There are times in my life when I do what I call an “inventory check”. It’s not any particular time of the month or day, it is just a thought which occurs when I take an assessment of my life and see where I am. I learned to do this while involved in my drug addiction when I was living in Shaker Heights in 1999. I would examine to see if there were any pains in my body or if I had any financial issues which weren’t resolved or were forthcoming. When there wasn’t any, I would smile thinking everything, then, was okay with me. Often, as either fate or providence would have it, then would come a sweeping wave of disruption in my life and the work began, again, to rectify those problems so I can once again smile and know everything was fine. I had done so, just the week before, while waiting for the bus to go to work. Everything was fine. I was nearing the end of my probation, only two months to go. I hadn’t fallen back into drug addiction although the temptation to do so was fierce. I mean, so fierce I was continuing to make plans to have one more “outing” when the probation period ending November 14. Sure, I was frightened with the thought, but there was something still, something I planned when I was locked up in Cuyahoga County Jail in 1996. It was loading a stem with five good hits, melted down and with one loaded blast in the company of a woman, to let what happen happen. Amazing after all this time it was still a matter of importance to me, following me throughout all these years. However, I have withstood all the thoughts to do so up to this point. Funny, now that I think back, those few times I’d had when I was free and had access and did relapse, I was so wanting to immediately get high, I didn’t take the time to melt those five hits into one blast! Over the years, I’d had tremendous hits as shared with you previously, so what would make this one any different? I also knew I was quite a bit older than I was when I first started and had those tremendous blasts. I also accepted what I was really after was chasing a serious heart-attack or stroke if I entered a state of extreme paranoia. I wasn’t suicidal although now I don’t have a fear of dying. Don’t know why I still had this thought, why it was still such a large part of my thinking to the point sometimes I would fantasize the scenario in my mind, over and over again, even pseudo-feeling the high! The light-headedness, the quiver in my stomach, the slight sweating, all still very real indicators addiction for me was only one hit away.
It was Saturday, September 8th when I received the phone call from the new General Manager of the hotel about 11:30 in the morning. At first I wasn’t going to answer the phone but I checked the caller-id and saw it was from the office. Thinking something was so important I would get a call or it could be from one of my work friends and they needed to call me. There was a comedy show at the end of the month and perhaps it was from my assistant boss who wanted to confirm with me about my wanting tickets, I answered the call. He asked me if I would stop by the office. I mentioned to him it was the Sabbath, and everyone knew I am not available unless it was some emergency. It was not an emergency, but he wanted to speak with me and needed to do so, soon, but was willing to wait until the Sabbath was over even wanting to send a van to pick me up. I agreed and hung up. It bothered me so much I decided to just acquiesced so I called back and left word with my Front Desk Manager I was on my way.
When I arrived, I went to his office not finding him there and then went to our offices, saying hello to all and went to an area to sit and make the call to him on his cell phone. I did reach him and he told me he would return as quickly as he could. While sitting there waiting, I glanced over to the wall to see the schedule for the upcoming week and saw my name longer listed! I had this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I thought positively about what it could mean. I did ask and wrote a proposal for a promotion. I knew there were changes happening in the hotel and maybe they wanted to offer me something even better which meant leaving this position I’d had for the past 11 months. Or, maybe they found out about my legal situation and this was the day I would be fired. I just knew I would have felt better had my name still been on the list, but there came over me a sense of well-being. If I were to be terminated, I would have rather it occurred this way than to be told directly. I was prepared now. I accepted, now, what was the inevitable and could walk out with dignity no matter what was going to happen to me.
The General Manager walked in and greeted me and we went into the Front Desk Manager’s office and closed the door. He said he thought we were fast becoming friends in his short two months there and regretfully a matter had come up and, well, he just thought it would suffice it to say if he handed me a letter. I opened it and read:
September 7, 2007
Dear Mr. Martin,
As the result of a routine background check, it has come to our attention that you made a false statement on your application for employment. Specifically, you stated that you had not been convicted of a crime within the last five years. That statement was made on October 12, 2006. A copy of your original application is enclosed.
