God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference…Reinhold Niebuhr
Tuesday, May 31, 2016, I woke up in the corner bed of my four-person dorm room at Gateway Foundation (this was the rehabilitation facility where I spent 28 and a half days), from a very vivid dream. I believe this dream to be sent from God, as an answer to that night’s prayer. Before I get into the dream, I need to give some background info.
It all started six days before…
My fourth full day sober at Alexian Brother’s Behavioral Health hospital, where I was detoxing from drugs and alcohol, I was still in a valium-induced state. The hospital kept us alcoholics medicated with a low dosage of valium to prevent alcohol withdrawal seizures. In my opinion, it was to keep my ego at bay. I knew that I needed more than just this six day stint in a detox hospital if I had any hope of getting my shambled life together. I needed to go to a treatment center. So, on this fourth day sober, I began to call around to see who would give this lost soul, a bed.
The one phone call I can remember, was to the Gateway Foundation Alcohol and Drug treatment center in Lake Villa, Illinois. I heard from my counselor and other patients in detox, that this was the pretty rehab. Not that they were good, just good-looking. It was the one with the blue frickin’ skies on the Chain O’ Lakes, right along the northeastern coast of the Fox Lake, and 15 minutes from the Wisconsin border. I thought, “If I’m going to get the help I need, it might as well be in a beautiful place where I can find some peace.” Was there serenity? Did it matter where I got the treatment? Maybe it did…
A mature lady answered the phone, “Hi, thank you for calling Gateway Foundation, may I help you?”
I replied, “Hi, yes, I am currently in detox and am going to be discharged in a couple days. I need a bed, and was wondering if you had room for me? Oh, also, I have no insurance. Was there any type of financial assistance?”
She responded by telling me yes, and checked if I qualified for state funding by asking me a series of questions. Of course, I qualified, I was waiting tables at a comedy club and had no insurance. So, for a small copay I could get up to 30 days of treatment for my addictions; “Sign me up,” I told her.
Here’s the kicker…
She said, “Unfortunately, we are full at this time, and it would be around a four to six week wait before a bed would open up.”
In my head, as a wave of fear overcame me, “What?! Noooo! I’m just going to end up using drugs again or drinking if I go home right now.” You see, I was in a fragile state, with a cloudy haze that filled my brain. It was from all the years of drug and alcohol abuse; I knew myself all too well. Or did I? I just didn’t want to take the risk of being out there in the world, without getting help first.
I said, “Is there nothing you can do? I, like, really need a bed right now. I’m afraid to go out there again. I don’t know what’s going to happen in four weeks, or even sooner.”
She said, “I’m really sorry Mr. Danan, but if something comes up sooner, we’ll give you a call. You’re number two on the waiting list.”
I said, “Okay.”
When I hung up the phone, I remember the fearful desperation that swept through my consciousness like a thief in the night. And as lights out approached in that hospital, I thought about how I heard the voice telling me to ask for help just a few days before. That night, I decided to pray on my knees, in my bed. I thought, “Let’s give this a shot. Let’s see if the voice was real.” I was too embarrassed to be caught with the other patient in the room seeing me pray. Prior to this, I had never really prayed before out of desperation.
Sure, I’ve prayed out of desperation, but this was from the foxhole. For example, whenever I got arrested or pulled over, I’ve said meaningless, selfish prayers like, “God, please don’t let me spend the night in jail,” or “Please, get me out of this predicament,” or “If you get me out of this, I’ll never do it again.”
This night was different. I clasped my hands together, closed my eyes, and quietly said, “God, if you’re out there or you can hear me, please help me. I need a bed, and really need it soon. I’m scared that if I go home now, I am going to drink and drug again. Please, let a bed open up for me so that I can get the help I need. I surrender.” I remember weeping as I finished up, but also doubtful that a God, I really didn’t believe in at the time, was going to answer my prayer. I went to bed scared and sad.
The next morning, I foggily walked into the tiny lunch/meeting room with about fifteen people already eating breakfast. I grabbed my lunch tray and sat down. The nurses and counselors were always in and out of the room calling patients out, checking thoughts, vitals and giving meds. This particular Thursday felt a little different, but I could not figure it out.
As I took a bite out of my toast, a nurse appeared in the open door and said, “Drew, you have a phone call from Gateway. We will transfer it to phone two on the wall.” What was this madness? I immediately thought the worst. Maybe I didn’t qualify, after all, for state funding. They’re probably calling me to tell me I suck and they’re sorry, but I’m not getting in and to look elsewhere.
Shakily and fearful, I picked up the phone. I said, “Hi, this is Drew.”
The voice on the other end said, “Hey, this is Lauren from yesterday, I have some new information for you. How soon can you be here?”
