‘Tis The Season To Come Back To Life

We weren’t happy. I was miserable and this time of year, more than any other, made me really feel it.

About 8 years ago I dreaded Christmas. Really it was the whole season. I sound like the Grinch. I related to him I guess. Christmas represented dread, work, putting up a front, manufacturing joy and deception on another level. When you have someone in your life that is working on becoming an addict or right in the thick of full blown addiction, you understand what I am talking about. You are surrounded by delusions of perfect family life when in reality you are at home plotting how NO ONE can discover your secret or how bad it’s starting to get at home behind closed doors. There is a twisted sense of relief that when you go to a Christmas party you can feel normal and no one really notices because others are just as drunk as your husband or wife. But then the cruel dawn of morning comes. I remember some of our most heated arguments usually came at this time of year.  Did I mention how much I dreaded Christmas? It only shined a spotlight on my deep sense of hopelessness. The belief that I would never be able to send out that Christmas card with a family photo and feel like it was authentic. Like we had true Joy.  We took the photo and sent out the card but I knew in my heart the photo was such a lie.We weren’t happy. I was miserable and this time of year, more than any other, made me really feel it.  I looked at pictures from other people and envied the life I was seeing. One that I believed I was never going to have. I felt alone, desperate and empty.

Last night my husband and I were talking about this time of year and why the ministry is suddenly bombarded with phone calls from family who need help for their addicted son or husband.  I immediately knew what he was talking about because I was that woman. I was reminded about the feelings that this season brought with it many years ago. It all came flooding back and I realized I needed to sit down and write about this time in my life because right about now if this is you, YOU need hope.

The only hope on this earth where we are surrounded by darkness is Jesus. He was brought to earth to be a light in the darkness (Advent!). He brought with Him eternal Comfort (Matthew 11:28-30), inexpressable Joy (I Peter 1:8,9) , and never ending Peace (Philippians 4:7).  We can seek the whole world to find or manufacture what He brought for us but we will always come up short and be left with a lie whispered to us by an enemy that seeks to destroy any chance of finding these things authentically. This is why we are so incredibly distracted this time of year by everything that has nothing to do with what the season is truly about. Just one of the many reasons why addictions seem to grow exponentially during this time of year: The stress from a million little things that don’t matter, the reminders of imperfect families, the need to portray life as it isn’t, the constant stuffing of the holes in hearts with material gifts, the feelings of sadness or guilt over broken family relationships. We want relief from it all! We don’t want to stop and think about our true reality or the poor condition of our broken heart. Instead of “Just Keep Swimming” you find yourself saying “Just Keep Stuffing”.  It all comes at us in a very short window of time and it is ALL CAPPED OFF by the reminder of yearly failures as we celebrate New Years Eve. Then we wake up the next morning with guilt, shame or fear of what’s coming in the new year and a bucket full of horrible resolutions. Not to mention that New Years is a goal for many addicts “to make it to” and then quit and get help.  You might hear this: “I will stop after the holidays”. I can’t even begin to count how many times I heard this lie. For me, all of it was a haunting lie. Incredibly empty with a side of deep disappointment.

If all of this sounds like what you are going through right now let me speak directly to you. I know that you are feeling desperate. I know you are losing hope. I know that you want to run away. I know you want to stand at the edge of the cliff and scream into the abyss. I know you are so tired of holding this life together so your children will have little memory of this time in your marriage or family. For you, in this time, I want you to stop talking at them and start praying for them. The talking is done. You can’t say anymore and I can guarantee they won’t listen so just PRAY. Pray like you have never prayed before. Pray in the car. Pray at that party. Pray beside your bed. Pray in the closet. Pray through tears. Pray for God to intervene in their life in a mighty way. Pray that it will happen during this season. Pray like your life depends on it. Stop intervening in the spiral. You cannot control it. Just pray for God to open their eyes so they can see themselves. So that they really see that they need help. Real help. Not just a meeting. He can do it but He needs you to get out of the way.

Whatever that means.

The safety net needs to be removed and you have to let them fall. I know you are scared by what that means, but trust when I say that it is far more hurtful to see an addict continue down this path without fear because they know you will rescue them. Just pray.

Pray this prayer with me:

Heavenly Father, I am broken. I feel alone. I feel desperate. I need you. I need you to intervene in my life and the life of this person in a mighty way. In a way that only you can do. I acknowledge that I need to get out of the way of the work you are going to do in their life. I give them over to you and fully trust that you are going to handle this. I can’t handle this anymore. I have tried to fix and save but failed. I know they might not choose you Lord, but today I choose you. I need you to work on my own heart as it broken into a thousand pieces because of all they have done to our famly. They have hurt and abandoned me, our children, our family. Only you can heal that hurt in my heart and I ask you put balm in that wound. Keep us protected from the chaos while you intervene. Keep them protected while you intervene. I trust you Lord. I trust you know what’s best. Thank you for your promise of an eternity with you. Thank you for your Son who came to the world to give us Your peace, Your comfort and Your joy. I rejoice in that promise this Christmas. You are my hope. In Jesus holy name I pray this. Amen. 