We have been informed that you were in fact convicted of a felony on October 29, 2003. According to our handbook, this is a “Group C” violation, which carries a penalty of immediate termination without warning.
This letter will serve as your notice of immediate termination.
Somewhere in my walk of life I learned not to fight what was. I folded the letter and replaced in the envelope and swallowed acknowledging it was true. I said to him, in a soft voice the circumstances of my being hired a week before I actually physically started, by phone, and it was on the basis of my interview and resume and not due to an application giving to me the day after I already begun. I also mentioned, briefly, my case was one currently being appealed, but in my heart, too, although I had done an exceptional job at the hotel, and had been told this even from him at this time, “IF” he/they wanted me to remain there as an employee “IT” was in his power to do so now. He mentioned how maybe someone saw something on the Internet and it…I let it pass. What was the point? I also knew there is no “routine background check” which was done only to security personnel prior to their hiring. This was merely another door closing in my work experience, another testing time for me and I was not going back to unearth already previous gains. He walked out with me, we shook hands, and I told him I had been glad for this opportunity of working here and I held no regret or remorse toward anyone. He thanked me and we parted ways. Before leaving I retrieved my check and he mentioned, if I wanted, he would see to it my last check would be sent immediately; however, I told him it was not necessary, and I would come and get it when it was ready this coming Friday.
I walked out the hotel property and on my way there earlier, I saw my good friend Robert walking toward the church and decided to go to his office, after I went to the bank to cash this check I had in my hand. This time, I wouldn’t be making any deposits to my own accounts. I checked his office through the glass and saw some activity and used my key to enter. He greeted me and asked him if he had time to talk, he did, and I shared with him what occurred. We talked encouragingly to each other, he, too, going through some difficulty and there we bowed our heads in prayer. I left his office feeling better about the whole matter, and for some strange reason I understood the text, “…a peace which passeth all understanding…” (Phil. 4:7), because I was experiencing it. Although a bit involved in my thoughts, being greeted by people I know but not recognizing them right away, I got on the bus headed back home.
I thought about the last time this happened, oh, not the previous many times, but the one time which occurred May 23, 1991 when I lost my position with IBM. I thought how I felt this freedom to now abuse myself by falling completely into full-blown addiction with nothing holding me back. I could let the probation status not affect me now because what else could I lose? In fact, if things got so tough for me, at least if I failed a drug test and locked up, at least I’d have a place to stay, somewhere to eat and have a shower. But, I wasn’t going out like that. I had come too far, thinking about my travels from that time to this and going back where I have come from was just not an option for me.
I called my probation officer and left a voice-message. I considered the money I now had and how I could go across the river and just blow it and who would care? Who could fault me? I certainly could use this as a reason. After all, I am bipolar, aren’t I? After all, I AM an addict, as others would say, and wouldn’t it be what an addict would be expected to do? Nothing but justifications and it wasn’t working for me. No, I made it this far and if it was for this purpose for me to come here, after all these years, to have a similar experience by losing such an important job, one that made my life so complete and fulfilling by having responsibility and providing for myself, then I wasn’t going back. I would use the experience I’d gotten and I would remember how I fallen back before and now it was not desirable. It was not going to be an option. In fact, I was too old to make that same foolish mistake as before and it would be an insult to God for Him having put into place all He did to bring me out! What would even guarantee He would again? He did so much for me already to put people, places and things together to where I am today, would I have the nerve to go backwards in such a time as this? NO WAY! I would not. Again, it’s not an option. I have to move forward and I will. Now, this is the time when I need Him most and there was no way I was going to approach Him from a position of shame and regret and failure and remorse. No, I would approach Him from a point of victory and strength.
