A first version of "Beyond the Borderlands of Faith" was published at the Blogster.com website on the 5th of September 2006 as "Beyond the Borderlands". A year and two months later, the definitive version was published at Faithwriters with the new title.
Another Close Call
While delivered from the worst effects of alcohol abuse, I still briefly continued to pay for it beyond my coming to faith in the shape of panic attacks which could strike at any time after leaving the sanctuary of my home. Thankfully, these only lasted a short period of time at their most debilitating, although I suffered on and off from them from several months, and they have recurred at rare occasions since. I controlled my panic syndrome with the help of the anxiolytic drug Diazepam whose most famous brand name is Valium, and which induced relaxation of body and mind, but to nowhere near the same degree as alcohol had done.
In the early days of my sobriety, I continued with my Post Graduate Certificate in Education partly at the University of Greenwich, and partly at Richmond College in the leafy west London suburb of Richmond, Surrey. I did so while rehearsing for the play “Simples of the Moon” by Rosalind Scanlon, based on the life of James Joyce’s troubled daughter Lucia. It premiered at the Lyric Studio, Hammersmith on the 4th of February 1993.
At the same time, I regularly attended drugs and alcohol counselling sessions in Greenwich, my counsellor Elaine being a warm, down to earth woman with a London accent and gentle pale blue eyes. She was also detached and unflappable, as befitted her calling. In fact, the only time she lost her cool was when I announced to her over the phone that a matter of hours after deciding of my own volition to stop taking diazepam, I'd defected to the powerful sedative Chlormethiazole. I'd used Chlormethiazole, or Heminevrin to use its trade name, on prescription for a week or so in the early 1990s as a means of controlling my drinking. What I was not aware of at the time was that when used in conjunction with Valium, or indeed alcohol, it can be fatal. However, a sufficient number of hours had lapsed between my ingesting a single capsule of the drug and calling Elaine for my imminent death not to be an issue. I can recall her literally laughing with relief at this realisation.
Prayers of Repentance
As well as Elaine I owe a great debt to the friends I briefly made through Alcoholics Anonymous, and particularly my sponsor Don. During my worst days, he faithfully monitored my painful progress towards health and sobriety on the phone, which was a great comfort to me. Still, I chose to attend only a handful of meetings before stopping altogether. The reason I did this was a matter of days after coming to faith, I received a phone call from a man called Spencer working for Contact for Christ, based in Croydon, Surrey.
I think Spencer had got in touch as a result of my having half-heartedly filled in a form that I'd picked up on a train...perhaps the previous summer, while approaching Waterloo station with the sun setting over the foreboding south London cityscape, filled with alcoholic anticipation. I'm sure I tried to put him off, but he turned up at my parents' house nonetheless...a trim, dark, handsome man in late middle age with gently penetrating coffee coloured eyes and a luxuriant moustache. At his insistence, we prayed together, and he effectively became my spiritual mentor for the next two years.
Some time after our initial meeting I visited him and his wife Grace at his large and elegant house in that part of Surrey where suburb meets country, some distance beyond the Greater London border. Surrey is the wealthiest county in the UK, which is not to say that there is no depravation, because there certainly is, in Surrey-in-London of course, but also in parts of Surrey proper. This is especially true of urban areas such as Staines, Woking, Redhill, Addlestone and Camberley. The latter for example has a large London overspill estate on its outskirts known as the Old Dean. Spencer's large and elegant house, however, was in a safe and affluent part of the county, and we prayed together there over areas of my pre-Christian existence that he felt required deep repentance, after having made an extensive list of these. My continuing use of diazepam and my longstanding addiction to cigarettes were two of the areas addressed, and while it may have been coincidental, soon after gradually cutting my diazepam intake down to zero, I altogether lost a taste for tobacco. Admittedly, I continued smoking on and off for some four years after quitting valium, but I never really enjoyed a cigarette again. In fact, even as early as 1994, a single draw of a cigarette was enough to inhibit my breathing for the rest of the day, and rob me of a good night’s sleep.
By September 1994, I'd been happily established within Cornerstone Bible Church, a Charismatic Evangelical church affiliated to the Word of Faith movement for over a year. My panic attacks had ceased, and I was celibate, non-smoking, teetotal, and wholly committed to being worthy of the name Christian, to the walk to which I had been called by God. If in late 1992 I was growing impatient with what remained of my conscience, and how the latter inhibited my demented hedonistic lifestyle, within less than two years I'd been transformed not just beyond all recognition but all belief, that is, without taking into account the miraculous changes that God can bring to bear on the life of one such as I, because God alone can bring about such miracles.
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Don, thanks for your review. It was much appreciated. Regarding the first article read, I guess you could say it's a transitional one, which could perhaps be changed. Thanks again for your support, Don. Carl
I love the flow, the tempo, the pulse of your work. This is now the fourth one I've read this evening and I am learning a thing or two more about writing. (I still don't understand the first one I read tonight and I don't think that after having read these three besides that it will be any clearer). Yet, I like your style as an author and after reading more of your life I am amazed. The Psalmist said it as you have and I'll paraphrase: I have never been so low that He could not descend to retrieve me. Nor will I ever.