WHEN THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN WAS AT HAND
Hal Pepinsky, email@example.com, pepinsky.blogspot.com
June 27, 2012 (my mother’s 93rd birthday)
My fiftieth year high school class reunion is two days away. Around thirty, of the roughly forty of us still alive who joined and left Ohio State’s k-12 university class of ’62 at various times, are a number of us who have been born again, and among those associate being born again with stopping drinking or getting drunk. I actively correspond with a cousin who entered the priesthood as he stopped drinking. I have recently quit drinking myself. Friends are understandably curious: Isn’t it hard for you? Do you ever really want a drink?...
Of course I think about drinking constantly. Heavy drinking is still quite fresh in my mind. So was sleeping around when I met Jill. I find myself associating quitting drinking now with quitting sleeping with other women when I met Jill. As I perceive it, the awakenings that have led me to stop womanizing and to stop drinking in a hospital in Iowa are as profoundly religious as to my classmates and cousin’s commitments to sobriety. I don’t know what to call the force that has saved my butt over and over and has now brought me home with Jill near my mom. I did come around years ago to looking skyward and saying quiet thank-yous. I stopped worrying about my afterlife, except that I want to be remembered well by those closest to me when I die. As of when I was asked 36 years ago to design a required course for criminal justice majors called “alternative social control systems,” I have been preoccupied with understanding what results we get for trying to control one another’s actions. Having nothing more profound to do with my privileged life, I have tried to figure out how we steer ships of social life away from hell on earth toward heaven. Time and again, as when I committed myself to a partnership with Jill, I have faced with a blatant choice of entering the kingdom and steering against the tide of violence, of hell on earth, of the social sea in which we all swim.
It has taken awhile for me to put my experience of living without drinking alcohol in religious context, but as I see it now—no blasphemy intended—as I slowly came to my wits in that Iowa hospital, I saw what I experienced in the moment as “no way out”: If I stopped drinking, the kingdom of heaven lay before me back at 519 Evergreen Circle with Jill, as long as I let go of the hell that led to favorite uncles of mine to die drunk and alone. I chose heaven. So far so good. Once again, I just say thanks. Love and peace--hal