When Monday came I didn’t know what to do. I hated having to redo my resume. Always thinking whatever job I had would have been my last work until retirement. I enjoyed being at the hotel, working nights, having friends, somewhere to go and could have made this my last position before full retirement, but it was not to be. I knew I wanted to stay in the hotel business, preferably at night but the hotels which could easily be gotten to, since I am commuting, would be a bit difficult. I called my former employer at Best Western to offer congratulations on their recent changes and promotions with a hope maybe hearing an offer of returning. It didn’t come. I hadn’t burned my bridges because I made a call, just prior to this, letting them know of an offer for a possible opportunity in the city, some time ago, and if I could use them as a reference and they agreed, so I knew I was not in an unfavorable position with them. Although, now, I could use a job going back to where I’ve been is not what I’ve done in my life and I didn’t think I wanted to begin now. You may not burn some bridges in life but you might as well because you surely don’t want to cross over them again.
As much as I needed to find work I was also being inspired to do something else. I hadn’t written the whole time I worked at The Poughkeepsie Grand Hotel. It just wasn’t as comfortable a place to sit and write as at the Best Western and I was drawn into a routine now which for all tense and purposes was like an addiction and would have been difficult to break. I was being told repeatedly, by God, “to write” my story. To finish it. There were only about three more chapters I could think I wanted to do, one of which would be the end of my probation, and what occurred afterwards. I was getting the impression from God to write. Period. Don’t worry about jobs, housing, living—just write. Finish the book. (Note: December 23, 2008, interesting how a little more than a year later, similar circumstances would occur. I would lose my job, this time due to the bad economy and the company being sold, and God telling me to finish the book and not worry about jobs, housing and daily living—just finish the editing. I’m determined to do so—now.)
I already submitted my claim for unemployment and hoped I would get it so I could live on that for the next twenty-six weeks if I had to. It was a dream to be able to live and write without having to worry about working, eating and living costs. I guess, this was my time and as close to my dream as I was going to get. My employment claim was approved but later denied because I lied on my application regarding my felony conviction. Yet, I still was not frustrated enough to become depressed to a state where I couldn’t function again. I was reminded of the time when I lived in Philadelphia and could not find work. How I laid on that bed for three days and nights, not eating, not even getting up to go to the bathroom, not really sleeping, just drifting in and out. How I didn’t want to make noise because I didn’t want to let my landlord know I was there and couldn’t pay the rent. I thought how God brought a miracle under my door and life began anew for me. I also remembered the lesson I learned how God brings about blessings IF we keep moving. If we place ourselves in graves then nothing can happen for us.
No matter how difficult my situation was for now, it was definitely not the same as it was then. I liked thinking how much better my life was compared to that time. Yes, I’m still living in a room but the difference was, I had food. I had a television. I have air conditioning. I have clean clothing. I have money, not a lot, but some. I have a computer which is mine and not stolen. I have friends down the street and a church if I only would attend. Life is so much better today than then. Perhaps what is most important and I’m most thankful for: I’m not an addict either through drugs or exhibitionism.
When I was dismissed from my job I sent an email to my friends which included my brother and his wife letting them know I needed prayer regarding my situation and within days I heard from Sandra and Brian requesting me to join them in Atlanta. I put them off letting them know I had some opportunities and I needed to pursue them, as well as I was not quite finished with my legal situation. Brian was insistent on my coming down even if he had to come up and get me. He told me my helping him move his family there was the reason for him thinking it was his turn to do the same for me. I had a need and it was time to handle it by being with family. It was the same invitation echoing back from 1996 when living in Womelsdorf and lost my job at the Caron Foundation. Again, living in a room, no food, no money and not knowing what to do when his phone call came through inviting me home. God does provide for His own.
