I frequently pray that God use me as a vessel to draw others to Him, that He fill me with the fruits of His Spirit, that others may be drawn to Him through His light within me.
While running one morning this past week, counting my blessings and adoring the breathtaking pink and white clouds as the sun began to rise above them, I felt a small, yet persistent tug on my heart. God gently nudging me that it’s time to perhaps get a bit uncomfortable to bring hope to others. If even just one.
He let me know it’s time to share my experience, strength, and hope.
I briefly mentioned in a past post my battle with alcohol. A battle that began so many years ago when I was in junior high school. I had always struggled with feeling adequate–or rather inadequate–and having a birth defect, what the optometrist called a lazy eye, didn’t help matters. I rarely, if ever, looked anyone in the eye when talking for fear they would see the “ugliness” I knew was there.
In seventh grade I went to a slumber party, thrilled I had been invited, but filled with fear that the other girls would discover my secret–the secret that I didn’t actually belong there with them.
The slumber party was equipped with giggling girls and lime and cherry vodka, and as nervous as I was to drink, knowing it was wrong, it was the effects from that smooth, syrupy sweet liquid flowing down my throat and into my blood stream that made me find the self-confidence I’d always longed for. I felt relief like I’d never known. It was the answer to every problem I’d ever had in my young life.
And the beginning of so many mounting problems as my young life gained momentum.
Junior high journeyed into senior high, and my drinking accompanied me as my best friend. Only under the influence did I feel worthy and relaxed. And only under the influence did I feel comfortable conversing with others, especially those of the opposite sex. And I was so good at blending in!
Or so I thought.
My extended family was rife with alcoholism so it certainly wasn’t foreign territory to me. But surely I would never get like that. I was, afterall, different and special. And whenever I forgot that, all I had to do was drink some of the magic liquid and I would remember.
My senior year was pretty much an eternal grounding. The day I would get ungrounded I would stay out all night only to get grounded again. This only resulted in resentments stacking up like bricks, sure my parents were out to make my life miserable. I mean, seriously, I wasn’t doing anything everyone else wasn’t doing.
Or so I thought.
College ended before completing a full year because it got in the way of my drinking and having fun. After all, wasn’t that what life was for? Fun? I ended up enrolling in beauty college, worked in a hair salon for a number of years, and ended up a few decades later working in the law enforcement arena, by which time drinking had become a daily occurrence. We were told that one DUI would terminate employment immediately. That caused bitter panic to rise in my throat. What if…? And the disturbing thought that it wasn’t that I was afraid of losing my job, but losing my secret. I had an amazing double life going on that was working just fine for me, thank you very much.
My mind played tricks on me numerous times through the years, causing me to wonder that what if alcohol was a problem for me? But then all I had to do was stop for a few days ( I even made it a month one time) and realized if I had a problem with alcohol, I surely wouldn’t have been able to do that.
I mean seriously…right? So I celebrated–by drinking.
Alcoholics lose jobs, I had always maintained one. (Well except for that one time… but that wasn’t my fault.)
Alcoholics made a mess of their marriages and home life. I had two beautiful kids and the picture perfect family. (Never mind the fact that I was divorced twice–from the same man. But that wasn’t my fault either.)
Alcoholics got DUI’s and ended up incarcerated. I’d never had a DUI, and, in fact, worked in the law enforcement arena now. (We’ll conveniently forget the fact that I had driven under the influence more times than I could possibly count, and on more than one occassion-okay, numerous occasions–couldn’t remember how I got home until I saw my car in the drive and realized I drove home.)
Alcoholics aren’t church-going people. I was. (Never mind the fact that I rarely attended anymore, but I was still a member of a church. That oughta count for something, right?)
Alcoholics don’t work out, they hang out in bars, and have zero motivation. (Hmmm…I often found it interesting that when I ran, my sweat would reek of alcohol. And my bar was my home–sneaking drinks between drinks so my secret was safe and I could still get my “fix.” And my passions of writing and reading had fallen by the wayside. But, hey! Life was busy! I couldn’t have time for everything!)
After too long at trying to rationalize, and sensing my life spinning out of control, I realized I was the queen of excuses and finally conceded that maybe–just maybe–I had a problem.
I did some reading, and while reading about “high-functioning alcoholics” saw my own life plastered on the pages as if I was the one interviewed for every single article. It was then I knew that if I didn’t make some serious changes, it wouldn’t be long before I went from high-functioning to non-functioning.
But how could I be a writer if I didn’t drink? That’s what writers do, don’t they? And I realized that in my case, when I drank, I didn’t write.
When I stopped anestesizing with alcohol, I felt like a baby fresh from the womb, my skin and senses raw, every life event feeling like a physical assault. The harsh reality of living life on life’s terms, without my senses numbed, was at times intolerable. It was like having dental work done without Novocaine. And it wasn’t the not drinking that became hard, but the living without drinking. Living without my necessary medication.
I had heard about the whole Higher Power requirement if I was to be successful, but my faith had always been an important part of my life and it hadn’t helped thus far. These people obviously didn’t know what they were talking about.
Or so I thought.
I came to realize that as much as my faith had always meant to me, I had always tried to control God, and I began to realize how small my faith actually was. I claimed to have faith but neglected to act in faith. I allowed God into my life and heart, but let Him know in no uncertain terms that while He could be part of my life, I could handle my life by myself. Afterall, I had done a stellar job of it up to that point.
And that’s when I learned what the word surrender means. And what it does. Luke 22:42 says, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” That, to me, is true surrender, and has saved my bacon more times than I can count. Surrendering my will to God on a daily basis, usually numerous times a day, is what keeps me on the playing board in this game of Life.
Since I’ve been sober, I see life and truly experience it. I get to truly live every day, one day at a time, and thoroughly enjoy and experience every joy and even every sorrow. I feel pain, yes, but I’m the better for it. I experience peace as I’ve never known. And for the first time, I can look in the mirror and see someone who has overcome an insurmountable obstacle.
I wouldn’t trade those years for anything in the world, though. It’s those years, those agonizing moments of self-doubt, self-loathing, and pain that have given me this amazing life I have today. Once I began to accept responsibility for my actions and stopped blaming others, allowing their behaviors to be excuses for my poor choices, my relationships began to grow beyond anything I could have ever hoped for. That isn’t to say there are no more struggles. Sometimes life just genuinely sucks. But now God is my best friend, carrying me through, rather than alcohol sucking me under. And when I do or say something that hurts another, I know to make amends (my sobriety depends on it) helping the relationship with that person and with my God grow stronger, losing the guilt and inevitable resentment that brings nothing but loss of hope. Surrendering all brings full-on hope and brilliant peace showers down on me like a meteor shower.
When I was in the beginning of my journey, I mentioned to my husband the fear and shame I had of others finding out my secret. What if they thought less of me? What if I wasn’t fun anymore?
His response was straight from God. He said if someone thought less of me for wanting to be a better person, than it’s their loss. Pray for them and give it to God. He also said, “Honey, you’re so much more fun. Trust me!” Huh…go figure. 🙂
And about the writing thing–when I quit drinking I accomplished a passionate goal I’d had since as far back as I can remember. I published a book, The Inheritance. To quote a line from the movie God’s Not Dead: “God is good all the time; All the time, God is good.”
Wishing you peace.