Today is the beginning of a new series of modern day REDEMPTION stories. If you follow my blog, you know that I have dedicated Monday's to helping others tell their personal stories of how they found redemption.
Just like "Eve", we have chosen to keep "Mike's" real identity a secret until later. Why? I want you, the reader, to be able to read the story without pre-conceived ideas about who this person is. In some ways, we are all Eve's, we are all Mike's. Our paths in life take us different directions, but we ultimately share the same need - Redemption.
If you or someone you know struggles with drugs and alcohol, this story will bring hope. God is a God of second chances and Mike is here to tell us how he knows this from personal experience.
The Man in the Mirror
There was scuffling of footsteps off to my left. I lifted my head to see who was there, but caught only a glimpse of white sneakers walking away. Groaning, I turned over and curled up in the fetal position, hoping to sink back into the comforting darkness of sleep.
Water. I kept hearing water. Running, always running. The floor beneath me was cold and hard… and sticky, nothing like my bed at home. More footsteps and a toilet flushing. “What the…?” Rubbing my eyes, I sat up quickly only to hit my head on the rim of the toilet behind me. An expletive rolled easily off my tongue as I slammed my hand against the door. It banged shut and snapped back at my face as if to mock me. Still massaging the pain in my skull, I tried to take inventory of what I was doing here - wherever “here” was.
Somehow I had ended up in a restroom. The stench coming from the stalls and the moisture from the disgusting tile floor I was laying on was enough to tell me that. I could feel a wet spot on my shoulder and realized I had been sleeping in a puddle of God-only-knows-what as I lay wrapped around an equally wet toilet. Slowly, I staggered to my feet and leaned heavily over the nearest sink.
The door opened again and a young kid stepped around the corner. He stopped for a moment, startled by my appearance. Just as quickly, he looked away and walked back out. I shrugged my shoulders, indifferent to the cause of his leaving.
My mouth tasted awful and I spit into the sink. Shaking my head a bit, still trying to make sense of what had happened to me, I caught my reflection in the mirror. No wonder that kid had left. I looked like death warmed over! Smelled like it too! Down the front of my shirt was a mixture of vomit, sweat, and… I wasn’t sure I wanted to know what else.
My head was pounding and the noise only grew louder now as the door opened once again. This time, it was two men, both in their late thirties. The first one made a beeline for the nearest stall, while the other stopped in his tracks and let out a low whistle, “Dude! You all right?”
“I’m fine.” He and I both knew it was a lie but neither had a problem with him turning and walking away.
Cranking the faucet, I began scrubbing at my shirt, trying to rid myself of the gut-wrenching smell that had ground its way into the fibers of the fabric. Boom, ba-ba-boom, ba-ba-boom, boom, boom. The pounding wouldn’t relent. Where am I? My thoughts are racing now, trying to make sense of it all, when suddenly, I remember! The concert! I had come here tonight with some friends. But… but then what happened?
Slowly, I remember and soon it’s all there before me - the fight in the mosh pit. A sinister smile spread across my face and I couldn’t stop the chuckle that burst from my lips when I recalled the explosion beneath the weight of my fist as I punched the other guy in the nose. So what if I had been hitting on his girlfriend, he had messed with the wrong guy when he chose to come after me. I felt powerful and I liked it. I had stood over the bleeding man, my heart feeling like it was about to burst, but satisfied that despite the line of coke I had snorted earlier, I was still in control.
EMT’s were called in to carry the guy out while bouncers stepped in and warned me to shape up or ship out. That’s when I had left the mosh pit and stumbled to the bathroom.
I rubbed my eyes and stared at myself. What happened after that? I thought hard and through the fog remembered feeling my control slipping away as I neared the restroom. By the time I had found an empty stall, I was sure my time was up. I could still feel the floor rising up to meet me as I collapsed next to the toilet. I had done a lot of coke and wondered now if my body could handle it. Just before I had sank into the welcoming darkness, I resigned myself to the fact that I had lost the game. “Usually you can handle it, Mike, but oh well. This time you went too far.”
How long I lay there, I can’t recall. But as I stood scrubbing at my shirt, I couldn’t shake the picture of Rachel that kept flashing before my eyes.
Rachel. My Rachel. Even now in my drug induced state, I see her chocolaty brown eyes, her long dark hair and the way she casually tosses it over her shoulder when she talks to me. Her smile is just as beautiful and comes easily. But what if she could see me now? What if she had seen me – lying there in my own filth - overdosed on drugs?
I stare down at the empty stall where I had been sleeping then back to the man in the mirror. Death had been closer than ever and I knew it was time. If I wanted to keep, no, if I wanted win the heart of my Rachel, something had to change. “But what would she want with a guy like you?” I can’t help but tell myself the ugly truth. I knew I wasn’t living the way I should. My parents had raised me better than this. Still, it was easier to be wrong that right.
Satisfied that I had cleaned up as good as I could, I smoothed my shirt and headed for the door. Girls like Rachel deserved a good man, not overdosed guys who passed out in public restrooms. I found my buddies and we headed out, looking for the next rush. The next high.
I shook the picture of Rachel out of my head. The night was still young, I had survived my closest call yet, and frankly, I just didn’t care.