People are born pure. The transformation from pure to impure comes as a result of the environment to which they are exposed. We are that environment. We are the primary reason that people love, hate, or even kill. As human beings, we are our strongest adversary. We are by far our own worst enemy, but we can be our best friend as well.
After a very tumultuous marriage, I was divorced in April 1984. The marriage had been over for a few years for reasons that weren't necessarily my own. I had stayed because of my son Erick. A handsome young son with tasseled blond hair and a natural golden colored skin, he was, and still is, my little boy.
The summer of 1984 was our last full summer as one. We had spent the months right after the divorce bonding. We did everything together. I enjoyed him holding my hand as we crossed the street or laughing together as we watched "The Dukes of Hazzard" with Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane, his favorite TV show at the time.
Erick stayed with me until the end of the summer. When I took him to Jacksonville, Florida and left him with his mom, the devastation was enormous. Depression, which had begun over the waning years of my marriage, grew unchecked. It infested me to the point it became me. I became as mean and as hateful as the person I had divorced.
In September of 1984, on a golf outing to Callaway Gardens, Georgia, three women walked around the corner of the lobby. In the middle was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. Somehow, in January 1985, she became my wife.
The happiness that reinvigorated my life lasted for years. Gradually, the endless court battles over child support began to send me back to the depression that had been sleeping untreated within me. My son became the weapon of choice by my ex-wife. With one exception, the Florida court system allowed this horror to continue unabated. Deeper and deeper I fell.
Depression is a sneaky son-of-a-gun. You have no idea of how sick you are, but everyone around you sees it. Women who have it are called bitches, men asses, or words to that effect. I had a diploma in it. I graduated Magna Cum Laud.
Depression's manifestations come in several forms. You don't want to live. Misery is your master and you want all those around you to become enveloped in the same cloud. The saying is absolutely true, "Misery loves company." I wanted all the company I could get.
Self-destructive behavior becomes the norm. Because you hate yourself and life, you decide that you want everyone else to hate you as well. This disease, when left untreated, is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It completes the circle. By having no respect for yourself and others, you either lose the perspective of right and wrong, or you don't care. Displeasing those around you is no longer hurtful since you seek the pain of others as you would a blanket when cold. You have become an evil human being and evil subsists on evil.
In order to seek help, there has to be no other recourse. Life must box you in like a caged animal. The trick is that there must be someone there to keep you from taking that final leap into the fate that awaits most who never get treatment.
In 1996 my wife had finally reached her limits. She had invested 100% of her heart in me for a return of half that. Enough was enough. She packed her bags and left. I went to bed with a bottle of scotch and very bad thoughts. I wrapped her nightgown from the night before around my pillow. Her scent was all that was left of our marriage. I wanted out of the life that I had made for myself and my family.
Jake, my pet cocker spaniel, hopped up on the bed and laid his head on my chest. He stared at me. He had never done this before. No matter what I did his gaze never left my eyes. I was in and out of consciousness; yet, I always awoke to his stare. His eyes were begging me to stay. How was that possible? What magic was in those eyes that can convey so much love and caring? Whatever the answer, he kept me alive through the night. Such is the undying love of an animal for a man that he can see beyond the bad and sense what little good might be left somewhere inside.
The next day, it seemed like at least a week, my wife called to check on me. She laid out a series of things I had to do if she was to come home. I was finally there. I had finally made the trip to rock bottom. I was ready to do whatever it took to begin the climb out of depression and back to sanity.
I found a faith-based counselor for our marriage and a psychiatrist for my meds. The details of this can be read in another article of mine, "Count Your Blessings". I won't recount them again here, but suffice it to say that it was a remarkable journey for both of us. Thus began the healing of my mind.
Later, just as our lives were returning to normal, I had some chest pain. I went to my equally depressed doctor and he sent me, not to a cardiologist, but to a gastroenterologist. We met and he did some blood work. A week or two later he gave me the news. I had an exposure to Hepatitis C, a deadly disease that would destroy my liver over time. The only treatment was 48 weeks of chemotherapy with a success rate of only 35-40%. I would lose all my hair and be sick all but of one week out of the month for the next year.
New blood work was required to find out if I was active or not. The chances of being inactive were 75% against. Not good. It would take six weeks for the test results to come back. It was a good thing I was under the care of a two therapists. I took Prozac like aspirin.
Earlier I had, as part of my healing process, begun reading the Bible. I committed to reading it cover to cover, word by word, in one year. I went to it now, in my time of need, to look for answers.
I prayed. I prayed that my wife didn't have this disease. I told God that, if He needed to choose between the two of us to be sick, to please choose me. I wasn't sure of His answer but I was sure He was listening.
I told a few very close friends of my predicament. They asked me if it would be alright for them to put me on their church's prayer list. I readily agreed. I don't know if you have ever had the privilege of being prayed for by total strangers, but I can tell you it is a humbling experience.
Later, while on a trip to Montgomery, Alabama to do some shopping I was sitting alone in the mall waiting on my wife while she looked at clothes. I had a book I was reading since I new this would take a while.
As I sat and read, I felt someone staring at me. I looked up and was surprised to see an elderly man in the ladies apparel shop looking at clothes and staring at me intermittently. Short in stature, he had the whitest, fluffiest hair I had ever seen. It looked like a cloud had descended onto his head. His dress was strangely 1970's. He had on a light blue leisure suit with a wide white belt, white shoes and a white shirt. He had a kind smile and very, very blue eyes. And he kept staring at me and smiling.
I began to become a bit unnerved when, all of a sudden, he began to walk in my direction, his gaze affixed directly at me. Smiling kindly as he approached, he stopped and asked me only one question. "Are you still reading your Bible every day?" How did this weird little guy know I was reading the Bible daily? "Yes, I am," I quickly replied. He smiled, turned, and walked out of sight.
As my wife came up I asked if she had seen the man. "What are talking about?" came her reply. I recounted the story to her in great detail. When I had finished, I truly felt the presence of God. Thus began the healing of my soul.
A few weeks later we went to the doctor to get the results of my test. Dr. Orth came into the room with a much needed smile on his face. "You've won the lottery, "he said. "You are going to be fine. You're inactive and you have a 99.99% chance you will never become active."
To put this into simple terms, my own immune system had fought this disease and won. My body had killed a disease that 48 weeks of injections of intense and almost lethal poisons had only a 40% chance of destroying.
My prayers had been answered. I reflected back to the man in the leisure suit. Was he a messenger? Was he my angel? I know that I had just had a miracle happen to me. My wife, as well, had not been infected. I will never know in this lifetime who this man was, but I believe he will greet me one day at the door to Heaven. Thus, my body had been healed.
Everything happens in life for a reason, and in God's time. I really believe this. I had been taken to rock bottom so that I could be re-cast as a new person, a better person. I had willingly made this journey back, my faith guiding me.
My mind had to be healed in order for me to accept God. I had to accept God into my life in order for my body to be healed. My body was healed because I had accepted God back into my life and into my soul.
My wife had to want to make the journey with me as well, since I couldn't, and wouldn't, make it alone. To her credit, and her love for a man that almost gave up on himself, she never gave up on us. She recommitted herself to me and our marriage, as did I.
My passage has taken me through the lowest of lows and highest of highs. I had given my troubles to God before the worst of my problems began. I was tested in my faith, and never wavered, not once. I had my wife, my family and my life back.
Finally, my journey complete, I was healed in mind, body, and soul.