I decided to blitz the Fishkill area with my newly designed resume on September 26th. Although hearing and believing God was telling me to write, I needed to make sure I was not hearing voices again which would have put me in a precarious position if I made a mistake. It’s simply called “lack of faith”. In designing my resume I added a cover page which included my picture, followed by contact information and a paragraph detailing what it is I am looking for. I called the gentleman who I met at the hotel who was gracious enough to put me in touch with someone in the city who might be able to get me work there; but didn’t seem likely now until the beginning of the new year. I didn’t have the beginning of the year to wait—not now. I needed to find work as soon as possible before my money ran out. He agreed to give me a good reference so I added him to my list. I contacted a woman, Dr. Linda Carter from the Atlanta area, who visited The Poughkeepsie Grand Hotel about four months ago when bringing her son to Vassar College. She and I had a wonderful conversation with her telling me, rather, prophecying I would be coming down to Atlanta and for me to write her phone number down so when I got there I could let her know I was there. I wasn’t hearing it then and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to hear it now. I called her to get her permission to put her contact information but was unable to get her except for her voicemail.
I walked in ninety degree weather going from hotel to hotel, dropping my resume off and talking to whomever I could about work. From one hotel to the next, wiping my forehead of the dripping, no, pouring sweat, trying to look fresh as if I’d driven there. My back was hurting, I’m thinking, I’m putting on a few pounds again with the lack of activity. On the first of the month when I weighed myself, I learned I was. I was hitting 250 lbs. and was feeling it in my back and right knee. “No pain no gain”, I kept reminding myself and if this foot duty was the means by which to get work, I’m just paying my dues. I managed to get to six hotels and found out there were two more. I figured I’d get them tomorrow or some other time. Now, I just wanted to get in a bus, hopefully air-conditioned and make my way home, figuring I’d done all I could to get work.
Dr. Carter called that evening laughing when I said do you remember me and I’m not calling because I’m there—yet! We recounted when she was here and she felt privileged to offer a recommendation for me saying it would be the most awesome given but it would do no good. She revealed to me it was God who told her to tell me months ago I would be coming to Atlanta and asked why am I fighting Him? I told her I was nearly making up my mind, because it seems all the doors were closing for me here and the only door which remained open was in Atlanta. She said she could see an “anointing” on my life and after I shared briefly with her about my writing a book about my experiences as compared to James Frey, author of “A Million Little Pieces” and how it was reported some incidents in his book were not true and how I could validate every bit of mine, records being held in various institutions. I was nearing the finishing of my book and believed I would be called to some form of ministry and perhaps this was, in fact, the place I was headed but I had to do all I could to find viable work here. Our call ended with the assurance when I arrived we would meet.
I thought about what just transpired. Was this the next place for me? Would there be a reason why God called me to be there, or would it be just be a place where I would go because I could no longer live here? The pressure was off, for sure. At least I knew there was a next place because many cannot see the “next place” in their journey. I remembered how my brother called telling me God told him to go to Atlanta and I remembered how uneasy I felt and conveyed to him about leaving a great job, with small children and wife in tow, to just pick up and leave. Could it be, could it be God was preparing this place, for me, by sending him in advance?
Days would go by and I would not really put too much effort in finding work hoping to hear back from those places I submitted resumes either by foot or Internet. My email remained empty and my phone didn’t ring. The bills were paid so both services were working fine. I couldn’t see how bills would be paid the following month, but for now, they’re working just fine. With time on my hands and a bit of money, someone else would enter the picture and want to spend some time with me.