“Ummm, um, I’m getting discharged tomorrow. Why, what’s up?” I replied.
“Well, a bed just opened up, and we have decided to give it you. Can you be here by 2pm tomorrow?” She said.
As tears of joy streamed down my face, I replied, “Yes, yes!”
Did God just answer my prayer? I was still a skeptic. Was this real, or is this a dream? God must be real, or was this just a coincidence? I’ve never experienced an answered prayer.
I began to weep. I know, there’s a lot of tears in this chapter. It is what it is; tears of joy, tears of sorrow; it will forevermore define the feelings in this soulful mind.
I knew I needed a sponsor, someone who could guide me through this journey. The Friday when I was discharged from detox and given my cell phone back, I thought of everyone I knew was sober. I could only think of one man. My mentor and improvisation teacher, Tim O. I remembered five months before when Improv class was letting out, I had invited him to the bar across the street from the improv school and he graciously said no. I asked why, and he had told me that he was sober 20 years off of drugs and alcohol.
I had to be at Gateway in three hours and still had not packed anything on the list that Gateway had recited over the phone the day before. I anxiously awaited for Tim to call, and he did right away. He said yes that he’d be my sponsor, on the condition that I would follow his suggestions (At first they were instructions for my stubborn ass). He gave me one instruction, and said I had to pray on my knees every morning and every night. I said, “Can’t I just pray from my bed?”
He said, “No Drew, if you want me as your sponsor, while you are in rehab, I want you to get on your knees. On the floor, and pray for help in the morning and to thank God at night on your knees again.”
I said, “Okay.” But at first I didn’t listen, and that first weekend in Gateway was a struggle with the other men in the house, and with my mind. See, it was still all about the me. The who I was. The attention whore. The selfish drama king. So, I didn’t pray for the first three days.
On Monday, May 30, 2016, I decided to try out this knee thing and got on my knees and prayed. I made sure my three other roommates were sleeping and knelt on the side of my bed, resting my forearms on it with my hands clasped. I bowed my head, closed my eyes, and really prayed…
I remember crying and just pouring my complete heart out to this so-called God, I did not yet fully believe in. I prayed for what I thought was ten minutes, but when I lifted my head and looked at the clock over two hours had passed. Yes, I still did not trust or have faith, until…
That night, when I had a dream like Martin Luther King Jr., and two more dreams, the two nights after. God had sent me these. Three dreams to be exact:
And we’re back to the continuation of the first paragraph…
Dream Number One:
There was a six or seven year old kid playing with his sister on the stairs. And I had said to the boy to stop playing on the stairs, because someone was going to get hurt. They did not listen. The boy fell down the stairs and in the fall he broke his arm. I remember vividly seeing the bone tear through the flesh and stick out. From the wound the boy was bleeding. And somehow during all this, two of his fingers were cleanly sliced off. I saw the fingers lying on the floor. The boy was crying so hard. I picked up the two fingers and held them in my left hand, as I picked the boy up with my right arm. I kept telling the boy that everything was going to be alright. I rushed him to the hospital and in the dream the hospital happened to be next door. I ran, holding the boy in my arm into the emergency room shouting for help. The nurses rushed to me when they saw the injured boy. One of the nurses carried the boy away. And I handed another nurse the two fingers and said, “please put these on ice.” She kept reassuring me that the boy was going to be just fine. She said that he would be mended whole again. And in my heart, I somehow knew he would be okay.
Then, I woke up from this dream. At first, I had no idea what it meant, so I told one of my four roommates. He said, “Dude, that little boy is you.” Then, the interpretation came to me like a fully charged battery:
The two fingers each represented a piece of me lost to addiction. When I started using alcohol, I lost a piece of myself. When I started using drugs, I lost another part of me. Putting those fingers on ice, meant that if I don’t use drugs or alcohol again, there would be a chance the pieces of me lost could be reattached again. The broken bone represented that I was mentally broken over time. And the hospital, was God, reassuring me that what was broken or lost, could be fixed. He was going to make me whole again. He was going to mend me back together.
This second night in a row, I prayed to God on whether or not I should return to the bar/restaurant I worked at in downtown Chicago. And low and behold we have…
Dream Number Two:
I dreamt I had just gotten out of rehab, and returned to my job downtown. Everyone welcomed me with open arms. At the end of my shift, I decided to hang out with my coworkers and regular customers. Everyone was drinking having a great time, and someone handed me a beer. I held it in my hand and decided not to drink it just yet. I had to use the bathroom and do a number two. When I walked into the bathroom, I locked the door and placed the beer on the floor in the corner of the bathroom next to the floor drain. For some reason, while I was sitting on the toilet, I prayed to God on what to do. All of a sudden, the beer was pushed over by an invisible force and spilled down the drain.
