Saturday, 5 June 2010

Step 3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him, or: tell me what to do and I’ll do it.

There is awesome power and creation in making a decision and then following it up with action, and the more daring the decision, the more fantastic the results. This is how revolutions happen; this is how we change the world.

Jesus Christ, at the age of thirty, made a decision to quit carpentry and become an itinerant preacher. So that’s what he did. And look what happened.


I have a friend, Jamie. I first met him about fifteen years ago in a squat in Gloucester Street in Brighton. I’d heard about him long before that. The hippies hated him. They blamed him for everything. I mean, this boy really seemed to get their backs up. I knew I was going to like him, even then. One day, while all the bearded Nazis were sitting around listening to the Incredible String Band, smoking nutmeg and trying to have a spiritual experience, a brick came rocketing through the window of the front room, by the hand of a disgruntled homosexual who lived up the street. Amazingly, Jamie got the blame for it. And he wasn’t even there. The reasoning seemed to be this: If Jamie was more like the hippies and not so much like Jamie, the said homosexual would not have been angry and would not have thrown the brick. I mean, who could ever have anything against a bunch of right-on flower children, you dig? So when Jamie arrived back home to the squat, he was asked to leave again, forever.

Jamie, at that time, was a street junkie, and I would usually see him begging on street corners, or getting in to some aggravation with somebody somewhere. To be honest, much as I liked him, I thought he was a no-hoper, even then.

Well, he went his way and I went mine, and we met up again about ten years later, in a street in Winchester. Jamie had just got out of a treatment centre, where he’d been for the best part of a year. It was one of those “concept houses”, where they make you dress up in a nappy and get all your peers to beat you with a big stick and put signs on your back saying “I am a worthless bastard”. He’d gone there to address his long-term heroin addiction (which he had), but they’d overlooked the root cause of his problem, which is that he’s a raging alcoholic.

As luck would have it, I was in the grip of extreme alcoholism myself, so we were perfect best friends for each other from that moment on.

We spent the next couple of years in his house drinking ourselves into a state of near death. Sometimes I used to look at him and think: thank God I’m not as so far gone as you, mate. Towards the end Jamie couldn’t get himself out of bed. We’d even have to carry him to the toilet. He slept with his bottle clutched tightly to him. Finally somebody came along and carted him off to a treatment centre in Portsmouth, and that was that. I didn’t see him for months, and in that time I was given a council flat and proceeded to drink myself into a state of terminal hopelessness.

It was paranoid and suicidal drinking. It was closed curtains and darkness. It was blunt knives and blood in the bathroom. It was futile drug overdoses and the overpowering stench of fear. It was fucking grim.

Then one day Jamie turned up, at my front door. He was sober. It was years since I could remember him coming to my house in that condition. Not really. In all the years I’d known him, I’d never seen him sober. In fact I’d rarely seen him standing up. I was amazed.

This is what he said to me:

            “Have you had enough of all this shit yet? Because if you have you can come with me and get sober and never have to drink again.”

I looked at the council flat that I’d got after six years of homelessness and sofa-surfing; I looked at the black hole that I’d fallen into and couldn’t escape; I looked at the desecrated ruins of my life, and I looked at him. If it had been anyone else things might have turned out differently, but it was Jamie that I was looking at, and I knew just how hopeless he’d been. Something unbelievable had happened to him. I’d had enough of the way I was living a long time before. But I’d never really known what my problem was, or that there was anything I could do about it. It was a no-brainer. Right there and then I made a decision to go with him and do whatever it was that he’d done. I made a decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of my friend and the unknown. He got me a detox, and we left two days later. It was as a direct result of that decision and the subsequent action I took that my obsession to drink was removed.

I never went back.

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