He loves you beloved and He won’t leave you. Keep Hope. The Redeemer will redeem as He has done in my life and can in yours IF you let him. He calls out to dry bones Come Alive. He calls out to dead hearts Come Alive! “Tis The Season” to come back to this life of Faith we are called into. For you, for your loved one, for your whole family. The Light in your darkness calls out for you to Come Alive.

Skip the ad and listen to this song for a moment.

 

 

Potemkin Village

In 1787 while on a journey through newly acquired territory in Crimea, Catherine the Great toured a section along the Dnieper River with Grigory Potemkin, one of Russia’s highest military officials. Catherine was unaware that Grigory had set up fake villages along the River to fool her into believing that this section of Crimea was prospering.

While having a discussion with my husband about putting up facades, my husband recounted his time going to Pigeon Forge on weekends when he lived in Knoxville (almost a decade ago). He said he would pass by these large ornate theaters which always seemed out of place or too much for their surroundings. Curious to see what was inside and expecting the grand exterior to be reflected on the interior, he was surprised to find a small metal warehouse like building behind the large facade.

People are good at creating facades. All you need to do is go on Facebook and you will get the best version of everyone. You can untag yourself from less than attractive angles of yourself (I am totally guilty of this!) but you can’t untag yourself from realities of life. We are stuck with ourselves and our situations however not appealing or attractive that may be.  I was an expert at hiding my husbands addiction and pretending everything was ok. I realize now I wasn’t just fearful of people’s perceptions but I was also in denial of the horrible situation created by his addiction.

You can only keep the facade up for so long before people start knocking on the door. Then they find the exterior isn’t aligning with the scary interior.

I have spoken about transparency before but I feel more urgency now with our need to reach out and be honest about our struggles. We are worried about what people might think if we confess what’s happening in our lives but even more worrisome is coming face to face with the problem and what the fallout will look like. You ask yourself questions like “will my friends think less of me if they knew? What will this mean for our family and what will have to change? Will we have to get counseling? Will my spouse have to quit their job and go into treatment? Should I consider Divorce? What do I do?” Its a very helpless feeling. I have been through the seasons of denial but then it all started to unravel. I couldn’t control it anymore. I couldn’t control his drinking anymore. I couldn’t take the keys away again or worry about being out in public and feeling the embarressment. I couldn’t do IT ANYMORE. I was exhausted. I was running out of clever excuses and ready for him to deal with this addiction and frankly didn’t care what anyone thought or what might have to change in our family. I WAS DONE. I called my family and close friends. You see, when you give it up to the Lord you find out what true surrender means.

I’ve given my testimony a few times in the last few months and each time I am reminded about what the Lord did for us in that horrible time of our lives. How gently He guided us out of this facade we had created and gave us a new life. A fresh start. Free from the bondage of this delusional control. Light was now on the lies.

God knows whether we drink everyday or drink too much too often, or sneak that pain pill, or creep onto the computer for pornography. He knows when we tell people for the 10th time that our spouse isn’t feeling good when in reality they are hung over and laying on the couch again. He hears the excuses we give and the things we are afraid to admit. But He patiently waits on us to come face to face with our truth. He is ready to hold us through it. I have lived with secrets. I have held up the appearance. I have told myself the lies: “it’s not that bad” or “it could be worse.” The lies will consume you.

Your truth is this: It is that bad. It is a facade and it will get worse.

It will be painful to be honest about it. It will hurt your family. You may have to go through treatment or therapy. You may have to confront your spouse or family member. But taking that risk of the outcome is far better than continuing to live in this facade and believing this isn’t your life and this will never happen to you. I can easily say that when I stopped worrying about what others thought and started focusing on what I needed to face, I felt an amazing sense of strength. A willingness to be vulnerable is far easier than the exhaustion from hiding a secret life. Be authentic, face it, and knock down the facade. You might be surprised by how people respond to your honesty but more importantly you will get to know God through these circumstances and see Him do all that He has promised.

2 Corinthians 12:9-11

9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

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Testify

“If people don’t know your testimony, then they don’t know you”

My mom said this to me the other day. It hit me hard. I hope my close my friends can say this about me. I hope people I just casually know can they say this about me. My husband is really open about when his life changed and gave it to Jesus. He has no reason not to share it. Our testimony is THE ONE THING that people cannot argue with, philosophize about, or wash out with scientific facts. Why? Because it is OUR story. It is our account of a spiritual moment that happened in our lives that changed us forever. It is a defining moment. I have had several defining moments…one when I was 6 years old and even at that tender age I knew that I was broken, sinful. I accepted Jesus. The second came when my husband was in the throws of his addiction and I laid everything at the foot of the cross. All of my control of the situation, all of my expectations, my whole life. Its funny because when I say “my whole life”, its kind of hard to fathom what that means. Let me put it to you in a story…

