Surviving the here and now

Joey Garcia

When I was 15, I met a 23-year-old guy who was leaving town to live with a woman in Seattle. We stole a few kisses. Years later, we began dating, but broke up because he doesn’t want a long-distance relationship. I was crushed and threw myself into work, but it’s been a disaster: I was doing a promotion in front of a bookstore when I left to buy bottled water. While waiting to pay I saw people approaching my table so I ran out and was charged with stealing. Depressed, I bought some wine and mixed it with Gatorade for the drive home. I ran out of gas, called AAA, the police arrived and I was charged with my second DUI. I’m ashamed of my mistakes and I do see the connection to alcohol abuse. All of this may offer a lesson, but I cannot deal with the pain of now. How will I get through this?

With difficulty and hope, or with suffering and drama. It’s your choice, but I have a suggestion. Imagine that every painful feeling you have is accompanied by an invoice that says, “due and payable upon receipt.” If you attend to that feeling by first feeling it and then processing it (questioning its legitimacy, writing about the feeling or talking with a friend or counselor) before acting on it, you’ve paid the invoice. If negative feelings are not examined or expressed in a healthy way, they begin to accrue charges. Those emotional charges can drive you toward increasingly inappropriate drama—like the kind you’re experiencing now.

You felt the exquisite pain that can follow the end of a romantic relationship. You tried to use work to avoid feeling that pain. Work became painful. You used the resulting situation to deepen your relationship with alcohol. More suffering followed. Alcohol, of course, is also known as spirits. We hunger for God, but substitute alcohol because it’s easier than facing ourselves.

That said, I don’t think you can blame depression for your choice to mix a cocktail and then consume it while driving. However, you could blame yourself. Ancient pagans defined evil as living backwards (“live/evil”—get it?). Evil is knowing what is wrong and choosing to do it anyway. Like drinking and driving.

Forget AAA. Join AA. Then find a counselor and commit to a regular schedule of individual sessions. And, when you’re selecting a partner, don’t choose someone who is in a relationship with another woman, but thinks it’s OK to kiss you. That’s called betrayal and it’s not the basis for sanity.

After years as a fundamentalist Christian, I now embrace other religions, but I haven’t figured out how to pray publicly to include all faiths and beliefs. I believe in a higher power, but don’t know what to call him/her/it. Help!

I think of public prayer as a spontaneous movement of the heart toward God. When I lead a prayer, I silently ask God to speak through me. Then I pray aloud, talking to God in the conversational tone appropriate for a beloved companion. For me, calling that companion “higher power” would be pretentious. Nor am I willing to assign God a gender. Since I’ve healed my issues with my parents, God as mother-father-he-she is of no service. Frankly, when I pray, I trust that God knows we are in conversation, so there is no need for a formal address. Or I just say “God.” That’s simple.

Meditation of the week
I had the privilege of giving the sermon at the First English Lutheran Church in Oak Park on a recent Sunday. The pastor reminded us that the War on Terrorism includes the eradication of domestic violence and child abuse. Are you ready to be a real peacekeeping force?

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