I have a friend who is one the sweetest, gentlest men I’ve ever met. He loves his family; he loves his friends; he loves God.
He’s consumed by anger. Certain things – a reference on a blog post, a news story, an off-hand remark or comment – and he blazes into an instant conflagration, and takes no prisoners. He’s irrational at these times and cannot be reasoned with. I’ve seen the anger and, yes, the hatred, pour forth online like a torrent of venom.
It’s as if he is one person with two distinct personalities. I know where the anger comes from; it’s where all irrational and self-destructive anger comes from. It is comes from pain, a pain buried so deep that it may never be excavated without serious and lengthy counseling.
Ask Seth Haines.
Seth’s problem wasn’t anger. Seth’s problem was alcohol, a pain-driven addiction to alcohol. Alcohol numbed the pain, made it manageable and bearable. The immediate cause was the failure of his youngest son Titus to thrive, a child who physically looked as if he was not long for this world. Doctors in Arkansas couldn’t make a diagnosis. Some things worked, for a time. And then they didn’t.
Seth stopped praying. A leader in his local church, and he stopped praying. He turned to alcohol.
The pain was about the alcohol. And it was really about his son’s health problems. The pain was deeper than that. Alcohol was a preventive measure to keep from touching that pain. Start of 4 in the afternoon with a quick drink in the office. Fix a drink as soon as he arrived home so his wife Amber wouldn’t smell the liquor on his breath. Sneak more liquor when she was out of the room.
She knew, of course. What wife wouldn’t know? She was simultaneously dealing with a physically sick child and an emotionally and spiritually sick husband. Amber Haines must be one tough woman. Or perhaps simply blessed by God’s grace.
Seth’s wake-up call came at a Christian conference in Austin. And it came through a fellow alcoholic. He stepped away from alcohol, and it wasn’t easy. It’s probably still not easy. But it’s better.
He began counseling. And he kept a journal. That journal has become Seth’s story, Coming Clean: A Story of Faith. It’s not a nice narrative written in chronological order. It’s a story that happens in fits and starts, going backward and forward and sometimes sideways. At times it reads like poetry, beautiful almost stream-of-consciousness poetry. It’s filled with the exploration of pain and some theology and some faith. And a lot of grace, possibly more grace than Seth himself realizes. But I think he knows.
Coming Clean is painful to read. But you should read it. My friend who’s so consumed with anger should read it, because it is really not a story about alcoholism.
Don’t avoid the pain. The pain is going to be where you, like Seth, can find God.
Top photograph by George Hodan via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.