One night, with money in my pocket, I took a walk. I was looking. I wanted to meet up with someone who could sell me something. I didn’t want it but why was I out here? Depression? Perhaps. Giving up? Probably. I walked the street, the same street where I met Olivia so many years ago, even hoping then to run into her or someone like her. It was not to be. Those streets in Beacon were so cleaned up from what I once remembered them to be. I hadn’t gotten the chance to wander the streets at night before because I was always working. And just as strong as the thought to be out here came the thought “why am I out here”? There was nothing I could do at this moment which could transcend whatever I had had before. NOTHING! I began my journey back home and all the while praying and praising God. I now knew why He brought me to this place. Although the first apartment I looked into having was in Poughkeepsie, He’d have me here. If I had been walking in Poughkeepsie—tonight, no doubt I would have found plenty of what had me out there before. Late at night, no transportation. Sure, I could pay for a cab to take me across the river to Newburgh, but I had later characterized it as the City of Certain Death for me and I wasn’t haven’t it. All the fantasies of melting five rocks into one hit came back hard and furious but I was not opened to making that trip. I couldn’t. I wasn’t going to undue all God had done to get me to this point in time. All the persons He’d put into my life, all the places I’d been, all the graces and providences moved into place, just for me, and with one final and probably fatal swoop, I would send all His efforts back fourteen years? No, I couldn’t do it to Him, to myself nor my friends and family who believed in me. I couldn’t go back on my god-daughter whom I was assisting in her moments of recent recovery. I couldn’t do this and prove God really healed me by writing this book professing He did. It was my time, my test and I was not about to fail.
I picked up my pace with a clear mind. Whatever struggle I just encountered was over and I knew then I would never return to drug addiction. Now, there is a difference of wanting to do it and doing it. I guess in my thinking, there will always be a part of me that will wonder and miss it because it was enjoyable. That’s why people stay out there doing it, it isn’t all that bad. But I’d seen too much, experienced too much to go back now or ever. I had goals in my life and I needed to prove to myself what I knew from the very first meeting I attended: their way was not the perfect way. Healing from God IS the perfect way and I had to remain in tH(IS) way to be able to teach it—first, by living it. This was my testing time and I would pass. Just like cigarettes would slowly fade so would this.
When I made it home, I looked at all I had with me today and thank Him for it. I thanked Him I was now praying a prayer from victory and strength and not from remorse and guilt and shame. I thanked Him for walking with me all the while whispering in my ear what was the right thing to do and to think. I thanked Him for putting me here, exactly where I am in this place and time and I, listened, I PRAISED Him for the loss of my job. I PRAISED Him for the new life He would start for me. I PRAISED Him for the writing of this book. I PRAISED Him for the hard times still yet ahead. I learned God offers His grace to us, but often we fall short of its arrival. It’s our responsibility to reach out toward Him even when we cannot see it. THIS IS FAITH. If I could have known what was the end result of being dismissed from my job—now, THEN IT IS NOT FAITH. I don’t know how I will live after next week (written October 2, 2007) when I give up the last of my money. I don’t know what He will do, but what I do know is, HE WILL DO.
However, the realization of what just happened hit me like a bolt of lightening as I sat in my chair recounting what I just experienced. I looked at the calendar and saw it was September 11th! This was the day I was arrested five years ago! This was the day when I surrendered not to the authorities in Puerto Rico but to the authority in Heaven. This was the very same day God began the healing of my addictions. A year prior, this day saw the worst terroristic act on this country. Today, six years later, I saw an act of “reconstruction” happen in my life instead of the great devastation at the World Trade Towers and my life a year later. I recommitted my life to His leading.
And He taught me something else, too. He taught me He had given me a ministry but don’t expect others to believe it, accept it or encourage it. Look at Jesus. Here to save the world and yet His own people, who were expecting Him, missed Him! What could I possibly think what was going to happen to me? So, I learned. I learned not to expect anything from anyone regarding this. He made it clear what He is doing in my life, taking me to the next place and I was merely to follow. I cannot look for guidance, confirmation or even a smile because He’s speaking to me and even though I’m going to where family and friends are, don’t look for their approval. It would be better not to mention it. Just live it.
