No Longer a Rock or an Island
A LINE from a song of the ’60’s went: ‘I am a rock/I am an island/And the rock feels no pain/And an island never cries.’ This song was a favorite of mine because it was how I lived. I could never remember feeling things others said they felt, such as love, compassion, and pity. I would fake such feelings and believed others did also. I could not remember ever crying as an adult. And here I was—50 years old and serving as an elder in a Christian congregation, alone in my home, choking on sobs because of a book that I was reading. How could this be happening to this “rock,” this “island”?
I was born in 1936 in a suburb of Boston, the fourth of eight children. My father and mother were alcoholics. We did not discuss feelings, hug, or express love in any way that I can remember. When I was six months old, someone put me in the bathtub, put in the stopper, turned the water on, and left. The housekeeper found me and saved my life. The only things I felt as a child were fear, dread, rage, and physical pain.
These were taught me by my father who would explode with rage and almost without exception express it on my little body with his fists and feet. The look on his face at those times still haunts me a half century later. Most of my life I believed these beatings were because I was such a bad boy, but now I know his rage expressed against me had nothing to do with my being good or bad.
In my fifth and sixth years, I was sexually abused by the family doctor. When I started school, we lived in a city of 250,000 WASPs (white Anglo-Saxon Protestants), and my schoolmates tormented and chased me, the little Jewish boy. When these gangs of 10 or 12 kids could catch me, they would strip off my clothes, beat me, and throw my clothes up into the tops of trees. I had to climb the trees in the nude to retrieve my clothes.
One month shy of my 18th birthday, I joined the military to get away from home. Till then I had never tasted alcohol, but almost immediately I started drinking and was addicted just as immediately. I stayed 20 years in the military and was drunk whenever I could beg, borrow, or steal the price of a beer. I was married at 24 and had a son, but my wife and son lived in a house dominated and controlled by an alcoholic—me—who viewed them both as a burden and an unnecessary expense.
I retired from the military in 1974 and tried business for a short time, but I soon quit that. I was no longer drinking, since my body would not take any more alcohol. I would break out in hives after only one or two beers. Now I was addicted to drugs—mostly marijuana, but others when available. This made it impossible for me to hold a job, so I stayed home and kept house while my wife, Donna, worked.
Jehovah’s Witnesses Come Calling
One morning my wife was leaving for work. It was 7:30, and I was already stoned. This made her angry. On her way out the front door she threw a sign at me and screamed: “I hope they pester you to death.” The sign was one that she had always kept in the window and that read, in large letters, “NO JW’S.” I put it in the trash. The next morning two women came to my door. They were Jehovah’s Witnesses.
By this time I had adopted Buddhism as my religion. I had long ago rejected the Bible because of the hypocrisy of my Jewish and Catholic parents. I had searched for God for a time but had given up looking, assuming there was no God. I believed in evolution and felt I had proved there was no God by standing out in the open during the monsoon lightning season and looking up and calling God every foul name I could think of and saying: “If you exist, strike me dead.” If I were God, I would have done so. Since he didn’t, I concluded that there must be no God. I thought the world was doomed because of man’s inability to stop destroying it, and I was hoping I could watch it all happen on TV while staying stoned.
As it so happened, that next morning the two women came. I was stoned and looking for amusement. We had a meaningless conversation for about 20 minutes, ending with their offer of a little blue book for 25 cents. I figured 20 minutes of amusement was worth 25 cents and so took the book and tossed it on the table without interest.
The next morning I was looking for something to read so that I could put off smoking dope for a while. I saw the little blue book and picked it up, hoping it could entertain me for an hour or so. Four hours later I had finished the book and was totally convinced that it was what its title said: The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life. I had drugs in the house and knew that as soon as I put the book down I would get loaded and discount everything I had read. The last page offered a Bible for just one dollar, so I put a dollar in an envelope and mailed it off, saying to God—I had never prayed in my life—“God, that’s all I can do, you will have to do the rest.” I mailed it, got stoned, and discounted everything that had just moved me so deeply.
The Bible came in the mail, but I just put it aside. Soon thereafter, two Witnesses came and offered to study the Bible with me, and I agreed. The studies were enjoyable but not progressive because I mostly tried to impress them with my knowledge of philosophy. Additionally, I would use drugs as soon as they left, and this would cancel any progress I had made that day.
