Monday, December 21, 2009

Sickness and Alcoholic Continued


I swear this writing thing has become an illness to me, an affliction. I feel like I am pregnant and God induced me into labor. The labor pains keep coming and I would like to back out and stop the labor (I remember saying with each one of my children, "I changed my mind; I am not ready to do this; I want to come back another day), but now the process has begun and I don't get to stop it. The box is opened and I can't close it. Every morning as I run, God brings to mind story after story and lesson after lesson to write about. I find myself saying, "Enough, please no more. I can't even focus. I don't see how I will ever have the time to get it all out on paper." It is seriously almost painful. I see how writing almost becomes a mental illness to the author. I guess I just get up every day (like I have heard it said), sit in front of the computer for as long as I have for that session and write what comes out. Maybe eventually, I will reach the end of the overflowing volcano. I know it is a good thing, b/c the overwhelming pressure I feel inside to write will keep me on track and definitely not let me procrastinate or shut the lid to the box again.


So there is so much to say about my struggle with alcoholism. There are so many things I have learned and so many things that God has done in me through this struggle. As I said in the previous post, when I met Jesus, He took the desire to do drugs away almost immediately. I did not even drink for many years. Then I drank a little bit, really very moderately for many years. First, I have to say that I do not think drinking alcohol is wrong in and of itself. I think that there is medicinal qualities to alcohol. If a person can do it with reason and moderation, more power to them. My husband is one that can drink a couple drinks and that be enough. When I was drinking I have forced alcohol on him to the point that he would go into the bathroom and force himself to throw up b/c he does not like to be totally drunk. Unfortunately, as my spouse, he really does not get to drink much; he has been sentenced to a life of very little alcohol consumption. It is kind of sad for him b/c he actually enjoys the taste of a good beer. It is, however, part of being one flesh and bearing one an other's burdens. When I drank I would drink hard and fast, which is what would bring him to the point that he would want to get the alcohol out of his system. I would drink shot after shot of tequila, or actually it got to the point of glass after glass. The running joke among our friends was a "Dawn shot". They would say, "Do you mean a shot or a Dawn shot?" I didn't even give it time to hit me before I was pouring the next one. Any way, I don't have a problem with other people having a drink or even having a drink in front of me. I do try, however, to avoid parties and bars where there will be excessive drinking. There are two reasons for this. First, it is not a healthy environment for me to be in and second, drunk people are really irritating when you are sober. I would not usually ask friends or family members not to have a drink at dinner in front of me; that does not really bother or tempt me.

