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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