Recently, my husband and I moved to a new home. The position of the house and the way that we get direct sunlight is dead on in the mid afternoon. My 6 months old sons room is on that side of the house and I knew that we would need some heavy duty curtains to block the sun. In our old house that we rented, there were the most perfect curtains for his room. The thick sun-blocking kind. But they didn’t belong to us. They belonged with the house. My husband and I don’t make a lot of money so really heavy curtains like that can be incredibly expensive. Trust me. So, I thought that I would write a letter to our landlord and see if he and his wife would be willing to sell me the curtains and I offered a price. I didn’t hear anything for a while and we were moving that weekend. The Friday before the move on Monday we received an email from the landlord turning down the offer. I knew there was a possibility for a “no” since they were trying to sell the house. I was admittedly let down. I didn’t have a plan B yet. That night as I was plotting and figuring it out, I found myself looking at the curtains (and rocking my son to sleep) and PRAYING…Praying for curtains. I couldn’t believe I was praying for curtains but I said “Lord, you know what we need when we need so I am trusting you even on this small little curtain thing.” So when I say my whole life…I mean every small detail of it.

Even the curtains.

So guess what happened? The next day as we were packing we got a call from the Landlords wife. I had never spoken to her before but she had a very sweet voice. She said she was sad to see us go but understood we needed to do what was best for our family. Then she said the most amazing thing. She said, “Leigh, I’ve been thinking about the curtains and decided that I want your family to have them. I don’t need them and  thought I should call you and let you know that they are yours.” Well, I tried not to cry on the phone. My voice was shaky and I told her thank you. I told her that she will never know what a blessing that is to our family. This is how amazing God is. HE CARES ABOUT CURTAINS! More importantly though, he heard my little voice that night and answered that prayer so sweetly.

The impact of that answer to my prayer is not lost on me. It goes beyond me and what I needed because it is God showing up in our lives at every turn. The answer won’t always be yes or what we want but it is exactly what we need when we need it. I have heard people say that God doesn’t answer their prayers. My response is, sometimes no answer is the answer. And we have to be ok with that. Because there is a plan. The plan is to have Faith in all circumstances of life. Even down to the curtains. So today, I am telling this story to testify, to bear witness to, to give an account for what God does in my life and FAITHFULLY continues to work on in me.

If you are a Christian reading this blog then I would encourage you to start telling your story. Share your testimony with the friends and family you love, with your co-workers, with people you just met. You never know what will happen but at least you can say that they heard your testimony.  My mom tells me that the greatest legacy you can leave is a legacy of Faith. It is the only gift we can give that has eternal value.

I am posting a video of 3 people who give their testimony and how they were changed forever. These are their defining moments. We all have them….keep sharing yours.

For Father’s Day..a few days late

 

A friend of mine made mention of church messages on Fathers Day tend to be negative toward fathers while Mothers Day messages tend to be warm and fuzzy. I had to agree that this seems to be true. So for this post I want to take a minute and give Fathers a pep talk…as my friend said “be a cheerleader”.

I would like to say thank you to those Fathers who recognize the impact they have on their children as a spiritual leader in the home. The ones who strive to daily let Jesus be seen through them and how they respond to the challenges that get thrown at them. The ones who admit they aren’t perfect and never will be but at least try to be the best dad they can be.  You are making a difference in your kids life and the fruits of your labor will shine through your kids. The foundation you are laying is made of stone. Thank you for taking them to church. Thank you for opening your Bible with them. Thank you for living out your faith. WAY TO GO!!

I want to thank the Dads who day in and day out put their family before themselves as the sole provider. Some of you have jobs you don’t like more days than you actually like it but you stick it out because you know the importance of letting your kids see you work hard for what you have. You want your kids to see what work ethic looks like and not be part of the entitlement generation that seems to be headed our way. Keep up the good work men! I know you might wonder what the purpose is some days. I know you might want to walk off or quit but don’t. You are making a difference in ways you don’t know but will someday. HANG IN THERE!!

I want to thank the Dads who have had to do this dad thing alone. YOU are awesome. You chose one of the hardest careers out there: single full-time dad. The days are long and mostly thankless. The pay is zero but oh the rewards you will gain with kids who can say you were there for them! There are a lot of dads that have gone missing but you didn’t go anywhere. Those kids are lucky to have you. HURRAY for you!!

I want to thank the Dads who step up and be a Dad to kids that aren’t their own but instantly treat them as your own. You are filling a void, doing the best you can, and not asking to be loved in return. Keep on loving them. Keep on trying to win them over. Keep showing up and they will remember. My husband had a great step dad. He changed my husband’s life. He had a role model. It will have an impact. You will win them over! WAY TO GO!

And this last one is personal.

I want to thank the Dads that chose their family over addiction. That finally heard the pleas of their wife and saw the future disappointment in their children and decided they wouldn’t let that be their story. The ones that pulled themselves out of the ditch and make decisions each day not to go back. You are a redemption story. Your children will know the dangers and pitfalls from your own story. You made a great choice! CONGRATULATIONS!!!

