A mostly fictional account of confession and brotherhood.
It’s raining. Which means that, for no logical reason whatsoever, traffic will be a disaster. I had decided a month ago that this would be the week, and I don’t need this extra aggravation of fighting traffic to be piled on top of this weight that already sits on my shoulders. Why does God pile on like this? I’m trying to do a good thing here. The right thing. For once.
Crawling along the expressway doing the mental math on how late I’m going to be, I can see their faces. Shock. Surprise. I can see the life they have in their eyes leaving as they realize this “stand up guy” sitting in front of them has been a fraud for the past five months. Yeah, I’m a stand up guy. Right.
Addiction. I hate that word. I hate it. It’s a label that sticks. We all know the mantra. “I’m clean now but I’ll always be an addict.” Great. I have that on my shoulders for a lifetime even if I can get myself to stop. And that would be bearable if I really could get myself to stop. But apparently I can’t because on the very day I decided to bear my soul and tell this weekly group of guys about it I actually couldn’t stop myself from a little indulgence over the lunch break.
Seriously? One day. One damn day and I couldn’t keep it together.
This weekend retreat five months ago was supposed to be the line in the sand. “Boy after a commitment of an entire weekend this demon will be ripped right out of me and it will never happen again.” Yeah right. You like how that sounds? Like it’s some third person. Like it just “happens” again. It doesn’t “happen.” I make it happen. I do it. And I hate it. I hate myself for it. I just basically hate myself in general. Let’s be honest.
I don’t need these thoughts right now. I need a clear head. I needed a clean conscience. I don’t have that. The vast majority of me wants to just bag it, send the email that I’m stuck in traffic and that I won’t make it this week. What do they know? It’s not like they know I was planning to humiliate myself tonight anyway. It won’t make any difference. But to be honest, I don’t know if I can handle another seven days of this garbage in my head.
The painfully slow traffic finally deposits me in the church parking lot and I recognize the cars of all the guys I’d probably rather not tell face to face. It would be better for them to just hear it through other channels. Seriously. I’ve given these guys advice. I’ve talked to them about clean living. About walking away from addictions. Like I’m some kind of expert. Like I’m not a fraud who’s buried it in just as deep as they are. I have to look these guys in the eye and pull that rug right out from under them. The guy they assumed had it together… doesn’t.
Walking across the parking lot I feel every small drop of rain hit me. I am hyper aware of every sensation, every sound. But not every emotion. No. Those are fading fast as the numbing process is well underway. The numbing process I go through every time I walk into this church. Past that cross. He died for my sins and I can’t even bring myself to stop committing them. “Thanks for dying for my sins… again.” Then I picture the mind of an all seeing God and the thought that must run through His mind as I walk into this church covered in a thick veil of lies.
I had planned on being the first one here. That makes it easier, right? I had hoped. No such luck. They are halfway through the devotional and each looks up for a second with a welcoming face. I have no ability to cover my emotions, so they read me like a book. Something’s up and they see it. The good friend I land next to does the sincere look and whispers, “You okay man?” “Yeah I’m good. Irritated with traffic.” “You’re here now. Relax. No worries.”
If only he knew what I had to say tonight. Relax. No worries. Yeah. The curtain is about to be pulled back buddy. I’ve got some worries.
But hang on a second. I’m not required to say anything here. I don’t have to do this. Why torture myself? Why go through it? Maybe it would even be better to string together a couple of clean weeks first so I could at least announce the humiliation with a touch of victory. “I had an addiction” is way better than “I have an addiction.” Of course I’ve been saying that for five months and can barely string together two days of clean living, much less two weeks.
Forget it. I’m doing it. I want this over with. I want this out of me. Steve came clean four weeks ago and I’ve been saying ever since that I’d do the same. If nothing else I owe it to Steve to not leave him feeling like he’s out in the cold on this.
The devotion is wrapping up and I haven’t heard a single word of it. My mind has been racing and fully self absorbed. Some routine weekly announcements and then it starts. Who wants to go first? Simple answers to a simple question. Answer if you want. Don’t answer if you don’t want to. It’s not too late to bail on this. The question: What are some of your victories and failures. I have a plan. Let’s focus on a few good victories. I graduated Suma Cum Laude from undergrad. That’s a victory. We’ll start with that. Now onto some failures.
Here we go.
Everything, every sound, every tiny shift in someone’s chair falls into slow motion. I feel their eyes on me like spotlights pointed at a stage. I feel heat in my face and I can only imagine how red it is. I decide to just start talking and let it go where it goes.
“I can’t stop. I can’t. I’ve tried. I can’t stop guys. I don’t know what to do to stop.”
And then it happens. I say it. I tell them. All of it. I don’t hold back. I let it out. I literally feel the tension leave my body as I lay it all out through a curtain of tears to this group of men who have already changed my life and are about to change it more than I could ever imagine.
Then it’s silent for what feels like an eternity. Dead silent. Then Alan stands up. He walks over. “Stand up brother.” I look up, probably with the humiliated face of an 8 year old boy. He says, “I said stand up brother.” I stand up, and he grabs me like he’s never going to let go. And he says right into my ear, “What did you think? That we’d walk away? Is that what you thought?” I lose it. I absolutely lose it. The wall is down. The façade is shattered. My broken pieces are out there for them to see and I lose it. And Alan isn’t letting go. “I love you brother,” he says. “Nothing changes that. Not ever.”
I eventually open my eyes. I see the line. The line of my brothers standing behind Alan waiting to pick up the pieces of me on the ground. One at a time they come. They tell me I’m strong. They tell me I’m their brother. Some don’t say a thing. But not a single one walks away. Not a single one. These are my brothers. My band of brothers in the toughest fight of my life.
I fall back into my seat physically exhausted. Then Jason says the phrase that would change my life. “So. What are we going to do about this?”
The strength of this room suddenly overwhelms me and I realize for the first time in my life that I am not alone. That’s the lie. The lie that I must beat this first, on my own, and then proclaim my victory. But I can’t win this fight by myself. The last five months are proof of that. I need a band of brothers who will charge onto my battlefield and pick me up every time I fall. And I have them. Letting me lose this battle is not an option for them. They just won’t let it happen. I matter to them. And for a guy who doesn’t even really matter to himself, that takes a little time to sink in. But it’s sinking in.
We were never meant to fight our fights on our own. Yes, we are all built to be heroes. But we aren’t wired to do it alone. So here I am. This is the closest I can get to wrapping my arms around you and calling you brother. If you are fighting, I am here to fight with you. I you are falling, I am here to pick you up.
I am your brother.
We were built to be heroes.
It’s about time we started acting like heroes.