Tag Archives: addiction

A Personal Prayer of Repentance

Class with Dr. James Cone today awakened something in me that had been dormant for a couple years now.

This is my confession, that in my righteous desire to reject the anti-Christianity of conservative white evangelicalism (and even some “liberalism” that has no sense of urgency for the liberation of Oppressed Peoples), I became arrogant and self-righteous in my demeanor towards my God who instilled in me the only faith that could rescue me from the horrors of heroin and crack addiction.

This faith was the very simple faith that a lowly Nazarene named Jesus loved me enough, and deemed me worthy enough, to sacrifice his life so that I may have life to the full.

Yes, in my justified effort to rid myself of a dead religious tradition, I turned my back on the One who saved me quite literally from spiritual, emotional, psychological, and even physical hell on earth.

It was a deep abiding faith in the power of Jesus’ sacrifice for me, which is rooted in divine love for me, that empowered me to love myself enough to believe in myself enough to surrender my understanding and my will to my God who was the only One who could get me through hell 100x’s stronger than I was before.

It was faith in Jesus’ love for me that kept me from giving up on life as I sat in a sunless jail cell for 18-hours a day during the first three weeks of my five-month stay at the Cook County Jail.

CCDOC ID - Redacted CopyIt was a faith that was given to me, not by any merit of my own, that emboldened me to hope for a better future for myself and for the people I encountered.

It was faith in the cross and the Resurrection of Jesus that gave me a peace that surpasses all understanding, because it made no rational sense for me to have been given the hope that despite being a three-time convicted felon, despite burning every bridge with everyone who had loved me—somehow—my God would make a way out of no way—and somehow—not only would I survive but I would thrive beyond anything I could ever ask or imagine.

I’m here to testify that, even though I can’t explain theologically or rationally how it happened, my God delivered me from hell.

Somewhere down the road, I became unfaithful.

As I achieved many of my dreams such as earning a bachelor’s degree and going to graduate school, I became ensnared and enamored by some of the glitter of a privileged rejection of faith.

Well, it caught up to me, and the conviction hit me hard today that I mustn’t turn my back on the One who’s never let me down.

I think it’s a combination of a few months of really intense activism (to say the least) and a couple of years of wrestling with questions about God, along with the simple truth (which James Cone spoke in class) about a simple faith in the Jesus who identifies with the oppressed, which have brought me to this prayer of repentance.

To be clear, I STILL reject the white Jesus of white western Christianity;

I still have no desire to fully embrace as “Truth,” the Christian creeds which were created by flawed human beings who were influenced by the Roman Emperor Constantine;

I still believe that no one religion is the “chosen” religion of God;

I still believe that divinity is manifested in myriad ways to different people, including through non-theistic, non-“religious” experiences;

I still believe that diversity of religions is actually part of a divine order.

However, as for my personal experience, all I know now is that I need Jesus.

Thanks be to God that divine love, forgiveness, and grace are everlasting.

Amen.

http://www.facebook.com/HolyWeekOfResistance

Related Links:

The Evangelical Ethic and The Spirit of Colorblind Racism

Addicts Need Treatment Not Jail

Towards a Black-Womanist Theology of Mass Incarceration

#FergusonOctober: a glimpse of a movement for real justice

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Dear Judges of America’s Justice System: Addicts need treatment not jail

**Below is a letter I recently submitted to the Second Municipal District Court in Skokie, Illinois, on behalf of my brother who was awaiting sentencing for drug-related charges. I am sharing this because I believe it applies to so many of our brothers, sisters, aunties, uncles, cousins, mommas and daddies who are plagued by addiction. While most people who use illicit drugs do not get addicted, this letter is written on behalf of those who do.

January 2, 2014

To The Honorable Judge William T. O’Brien:

My big brother Bobby and I were once one and the same. We grew up under the same conditions inside of the same home. Yet, today our lives seem to be irreconcilably different, as he is awaiting judgment in your courtroom and I am on the first winter break of my first year in graduate school. I believe the key to my brother’s successful rehabilitation and reentry as a productive, addiction-free, member of society can be found in my and Bobby’s divergent paths.

I snorted my first line of heroin with Bobby on the night our father was arrested and subsequently sentenced to 18 years in prison. I was 13 years old and Bobby was 18. Fortunately for me, I was eventually admitted into a residential school for “at-risk” youth called, Mooseheart. Here, I discovered my knack for academics. I graduated at the top of my class, but what I had in “book smarts,” I lacked in common sense. My flirtation with heroin at 13 paved the way for my illicit affair with it at 18.

During my years of active addiction, Bobby and I were virtually inseparable until I was incarcerated at the Cook County Jail in 2008. I completed the HRDI rehabilitation program in jail, but after seven years of heroin and cocaine addiction, a four-month program behind bars would have hardly been enough to keep me sober without a long-term, voluntary, aftercare program. Unfortunately, most people who cannot afford the legal representation that is necessary to avoid jail-time come from communities with little-to-no access to the resources of the middle and upper strata of society.

The key to my success was completing a transitional living program called the Koinonia House in Wheaton, Illinois. At the K-House, I gradually transitioned into “freedom,” while still having protections and support groups around me to keep me safe from myself. During the 15-month program I enrolled in community college courses and stayed “plugged-in” to productive sectors of society. Upon graduation from the program, I received the Chuck Colson Scholarship for ex-prisoners at Wheaton College in Illinois. Earlier this year I earned my B.A. in Sociology and now I am at Union Theological Seminary in New York.

Bobby has the same desire and ability that I did to achieve long-term sobriety and build a positive, productive quality of life. However, Bobby will neither receive the full treatment that he needs for recovery inside of jail nor overcome his addiction without a long-term gradual and therapeutic transition into “freedom.” You may ask why I was able to get “clean” and Bobby has not, but the hard answer is that heroin and cocaine addictions are unpredictable and relentless beasts.

I know that having a sincere heart and will power was not enough for me to achieve long-term sobriety. I am only here because of the 15 months that I spent gradually transitioning into freedom, in a therapeutic, supportive, and in my case religious community. Bobby is no different from me in this regard. I would humbly plead that your Honor would grant Bobby this chance to free himself from his own prison of addiction via a long-term residential TASC program. Indeed, as I am sure you know, he has three little girls who desperately need him to get his act together…but he cannot and will not do it alone. Thank you for your time and work.

Respectfully submitted,

Daniel I. Aguilar