By Eric Robert Hunter
“ In my dark times, I’ll be going back to the street. Promising everything I do not mean. In my dark times, baby, this is all I could be and only my mother can love me for me… In my dark times..” The Weeknd and Ed Sheeran sing “Dark Times”: a song that penetrates my core as an alcoholic addict. As alcoholics we can all identify with the instant regret that immediately follows our sprees of instant gratification. This intangible, unquantifiable emotion of regret is the defining emotion of ‘the dark times’. More recently I found myself playing this track on repeat as I relapsed and then re-entered the loving rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous (for which I am so very grateful). The dark times started with the initial cycle of relapse commencing: the planning, cancelling of plans and overall mental obsession. They sustained themselves in my drinking: hopping from one motel to the next, slinking in and out of liquor stores and trying desperately not to be seen by anyone I may have met in AA. The dark times even persisted as I stopped drinking and reintroduced myself as a newcomer once again: let’s consider that the sun rising – I could not be rid of the darkness fast enough as it still lingered even in the dawn’s majestic beauty.
Reflecting on my most recent bout with the disease of alcoholism that is now amplified by drug addiction when I do drink, I’m reminded of an unforgettable experience I had while serving on a mission trip in Fiji. Accompanied by fellow college students, during this three week mission trip we were lead on a staple three mile hike or climb up the inactive volcano standing tall behind the medical mission facilities. It was a highly anticipated excursion, recounted with enthusiasm by any alum of the mission trip. After reaching summit atop the heavily forested volcano, we took a group photo and commenced our descent. A few of my male counterparts literally forged the trail coming and going, machetes in hand as they cleared the path. I was in no race to get back to the mission and as one of the largest, strongest men in the group I decided it best to lead from the back – making sure no one was left behind. Rumors of students getting lost and stranded in the jungle that is home to the International Date Line gave me nightmarish thoughts inspired by my favorite television series LOST.
As our grouped steadied themselves for the downhill decline, all but five us trailed in the back. A sweet, highly intelligent but un-adventurous newfound friend of mine who we will call Alaney slipped, landing on flat on her buttocks. Upon falling, she slid down the slippery, muddy decline that was steep enough to leave her sliding out of control. Her slide came to a halt when her right leg wedged itself under a thick root: the type of root that looked like a vine Tarzan could swing from. Alaney was stuck and could not free her thigh from the roots grasp. I positioned myself behind her, grabbed under her armpits and desperately tried to pull her from under it the way she came into it. She nor the root would budge. We had a problem. A couple of friends caught up with the one local Fijian who had led us on the excursion, Siwa. Siwa returned to us with machete in hand. We shielded Alaney as Siwa hacked away at the root with several swings finally freeing Alaney from her bondage. However upon standing Alaney up, she fell right back down. She said she could not feel her leg. She could not walk let alone climb down through the jungle.
Siwa and I took turns carrying Alaney on our backs. Siwa carried her a good mile and a half before exhausting himself enough to entrust me with her. I may have carried Alaney a quarter mile, only a fraction of the time Siwa had. It was exhausting under the sweltering heat, humidity and unstable ground turned over by band fellow undergraduates. At times the muddy trail was too narrow, too slippery, too steep for us to risk injuring ourselves carrying her. Alaney had to pull herself through overturned dirt as huge ants scattered about; long, round earthworms writhed displaced and exposed. These were definitely Alaney’s dark times. When Siwa gathered his strength enough to carry her again, we agreed I would make haste to the medical mission and get help: somehow, someway. I did just that. Exhausted, filthy, fatigued and panicked by the cold to touch feeling of my new friend’s leg, I ran the last mile. I prayed fervently for God to give me the strength, though disappointed in myself for walking I pressed as fast as I could to recruit help. As I near a clearing I spotted a truck and recruited the driver to drive as far up the dirt path as possible to meet the ones remaining; those helping Siwa help Alaney. I had never cared so much about someone else in quite a long time. Alaney would eventually walk a day later but the trauma of what happened on the excursion remains clear and vivid in my mind. An undeniable bond now formed forever between all of us that fought to get Alaney out of her situation: out of the jungle before the sun went down. The ants and worms were the least of my worries.
Recently I had my own slip. I could not feel who I was in sobriety. Embattled with fear, doubt and the “I can’t go through with it” mentality. I was obsessed with drinking, with relapsing. The mental obsession was the confining root or vine from which I could not remove myself by my own efforts. I needed help. Unlike the start of my dark times in the past, this time I did not let the sun set before I called for help. I recognized how powerless I was and that I could not get out of the jungle, the thick my disease, on my own. In talking with other members of AA, I saw men with more time with me, men that knew the jungle and trepidation of alcoholism all too well, climb up the steep incline to my rescue.
The prayer said for me over the phone by Andrew L. was the machete that cut the root by swings of faith. The kind words of Mike G. put me on his back as he took me as far as he could to safety. The one-on-one with my sponsor cleared the path for me and encouraged me to pull myself thru the mud and do whatever it took to get out of this rut. The dark times did not ever expand like our universe through space and time, surrounding me on all sides like quicksand. The penetrating light of others’ love invaded the darkness and kept me sober. Corinthians 13:13 (NLT) states, “Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.” I can attest to the accuracy of this Biblical truth. With these ideas and practices of faith, hope and love lasting forever, I am convinced that they do in fact evade space and time. The immediacy with which members came to me beckons me to trust others. The call times I can still review on my iPhone are quantifiable evidences of love.
Bishop T.D. Jakes recently asked the question, “Have you ever lost your fight-back?” in his message “The Gospel Exposed”. Alcoholics can answer ‘yes’ to that question, hence ‘we admitted we were powerless over alcohol’ just as Alaney was powerless over that root. The dark times are initiated by a surrendering of power and rather surrender that power to God, untreated alcoholics surrender their will and their lives to alcohol: a debilitating trap, that can leave us stranded if not for others who are willing to help. Power is an incredible thing that stems from idea; just like faith, hope and love. These ideas transform into things because of the energy required to actualize them.
In studying physics, I learned the difference between potential energy and kinetic energy. Potential energy: the energy possessed by a body by virtue of its position relative to others, stresses within itself, electric charge, and other factors. Kinetic Energy: energy that a body possesses by virtue of being in motion. As a member of AA the power of sobriety is being revealed to me thru the redirection of my energy. When I am faced with what appears to be a problem, therein lies my potential energy. This energy is not in motion, the medium of which to do so can be either constructive or destructive. Rather than facilitating dark times in my life (relapses) and putting that energy into the motion of doubt, fear and futility by drinking, I’m now exerting power over alcoholism and addiction. I am putting that energy into motion by reaching out to other alcoholics, asking for help and constructing my life rather than destroying it. The kinetic energy is now in the form of faith, hope and love. Lest not to be forgotten: Isaac Newton’s First Law: a body in motion stays in motion. Hence faith, hope and love last forever.
“… the greatest of these is love.” – I Corinthians 13:13