Afraid of Hell comes from ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN.
AFRAID OF HELL
Suicide seemed the solution to end the torment ravaging my soul when I was thirteen years old.
A quarrel between my mother and brother triggered the episode of depression that made me want to die. I don’t remember what the argument was about, only that it ended with my brother slamming the door after he and his wife stormed out of the house, vowing never to return. The incident pushed me over an already frazzled edge.
At the age of eleven, I had begun doing LSD (a hallucinogenic drug), and then started selling it and other drugs to stay high, including phencyclidine, commonly known as PCP. I had been doing a lot of it for a couple of weeks when the above incident occurred. The particular batch that I had been using and selling was extremely potent. As a drug addict; I took advantage of people without giving it much thought. It wasn’t anything personal, just what I had to do to stay high, which I did on a daily basis, whether from alcohol (the oldest drug known to man), or some other drug.
From shaving pills with a razor blade and storing it in a pill bottle, I had accumulated the equivalent of maybe fifty pills. I was in the living room when my brother and his wife left the house. As soon as they were gone, I began to cry and then ran to my bedroom where I kept my drugs and syringes hidden in a coat pocket. I prepared a large shot and injected it into my arm, and then ate the remainder of the PCP in the spoon and pill bottle. Numerous people had died from far less than what I had taken.
My parents had raised me as a Southern Baptist, so I had a concept of heaven and hell in my mind, and I did not want to go to hell for sure, which is where I was afraid that I was heading just as soon as I died.
Well, I went to school with a girl named Sherry, whose father was the pastor of the Riverdale Church of God. They lived three blocks down the road from my parent’s house.
As I recall, as soon as I had eaten the remainder of the PCP, I jogged down the road to their house. I jogged so that I could get there in a hurry, because I believed that I would die when all of the PCP that I had swallowed was absorbed into my system. Since I did not want to go to hell and was afraid that I was going to die quickly, I had to get there fast. I made it to their house and banged on their storm door. The preacher’s wife opened their heavy oak door and looked at me through the safety of the storm door.
“What do you want?” she asked. (I was the neighborhood hoodlum, and she probably thought that I was there to rob or steal something.)
“I want Brother Price to pray for me, because I have taken drugs to commit suicide, and I don’t want to go to hell,” I said. I believed that his prayer would stop me from going to hell, where I had been told that I would be going for the last few years.
“Bingham, someone’s here to see you,” she yelled.
All I remember after she called for him and he came to the door, was repeating what I had told her, and then him opening the door to invite me into his home. I lost consciousness when I walked across the threshold.
When I came back around, Sherry was sitting across from me at a foldout table with a Monopoly game between us. “Are you going to play?” she asked.
“No,” I said, and shook my head.
“Well, you said that you wanted to play,” she said. Then she asked if I wanted to go outside and sit in the swing, which is what we did. I remember telling her that I thought I had damaged my brain, because everything was moving so slow inside my head. Trying to formulate a sentence was difficult for me.
It took some time, but I eventually recovered and went right back to my insane ways for the next twenty-four years. In 1995, I finally stopped using drugs and alcohol by going through three years of therapy to address the personal issues that made me want to drink and use, and then by getting involved with twelve-step programs to learn the spiritual approach. Today, I do service work at the meetings and by sponsoring people. I remain willing to do God’s will in my life by helping others recover. I feel that I am blessed with each day that I wake up, and especially when I see the lives of others transformed through God’s love and power, as was mine.
I am grateful to have survived my suicidal tendencies. I hope and pray that if someone thinking of suicide reads this article, that they change their mind, because suicide is not the solution. Feelings come and go, good and bad ones alike, and if God was able to save me and give me a life worth living, then He will do it for them too.
I realize that it is only by the grace of God that I am still alive and
have a brain that works.
I am thankful that the prayers of Brother Price and his family were more powerful than the mega dose of PCP that I had done. Today, I am glad that I was afraid of hell because if I hadn’t been, I would have stayed in my bedroom and waited for the inevitable.