“life is either a daring adventure or nothing . . .
to keep our faces toward change
and behave like free spirits
in the presence of fate
is strength undefeatable.”
Almost tentative, the poems of David Christian Stanfield have an easy cadence and a beautiful sense of erratic rhyme. Sometimes romantic and sometimes stark, they tell stories of the mind of the artist, covering subjects such as inspiration, lost love, self-perception, and the perception of everything else. Their sliding sort of grace will leave you fascinated.
born in millington, tennessee—just north of memphis—in 1970, christian spent the first thirty years of his life robbing banks and fabricating his past. he even lied about his place of birth. he would tell anyone who would listen that he was a surfer from san diego, california. where he did eventually wind up living for a brief moment, incidentally, until a series of heists at wells fargo bank forced him into exile. again. christian is well traveled, having lived and robbed banks in tennessee, california, texas, south carolina, boston, new york city, new haven, connecticut, washington dc, strasbourg, france, mexico, and various parts of venezuela.
christian’s memory of all of this moving about is rather shaky, however, as he was either high, drunk or both from ages fourteen to thirty. he does remember that he somehow made it to georgetown university in the fall of 1996 as a transfer student from the university of new haven. he is still amazed that they accepted him. (and he is no longer bitter that yale did not accept him, even though his girlfriend and half of his band at the time were yale students, he had taken summer courses at yale, and he had worked for yale’s office of the secretary preparing in-depth analysis for the assistant secretary for government and municipal affairs.)
christian managed to keep his alcoholism and addictions under some semblance of control until his graduation (with honors, no less) from georgetown’s school of foreign service in may of 1999. after graduation, however, all bets were off. the last thing christian really remembers was madeleine albright handing him his diploma. and even that may have been a hallucination.
from june 1999 to february 2000, christian subsisted on a strict diet of various micro-brewed beers, cigarettes, cocaine, ecstasy. kind (and not-so-kind) bud, kitty tranquilizer, mushrooms and acid. and the occasional dorito.™ he rarely slept, and when he did it was fitful at best. on new year’s eve of 2000, christian consumed five or six ‘golden ice cubes’ (belvedere vodka & goldschlager, strained over ice into a shot glass), roughly twelve beers, a gram and a half of cocaine, his body weight in kind bud and ten hits of ecstasy at a house party. as near as he can figure, this was the precise moment that his sanity bid him adieu.
by february 2000, his consulting-firm job and georgetown apartment were well on their way to becoming distant memories of another life, and christian began to dedicate himself in earnest to destroying his life. the year between february of 2000 and february of 2001 would be memorable but for his inability to remember much of it. in fairly short order he became homeless and unemployable, and found himself doing ever-increasing amounts of cocaine and whatever else happened to be lying around.
and then he fell in love. in the summer of 2000, christian met the girl of his dreams and became monogamous. her name was crystal. methamphetamine. alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy, kitty tranquilizer—all out the window. for the next seven months, christian snorted crystal meth all-day, every day. he gave up eating and sleeping almost entirely. for those unaware, this is a sure-fire recipe for disaster.
by february 2001, christian was completely insane and unable to function in society. any society. in an effort to save himself from the conspiracy of fellow drug dealers plotting to kill him (not true, incidentally, but that’s what a drug-induced paranoid psychosis will do to you), christian turned himself in to the local dc metropolitan police department. for the first time in his life, christian told the complete truth. he remembers saying,
“i think my friends are trying to kill me. i’m tired of living a lie. i need help.”
the cops didn’t believe him. but they arrested him anyway.
due to the fact that the identification he was carrying was in someone else’s name (christian turned out to be quite the forger and identity thief, by the way, services he wound up marketing to his fellow drug dealers in dc), the authorities let him go. but not before the dcmpd and secret service hit his hotel room and found a half ounce of crystal meth and a bunch of his identity making tools. christian is still unsure as to the precise reason they let him go, but they did and he left. quickly.
after getting out of jail, christian tried getting high again, but this was clearly not working anymore. within days he found himself at georgetown university’s psych ward for a week, where he was unable to formulate a three word sentence in his head, let alone speak. near as he could figure, he was either dead and in hell (killed by drug dealers following an incident in which he ripped his partner off for some several thousand dollars and a couple of ounces of crystal), or enmeshed in some elaborate conspiracy of which he was the sole target. he couldn’t figure out which, but it eventually became evident that it did not matter—his life was hell and something had to change.
so he ran home to his mommy in tennessee. and, oddly enough, things got better for a few days. then he flew his dope dealing girlfriend down from dc along with more crystal meth. if this sounds insane, it’s only because it is. when christian lost his shit this time, it was the real deal, ya’ll, and it was almost for keeps. within a week, christian found himself in the waiting room of a memphis hospital. he had neither eaten nor slept in three days. he was yellow and blue and couldn’t feel his left arm. his tenuous grasp on reality consisted of a single fine thread that was coming unglued at both ends.
and then, in the bathroom of his not-so-palatial emergency room suite, christian experienced what the big book of alcoholics anonymous refers to as a “moment of clarity.” he had a little less than a gram of crystal left in his pocket, and as he took it out to examine it, he thought, “maybe it’s the drugs.” and with that thought, he poured water into the bag and drained it down the sink. that was on march the fourth of 2001, and christian has not had a drink or a drug since.
he entered serenity recovery center ten days later, and completed their 28-day alcohol and drug program. during his stay, he was contacted by the secret service and arranged to surrender himself and cooperate fully with the government. the events following have been nothing short of miraculous. christian has fully regained his sanity (a term which he now recognizes to be relative at best) and functions quite well in society. the government cut him a sweet deal, and he remains a free man as of this writing (ten years of bank robbery, identity-theft and dope dealing notwithstanding.)
christian now lives for a living and attends alcoholics anonymous meetings on a daily basis. he found god, who as it turns out was alive within him the whole time, and who no longer scares him. he enjoys yoga, prayer and meditation, along with forays into wacky spiritual mumbo-jumbo that he doesn’t really understand but appreciates on the experiential level (reiki, the local native-american sweat lodge, a vietnamese buddhist temple and the unity church down the street round out the list).
christian began writing back in college, but he didn’t really have anything to say. now that he has found himself and established a working relationship with a power outside and inside of himself, however, he has discovered that he has a lot to say—and some of that rather poetically. christian is currently at work on his first book of poetry, which is tentatively titled ‘take my word’ and will be available from lsl publishers in memphis later this year. he also has a spoken word cd in production, ‘breaking the sound barrier,’ which should be completed . . . uh, any day now, if he ever gets up off his ass and finishes it.
If he lives through march 5, christian will celebrate one year of continuous sobriety, and for this he is eternally grateful to god and the program of alcoholics anonymous. he still has an appetite for cigarettes and teenage girls, however, facts that serve as a constant reminder that the path he follows is one of spiritual progress, not perfection. but christian has found he doesn’t need to be perfect anymore. just himself.
“who you really are is enough.”
—oriah mountain dreamer
“you cannot teach a man anything.
you can only help him find it within himself.”
You can write to Christian at email@example.com.
Christian's works here at Unlikely Stories are:
Putting Some Miles On
Doing It Again
Worth the Weight
The Artist, frustrated
The Plays of Our Lives