Editors Note: the following reflection was written by someone who has faced incarceration and was originally published in the newsletter Voices from Prison and the Edge, a publication of the Augustinian Defenders of the Rights of the Poor.
Just as the tattoos on my body testify as to who I was prior to finding Christ…the following account testifies as a permanent mark on my soul prior to Christ leaving the other 99 sheep behind and going to find me (Luke 15:1-7).
Upon my release in early April of 2010, my best friend, “Vickie” and I began a deep and intense romantic relationship. We both considered each other gifts from God, but I’m unsure as to whether she ever truly knew how deeply I felt that notion. I’ve told her she was a diamond in the dust, as well as letting her know that she was the most beautiful thing I have ever encountered. I loved her from day one and still love her unconditionally. She taught me a lot about God, the world and myself. Vickie is my soul-mate.
I always called her my angel, which, sadly, was an omen of a painful twist of fate. I married her on September 15, 2010. On October 3, 2010, my heart, my hope and my future died in my very arms. At that moment I screamed to God in agony to take me instead of her. The tears never quit falling. (Vickie died from drug withdrawal).
On the day I lost my wife, I also relapsed on heroin and cocaine and began again using them intravenously…Between October 3 and December 30, 2010, I drifted through the drug worlds of Kensington and Camden. Sadly, this led to my contracting Hepatitis C, which I recently was told I had. I was constantly running from a pain within…which was inescapable. Every day was more miserable than the last, and with it brought more tears. Vickie and I would be together again. I’d feel her hair cascading through my fingertips, see her spark in those slate-bluish eyes, feel her lying on my chest, or hear laughter, etc. Then I’d pick my head up to discover I was a heroin addict, alone, crying amid Vickie’s pictures and various physical remnants of her former life lying around me. This was my existence.I hated myself in these darkest of hours. I hated my life. And I prayed for death. I grew very bitter and resentful of God…demanding of him, “Why did you give me all that was beautiful…only to rob me of it? When I left my home, everything reminded me of her…
On December 30th I got locked up, but was released April 5th. The same day I used heroin and cocaine again, only to find myself incarcerated again on April 22nd. The tears still spilled, and indeed still do, but I began praying for God to help me. Just to help me. And, I began searching for meaning and understanding in the Bible. More so than ever before, I began to find it.
I felt Job’s pain. David’s pleas to the Lord in the Psalms. Solomon’s weariness in Ecclesiastes. Jesus’ love in John and Luke. I began digging for truths and became overwhelmed with them. The Lord showed me meaning and gave me understanding in abundance. I was not, and am not…healed…but have begun healing. I also feel closer to Our Lord and Savior than I ever have! At that point, I also prayed for God to deliver me from my addiction. To date, I’ve only had one urge to use and it passed as soon as I prayed…
As I prayed (and I have prayed my rosary every single day since May 10th), I cried to the Lord and begged Vickie to keep her word. “Show me your love, babe! Give me that sign that this is all real!”…The next day, I received a book. It was brand new and I did not request it. It was Story of a Soul, the Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux! As I read this book, I fell in love with St. Therese and her “little way.” I poured through it and continuously read and reread portions of it, striving to live in her little way…and being satisfied as the little flower Jesus sees when he looks down at his feet. Again, coincidence? I personally don’t believe so…
My cellmate is now loved as a brother and a friend. “Jason” unwittingly has found himself as yet another chapter in the tale of my own poor little soul. I read St. Therese’s Story of a Soul aloud at times so we can grow together. We share scripture and have Biblical and spiritual discussions. While he is not Catholic, he is a Christian and he even prays the rosary with me. We learn from each other as we meditate; and are not spiritual gifts the most beautiful? The mysteries come to life for us as we do this. Jason also helps me with my loss and we get along quite well. Through the rosary, I am also growing in our beloved Mother Mary. What a beautiful and elegant soul! A soul to be loved! Well you wished for me to write, and this is what came out! Hope you enjoy this brief glimpse into my soul…for I am a little flower too Father, only the storm has robbed me of a few of my petals!
Your friend and brother in Christ, Sebastian