"Reborn in the Nick of Time" existed initially as the final piece "Oblivion in Recession", together with a long introductory preamble, published together at Blogster on the 31st of August 2006. "Oblivion in Recession" itself had its origins as will soon become clear as notes made in the wake of my born again experience of late January 1993, which were heavily edited, before being versified for the sake of readability. I originally wrote the piece as a means of recording for myself the events depicted therein, and I believe with all my heart that it's a faithful account, may God forgive any involuntary inaccuracies, not just with respect to this piece but all my writings. As Christians, we must adhere to the truth at all costs because our God the only true God is the God of truth while our Enemy is the Father of Lies. Part of the original introduction is included in "Collapse in an Indian Restaurant", which was recently fleshed out with further details. "The Lonely Death of an Addict", "Reborn in the Nick of Time" and "Reckoning in Twickenham" are all recent works.
Collapse in an Indian Restaurant
The period straddling late 1992 and early '93 may well have been the most debauched of my entire existence. My memories of it are hazy but they do tell me that during that time, or at least thereabouts, I'd typically rise at about six in the morning soon after which I'd prepare myself for the day by way of a bottle of fortified wine or something along those lines. Then I'd periodically keep my units topped up throghout the day by sipping from a small bottle of spirits. Some evenings I'd spend in central London, others with my fellow students from Greenwich, who were irresistibly drawn to an anarchic subversive self-destructive personality who sang Jerry Lee Lewis' "Real Wild Child" as if he really meant it. Although once I'd quit drinking and become a Christian, the socialising stopped outright, and I was at one point dubbed "Mr Invisible" by one of the students.
There were times in town when I couldn't keep the booze down, so I'd order a king-sized cola from MacDonalds which I'd then lace with gin or vodka. I'd stroll around alone, or meet with a friend, male or female. Perhaps they'd be alarmed by my increasingly bizarre behaviour, but most remained resolutely loyal to me. I was never aggressive or threatening, being an ecstatic drunk, a true Dionysian. One day'd find me crying out on a British Rail train, another performing a wild disjointed Karate kick into thin air, or being actually helped onto a train by a vagrant who was in far better shape than me, or tearing my shirt and trousers to shreds after having arrived too late for an audition.
But things really came to a head in the first fortnight of 1992, when I collapsed in an Indian restaurant in suburban Surrey. I'd been quietly dining with two female companions when, suddenly feeling like pure death, I asked one of my friends whether I looked as bad as I felt. As soon as she'd confirmed I did I rose from the table, walked a few paces and promptly collapsed into a heap in the middle of the restaurant before being carried bodily out into the fresh night air by two or three Indian waiters.
One of them then set about attempting to shock some life back into me by flicking ice cold water in my face, while desperately urging me not to give up. For him to have spoken this way I must have looked pretty close to packing it all in. But I made a lightning-quick recovery, and within two days was drinking as heavily as ever, continuing to drink virtually around the clock until the weekend. I spent Saturday evening with a close friend, and early in the morning of the 16th after having drunk solidly all night, I asked her to fill a long glass with neat gin and each sip took me further and further into the desired ectstatic state.
I awoke in a state of exhileration, which was typical for me following a night of heavy boozing. It was my one drying out day of the week, and I probably spent it writing and doing some general clearing up. One thing I specifically remember doing was listening to a radio documentary on the legendary LA Rock band the Doors which I'd taped some weeks or perhaps months earlier. I especially savoured "When the Music's Over" from what was then one of my favourite albums, "Strange Days" released soon after the end of the Summer of Love 1967, and which seemed to me about living in the shadow of death, beckoning death, mocking death, defying death. I powerfully identified with their front man Jim Morrison, who'd been drawn to poets of darkly prophetic intensity, Nietzsche, Rimbaud and Artaud among them, during his brief career as a Dionysian Rock agitator which served as the prelude to a legend. I found artists of this type mesmerising myself once, but I've been delivered By God of a dangerous obsession with these poetes maudits as they're sometimes known, "the ones that burn" in the words of Jack Kerouac. Now I pity any who are taken in by the ruinous paths they chose.
