Pot. Speed. X. Coke. Acid. Shrooms. Liquor. Sex.
It was more than a hobby. More than a recreational pursuit of a good time. It was LIFE. Those painkillers/life-enhancers were what I lived for. What else was there? I was the consummate day-trader. Exchanging canyon-low for sky-high. Palpable darkness for synthetic light. Irrepressible pain for fleeting pleasure.
I worked two jobs over the summer before my senior year in high school. Hence, I had cash when my friends did not. Somehow, this consumer became vendor. Dispensing good-times was my capital venture. Doses were measured in my basement. Deals were made in my driveway. I was a high-provider for a multitude of seekers. My needs for pleasure and significance were bought and paid for. My motto: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will provide pleasure for your souls.”
High Life = Empty Life
Eventually. Inevitably. Sooner or later. Pursuit of the high-life will thwack the Great Wall of Futility. Empty. Hallow. Vain. The never-ending pursuit of pain-relief (or “life-enhancement” for those who don’t see pain as the cause of their pleasurable pursuits) provides the cruelest of ironies. Embracing won’t lead to escaping darkness. It’s the soul’s attempt to light a match while getting scorched as the flame dies out. Throbbing blisters are the primary sensation while surrounded in black.
I was twenty-something when my sooner-or-later struck. As I piled analgesic upon analgesic, dark only became darker. In this voided state, I desperately turned to faith. I believed in Christ during my bondage to living “freely,” but Jesus was a weak anesthetic.
My soul was aching for Light.
The Light was drawing me in.
Religion: The Deadliest of Painkillers
I soon discovered a new painkiller. Although, at the time I thought it was LIFE. One foot remained stuck in the sludge of the life I had been living, while the other stepped into a new land of conformity, where the grass was seemingly greener. Life was a tug-o-war between attempting to get high with substances or with Jesus. Getting a Jesus high was exhausting. There was always something to live up to. Something to give. To give up. Be. Not be. Do. Not do.
Being a “good” Christian required a lot. It meant devoting time to a service. A study. A program. A vision. A mission. It meant following a dress code. A language code. A doctrine code. A rules code. Ultimately, it meant conforming to how a particular group of people defined Christianity. To what a “true believer” should look like.
But Praise God! I eventually gave up smoking, snorting, popping, eating, drinking and romping, for a new life of giving/giving up, doing/not doing, being/not being, living-up-to/not living-up-to.
Yes, indeed! I had found freedom in Christ! And my brothers and sisters around me celebrated! I was now like them! No longer addicted to painkillers! No longer trapped in my endless pursuit of a counterfeit life.
So why have I now experienced some of the most profound disillusionment of my life? Why have I returned to the pit? Why is pain more threatening than ever?
I now believe that religious conformity shackles the soul like nothing else. Honestly, I’d rather be addicted to heroine or sex. At least the high would be more enjoyable (~Gasp~ “I can’t believe he said that. He needs to repent!”).
Truth is, humanity is addicted. We’re all chasing like hell anything and everything that will either numb pain or give us some sense of feeling alive. And religion, especially Christian religion, only keeps us addicted. It dispenses “life” in an institution much the way I dispensed it in my driveway. If we perform…live up to…meet certain standards. If we “fit in,” the resulting feeling of “acceptance” helps soothe the ache.
But watch out! Eventually. Inevitably. Sooner or later. You’ll miss the mark. Your performance will be lacking. You’ll not quite fit. What will you do when you discover the fraud of religious painkillers? Where will you go to find life?
Decades have passed since I first discovered “hardcore” addictive painkillers. And I’m currently working through the disillusionment of what religion told me was the way to life.
I’m still a junkie. Still addicted to painkillers. The addiction will probably remain.
And I continue the search for life, but those famous lyrics are deeply true, “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.”
On this Easter Sunday, as I reflect on the One I believe I’m searching for… maybe what I’m searching for will find me. And maybe the pain He suffered, and the Life He gained, will help me find life through my own.