Dads are great. Dads are important. Dads matter!! Thank you for hanging in there, for sticking it out, for stepping up, for standing in, for writing the checks, for praying without ceasing, for listening, for loving, for showing up, for coaching, for teaching, for giving, for adapting, for changing (diapers…ha), for fixing things, for mowing things, for selling things, for mentoring, for throwing the ball, for playing dress up, for sliding down the slide, for kissing goodnight, for playing with dolls and transformers, for giving up your closet or the last room in the house that was “yours”, for chopping wood, for making dinner and finally for just being there.

 

Because

This week is holy week. It is a week to reflect on the truth that Jesus came and paid it all. “All to Him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain. He washed it white as snow.” That song has been ringing in my head all week. And I am so glad it has. It seems like there is a lot to distract this week from the enormity of the gift of salvation but I am choosing to actively turn my focus on what the cost of sin truly is…death. Death is certain. Morbid to think about it but we all face it. It could be today. People die everyday. What makes you believe today couldn’t be it? But how do we approach death? I couldn’t imagine living life without the hope of heaven. It would all seem without purpose. How can you live without purpose? I think there is a very obvious reason why Rick Warren’s book “A Purpose Driven Life” was so popular. People are constantly searching for it. But you can’t find the true purpose without God. It won’t make sense. With God, life makes sense. With Jesus, life is eternal. And because He lives…we can live. So death is nothing to fear in life. My husband and I talk about those that we have known that have gone on to be with the Lord. He likes to think his mother and grandmother are enjoying watching him raise a daughter and the test of patience this brings. How wonderful to have this hope of seeing these people we know again. That we are not eternally separated from them. I thank God for this hope. I thank God that He loves us so much, has such purpose for our lives, that this isn’t it for us. That this day to day stuff is just temporary and there is so much too look forward to. It says in Ecclesiastes 3:11:

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

This scripture tells me that we are not made just for this earth. We have souls. Souls with the desire to find the eternal. This is why we seek for purpose. This is why something inside of us cries out “Is this all there is?” Because eternity is already in our hearts. But there is a problem with our hearts. They are evil. There are countless verses in scripture that talk about the heart of man being evil. And for this reason, bad things happen in the world. With reason, without reason. We cannot reconcile it. But because of Jesus and his defeat of death we can have hope in it. That the bad stuff can be redeemed to good and this lie of “this is all there is” is just that…a lie. The power of the resurrection cannot be denied by those that have experienced the freedom from sin and addiction. I know my husband experienced this great freedom from his darkness and I have experienced my own liberation from the bondage that this world brings. There is no other word to describe it. FREEDOM.

“But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.” Romans 6:22.

Because of Christ, we can approach this holy week with confidence. WE can speak and commune with God through the one He sent to save us from ourselves. There is nothing we can do, no good deed that we can perform, that will help to alter that. It is a gift. It is hard to fathom because we feel that if we are given something so great, the gift of eternity, that we must do something in return. And all we have to do is confess that we are sinners, believe that Jesus died on the cross for OUR sins, and that he conquered death by rising on the 3rd day. It seems too easy to be hard for people to comprehend. But in this one act of selflessness, Christ made us white as snow. He washed our past away. And each day we get the choice to live for Him and do what matters in life or we can deny Him like Peter and live how we want to. There are some days I find myself like Peter. Wanting to hide in the shadows for fear of what people might think about how strongly I feel about my faith and if I were to proclaim the name of Jesus. I confess that I have days where living in my old patterns sounds like a fun idea. But then the pain of that reality pulls me back and I remember that it is not worth the price that was paid. This sanctification process has its difficult days. It has days that I wish I could just kick back, enjoy a glass of wine and say “heck with it”…but that is not the choice I made. I made a choice to deal with it head on. To pray about it and this is Life On The Wagon. And I won’t trade one moment of it…Because Jesus chose me on that day. In the garden, when He prayed to father, He chose me. With each lashing, He chose me. When they mocked Him and put a crown of thorns on His head, He chose me. When He carried the cross through the streets of Jerusalem, He chose me. When they pounded the nails into his hands and feet, HE chose me. When they lifted the cross and his body sank into the full weight of the pain, He chose me. And that is why I choose Him. Because He came for me. Because He lives, I live. cross

If you can’t beat em, join them.

