CELEBRATING HIS BIRTHDAY—AND MINE
November, 2004 by Jim Robinson
Christmas. New Year’s. The holiday season is here! And
soon, for me, there will be one more reason to celebrate and
give thanks. My "birthday" is approaching.
January 2nd, 2005, I will celebrate the day I got
sober. This was in many ways the most important day of my
life, at least as far as my new life is concerned. I remember
little about it, actually. I had been a fifth-and-a-half a
day alcoholic and drug addict for a number of years, and during
that time had managed to destroy nearly everything around
me. I had no job, no car, and no place of my own to live.
My existence had become one of darkness and fear and shame,
and I was so toxic in body and spirit that I can now recall
few details about that cold day I discovered a place of hope
and healing. In my memoir entitled Prodigal
Song, I did my best to describe the bondage of addiction:
had tried to stop. The only thing more terrifying than intentionally
trying to kill yourself with drink and drugs is that hopeless,
helpless moment when you come face to face with the true demon
of addiction, that fear-frozen instant of realization when
after an endless stream of days and nights you cry out to
the useless gods surrounding you and beg them to help you
quit, but still you can’t. This is a road not
on any map of the non-addicted mind, a land of fear and panic
and the utter hopelessness of life without faith. This is
where we live, lifelessly—embracing the unique misery
that comes from the overpowering compulsion to continue the
torture, even as the sound of our own screams for mercy bounce
off the walls and ring down the hall.
so, having been so lost in this emptiness, I am for the most
part at a loss as to this miracle of my recovery. I know that
one night I encountered an Old Friend, one from whom I had
been running most of my adult life. He found me, and killed
the death within me, and planted in my destitute heart a new
beginning…a new hope. Again, from Prodigal
on this night, in the unfurnished back bedroom of someone’s
house, lying on an old mattress on the floor surrounded by
unpacked boxes, something changed…I felt myself
being crushed. The truth of death slammed into me like a train,
and I burst into wrenching, agonizing sobs, as if my soul
were being torn from my chest, as if there was blood in my
tears. On my knees, curled over the mattress like a broken
bird, my face pressed into the sheets by a weight threatening
to smother me, the futility and longing and utter despair
of my life weighing down on me until the breath was forced
from my body…and the tears began pouring out of me like
rain…until whatever had been haunting me came rushing
out with a shudder and a gasp and helpless hollow howling,
and then died…and though it seemed to me that many lifetimes
had passed since I last called out His name, I suddenly realized…He
had not changed…lying there in the afterglow of
resurrection, I knew that in His eyes I was again a little
boy, once more a child. His child.
was crazy, and I was still very sick in body and spirit. But
something had happened that night, and I would never be the
same. God only knows how it came to be. And I don’t
know how many blurred days passed before that cold and rainy
afternoon when I somehow found my way to the downtown mission,
to a meeting in the basement of an old stone church. I don’t
remember much about that first visit, or even exactly how
I got there. But one moment will remain in my mind as long
as I live—my hands shaking badly as I tried to pour
a cup of coffee, the stuff spilling all over the table, and
a withered hand reaching in to gently steady the cup and pour
it full. And I remember those eyes, the eyes of this seventy-three
year old woman, and I saw peace in them.
like you could use some help," she said.
so, the healing began. There was much hard work ahead for
me, of course. But should God grant me the gift, I will have
been clean and sober for sixteen years on January 2, 2005.
Pausing here at this time of Christmas, New Year’s,
and my "sobriety birthday," I can’t help wondering
how all this came to be—a new career, a family, a sense
of belonging and wholeness. Why me? Why not so many others,
those hurting souls I work with in my counseling office, or
sing to in churches, or visit and teach in treatment facilities
and prisons? There is much mystery in it all. But within the
mystery hovers a hope that is stronger than our fear, a Love
that runs deeper than our wounds.
we approach the day when Christians everywhere rejoice at
the Savior’s birth, I can look back at my own life and
rejoice for my rebirth…the old life made new in Christ.
And so, ultimately, I simply pause to give thanks to the loving
Christ who chose, for His reasons, to reach out to this prodigal
and draw him back Home.
is a special time of year. Despite the commercialization of
the holiday season, we as Christians can know the true meaning,
and overcome the world by embracing the living Savior. This
is, for us, a time of unspeakable joy.
others, though, this season can amplify the loneliness…even
as we stand in a room full of people. Addiction is a disease
of shame, loss, fear…but most of all loneliness. But
we are not alone. Christ is born. Hope is alive.
am thankful indeed. Because I know healing can come, not only
for me, but also for others. We call His name, and He comes.
Certainly there is hard work ahead for every recovering person
(and recovery is about a lot more than just substance abuse).
But ours is a God who gladly joins us on our knees each morning,
and walks with us through each day.
you, Lord Jesus. For saving me from myself. For breathing
new life into my weary spirit. For never leaving me. Because
this I now know: No matter how far from You I ran, You were
ever near. And every time I turned my back, You were always