The Lonely Death of an Addict
Alcohol and other narcotics lull the addict into a false state of security, and indestructibility. This makes them ill-prepared for their first serious health crisis which could also be their last. This was certainly the case for me, although I survived where others have not been so fortunate. Suddenly, faced with my own possible early death, self-destruction didn't seem so glamorous any more, and I didn't want the music to be over after all. When it comes down to it, how many addicts seriously want their habit to lead to a lonely, squalid, awful early death? From what I can recall, there is nothing welcoming on the other side for an unrepentant addict who takes things too far, in fact unless I imagined it I sensed something awaiting me that was indescribably awful.
At some point as Sunday evening wore on, I felt my legs go numb, as if I was about to collapse as I'd done a week earlier. Scared half to death, I opened a spare bottle of sparkling wine I had about the house even though I'd earmarked Sunday as a booze-free day. Once I'd drained it, I felt a good deal better for a while. I even felt sufficiently recovered to take a few photographs which I still have in my possession. Soon after doing so I set off in search of more alcohol. Arriving at a local convenience store, the Asian shop-keeper, despite being visibly alarmed by my wild-eyed appearance gently informed me that it being Sunday he wasn't able to sell me any liquor for some time yet. There was nothing for me to do but take refuge on a nearby green, where I lay for a while, still dressed I imagine in the shabby white cut-off shorts I'd been wearing earlier. I was also unshaven, with freshly cropped hair which I hadn't got round to highlighting yet. It's safe to say I didn't look my best. Finally, I was able to buy more booze. I can't remember what I bought, but I think it may have been a litre of gin, because that's what I was swigging from the following day. One of the last things I can recall doing on Sunday evening was singing hymns possibly those of Charles Wesley in a nearby Methodist church, while being unable to prevent myself from weeping, such was their beauty and purity in contrast to my own wretched condition. Finally I made my way home, but my troubles had only just begun, because for several days I was unable to rest until finally a couple of valiums put me out and I slept at last.
Reborn in the Nick of Time
I knew several hellish nights in those late January days at least one of which saw me endlessly pacing up and down corridors and stairs in a desperate attempt to stay conscious and not die and each time I shut my eyes I could have sworn I saw demonic entities beckoning me into a bottomless abyss.
I set about destroying artefacts I knew to be unacceptable to God from what I believe was the night of the 16th/17th onwards. Many books were destroyed...books on astrology and numerology and other mystical and occultic subjects, and books centring on war and crime, as well as darkly seditious artists in love with despair and death. But I believe it was at some point during that first night, of the 16th/17th, that I came to truly believe for the first time in my heart that Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God; and the Saviour of Man, and that he died physically on the Cross at Calvary for the sins of Man, and rose again on the Third Day to join His Father in Heaven, and that doing so involved repentance of my sins, and submission to Christ as my Lord and Saviour. That point marked the beginning of my relationship with God the Father, through whom no one can come to without Christ Jesus.
While it's true that no one comes to the Father unless drawn by the Spirit of God, prior to become a Christian I was very probably on the point of wholly immersing myself in the new Bohemianism of the 1990s, and so possibly being lost forever as the move gathered momentum. It all of depends of course on where a believer stands on the issue of Predestination and Free Will. With regard to this new Bohemianism, the adversary values of the counterculture which had risen to prominence in the West in the late 1960s had all but fizzled out by about 1973, that is on the surface. In truth, they'd merely gone back underground where in the UK they set about fertilising a variety of kindred anti-establishment tribes including the Anarcho-Punks and the New Age Travellers, both of whom were largely eighties and nineties phenomena. Then some kind of amalgam between these tribes and the growing Rave-Dance movement produced yet another Bohemian permutation. I lapped it all up as I've stated earlier with all the fanaticism of one who was sick to death of eighties artifice, but thank God I was delivered from it all in the nick of time. I wasn't saved in any church, nor through being evangelised, so mine was what might be termed a violent "Road to Damascus" conversion. But being reborn against all the odds didn't immediately protect me from the calamity I'd brought upon myself through years of hard living; in other words, I had to suffer in the physical, if only briefly. Although that's not strictly true, because my pre-Christian way of life together with its ultimate conclusion probably took a serious toll on my nervous system and one I'm paying for to this day. Many Christians are of the opinion that the longer a person puts off coming to Christ the less likely it becomes of their ever doing so and I am among them. I also believe that those blood-bought believers who do convert relatively late in life may be required to pay a far higher price for the follies of their pre-Christian existence than more youthful converts, especially if these include alcohol, drugs, fornication, and involvement in the occult. God can and does heal Christians damaged by their pre-conversion sins but He is not obliged to do so as his Grace is sufficient. So while I was almost certainly already a Christian by the morning of the 17th of January, my ordeal was far from over.
