by Joshua Hoe
Last week when I was at church the Reverend gave a sermon about embracing homelessness.
I should have been shocked. But, to be 100% honest, I was sadly familiar with the concept.
My Reverend was talking about how Jesus asked all the disciples to drop everything and come with him. In other words to surrender the idea of life being rooted in possession and place.
It is not an easy concept to embrace, I have spent most of my life trying to find and keep a physical and spiritual home that is rooted in possessions and in a place.
Addiction was also, in a sense, an attempt to hold off the void and protect myself from the pain of the void.
But, because of prison (more on that in a second) I learned what my Reverend might have been talking about.
Homelessness and Addiction
I think there are many different kinds of homes for addicts.
There is the home we physically grow up in, the homes we live in throughout our lives, the home we form inside our heads, and the homes we live in publically (usually represented by a persona or mask we wear around other people so they can’t see what we are really feeling).
And there was the home of acting out.
Homelessness, in a way, was always the fear that motivated me building these homes.
When I think of homelessness, I usually think of the end of Star Wars (A New Hope) when Darth Vader’s tie fighter spins off wildly into the void of space.
This feeling was always present inside me, it was hiding there behind that feeling that “If anyone ever really knew the real me” they would never accept me.
It was hiding behind the masks.
It was hiding behind my fear of intimacy and in all of my trust deficits.
When all of my homes failed me and I felt the fear building my acting out behaviors were what I turned to in order to avoid spinning into that terrifying void
When you are in prison your bunk is called your “House.”
Before I went to prison, I had a nice apartment, a stable job, lots of clothes, a car, and hundreds of friends.
After my arrest, I lost virtually all of these things that symbolized home.
Virtually every physical manifestation of home (or of having a home) was stripped away from me.
Once I got to prison I was literally stripped to nakedness, searched, given a number, and left with only a bag full of prison property.
I could not mask my fears of spinning into the void with any of the manifestations of a physical home and my masks were stripped away too (any inmate only needs to call a friend on the outside to look up what you did).
I couldn’t even turn to acting out (I could have but I was in recovery and somehow it stuck – even through this trauma).
I was naked and homeless. Except for my bunk. And bunk “homes” are a moveable feast as well.
it is pretty normal procedure for inmates to be moved all the time.
Moved within facilities, moved between facilities, or moved all over the state.
You could be somewhere for a week, a month, a year, multiple years, you just never knew when a move was coming.
Home meant next to nothing.
I was in Darth Vader’s Tie Fighter, spinning off into space.
What I learned was that the fear is almost always worse than the reality. I learned that fear of the void is worse than the void itself.
And I learned about the importance of spirit.
Spirit, What You Find In The Void
I am convinced that God talks to us in our quiet moments and in the moments when we are at our most absurd and silly.
I think the miracles we think have disappeared from the world happen in a smile, in a cool breeze, or in a small kindness.
I found my faith by realizing, after much reflection, that while my ethical system and sense of human decency were encouraged and developed by my family, some of it was inherent (built in).
I realized that whenever I had lost my way, it was because I was losing touch with my spirit and burying it in my fears.
So, I believe now that God is “in” me and in those moments that I described a few sentences ago (when I take the time to put my fears aside and pay attention)
I think that little voice telling me what is right and wrong (and that I used to try to “Master”) is also of God.
I mean that while suffering is the way of the world, joy is divine.
When I was a young kid, my Grandfather used to tell us to get up every morning welcoming the day by doing something silly.
He did an absurdist full-body stretch he called a “Circus Stretch.”
I love that he shared his spirit with me in moments like that.
When everything was stripped away from me, and I was radically homeless, I found that what was left, in the void, was the spirit of joy my Grandfather was talking about.
I did not run around the prison doing “Circus Stretches” but I found it much easier to access my spirit after embracing the void (after years and decades of my material quest for “home” and in the never ending quest to be socially popular).
What got me through the hard times and the terrors of prison was the ability to find joy and humor in small moments and when threatened.
Finally, I found that home is really in my spirit not in possessions of places. My spirit doesn’t always conquer pain or fear, but even in places of utter terror and misery, there is something good inside me.
Where does faith come from for you? Let me know, leave a comment!