I have talked about it lightly in other posts, but wanted to touch on it with a bit more depth in this post. Because I think it’s real, and I think it happens more than most would like to admit. If you can’t beat the addiction, then join them in it. I knew for a while that my husbands drinking was starting to get excessive. It wasn’t really obvious to everyone else because we were still social drinkers but it was obvious to me because we lived together. I was seeing the patterns develop before my eyes. The drinking right after work. The drinking well into the night. 1 bottle of wine a night…and not the small bottles…the big ones. But I didn’t want to see the pattern starting for one very important reason. If I started to point out his excessiveness then I would have to stop,too. That was not an option. So instead of making an issue out of it, I made a conscious decision to not bring it up. I gave in and let the addiction start to wash over both of us. I knew what I was doing and I knew what I was, in essence, saying: “If I make him give it up, then I will have to do it too and I like to drink so I am just going to pretend that nothing is wrong and join in as well.” It was a great plan, right? The more you drink together the less of a problem either of you both have because one of you just can’t stop and start pointing the finger. You might be able to start having a conversation on the amount you drink by saying “have you noticed that we have been drinking a lot lately” and see what kind of reaction you get. They might agree with you. You might make some kind of pact that you will lay off of it for a while. You might even make it for a whole month. The problem is, no matter what method you try, the chemical has already affected your body chemistry. You might be able to pull back for a designated period of time but the chemical has already won because after this designated time period you are back to drinking the same amount if not more. What it comes down to is the amount that you consume and how much your tolerance level has increased as the addiction has progressed. Most people don’t see it at the time because you are still “functional”. I can say that we were both functional. We worked. We paid our bills. We had days when we didn’t drink. We were active. I like to run and would keep up my running (I would actually run to work off the calories from the alcohol…genius plan there). But what we did at night was our business and on the very few days when we didn’t drink, we would drink excessively at night. The amount that we had built a tolerance for was…well…probably frightening. We could probably consume two bottles of wine at this point…so basically one a piece. We might have a slight fuzziness in the morning but by lunch it had passed and we felt normal again. Just in time for an afternoon beverage. And so the cycle continued. It’s hard to feel like you have a problem when you have a buddy with you…purchasing it on the way home from work. It’s hard to feel like you might have a problem when you are both consuming the same amounts, but I knew it would all come crashing down at some point. And it did…

I became pregnant with our first child. The reality of our life and how deep into the addiction we had gotten hit hard. It wasn’t difficult for me to stop when I found out I was pregnant. It was like a switch went off and there was no option. I decided not to drink during my whole pregnancy. Plenty of people enjoy a glass of wine here and there while pregnant but I decided the risk wasn’t worth it to me (that was my personal choice and not for everyone). So I stopped and he kept going. I started to wake up out of the fog we had been in and I realized exactly how bad and how much. When you don’t have your buddy anymore then you start to feel isolated, alone, and different. All of those feelings started for him during that time. I couldn’t join him anymore and I had to face some solid patterns we had established together that were incredibly unhealthy for our future family. It was frightening. I realized he couldn’t stop and he wasn’t about to listen to me tell him that he needed to. I didn’t have a good track record myself so why should he suddenly take anything I have to say on the matter seriously. In a way, I had helped create the problem. I didn’t stop it. I didn’t fight it. I let it all happen for selfish reasons. I regret it. There isn’t much I wish I could go back and change except for this one decision I made: when I started to recognize some warning signs, I didn’t do anything to help…and like I said, I probably made it easier for it to happen. It was such an immature response to something so devastating starting in our lives. I didn’t wave the flag and say “wait a minute, we might have a problem here.” All I could selfishly think about was what it would mean for us. How different our lives would be and how much would have to change. We wouldn’t be able to enjoy going out with friends anymore or going on vacations and enjoying some cocktails. That’s what I thought about. ME. We had both been in the hospital and watched his father pass from giving in to his addiction to alcohol and still continued on like we would be some kind of exception to the drug. But we had to find out the hard way that this drug makes no exceptions. It doesn’t care how successful you are in business. It doesn’t care if you have kids. It doesn’t care if you have future plans. It only wants one thing and that’s to get more. It may happen gradually or it may happen quickly. But I urge you, if you see the potential in your life for it to happen then really think about why you need to continue on with it. I have heard people say, “well, we all die of something and we might as well die happy”. That’s a scary concession to make. There is too much to live for and so much we CAN control like our consumption of addicting chemicals. I would rather die from something I had no control over than something I could have prevented and controlled. It’s just that simple. Don’t buy into the lie of being an exception.

P.S. I wouldn’t change a thing about our lives now. We are happy with who we have become and continue to become. Those small things I worried about (like not having dinner out with friends and enjoying some wine or having it on vacation)…that was all such minor stuff compared to the great life that God has now laid out before us. I wouldn’t trade this new adventure for anything I had envisioned for myself.

When The Invites Stop Coming…

invite-printable_-heirloom-paperieDon’t you love the feeling of getting an invitation, an evite, or even just invited out with friends? I know I do. You feel included and part of a circle of friends. You feel accepted! I remember not getting invited to parties when I was in elementary school or middle school and the whole let down of it all. You feel unpopular. You feel…different.

Let me interject here that this is a post I have been dreading, but I know the importance of getting the message out. There is a reality to a life on the wagon that I find difficult: People get weird about your new life and stop inviting you to functions because they have this fear that you will be a big DOWNER, the party pooper, the stick in the mud or my personal favorite is when they secretly believe that they are doing you a favor by not inviting you so YOU won’t feel awkward around alcohol. Thanks.