Reckoning in Twickenham
I somehow made it into New Eltham that Monday morning to attend classes at the University, but by the time I'd got home in the evening, I once more felt as if I was on the point of dying. Desperately I started swigging from the litre bottle of gin I mentioned earlier before phoning Alcoholics Anonymous. Next day I attended classes at Richmond College in Twickenham. On the way I repeatedly had the feeling that my chest was about to explode...the most unnatural things appeared to be happening to me internally. I really did feel I was on the point of dying....not just once but over and over again. After classes, one of the first thing I did was to order a double brandy from a pub situated next door to the Police Station. I was shaking so much the landlord assumed I was fresh from interrogation. I drank so many double brandies and other intoxicating drinks that afternoon that I ended up losing my mind and raving. I was thrown out of a pub for preaching. Walking through Twickenham town centre I started making the sign of the cross to passers-by. I advised one unfortunate young man never to drink and he nodded wordlessly. I can't say I blame him wanting to get away from me as fast as his legs could carry him without actually appearing to be terrified.
Later that day in an effort to stabilize myself, I dug out an old capsule of heminevrin, brand name of the powerful hypnotic and sedative chlomethiazole, commonly used in treating and controlling the effects of acute alcohol withdrawal, but allegedly dangerous, in fact potentially fatal, when used in conjunction with alcohol. I still had some capsules left over after having undergone treatment at home for a week or two in about 1990 at the auggestion of my then doctor, which meant they'd long gone beyond their expiry date. For a time I felt better and was able to sleep, but soon after waking I felt worse than ever. Later that day at an AA meeting, I kept leaving the hall in order to stick my head beneath the cold water tap, anything to shock some life back into me, while my compassionate and caring sponsor Don kept urging me to remain seated, as if doing so bestowed some spiritual benefits.
I suffered another night of deathly terror as I told Don on the phone the following morning; and the day which saw me pacing the office of the first available doctor at my local clinic like some wounded wild animal was scarcely less hellish. He wasn't the gentle bearded physician I'd been registered with since I was a teenager, but very sympathetic towards me nonetheless. He seemed at a loss as to what to do with me, but then it may have been touch and go as to whether I was going to stay on my feet or collapse in a heap at his feet. It was he who prescribed me the valium which finally allowed me a long, deep sleep which may have saved my life. Once I'd awoken from this, I finally felt as if a frontier had been crossed and that I was safe in the arms of God for the first time in my life. My new life began at this point.
The final section of this piece first saw life as part of the original "Oblivion in Recession" at Blogster on the . Its painstaking genesis was extensively detailed in the introduction.
Oblivion in Recession
The legs started going,
In my head.
Thought I'd go
Kept awake with water,
Arrogantly telling myself
I'd stay straight.
Drank gin and wine,
Tried to buy more,
Filthy white shorts,
Lost, rolling on lawn,
Somehow got home.
Monday, waiting for offie,
Looked like death,
Fear in eyes
Waiting for drink,
Drink relieved me.
Drank all day,
"Don't Die on Me".
Just about settled me,
Drank some more,
Took a Heminevrin
Paced the house
Pain in chest,
Lack of feeling
Visions of darkness.
To keep the
Life functions going
Played devotional music,
Dedicated my life
Helped me sleep.
I started to feel better.
All is clearer,
I feel human again.
I made my choice,
And oblivion has receded,
And shall disappear...
Read more articles by Carl Halling or search for articles on the same topic or others.
Intense, is the word that comes to mind. Real, relatable in the stupor of those days and the lonely squallor of nights I too remember, but seldom any more. I'm learning about you and the way you think, speak and get glimpses into your days. Things that writers wish to accomplish, you have attained to.
Not only are we brothers in Christ, I see we are also survivors of addictions deadly grip. I celebrate your victory with you. God saw fit to save me from hells maw 5 years ago at the very edge of death. I have been writing about His mercy and grace ever since. Bless you and yours my friend.
Carl, someone else always benefits when a testimony like yours is shared with others. They see a turn-a-round to God can be done. All it takes is reaching out to God. He will take care of the rest. Satan is not going to give up easily, but God is stronger. Thanks for sharing. Thomas. www.dustonthebible.com