During the past couple of decades, I developed a nasty disease called addiction. I now call it a blessing. Many people try to compartmentalize addiction into nice little packages; one for each drug or behavior of choice. Not me. I see each of these behaviors or drugs as a symptom of the same disease or dis-ease. Addictive behavior, like it says in the Big Book of AA, is an addicts way of seeking out “ease and comfort”. Just after my mission, I was assigned to go and interpret an AA meeting for an inmate in prison. While there I found the beginnings of a Gift that has blessed my life. Of course it took me almost two decades to discover it. I guess that is how self-deception works.
Fast forward almost 20 years later and you would find me finally coming clean to my bishop about my addiction and same-sex attractions. This was the beginnings of an adventure far from my usual state of seeking out “ease and comfort”. I remember the day well when my bishop loaded me up in his Chevy truck and headed to the desert for an Elders Quorum target practice. The sheer terror of it made me nearly hyperventilate on the way to the church. I must have drove back and forth three times trying to avoid this outing. Many years prior I had taken the firearm safety class and failed it three times during Boy Scouts. Always quitting in the middle just before the dreaded range day. Having been the kid who was a “wee too tenderhearted”, and having been the target of a bully or two, I was not about to go out and get shot “accidentally”.
Here I was years later just as scared as I was those many years ago. I finally bit the bullet (pun intended) and showed up. I did not have any reason to believe these guys were out to hurt me. Little did I realize I would be the one causing damage. In return they would present me with a huge gift of freedom from my addiction.
Now before you go jumping to conclusions that I somehow won my masculinity back that day. Or that I was gruesomely shot bin the head and the head trauma somehow healed me of the disease. No, I am not going there at all. I actually made a huge mistake that ruined my bishops revolutionary style muzzle loader. It cost him over $1200 to repair. That single mistake changed my life forever. Later the next week, when I was scheduled to meet with him, he met me in the parking lot in a fit of fury. He told me that he had a “Gift” for me that I would “remember the rest of my life.” Little did he know that he was speaking the words of prophesy.
My Bishop, while at the activity, had demonstrated how to load the charge, stuff it down the barrel, and prep the lock, aim and lightly touch the trigger, I had followed all the necessary steps (How to load a muzzle loader). I must admit, when I flicked the trigger a slow flash of light from the gunpowder in the lock lit up and passed from right to left before my eyes. POW! I was hooked.
Three or more shots and I wanted to do more, lots more. Now, Four days later, with my Bishop in a fit of rage, I realised I hadn’t followed the steps exactly. After shooting the gun, one must check to be sure the load actually left the barrel by putting the ramrod back in to measure. Load after load was stuffed in the inner chamber and as each successive load was misfired it began to destroy the heart of the gun. The breech needed some serious reworking by a Master gunsmith. The gun would never fire again without being refurbished. He handed me a ball and patch, attached to a string to wear around my neck, that was salvaged from the wreckage and he prophetically said, “I want you to wear this around your neck and remember it the rest of your life!”
I took it at that in anger and shame. That was my real mistake, and one I needed to repent of later. In that moment, I was devastated. I could go one for hours about the dynamic between the bishop and I, but that is not the point of this posting. How was ruining my Bishop’s gun and me getting this “Gift” a blessing and a miracle? How was my Shame and Humiliation miraculously changed into Insight and Gratitude?
Well, fast forward another 6 months. I was at a weekend retreat and started hearing the words “charge” and “trigger” thrown around. All of sudden this image of me loading the charge in the gun came to me. Taking the tamping rod and stuffing the charge into the gun was much like stuffing my emotions. If the chamber of my emotions was not discharged appropriately, then another emotional charge would be stuffed, and another, and another, etc. Eventually it would take the handiwork of The Master heart-smith, to heal the wreckage in my life. As painful as it was to receive that gift from my Bishop, that piece of lead is now a piece of gold that hangs fondly near my physical heart as a reminder of what miracles God can do to heal me.
With this new found understanding, I know that I can trust God to heal me. I have found that as I keep my heart clear of the emotional charges, and take certain steps to maintain my “fit spiritual condition”, then when triggers come along, I recognize them and know how to handle them safely. I am not sure this is what my bishop meant when he said, “remember (this) the rest of your life”, but I now know that this small gift, born of a potentially deadly mistake, and although initially was mistaken in shame, IS something I will remember the rest of my life!