In The Presence of Darkness
One of the last times I got high was one of the worst and best experiences of my life. Because of paranoid delusions, or potential demonic visitations (they could be one in the same, I’m not an expert), I lived the nightmare of being in the presence of what looked like a dementor. The best part of my trip though, was when it ended.
"Dementors are among the foulest creatures that walk this earth. They infest the darkest, filthiest places, they glory in decay and despair, they drain peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them... Get too near a Dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory will be sucked out of you. If it can, the Dementor will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like itself... soulless and evil. You will be left with nothing but the worst experiences of your life."
—Remus Lupin's description of Dementors
If dementors exist in relaties with wizards, incantations, and magic potions, then perhaps they walk among us? Cloaked figures, shadow people, hallucinations or demons; reports around the world describe experiences with the dark side. I believe - for those of us on mind altering substances - we regularly expose ourselves to things not of this world. Chalk it up to drug use, mental disorders, or witching hour dreams, many of us have experienced the eerie sensation of an unexplained presence. Whether startled by visions in the corners of our eyes, audible voices with unaccompanied bodies, or chills from the unknown pressed against our skin, something tells us we are not alone. Although I am without an accredited university degree, I can speak to some degree, the nature of what I believe we are dealing with; spiritual warfare. As the bible states:
12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this [present] darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) places. Ephesians 6:12 AMP
When we choose to use, we nominate ourselves for potential insanity. Minds inebriated by FDA approved, pharmaceutical or street grade substances, cannot operate in a state of sobriety. As sobriety tests confirm our inability to accurately discern blurred objects, our motor skills are impaired by our own doing. We do it to ourselves. With our actions, consumption is the culprit. Fairy dust, Crystal, or Magic Mushrooms - Wine and Spirits or Purple Sizzurp; all transport our minds and souls to other dimensions. Like ingredients of magic spells, every drug of choice leaves its user bewitched. In pursuit of control, and through using, we alter our feelings to alter our reality. We risk a lot for the way we feel. If by chance, we avoid encounters with the law, we still lead ourselves to prison; albeit a spiritual one.
Just because physical bars may not exist, does not mean we aren’t prisoners.
When wrestling with the evils of substance abuse, our souls bruise black and blue all over. Tormented by impulsive decisions, we slip further and further down the hole of addiction. Somewhere in the alleyways of our minds, we traverse to the valley of the shadow of death. But without the Good Shepherd at our side guiding us, we lay down in states of paranoia, despair, hopelessness, and fear. And like Peter Pan’s shadow, we detach from reality and visit places not meant for anyone this side of God’s glory to see. In a land never meant for souls to visit, we see the atrocities of evil. Whether through meth psychosis, sleep deprivation, and/or demonic oppression, the darkness takes form before our very eyes. For those of us experiencing terrors of the night at all times of the day, we know how real it seems. In drug addiction, I got a front row seat to captivity; I lived in and saw hell up close and personal. Regardless of mental capacity, our experiences are a reality we live in.
Maybe the truth is stranger than fiction?
Through unfamiliar voices, I heard the sinister cackles of shadows. At my worst, a hooded figure appeared before me in the middle of the night with an arm outstretched. As if my number had been called and my time was up, it pointed at me with accusation. Without a face, it brought charges of death against me, “You’re next, you and your whole family.” Standing there motionless, it continued taunting me. Though it didn’t speak, it’s arm remained pointed directly at me. For as long as the shadow remained, I laid in bed tortured by sleep paralysis. You would think an experience like this would persuade someone to put down the drugs, but threats from the principalities of darkness couldn’t get me clean. Even after periodic bouts of sobriety, I ran back into the arms of the devil. Like those affected by Stockholm Syndrome, I found comfort in my captor. What can I say? Sick people do sick things.
Never far removed from utilizing drugs, I conjured spirits through ingesting poison. Ignorant to what I was doing - and by definition - like a wizard, I used potions to induce magic. Lethal cocktails of various poisons altered my feelings and clouded my judgement. Because we become what we spend time with, I became toxic. I lost sight of hope, wallowed in self-pity, and nearly gave up. The only thing that changed my heart, was change; because nothing changes if nothing changes.
As my grandma used to say, “Running with the wrong crowd gets you nowhere.” Though drugs took me somewhere, eventually it was nowhere I wanted to be. For me, change looked like surrender. Once I admitted, that on my own, I was powerless over the spell of potions (drugs & alcohol), I put my faith in something everlasting; Jehovah Rapha (The Lord That Heals). I backed up my faith with scripture. Instead of consuming poison, I feasted on scripture. If chemicals, or lack thereof, has tainted our capacity to decipher what is real and what is not - how can we undo that which has been done? In the spirit of God, we can contest every encounter with the darkness with the Word of God.
In my war against drugs, I find freedom in knowing I alone do not have the power to overcome the darkness. When the Lord is our shepherd, we lack nothing (Psalm 23)! When fear is paralyzing, I run to the truth of the gospel (by reading my bible) and let its divine words set me free. By shifting our focus from evil to good, we can overcome the darkness. One of the ways the enemy deceives, is to divert our attention.
Instead of focusing on pursuing righteousness, I invested all my time and energy into avoiding using. 90 meetings in 90 days? I completed 180, plus a few more. Though that is wise to do, it did not produce a change of heart. Abstinence doesn’t mean freedom. Modifying our behaviors does not produce the type of freedom Jesus offers to His followers. But without knowing His word, how would I have ever known?
How would you ever know that?
3 For though we walk in the flesh [as mortal men], we are not carrying on our [spiritual] warfare according to the flesh and using the weapons of man. 4 The weapons of our warfare are not physical [weapons of flesh and blood]. Our weapons are divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. 5 We are destroying sophisticated arguments and every exalted and proud thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought and purpose captive to the obedience of Christ… (2 Corinthians 10:3-5 AMP)
Instead of using the wisdom of man, I started applying the wisdom of God. Although getting clean was my initial goal, it became a byproduct of an intimate relationship with Jesus. When sobriety is the goal, we miss out on the restoration of other areas of our lives. Because after the drugs and alcohol are gone, there are far more deeper issues of the heart to address. Like grimy bathtub rings or shower tile stains, we have thick and muddied layers of gunk lining our spirits. As we become obedient to the scriptures, layers of sediment are washed away. It takes time, it’s a process! Luckily for us, He washes us white as snow and changes the desires of our hearts!
“Come. Sit down. Let’s argue this out.” This is God’s Message: “If your sins are blood-red, they’ll be snow-white. If they’re red like crimson, they’ll be like wool. If you’ll willingly obey, you’ll feast like kings. But if you’re willful and stubborn, you’ll die like dogs.” That’s right. God says so. (Isaiah 1:18 MSG)
God’s word speaks to the nooks and crannies of our hurts and brings renewal to our minds. Where I once only cared about feelings, I now put my faith in God’s facts; the bible. When I fall down and wallow in self pity, or if everyone hates me; He doesn’t. His love casts out all of my fears, and allows me to enter in to a relationship with Him…
regardless of relapse…
regardless of circumstances…
regardless of how long I’ve spent out of His presence!
The same can be said for you too, no matter how far you may have descended into darkness! Whether we opened doors to the devil through bad decisions or welcomed him freely, Jesus came to set us free. Not to get us sober, clean us up, or to make us adhere to rules and regulations - not even to make us morally right or change our behaviors! He came to set the captives free by offering Himself as a sacrifice for our sins and to restore our relationship with God, The Father! Maybe you have a hard time accepting God walks among us. But if you’ve seen the shadow people, is it not too hard to believe?