Looking in the mirror can be a painful thing.
In our own mind we fashion an image of ourselves that is acceptable to us. Perhaps we think much more highly of ourselves than we ought to think. Perhaps we simply believe about ourselves what we would like others to believe about us as well. And perhaps, at times, we are simply not capable of seeing ourselves for who we are.
I believe that most of the time people do what they perceive to be right. "It seemed like a good idea at the time" is a statement that rings true to me more times than not. There have been few occasions that I intentionally chose to do evil.
It is as though we spend much of our lives writing our own resume'. And the image we present of who we are and the list of accomplishments that we would take credit for are both equally flattering. We spend much of our lives crafting this self identity, and the rest of our lives telling ourselves how well we are doing at maintaining this image that we've created.
And then there is that damn mirror. And those moments when we look into the mirror and actually see the person that is reflected there, and not just what we would like to see.
"You are the man!"
October 15, 2012, The first thing I remember about that day was waking up, and reaching over to the bedside stand for my glasses, only to discover that they were a mangled mess. Next, I recall becoming aware that I had some scrapes and soreness, where it should not had been. And then, running to the mirror I saw what there was to see. And the man in the mirror was not at all who I wished was there.
The night before, in a rage, I had turned to my drug of choice, alcohol, in an attempt to quiet the beast within. Still raging at bedtime, in spite of consuming over a fifth of Scotch, I decided that I would take my regular dose of Ativan, an anti-anxiety med I had been prescribed. Not a good choice.
I vaguely recall reaching for, and missing the bed post, as I tried to undress. Like a bad dream, I recall a sensation of going down, down, down. Then there were people there. My wife. Friends. They were doing something to me. Bothering me, really. (Tending to my wounds.) And throughout the night they kept waking me up as a precaution, fearing a concussion.
I had to face them in the morning. "You need help." I could acknowledge my depression. Depression is a convenient 'neutral' thing. And so I went to the hospital, hoping for help for my depression, and quite frankly, thankful that I'd have some time away to heal before having to show my face to my congregation.
And then "Nathan" spoke. "You are an alcoholic."
Nope. Not the image I was accustomed to seeing in the mirror. "I admit that I drank more than I should have last night and that I've been self medicating with alcohol, but I'm not an alcoholic."
"You almost died."
You are the man!
Finally, I had to admit that the man in the mirror was me. And with the words, "I am an alcoholic." spoken first to my wife, my child, and my bishop (and a couple others), forgiveness came. I may have been locked up in a psych ward, but hope was renewed for the first time in a long time. Forgiveness is a blessed thing. Especially when it is wrapped in a deep love and compassion. I experienced that.
But I could not escape the consequences, either. There was some wreckage to clean up. And a life to rebuild. Its been a process of healing that is still unfolding years later. I'm headed in the right direction. I can face the man in the mirror.
"You are the man!"
"But I am the Lord, and I declare unto you the entire forgiveness of all your sins. Your faith has made you well."
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