self medicate led me to a place where I was completely out of control, when all I wanted was to be in more control of the things that were around me. I don’t know exactly what all happened in my mind, in my house, or in my heart that night, but I know that I regularly think back on that experience. Prayerfully, I hope that I never have to experience those terrifying moments again. For a month after that, I lived petrified to go to bed. I couldn’t lay down without having anxiety. I couldn’t sit up without an anxious breathing moment. The pressure had become to much. I had become consumed with escape. The only escape that awaited me was a long year of battling depression and anxiety, dealing with unwelcome circumstances (created by my poor selfish choices) and finding life again.
Today, I can look back and see that I really did go insane. I really did end up in an institution (see psych ward), then a jail (for the first and hopefully last time), then experienced just a hint of death. God rescued me in those moments, I have no doubt. I don’t think I fully grasped what salvation really meant until the sun came up that day. I still don’t fully grasp what salvation means, but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was saved from myself in those moments.
Today, I am grateful for the moments of extreme anxiety and aloneness. For without those, I would be experiencing the fullness of death, and instead I am beginning to experience the fullness of life.