When I woke up, I knew that God had given me this dream as a message to not return to that job, because I probably would drink again. The interpretation was clear and obvious: it would not be a safe environment for me. I decided to call that job with my counselor present, that day. I spoke with my boss and she was so understanding.
On a side note, I normally cannot remember my dreams. It has been a number of years since I could recall a dream with full and vivid details. These dreams were bringing me closer to believing. I was starting to come to.
On the third night, I again got on my knees and prayed for a sign that these were not just dreams. That night God sent me, the last dream that I can fully remember in even greater detail:
Dream Number Three:
The start of this dream begins with me in an Uber. It was dark when the Uber driver pulled up to the house. I was alone walking up to the front door of this large white house. I let myself in and remembered how dark it looked inside. There were these smug-looking gangbanger type people all around drinking and snorting cocaine. Some of the thugs were measuring cocaine and putting them in baggies. I saw some promiscuous girls drinking and snorting lines hanging all over these evil-looking men. I was scared, but put up a front that I was tough. They all looked at me like they wanted to hurt me. One of them came up to me, touched his gun holstered in his crotch area, got in my face, and said, “What the fuck are you doing here bro?”
I assertively replied, “I got invited to this party man.” He stared at me with a scowl as he went back to bagging up drugs. At this point, I was really scared. I looked around the room to see if there was someone that I knew. I looked by the couches in the center of this dimly lit room and this peaceful, beautiful looking man, who was not drinking was just standing there. When he saw me, he started walking toward me. As he started getting closer, I sort of recognized him, and I knew him. And from the looks of it, he knew me. It was like seeing an old friend that you hadn’t seen in a long time.
We embraced in a reunion-like hug and he said, “Man, long time no see. What are you doing here man? You’re at the wrong party bro. There is a way better party upstairs. Wanna go?”
I replied, “It’s good to see you! And yes, please take me.”
He said, “Alright, follow me then. I’ll take you up there.” He lead me out of that dark room of thugs into a back hallway of stairs. I start to follow him up these stairs, and as we are walking up, it starts to get brighter and brighter. When we get to the top, we walk into this large room lit up brightly by three giant chandeliers. It is a large mansion in the center ballroom. There are large arched windows from ceiling to floor. No one is drinking, but everyone is mingling and conversing, having a good time.
Some of the people see us, and start coming up to the man and me to welcome us to this party. He knows everyone by name. People are smiling and introducing themselves to me. It made me feel so welcome and at home. I recall that one of the glass doors was open and a perfect summer breeze was blowing in. He said, “Do you want to check out the balcony? There’s an amazing view.”
“Yes, for sure.” I replied.
We walked out the open glass door onto this large balcony, at least 100 feet long and 20 feet wide. There were just as many people outside talking and enjoying themselves. More people came up and introduced themselves to me. The man said, “Take a look at the view over the balcony.” I walked to the end of the balcony and rested my arms on the railing and looked out. The first thing I saw was this 20 foot wave rolling into the white sand shore of this vast and stunning ocean. As I continued to gaze out at what I was seeing, I saw the horizon. The top of the sun just peeking over, just about to rise. The colors in the sky were indescribably beautiful; light hues of red, glimmers of orange, and mixed in with blues. This description vaguely describes the view I was looking at. I thought to myself, “I never want to leave this place. I can stay here forever. This is heaven.”
As I stared out not wanting to leave, the man tapped me on the shoulder and said, “See, isn’t the party way better up here?”
I nodded my head yes.
Then, I woke up, with tears of joy streaming down my face. I knew that this was not just a dream. I had actually seen hell on earth. And God himself appeared to me, and took me to one of His many mansions and oceans in heaven. And that’s why I did not want to leave. This was that moment. The moment that I needed. The moment that awoke me spiritually. That moment when I started to believe. Where I started to hope. My sanity, my peace was returned, because of a greater Love more powerful than the sun. The free Love of God; it was the start of His ridiculous Grace.
The interpretation of this dream was simple: I continue to use drugs and alcohol and I end up living in fear the rest of my life. It would turn out to be a sort of hell on earth, of insanity. Or, I work a program of steps in recovery, do the next right thing, and love everyone; and God Himself would escort me to Heaven.
That juncture in which I woke up is when I came; came to; came to believe that a power greater than myself could restore me to sanity.
Thank you all for taking the time to read this. I hope this keeps your interest. I truly love you all. Please like, subscribe, comment, and share.
Coming up in late March 2019… “Chapter 3 – There’s No Such Thing As Coincidence, Drew!”
If you have any questions about addiction or need help or just want to talk, please leave a comment and I or someone in recovery will try and contact you. If it is an emergency, please call 9-1-1.