I can hear my mother saying “you shouldn’t worry about what other people think or do” or “they probably weren’t your real friends anyway.” I agree with this but it just can’t take the sting away. It can’t help me not feel like leper. To share a line from a movie that I quote sometimes (Reality Bites):

“It’s like I’m watching it on some crappy show like “Melrose Place”, right? And I’m the new character, I’m the HIV-AIDS character, and I live in the building and I teach everybody that it’s OK to be near me, it’s OK to talk to me.”

Its not as dramatic as that but I relate to the feeling of being ostracized. Isn’t it sad that people think you aren’t fun anymore? Are they saying that when I am not drinking I am not fun and when I do drink I suddenly become fun? I let lose? I don’t have a filter anymore and therefore are more fun? If we can’t have “fun” when we chose not to drink then aren’t we dependent on it ourselves?

I use to be on the other side of this so that is where I am coming from. I am not coming from a place of “I don’t know what I am talking about”. I used to avoid going to functions (or be less motivated to attend) if I knew I couldn’t get a glass of wine. That is sad to admit. And the thought of being around sober folks…boring. Besides, they might try to tell me I was drinking too much or judge me, right? The truth is sober folks don’t pay attention to it at all. They don’t care what you are doing. They enjoy life in its unaltered state. They want to interact, have great conversations and laugh.

At one point, I remember myself being the first at the bar. I could barely even talk to anyone at a party without having something in my hand first! But I didn’t see myself as having a problem. I told myself I was only a “social” drinker. Ha! What a lie I had fed to myself. Now that I am on the other side of who I was, I see it all very clearly. Whether I wanted to admit it or not, I was working on a real problem myself. My husband already had his own issues with it but part of the reason it took us so long to become a completely sober household was because I didn’t want to admit this to myself and give it up. I wanted it to be his problem. I was resentful that I needed to do that, to have to hold a mirror up to myself. I really don’t enjoy putting all of this out there about myself but I think, in this post, it is important to understand some characteristics in myself that have led me to these conclusions.

All of this is to say that sobriety doesn’t mean you get less fun as a person. In fact, I am more confident in who I am as a person than I ever have been before. What it means is that you just know who you are without alcohol. And I actually like the person I am now much better! And if you are having a party, invite those people who don’t drink. They might turn down the invite but at least they feel included and can make the decision if going would be a good idea for them. If they do come, you might be pleasantly surprised with how at ease they are around others who drink!
I can vouch for them.

Home

A friend of mine from high school sent me a sweet note of encouragement about the blog and told me I was amazing and that she had always known I was. I appreciated the words but I don’t feel amazing. I think I feel average at best. More importantly though it took me back to those days of high school and thinking about who I was then and who I am now. I started to reflect on how I got here and how long it took me to get back to the person I started out wanting to be. Not a particularly special or popular person but a person of deep faith.

I think about my daughter (and son on the way) and what they will be like when they are teenagers. It is an almost paralyzing thought because you want so much for them not to make the same mistakes you did. To stay on the straight path. We want that because we know how painful it is when you go off that path. How much those lessons can cost you and everyone around you. But then I have to stop myself and remind myself of one very important fact. You can’t control what they do or the choices they make, but you can lay a foundation so that when they stray far from the path they WILL be able to find their way HOME. Not our physical home, but the blessed spiritual home: back in the arms of a merciful Savior.

What I have been through has lead me right back to where I started but I am not the same person. The faith I have now is deeper and more real because I have experienced so much heartache and yet every time I have cried out for God to pull me out He has. Every time I prayed for some relief He would give it, every time I asked for some sign that He was there He gave it, every time I needed anything He gave it…EVERY time. It didn’t always come immediately or in a way that I had imagined but it was always perfect and beyond my scope of how things should be. With this deep faith though and the story that has become the testimony of my husband and myself comes big responsibilities like sharing your story. I remember meeting with our church counselor (who helped us out tremendously making huge life transitions with my husband being recovered, moving to our new hometown and starting over in our professional lives) and after hearing our story she quickly said, “I have a feeling God is preparing you both for something big”. I liked the sound of it and then thought eh…I can see that…but not right now. I just need to get a job and get us out from my parents home! Obviously, My focus really wasn’t on the big picture, it was moment to moment. My parents had a second home up here so we were living there until we had both feet on the ground. I am proud to say (with God’s grace and help) we went from zero in the bank and essentially being homeless to both finding work and moving to our own place in 8 months! It was an absolute miracle. I thank my parents for giving us the opportunity for a fresh start. I know they didn’t want to but they did it anyway. I will be forever grateful to them for that gift.

I will also be forever grateful to them for laying that firm foundation of faith in me. For encouraging me, for talking about faith and showing me how to live a life with faith, for being obedient and teaching myself and others my whole life about what a relationship with Jesus looks like. My mom especially has shown me that you may be led to do things out of your comfort zone like giving testimony. When I was growing up she was heavily involved in Christian Women’s Club. Countless times she had to be obedient and talk in front of people which is not something she loved to do, but she knew her story would be relevant to someone there. And it was. People have come up to me and told me about how my mother was such an example to them and how much hearing her story has meant. How proud I was when I heard that! If anything, it made me think about the legacy you leave behind. That is really all you can give your children that will last. The legacy of being someone who is obedient and does what they are called to do.