So back to my point. Drinking was not a problem to me, then suddenly about 2 or 3 years ago, it became a problem for me. I started drinking more and then in an effort to be "smarter" with our money, I decided that it would be cheaper to just buy bottles of Patron and keep them in the house. That way I could drink at home instead of paying $7 or $8 a shot. Well, that was the nail in the coffin. All that did was cause me to drink more frequently (like every single night), consume more per sitting (at the end I could drink a half gallon by myself in 3 days; that a half gallon not a fifth), and expose my children to a mom who drank every day. Only the people closest to me really knew this was going on. My mom was devastated watching it; my husband became increasingly concerned and disturbed (fortunately he knew talking to me would avail nothing, but he knew talking to God would avail all, God listens and answers and Larry knew that my passion for God would eventually break through the denial and addiction. So he quietly prayed for me.) When my mother-in-law reads this, she will probably be heartbroken and sad, b/c she had no idea at all. I am not in the business of hiding my skeletons. If you don't keep secrets then you don't have to worry about being exposed. Just dump it all out and we can sort it out together. So this went on for about 9 months (think). That is the keeping of alcohol in the house. At that point about March of last year I began to attend Celebrate Recovery. I still struggled for another 5 months while going to C R. Denial and addiction are a cunning adversary. They deceive so easily. I would have periods of sobriety followed by periods of drinking. I would tell myself, "I can control this. " I never spent grocery money on alcohol; I didn't drive drunk; I didn't get falling down drunk or hurt anyone. I never blacked out, passed out or acted out of control. Here is the kicker and the two excuses I used to feed my denial. I have a good friend, who I love with all my heart. We have been friends for about 15 years. We have been in and out of each others life, but always we find each other again. We are knit together in heart. She also happens to be my favorite drinking buddy. She is not a Christian and my family has prayed for her for many, many years. The only time we EVER talk about God is when we are drunk. She is not even open to approaching the subject when she is sober. So excuse number one is to have a chance to speak with my beloved friend about God. Excuse number two (this one involves a little history, so forgive my longwordedness) has to do with my heart. I have spent my entire life feeling like an observer to my life. I felt disconnected from my emotions and experiences. It is really so very difficult to explain. I am not sure someone who hasn't experienced life like this can even understand the concept. Its like I lived in this cage, far back inside myself totally disconnected from everything. There were these walls built up around me, rules to live by, a structure restricting me; This structure kept me from being able to feel connected to people, friends, my husband, children, and family on some levels; it kept me from really walking in creativity and being an artist. I am having trouble really describing this phenomenon. I was in this Plexiglas box a million miles below life and reality. I could hear, and see, interact and respond, but it wasn't real. So any way, when I would drink the door to the box would come open and I could tell people that I loved them and that they were special to me. I could feel the essence of the artist in me. I could let my husband into my soul. While I knew drinking wasn't healthy, I loved the feeling of being open, alive, available. So I would use these two things to justify my going back to the bottle. I was attending my meetings and trying to work the steps and even making progress, but would have periods of drinking. We did not keep it in the house, but I would go out and drink. During this process, my daughter was struggling with smoking pot. I kind of knew this was going on and it made me so sad; I did not, however, know how bad the problem was until really the end of the problem (I did ask her permission to expose this to the world). She got caught a couple times, but it was a daily and huge problem in her life. I came to the place in my struggle where I thought being brutally honest with her and asking her to do the same with me was the next place in our journey (I have always been honest with her about her conception, the circumstances surrounding it and my drug abuse while carrying her; it has paved the way for a lot of honesty between us. It always seemed like lying or covering up would be so much worse). I did have some people disagree and try to steer me away from making the honest agreement with Ally that I made. In retrospect, seeing how is now she living her life, I stand behind the decision I made. It was part of what brought her to the place she is now, which is such an amazing place. I walked into her room one day and said, "I realize that my drinking is no better than your smoking pot. They are both a problem and we both need help to stop. So I commit to you that I will be honest with you about my drinking if you will be honest with me about your pot smoking. I agree to tell you the truth if you ask me if I am drinking and you agree to tell me the truth if I ask you if you are smoking pot." She agreed. There were several times during the months that I was attending C R and still have periods of drinking that she would ask me if I was drinking again. I have made a practice not to lie to anyone, but especially not my children. Ally has made fun of me many times for my rigid stance on lying. She would ask and I would have to tell her the truth and I always felt ashamed. One day she said to me, "That is what I love about you, mom, you won't lie to me." I have to believe that has some kind of impact on all my children. Eventually this arrangement and honesty led my daughter to begin attending C R also and I am so grateful I have seen God do a miraculous work of grace in her.

The end of road came on Aug 16. I had already decided that that day would be my last day to drink. My friend was having a birthday party that day and I was going to finish the half bottle of Tequila I had and call it quits. It was a Sunday morning and as I sat in the bath reading my devotion and preparing for church God spoke so clearly to me (not audibly, I'm strange, not crazy). He said are you really in control. The previous two weeks I had been drunk every single night. My drinking buddy has found a place to drink where the bartender was sweet on her so he didn't charge us for our drinks (Patron, mind you). So we went out drinking every night. God said, "you think you are in control b/c you only spend what you can afford on your drinking. That control is a facade, don't you see? I took the money out of the equation and what did you do? You were drunk every night for two weeks. That certainly looks like control to me (like His sarcasm, yes he talks to me like that. He knows how we need for him to communicate with us)." Suddenly, I saw the truth, the scales fell off my proverbial eyes. I was not in control at all. My control was a farce. It was as weak as a particle board stage set. One swift kick and it fell. The next thing He said to me was so frightening, it has gripped my heart and continues to rattle around inside of me bouncing off of every part of me. He said to me, " I love you so much. You are my beloved child. I called you out of darkness and I want to bless you. My goodness can bring you to repentance, or if you choose, I love you enough to bring calamity upon you. Not judgment, or punishment, but to get your attention. I will do whatever it takes to get your attention and bring you where I want you to be. You choose." I don't like the way calamity sounds. Calamity could mean losing a lot, or everything, jail, killing someone in the car. It could mean a lot of things. Well, I chose the easy way over the hard way. I knew that He wanted me to stop drinking and that He would do whatever it took to cause that to happen. I did not want to risk calamity. I have not had a drink since that day. I drank that night, but woke up Monday knowing that was the end of the road. I spent a long time speaking with a very dear pastor and his wife that night. I was very obliterated, and they were so gracious to listen to my struggle and what God was telling me and how I wanted to be free. They were very key in the weeks after as they prayed for me and continually inquired about how my recovery was going. As of today I have 4 months and two weeks alcohol free. I am so grateful and I know it is by His grace. I ask for His help almost every day. I am currently struggling well in the battle to be sober, but I know that the next temptation to drink is always around the corner. I will always have to step cautiously. The Word says, "Let he who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall." I take heed daily. I pray each day that I am strong that God will continue to be faithful and be there for the days that I am not strong and that I am tempted. When I am standing I feel like I should take the opportunity to pray for the days ahead that I may be weak instead of being over confident in the strength of that day.

