Seven years ago, I sat down on a curb near my home, sobbing, and asked God to help me.
I had just had surgery for throat cancer. I still had a trache in my throat. I had been told that if I didn’t stop smoking and drinking immediately, I’d die. I desperately didn’t want to die. I adored my wife and children.
But I knew I couldn’t stop. I’d started smoking when I was twelve and drinking when I was 14. I was now 57 years old.
I cried and begged God to help me . . . and He did. I hadn’t prayed since I was a boy. I had made fun of God and those who loved God in my writings. And now, through my sobs, I heard myself asking God to help me . . . and from the moment I asked, He did.
I didn’t at first understand why He did. I didn’t deserve His help, I thought. I was unworthy. I ignore Him for forty years and then suddenly I ask Him to help me and He does? It took me some time to understand that God helped me because He loves me. Because even though we don’t deserve God’s love, God loves us – all of us.
Not only did He give me the strength to be able to defeat my addictions, He saved my life. My throat surgeon, Dr. Marshall Strome, told me seven years after the surgery that I am “cured.” Not that I am in remission, but that I am cured. That my throat tissue has regenerated so remarkably that even a doctor examining my throat wouldn’t be able to tell that there was ever cancer there. Dr. Strome, who had removed about eighty percent of my larynx, called this “a miracle.”
I call it that, too. Why did God save the life of a man who had trashed, lampooned, and marginalized Him most of his life? Why did He take the time and the trouble to save me? It certainly wasn’t because I had written Basic Instinct and Showgirls, right? Was it because my wife and I had four little boys we were trying to raise? Possibly.
Or was it God’s divinely impish sense of humor? “Who, you? You’re praying? After everything you’ve done to break my commandments and after every nasty, unfunny thing you’ve written about Me and those who follow Me – now you’re sobbing? Praying? Asking Me to help you? Hah! Okay, fine, I’ll help you. But if I do, know this: My help will obliterate the old, infamous you. You’ll wind up turning your life inside-out. You’ll wind up stopping all of your excesses. You know what will happen to you? You’ll wind up telling the world what I did for you. You’ll wind up carrying my cross in church. Yes, I make all things new – and you will be new, too.”
Well, I thought I heard God saying all those things to me . . . and then all of the things God said would happen . . . did. My life has turned inside-out. I have stopped my excesses and replaced them with prayer and long walks. I am carrying the cross as often as they’ll let me at Holy Angels Church in Bainbridge Township, Ohio. And I have written a book as a thank-you to God. Not just for saving my life, but for saving me.
I am witness to and the beneficiary of God’s love for all of us. Am I am witness, too, to the fact that His love is so strong that it was even able to open my rusty old closed heart.
I will thank Him forever because He gave me new life and a heart which is truly able to love for the first time in my life. His love is mine.
Joe Eszterhas is the author of a new memoir called “Crossbearer.” He has written the screenplays for sixteen films, totaling over $1 billion in box office revenue. His blockbusters include Basic Instinct, Jagged Edge, Flashdance and Showgirls. A former senior editor at Rolling Stone, he is the author of five previous books – the second, “Charlie Simpson’s Apocalypse,” was nominated for the National Book Award.