I would come face to face again with my old nemesis of exhibitionism. The devil lost the return to drug addiction and would see if he could raise the dead by bringing this one back to me, too. The thought occurred, a plan put into place but when the moment of testing came I realized something I never faced before concerning it. I didn’t have to do it. It was not an overwhelming compulsion as before. The last time I had this feeling was when I was in federal prison and it seem as if another presence was in the room and I was deciding whether to do it or not. I chose not to and now I am asked to do it again. I think when we’re facing certain experiences in our lives, when we are conditioned to fail, moments are given to us for an opportunity to be tested and then we’re free to do as we choose. I was free now and regardless of any legal implications because I’ve gotten out of those before, and in fact, could even be able to justify doing this again, under the present circumstances, yet I chose not to do so. I didn’t want to. Too much ground was covered in this addiction and I wasn’t willing to make the decision to do it again, whether by choice or habit. I had a choice today whereas I didn’t have for forty years. Once done, an act. Twice done, the formation of a habit and I’m not wanting it. I, so much, want a good life. When this was accomplished, the Lord spoke to me letting me know NOW was the time He can use me. I would definitely be questioned and challenged in life and I have overcome those obstacles. The same would be for those I would be placed in charge of. They’re going to come to me and bring their struggles. I would understand now. I would be able to empathize with them, to pray with them, to understand their tears and cry with them. I certainly understand the struggle men and women will go through in their lives in overcoming these deep-rooted issues and because I’ve made it I have something to share with them. This is not theory nor some experimental application but living it where they are living it. I know how easy it is to give up and move on. It’s less pressure. It’s much more pressure to make decisions to live properly and free from these addictions. I understand now and am willing to give my life helping those who are going through these struggles I know so well.
I needed to go to the bank to take more money from an already almost depleted credit card. It would be the money I would live on to purchase food until I know where I was to go. On the way there I rounded a corner and saw in the distance a beautiful woman. I wondered who she was and as we got closer, seeing her with this tall gentleman, I received the shock of my life as I saw my first ex-wife, Cindy. She was so beautiful. As we got closer, I looked her in the eye and she did me. She was talking to her husband and I could see the shock on her face. She motioned ever so slightly with her head giving me the unspoken message, “Please don’t say anything, this is not the time.” I honored her motion with a nod of my own head and then glanced at her husband, a fine looking man. He spoke and I said hello and kept moving. I stopped, turned around and watched her walk and thought had I’d been a good husband and not suffered through the struggles I had all of my life, I would have been walking beside her today. She truly was all I ever wanted in a woman and some twenty-seven years later, nothing changed except her beauty matured into such a fine woman. This moment discombobulated me so much I’d taken my money out the machine and later arriving home realized I’d left my card in the ATM and had to return to retrieve it. Sure, I hoped to have a chance to see her again. I learned later there was a funeral for someone who’d died and they were headed to the church. All this time living here wanting and hoping to run into her again and it was not to be except for this time. I could leave now. I was satisfied. She was living a blessed life and I was happy for her. A door had closed as it seemed all doors were closing for me here and time to move on. I accepted the Atlanta call and just needed to make one more call and that was to my probation officer.
I left three messages and finally he called October 2nd and I explained to him I had to leave. Money was running out but I had an invitation elsewhere. He mentioned my case being such a high profile one; he hoped I would be able to remain in the area until November 14th when my obligation to the government ended. I stressed to him this was it and I needed to go. We broke the conversation with him saying he’d get back to me on Thursday. Thursday. Thursday is my 51st birthday. I don’t wonder what will happen, but my responsibility is to live as though I’m getting ready to leave.
I’m finished here. I have accomplished the purpose of my almost three years in this place. My job’s come to an end, my money is running out, can’t seem to find work and I have seen all the people in my life who’s meant so much to me during this journey, living here in the Hudson Valley. Don, my friend, gave the okay for me to come here almost three years ago has again opened his home for me to stay and find work if it comes to this, but I told him, if I come, it’ll be only because the government won’t let me go and it’ll be just to finish my term here. I think he’s reconciling within himself, his brother and good friend, is moving on. As of this writing, I don’t know what and how things will finish but I do know they’re finished.