Catholic Medical Quarterly Volume 64(2) May 2014
Faith in Medicine
Finding God when we are sick:
Clapton on Clapton
Illness is undoubtedly an opportunity to reflect upon ourselves and also to find God. We have seen many who have rediscovered their faith while seriously ill. This example comes from an unlikely source, maybe – the great guitarist Eric Clapton. He recalls a second visit to a rehab centre.
“I stumbled through my month in treatment much as I had done the first time, just ticking off the days, hoping that something would change in me without me having to do much about it. Then one day, as my visit was drawing to an end, a panic hit me, and I realized that in fact nothing had changed in me, and that I was going back out into the world again completely unprotected. The noise in my head was deafening, and drinking was in my thoughts all the time. It shocked me to realize that here I was in a treatment centre, a supposedly safe environment, and I was in serious danger. I was absolutely terrified, in complete despair.
At that moment, almost of their own accord, my legs gave way and I fell to my knees. In the privacy of my room, I begged for help. I had no idea who I thought I was talking to, I just knew that I had come to the end of my tether, I had nothing left to fight with. Then I remembered what I had heard about surrender, something I thought I could never do, my pride just wouldn't allow it, but I knew that on my own I wasn't going to make it, so I asked for help, and getting down on my knees, I surrendered.
Within a few days I realized that something had happened for me. An atheist would probably say it was just a change of attitude, and to a certain extent that's true, but there was much more to it than that. I had found a place to turn to, a place I'd always known was there but never really wanted, or needed, to believe in. From that day until this, I have never failed to pray in the morning, on my knees, asking for help, and at night to express my gratitude for my life and, most of all, for my sobriety. I choose to kneel because I feel I need to humble myself when I pray and with my ego, this is the most I can do.
If you are asking me why I do all of this, I will tell you: because it works, as simple as that. In all this time that I have been sober, I have never once seriously thought of taking a drink or a drug... In some way, in some form, my God was always there, but now I have learned to talk to him.
You are never more of a mature adult than when you get down on your knees and bend humbly before something greater than yourself.”
From Eric Clapton, The Autobiography (2007) with acknowledgements to Fr Ron Rollheiser.
With thanks to Canon Matthew Jones, St Brigid’s Presbytery Crystal Glen Cardiff for the original version of this article.