For the most part I have stopped “praying”, especially in the sense of seeking answers or help from an outside source. But sometimes things so ghastly and shocking occur, confronting and confounding you with your own impotence and smallness, that its hard to know where else to turn.
Prayer used to be a big part of my life. Since age 17 I have uprooted and relocated more times than I can count. Many of these moves put me in situations far from family and a home church, while at the same time creating conditions in which I was most in need of them. Prayer, therefore, was one constant and a source of comfort, a way of chatting through my fears and confusion with my omnipresent friend.
Since losing my faith, that reflex to pray has been something that I have questioned and struggled with.
Though I accept the therapeutic benefits of naming and admitting to fears, failures, questions and hopes, directing them outside of myself to stop them from becoming mere anxious rumination, recrimination or flights of fancy, I have tried to veer away from deluding myself into thinking that the words I project noiselessly into the universe have some chance of being met by a responsive and interested party who is concerned to help me out.
That is until recently.
Roughly a year ago I received a letter from my younger sister breaking the news that she had placed herself in rehab after finally admitting to an alcohol addiction. While this came as a complete shock to me, she fit none of the stereotypes I had of people susceptible to such struggles (i.e. she had a strong family background, she was positive, optimistic and energetic, she got a top class degree, she travelled to Afghanistan to run development programs, she had an active faith and church life), I was also sure that she was going to be fine. She was resourceful, honest, and determined enough to own her weakness and seek help.
I wrote back to her telling her I loved her and was very proud that she had been able to own up and do something about it.
After six months of detox I was sure that the worst was behind her and that she could get her life back on track.
We kept in contact via text and Skype. She seemed to be doing fine. And then last October I got an email from my Mum saying that Emilie had had a relapse. This time drugs were involved.
It wasn’t until a few weeks ago (after another relapse ending almost three months clean) that I found out about the heroin use, the hospitalizations, the filthy hostel rooms – she had no where else to go. The panic attacks, the nightmares, the self-harming, and worse things I can’t even bring myself to think about.
Words kind of fail me at this point. Dread, anguish, bewilderment. And powerlessness, that smallness and impotence I was talking about. Being 4000 miles away, but knowing that even if I was only 4 feet away I would still not be able to do anything. Addiction is such an elusive, nebulous foe.
I’ve seen movies and read books and heard enough accounts of people in this situation to know that all my feelings are very normal. To know, really, that what I need to do is be available, to let her know how much I love her, and then to just hope for the best. But it should be obvious how little good knowing this does in terms of helping me deal with things.
I need to DO something. Fly to England, murder anyone who ever sold her drugs and hurt her. Kidnap her back to America where I can watch over her night and day until she is strong enough to be the amazing woman she was and will be again…
But so instead I pray. Knowing there is no God and nothing out there to hear or help, I pray anyway. Just in case, on the off-chance, but mostly because there is nothing else that can be done. I pray to the God of my Calvinist college professors who allowed this to happen to one of his children in the first place. I pray to the healer, teacher God my sister believes in, who seems to have failed her thus far, as useless as me. I pray to the God my parents believe in, who stands along side us, but whose solidarity seems small comfort when we need a defender and a champion.
I need to pray because thinking only gets me so far. I need to pray because I need to let go of the things I can’t control. I wish to God prayer was more than that.
Emilie will tell her own story next week. She blogs herself, but has offered to write a piece for the Salt Collective about her experience, particularly in relationship to the church’s response to her struggles. You can follow her journey at: www.morethanajunkie.wordpress.com