Finally, after a year, one of the Witnesses, Jim, came and asked me to read Ezekiel 33:9. I did so, reading: “As regards you, in case you actually warn someone wicked from his way for him to turn back from it but he actually does not turn back from his way, he himself will die in his own error, whereas you yourself will certainly deliver your own soul.” He then asked me what I thought it meant. I answered: “It means you aren’t coming back and I am going to die.” He said, “That’s right,” and he left.
The Witness Returns
I am glad to say I discovered I still had a conscience—I had believed I had long before killed mine. Since I did feel some longing for the future I had seen in the Bible, I decided to try to get off drugs. For weeks I tried unsuccessfully by myself. One evening my wife suggested I call “that friend,” referring to the Witness, Jim. I told her he had said he would not be back, and I did not know his telephone number. I felt utterly hopeless.
The very next day, we found a Watchtower stuck in our front door with Jim’s telephone number written on it. His wife had left it for “no particular reason.” I called him and confessed my alcohol and drug problem and asked if he could help me. He told me that if I kept off drugs, he would come and study with me every day.
This started a period of intense study that consumed all my days and nights. Not only did he study with me daily but he supplied me with Bible study books and Watchtower articles. I slept only four hours a night—a common problem for alcoholics—and all the rest of my time was devoted to Bible study. With the drugs gone, all I had learned for the past year, plus all I was learning by studying from 18 to 20 hours each day, was sounded down at once.
Additionally, I started attending all the Witnesses’ meetings. Within just a few weeks, I had progressed to the point of the first real prayer of my life, which was also my dedication prayer. I started going from door to door and preaching to everyone I knew. Seven studies were started, and five of these progressed to baptism, including my wife and son. I was baptized at a circuit assembly on May 23, 1976, just three months after I made the call to “that friend.” I started pioneering (preaching full-time) and continued for 13 years.
This brings me back to where I started this story—50 years old, sitting at home alone, and crying over a book. Self-help books were very popular during the ’80’s, and I read one of them. Frankly, the self-help part did not help me. I did not feel inclined to follow the worldly thinking it offered. But the book did make me see for the first time how the scarred years of my childhood and the starved emotional needs for love had left me emotionally crippled. The tears that came were both tears of joy because I could now understand why I was always so lacking in the ability to feel emotionally, and also tears of grief over the huge loss I had suffered for 50 years as an emotional human being unable to respond emotionally. It explained the many bouts of depression I had suffered throughout my life.
Gradually, emotional feelings came over me when I read in the Bible of Jehovah and his love, even for me, which I had never felt personally before. Love for my wife and my son, for my brothers and sisters in the congregations of God, and also for persons I preach the good news of God’s Kingdom to, that they too may have the opportunity to live forever in Jehovah’s promised new world of righteousness here on earth.
Created to Love and to Be Loved
We were created to love and to be loved. When a child is born, it needs this love, and it needs to be accepted. When a child does not receive love and acceptance from his parents, he feels unlovable and has no feelings of self-worth. When I was very small, I craved to be picked up, held, petted. I can remember even now that when visitors came in the house, they would look at me in my playpen, and I would hope that they were going to pick me up. They never did, and I would start crying because no one ever picked me up.
Such childhood scars had left me crippled in my husbandly role and as a family head and had left me unable to believe that Jehovah, the heavenly Father, could love me. The truth about Jehovah gradually changed me, moved my concept of him from my head to my heart, and now I know Jehovah loves me unreservedly. I also know that there is no way we can earn that love. It is an undeserved kindness from Jehovah God, the God of love.
The bottom line of all this is that because of Jehovah’s blessings, my wife and I now have a good life. We are currently serving where the need for Kingdom preachers is greater, with a small loving congregation in a picturesque little town in the mountains of Arizona. I serve as the congregation’s presiding overseer, conduct a congregation book study, and it is also my great joy to conduct the Theocratic Ministry School. I have a small window-washing business that supplements my pension so that we have all we need materially and enough time for our ministry and the rest of our service to our loving heavenly Father.
Looking back to where I was that morning my wife threw that “NO JW’S” sign at me, I am filled with gratitude to my heavenly Father for what he has done for me. From an addict unable to hold a job and with only the hope of seeing everyone else killed with me, I am now a member of Jehovah’s visible organization on earth and committed to making known to as many as possible the good news of God’s Kingdom, the only hope for the world. Jehovah has also filled my life with people who give me what I have always wanted: love, trust, and acceptance.
And I am no longer trying to be a “rock” that feels no pain or an “island” that never cries.—As told by Larry Rubin.
[Picture on page 23]
Larry Rubin and his wife, Donna