An open letter to Mark

Charles Alexander
By | 2011-09-29T09:00:00-04:00 September 29th, 2011|Opinions|


I have known you for 20 years, as friend, pastor, activist, lately a troubled person dealing with serious health issues, who turned to alcohol and drugs for release from nonstop pain to body, mind, troubled spirit.
I’m also sure there’s not one of your many, many friends who is not shocked, saddened, horrified, by the mess you’ve gotten yourself into. You’ve hit bottom, as they say in AA, hit bottom in a big way.
Having been there myself, I know what it’s like. Living hell. It won’t be easy recovering. My own “what if” days haunted me for years. (Alcohol can be as demonic as hard drugs. It takes a little longer to tighten the noose, that’s all.)
What happened to you when your nightmare of a night came to the light of day, happened in the worse possible way: hyped, headlined media coverage. Gay sex orgy. Drug party. OD at chaplain’s home. Fired from jail ministry. (Oh, the godawful shame.)
The slightly arch, yellow journalism spin that sells papers. The irresistibility of a good scandal. The more prominent the villain. The more well-known the celebrity. A plus if a Democrat; five stars, if a Republican. Delicious. The public is insatiable for details. More. More.
No doubt those of the fundamentalist types are savoring their cup of gloat because of your fall from Grace, Mark. That’s predictable. Their so-called Christian compassion goes no farther than the tip of their shiny noses. Love the sinner; hate the sin. They were the Pharisees of Jesus’ time. Holy hypocrites.
It’s my observation that things began to change for you as your diabetes progressed. Blood sugar skyrocketed. Preaching became difficult. Your sermons became shorter. Your confidence varied from Sunday to Sunday. You were frequently absent from ministry. What’s wrong with Pastor Mark? many wondered, but stayed on hoping, praying for the best.
There’s no getting around it: panic attacks are a no-win situation. (I experienced withdrawal from Xanax. I was sure anyone looking at me could feel my inner turmoil. I wanted to run. Hide. I had no inkling that my doctor prescribed an antidepressant that was highly addictive.)
It’s no exaggeration, Mark, to say that these days drugs are everywhere. Their use is prevalent in many minority communities. Our LGBT community, contrary to what some would have everyone believe, is not at the top of the list. Society permits drugs as a means of control.
Knowing you as I think I do, Mark, I’m pretty sure your drug use was of recent origin; your experience, somewhat naive (but damnably foolhardy). To use crystal meth is to walk naked into the lion’s den. One dose invites being torn limb from limb. An eye for an eye. A tooth for a tooth.
So, Mark, what’s to become of you? You who have done so many wonderful things for our community. You who have touched so many lives. You who have given hope, a sympathetic ear, a hug to so many in need. (Thanks for my share.) You who have performed hundreds of holy unions, blessed families, children, advocated solidarity, and led the way to better racial understanding. Ministered to homeless, shut ins, and prisoners. What indeed?
Your next two weeks in intensive therapy is a start. You have reached out for help, briefly considering an alternative that I, too, long, long ago considered, thankfully, without following through on – to live 30 more years of sober, and productive life. (MCC-D was there for me back in ’82.)
Keep in mind, Mark, there are many of us who once hit bottom. With programs like AA and NA we’ve learned to live one precious day at a time. We understand. We support you. We offer our love. God be with you. I’m still proud to call you my friend. I’m not alone.

About the Author:

Charles Alexander