Mom, you made your imprint on my life and now as a parent myself I am so thankful that you showed me how to get back home and I hope I can do the same for my own children.

Hamilton Family Final (60)

Overwhelmed

I am incredibly overwhelmed by the responses I am getting to the blog. You are sharing your stories with me in emails, comments on the blog and through Facebook and I am just in awe. You never know when you put yourself out there what kind of reactions you will get. It was definitely a leap of faith. Sometimes people don’t respond at all. They don’t know what to say because they had no idea of what has happened in my life or are in shock over you deciding to pull the curtain back and getting real. Yes, it exposes you. But I am confident now that there are enough people that this has resonated with to continue. You won’t win over everyone. Not everyone will understand why you are doing what you are doing. But I am content in not knowing the outcome right now. I know some of you are wondering if my husband approves of what I am doing. The good news is that he more than approves of it…he also would like to write on the blog to give his perspective which I am excited about. It will be awesome I promise! He is an incredibly talented writer. For instance, he occasionally likes to write letters to companies when he is unsatisfied with service etc…and I always get to read them before he sends them. The fact that they always make me cry is both disturbing and inspiring. How can a letter to Health Care Provider make me cry? Well, it’s a gift I guess or maybe I just read it when I was 5 months pregnant and experiencing an extreme hormone surge. Both true.

I just want to take a minute to suggest (more like URGE) that if your are going through this, whether as a family or spouse, please seek professional counseling whether through a church or recovery center recommendation. It’s also really important to get your hands on as much education as possible. There are a few books out there that I really found resourceful: Co-dependent No More by Melody Beattie, Addiction and Grace by Gerald G. May and one that my husband really recommends is Freedom From Addiction by Neil T. Anderson (who has several follow up books that are also wonderfully honest and insightful).

I am obviously not a doctor or counselor but I have read all of these books, had lots of counseling, and been through enough in the last 6 years to know a thing or two. I just try to write from my own perspective and hope that people will see it has helpful. I have a few topics I am looking forward to addressing in future blogs but also welcome any feedback from folks who want to hear about specific concerns or topics that are relevant to them and their circumstance. I will give it my best shot.

Francis Chan said: “Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter”. I am praying that this blog will matter…and if that’s just one person then that’s good enough for me.

Isn’t it ironic?

“Things do not change; we change.” -Henry David Thoreau

How many times have you heard someone say “people don’t change”? I have heard it all too frequently and I don’t believe it. I never have. I think that it sounds like an excuse for people to just to stay in their bad habits and then declare “this is who I am”. Is it? This is who you are content on being? Someone who never grows or changes or tries to become a better human being? I believe people can change. But I don’t believe it is my function to change them. This is where self-motivation and co-dependency collide. Oil and Vinegar. They don’t mix. With someone who is an addict, you talk about what they are doing to the family, you talk about how hurt your feelings are, you discuss options on getting help, you TRY and TRY and TRY until exhaustion. Nothing. No response. No feeling. No brokenness. You want to shake them. But when they are in the throws of it, they can see nothing else but how to get it.

So What’s ironic? When you have arrived at “ENOUGH” and you make your move away from them…they notice. They need you. They love you. They miss you. For me it was a day late and dollar short. Mentally, physically, spiritually, I was moving on. And that’s when he changed. But why does it take so much of us going around on this merry go round to get noticed? Because of our need to control the situation. At one point, my husband said to me “the more you stand in my way, the more determined I am to get it”. I hid car keys, I hid wallets, I called to check in, I followed him, I threw out everything I could find and here he was telling ME the answer. You can’t stand in there way and the more you do, the more determined they will be to go around you. The craftier you get, the craftier and sneakier they get. You will always lose, until you decide to change.

When you decide not to become “the cleaner” or “the fixer” anymore, it is incredibly freeing. This moment is THEE MOST important moment for both addict and co-dependent. This is when the most strength is required. Where you become a brick wall. Putting up that boundary brick by brick. You cannot cave when they utter the words you have been longing to hear because the motive isn’t pure. At this early stage it is entirely selfish. You move out, you move away, and sometimes (if necessary) you change your number. Why so dramatic? Because they have to figure their own way out of the mess and on on their own terms. The chaos they have created is their own. Not yours to fix anymore. With children it become really tricky but the boundary is necessary. Thankfully my daughter was small enough to not understand what was happening and I pray that she never will know it.

