Temptations of a False God

I recently purchased a print of Temptations of a False God, not only because I admire your work, but the message in this painting is one I need to be reminded of. There’s a reason I bought it, I’ve been (mostly) sober for over 40 years. For those times when the temptation to use becomes overwhelming, this painting serves as a daily reminder to abstain.

Every addict and every addiction has a trigger. Like a gun in the hands of a maniac, you never know when or where the impulse to shoot(up) might occur.

In recovery they say, “day-by-day.” I wish it were that easy. For me, even after all these years, it’s more like minute-by-minute. Some people have addictions. Maybe they eat, drink or shop too much. Me, I don’t have an addiction, I’m an addict. What they call a “white-knuckler.”  To be honest, I’m not that discerning either. If you can pop it, snort it, shoot it, or swallow it, I’ll do it.

I mean… I’ve done it.

Like Robert Downey Jr., I grew up with addicts. Addicts who didn’t hide the drugs from their children and addicts who thought it was funny to see a kid stoned or high. Before you start feeling sorry for me, don’t. The problem wasn’t taking drugs or alcohol— I LOVED it— the problem was… I had no problem with it, but everybody else did. Teachers, bosses, friends, lovers.

I lost everything and everybody by the time I was 19 years old. Do you know what it’s like to pass out in Minnesota and wake up naked in the back of a van in New Orleans and have no idea how you got there? It might be a funny story if I were a guy, like the one in the painting who’s passed out on white pills, but I’m not.

Back then, I was thought of as attractive. The type of pretty girl who some guys would love to see unconscious and at that point I had no idea who I was with. I don’t mean I didn’t recognize the person… there was no one else in the van. This was at a time when there were no cell phones and I had nothing to wear and no money.

Luckily the story ended much better than it could have, with a knock on the back door and a woman asking if she could come in with some clothes. I didn’t know her, but I’ll never forget what she said after I dressed, “Child, I’m not going to tell you what to do… Lord knows I ain’t been no angel… but if you don’t get some help, you’re not going to make it to twenty-five.”

Not only did she give me clothes, a bus ticket home to Minnesota and money for food, she gave me a future. When I saw Temptations of a False God, I remembered her words, “Lord knows I ain’t been no angel…” and realized I’d worshipped drugs, idolized them. Back then I thought giving them up was akin to forsaking God, but the painting helps me to remember the pain and destruction that can happen when I put my faith in the wrong things.

I’m no angel either, but at least I’m a better human being than I used to be and Temptations of a False God is helping me to stay that way. Many thanks, you’re giving me strength, day-by-day, hour-by-hour and minute-by-minute. Cheers! (yes, pun intended)

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