From the ‘pit’ of addiction to a thirst for spiritual growth
I began drinking as a preteen. By the time I was a young man in the late ’60s and early ’70s, I was a functional alcoholic with the added vice of narcotics. And yet I always prayed. I don’t remember when exactly I picked up the prayer habit. But I always asked God for help and protection and health.
I come from a family of hardscrabble people from the coal mines of West Virginia, some of whom, including my father, had made the migration of people of color to the North. He did grueling work every day as a mason tender. So my job as a newspaper reporter was a big deal for my family and a source of great pride for my dad. When, with a tear in his eye, he told me that watching my addiction was the hardest thing he’d been through, I was shaken.
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At one point, I decided to quit drinking and enter rehab, but convinced myself that I could get high on drugs once in a while and that would be all right. One day I rationalized using drugs again and overdosed. I found myself falling into an abyss in my mind’s eye, a dark pit.
In that experience, God spoke to me. I had always talked to God. But this time was different. In a communication beyond sound or words, I realized life is a gift and that I was gambling with that gift. The healing power of God touched me. From that day forward, the taste for drugs and alcohol was gone, and I have never experienced any relapse.
I began working for the legendary Baltimore Afro-American newspaper in its Washington Bureau. Each day on my walk to work, I would pick up a copy of The Christian Science Monitor from the Christian Science Reading Room. A friend had told me of the topflight journalism that paper did.
I was busy writing eight stories a week, working weekends, throwing myself into becoming the best journalist I could be. I was also visiting churches, and no matter how tired I was, I would read the Monitor, especially the daily religious article. I never paid much attention to the books at the Reading Room.
One day I slowed down on one of those visits and did a little window reading. In those days, I could be a bit Mark Twain-like in my discourse with people! So I walked into the Reading Room and said to the attendant, in somewhat of a mock authoritative voice, “You mean to tell me that God can do anything, including heal disease?” The irony of that moment is humbling to me now as I look back, considering I had already experienced a “resurrection” from the pit of addiction.
I can weep just thinking of how kind the Reading Room attendant was to me. We later became fast friends. She smiled a knowing smile and said: “Here is a book for you to borrow. Read it.” I wanted to debate. She didn’t. “Read it,” she said.
I borrowed the book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, and began reading it, looking for the “catch.” Every time I would see this woman in the Reading Room, I would promise to bring the book back, saying, “I need it a little while longer.” Little did I know the real meaning of what I was saying. A year later I brought the book back. She told me to keep it.
A heightened understanding of divine Life and Truth and Love opened the door to attending Ivy League graduate schools. I later worked at The Christian Science Monitor in the Washington Bureau, grew more as a class-taught Christian Scientist and journalist, and became a journalism professor at the University of Massachusetts.
In over twenty years of my academic teaching, I have studied Christian Science, and it has shown me the way to helping others of various races, backgrounds, and religious beliefs who are struggling and want to find their way. I wish I could say things have always been “happily ever after” for me. Trying to understand and practice a life of divine Love and Truth requires striving!
Truth has kept me on the straight and narrow. Today, I thirst for spiritual growth. I live life with real meaning and purpose. While I know I have so much yet to learn, I am grateful and praying to understand more about God each day.