So how did I come around? It was a wait and see type situation. He had the motivation and he knew I was serious. He knew I had taken the necessary steps to move on. Secretely, I was beginning the mourning process of letting it all go, but I never let him see that. I was getting out, running, excercising, meeting up with friends…I was getting a life! Was I trying to show him what he was about to miss? ABSOLUTELY. But I was also preparing for a different outcome. It took months of therapy afterward to get us back together. BUT the truth is, I didn’t save him. God rescued him. When we are ready and willing to change, God shows up. He walked beside me through every dark night and every bleak day. And now I was also ready to change my life. Together we put our lives back together with a stronger bond, a deeper sense of purpose and a beautiful redemption story out of the chaos. I want to encourage those that have a partner/friend/family member/spouse with an addiction to be abnormally strong. If you are fighting the addiction or on your way out of it then keep fighting to get your family back. It might be too late to rescue a marriage but you can win your kids or your family back. You CAN change but it will take time for people to believe it…but don’t give up on it. Besides, you get well for yourself first. Remember that.

Starting out…

Starting a blog is like telling someone that I am going to get a drink of water. It’s not that exciting anymore. SO many people do it, but I didn’t decide until recently that I might have something to say and put out there. This bold move (for me) is because I have deep compassion for those that are suffering through addiction. It might be a family member, a good friend, or yourself. The problem is, we ALL know someone. It has become more prevalent than cancer and like cancer, it’s not really real until it happens to you.

I am proud to say that my husband will have 1,095 days of sobriety in about a month. 3 years! To say that I am proud of him is actually an understatement because I had written the idea of this accomplishment off. I didn’t believe it would happen. I didn’t believe that there would ever be a day when I didn’t have to worry anymore about what he was doing…that co-dependent stuff that really interferes with the recovery process. But I didn’t know that is what it is called: co-dependent. It was such a relief to find out that all of this worry, fear, and feeling out of control had a name. I would compare it to the relief you feel when you go to the doctor with some kind of unidentifiable pain only to hear that it had a name AND BONUS, a cure.

On February 14, 2009 the cure came. I let go. It was the best gift of love on Valentines Day that I could possibly give to my husband and myself. I let go of the hopes and dreams of a life that had held me in this relationship because it wasn’t helping him recover. When I say “I let go” it has a tendency to confuse people because the concept sounds like you are giving up. You ARE giving up on a future together because when you are with someone that doesn’t feel the same, that’s shackled to alcohol or drugs, then you can’t save them so therefore, you can’t let yourself go down with a sinking ship. If you have exhausted every effort to get help, encourage, motivate, self-reflect with no results (no REAL time of sobriety which in my opinion should be a minimum of a year) then you have to move on, especially if children are involved.

The decision was the toughest I have ever had to make but I wanted him to know I was serious. And more importantly, it was time to put myself first. Co-dependents have a tendency to think they are helping and then become somewhat of a martyr (like in a marriage):”well, I married him in sickness and in health so I guess this is what I signed up for.”
Well, no you didn’t. Not a sickness where they aren’t faithful to you. Not a marriage where they put you and your family in danger. Not a life where you are crippled by fear of what bad thing will happen next and you can’t function at work or supposedly enjoying time with friends. That isn’t what you signed up for! And for families, it’s the same thing. You have to do what you can but there comes a point where you have to draw the boundary line, for your mental and physical health. Most people reach this point naturally after countless disappointments. I had been through it. Silently for a while, then gradually began to let people in my life hear the truth. And to know that I wasn’t alone. It’s amazing when you begin to open your life up and share, how people respond. If anything it made me long for authentic relationships. The ones where you share the stuff that is happening to you. The real stuff. And it lands in a safe place. I didn’t have energy for surface folks. To this day, I love to talk to people who are falling apart. Not because it made me feel better but because it gives me purpose to let them know that “hey, I have been through some pretty rough stuff and I made it through and so will you!” The outcome may not be the same, but you will emerge stronger, more self confident, and less interested in the stuff that doesn’t matter.

I am so grateful that my husband took me seriously. He fought for me, for his daughter, for our future, and here we are at day 1,055. Closing in on another milestone. We live our “life on the wagon” now and I love it. We were definitely party people about 4 years ago, but I wouldn’t change our simple, quiet life for any amount of temporary fun…because if we are honest, isn’t that what drinking is? Temporary distractions that cover a deep seeded truth we aren’t willing to reveal in ourselves. It gives us momentary relief from the weight of baggage we carry but don’t want to go through or handle because of what it might mean to shed light on it.

Through my husbands sobriety I had to do a lot of self reflection and found that I too had plenty I was covering up and escaping. I was on my own road to an addiction based on genetics and behaviors I noticed in myself. One glass of wine never happened. More like 3 or 4 depending on how tired I was. It was a scary moment for me. But I have sense realized that alcohol is not in our future. It will not be a part of our lives and our daughter will never know us like that. So, we are a sober family. That’s the thing about addiction. It is a family issue. It doesn’t just belong to an individual. Everyone has to respond and change or the recovery won’t happen.

The good news is that recovery can happen and we can experience redemption. The Lord can use our mess and make it a blessing to someone else. I hope this blog will be a blessing to someone else. I plan to use stories and observations of our life to help and give hope. That is my purpose. I am sure there will be plenty who won’t agree with everything I say about addiction but I have to remind myself that every story is different. We all find our way out differently but as long as we are honest about it we can face whatever comes.

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things have become new.”
II Corinthians 5:17