You know that saying "God helps people who help themselves?" Back on a miserably hot August-in-Washington, D.C. day, I was not trying to help myself. I was locked inside my office on a Sunday, pulling heroin out of a fanny pack.
The truth? I was so sick and tired of myself and my inability to fix my life. I would do anything but deal with my life; so it was not unusual that I went to work by myself on a Sunday knowing that no one else would be there. Before beginning the day's tasks, I pulled out my freshly stolen stash.
Heroin is what quelled the emotional pain of resentments, piercing memories of rape, abuse and other dark secrets that festered within me. Though, I only meant to wet my feet -- it pulled me in -- the waters of addiction run deep. I had long since abandoned my son to his paternal grandmother. My hopes of ever becoming a good mother were lost. I squandered my dreams of writing. Belief in God? Gone. Any semblance of self-respect? Also non-existent. All that was left was the job that anchored me to any type of social acceptability.
As I cooked the heroin up in the bottle top, I noticed it was pale yellow in color. Perhaps, I had stolen from the wrong plastic bag. There were two. One was pure uncut and one "scrambled" or cut and ready for street sale. What does it matter, I thought, I'm sick of myself anyway. I tied my panty hose that I kept in my desk to use as a tourniquet, found a willing vein in my wrist, drew blood into the syringe, and slowly pumped in the heroin mixture. The usual warm rush flowed up from my feet and radiated up through my legs and then ... everything faded to black.
I felt and heard the sound of thuds on my chest. Sweat cascaded from my body in what felt like rivers. Spikes of light came into an unfocused view. I heard the shrill of a siren. I saw glimpses of trees and buildings in what seemed like warp speed. For a moment, there was a familiar face. I heard muffled voices of snatches of words that together made no sense to me.
"Pressure dropping ... line ... call ... doctor ... heroin ... office ... chest." There were overhead florescent lights; a chill on my back, a pinging sound ... a long shiny needle ... "Ms. Anderson" ... a scream.
I woke up in ICU.
Crying and with a smudged tissue, my boss, standing at the foot of my bed dabbed makeup from her tearful eyes.
Please tell me this is a dream somebody! Come on, anybody but my boss, the thoughts did not alter reality. I settled into it. This is not a dream. I did steal from the wrong bag ... and OD'ed!
Once out of ICU and transferred into a regular room, what I tell you now, I only know because the three paramedics who transported me to the hospital came to that room and filled in the missing pieces. The spokesperson of the trio insisted, "We HAD to come meet you."
The one seated jumped in, "One of your co-workers happened to come through the office suite to pick up her briefcase that she had forgotten. She saw your key ring hanging from the entrance door. She knew they were yours because etched into the key ring were the words, The Boss.
She went looking for you so you wouldn't be alarmed if you heard her. She heard music coming from your office and knocked. When you didn't answer, she turned the knob but it was locked. She banged and still no answer. So she called the security desk and a guard came up and opened the door."
As if rehearsed, one of the paramedics standing continued, "When we got there, you were sprawled over your desk with the needle and syringe hanging from the vein in your wrist. You were more dead than alive. You were breathing only seven times per minute."
"On the way to the hospital you stopped breathing. Straight out flat lined. After, we resuscitated you, you whispered, 'I ... want ... to ... live.' Within minutes, you flat lined again. After we brought you back, again, faintly we heard, 'I ... want ... to ... live.'"
As if not to be left out of the telling, the taller paramedic added, "You just don't know. It was a day we will never forget!"
Except for the tears and a few "Oh, my God" and "Say What?!" As if to pinch myself, I asked, "Are you sure?"
"Am I sure? Look, Ms. Anderson, that's why we're here! We had to meet the woman who kept dying and coming back." He paused, looked at his buddies and continued, "Hold up! That's not the whole story. Minutes before arriving to the hospital, you flat lined again! It took longer, but we were determined to bring you back. Look, I'm not a praying man, but I prayed like I ain't never prayed before and ... again ... you came back. And again you said, 'I ... want ... to ... live.'"
Like a relay race, the next paramedic grabbed the baton and exclaimed, "Once we got you to the hospital and you were back in the treatment area with the doctors, your left lung collapsed. You were on a respirator for days. We followed your progress. You are a living, breathing miracle. "
As the paramedics shared the details of that hot and humid August day, it was like an out of body experience; but this time, I didn't see myself drowning, but rescued and lovingly laid safely on the shore of the Someday I Wills.
Slowly, someday morphed into today. I'm now 27 years clean, sober and free from active addiction. The impossible became possible, maybe because the possible is too easy for God anyway. By grace, I am an inspirational speaker, published author, addiction recovery expert and, most cherished of all, an active mother and grandmother.
I witnessed this son, whom I had abandoned, graduate from college and grow into a God-loving, good man, in spite of the hardships my life inflicted on him, and now a single father raising his three children. And me, "Hallelujah Grandma," as the kids call me, get to make a positive impact on their lives.
That night after the paramedics were gone, and before the nurse's pulse checks; hope shed its light into the darkest recesses of my soul where the secrets resided, as I listened intently with an opened heart. I knew God dispatched my thoughts because they were so pure. "Stanice, I love you. You are mine. I have marvelous plans for your life. I am with you, always. I brought your co-worker through. You are precious to me. I orchestrated it all. Trust me." I wept, as my thoughts showered me with God's love, in spite of all I'd ever done or left undone. Could it really be?
As if a postscript on a hand-written love letter, one of the paramedics leaned over, hugged me, "Please get help with your addiction before you leave the hospital. We did our part; now, it's on you."
I told the paramedic how thankful I was for everything and that I would get help. We hugged, dabbed at our tears and said goodbye. Later, alone, in my room as I surrendered to sleep, my last thought was a simple prayer, "Lord, please help me overcome my ... addiction. Amen."
Even though I couldn't help myself, I believe God stepped in. "God was bigger than my addictions. Bigger than my secrets. Bigger than my past. Bigger than death. God snatched me back from death's grip, not once, not twice; but three times in one day. Yes, God's last word for my life was live.