The first few weeks was not easy. I wanted to go out and drink every single Friday. God was faithful to me, though, to send me distractions or people or whatever it took until I realized that it didn't feel as hard any more. There were a couple times that I was tempted and actually set plans into motion and wouldn't you know He was even faithful to keep me sober even in those times. I guess that would be those prayers prayed when I was strong. One time in particular, I woke up on Friday morning and started plotting to set things up so I could drink. I sent a text to my husband and asked him if we could go out and get dinner so we could spend some time together. Of course He said yes. I fully intended to have dinner with him at Chewy's and chug a few shots. I started school with Stephen eagerly anticipating dinner out. We had to write a paper that day which is always a very long, tedious process filled with much fighting. We struggled along all day working on it and spent literally the whole day on it. Larry got home and I informed him that I wanted to go to Chewy's, but I had to finish the paper with Stephen first. Larry knows me all too well and knew what I was up to with my "Chewy's plan". By the time the time the paper was done it was 5 and I still didn't have my face on. Well, I don't go anywhere without my face on. Larry did not want to wait for me to do my face, putting us at Chewy's about 7. This means we would be waiting for probably at least an hour for a table. He also suggested that I call my sponsor before dinner. I told him I would call her in the morning and tell her what I had done. We never made it out that night, b/c it got late and didn't want to put on makeup. Needless to say I didn't drink that night. I am really grateful for that. I would have regretted it. God used my stubborn son and my vanity to keep me from drinking. By the next day the temptation was over so He graciously brought me through it even when I wasn't trying. I believe in free will, but I also believe in God's intervention. When our hearts want to do whats right, but our flesh is weak He will send the circumstances we need to get us through the weakness. My husband also went out with me on Halloween, even though He we very sick, b/c he knew the only hope to keep me from drinking was him being there. Without him I would have caved and drank. I was grateful for that night too, b/c I would have regretted it the next morning.

I am grateful that God allowed me to really struggle with this problem and reach the place where I was out of control and knew I couldn't get free on my own. I am glad that I fell a lot in the process. When met Jesus, He really turned my life upside down and changed me quickly and radically. He has been so good to me and has handed me much of what I have with very little effort. He got me off of drugs immediately with no real struggle. He helped me quit smoking pretty miraculously (that is a story for another day). He real healed me and brought stability to me very quickly in my walk. All these things made is really easy to be very judgmental and proud. I was not good at being gracious or understanding that sometimes getting free is a tremendous struggle. I would just look at people and go, "I did it, why can't you?" This struggle with alcohol really humbled me and taught me to be gracious. I know what it is like to try and struggle and fall over and over. I am gentler and loving and more able to be willing to help people and not look down on them for the struggle they are in the midst of. I am so grateful that God let me walk here. I am in such a better place now and much more equipped to help and not judge.

That was a long one.
I would say I'm sorry, but i am not. I sit and write what is in my heart. God really pours it out. If someone wants to read, awesome. If not, no problem. This is not really about anyone else, but me and God. Anyone who wants to gaze in is welcome, but I can't let the pressure of worrying about what people think squeeze me into a box or mold. I have to get freer and freer. Hopefully, I can help others get freer and freer too, but that is not the point.

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