The Paradox of Alcohol

****Warning: heavy stuff ahead.**** Seriously though, if you are in love with alcohol then stop reading. ****

As I walked with my husband into the Oteen VA Hospital in Asheville, NC  I came face to face with the Paradox of Alcohol.

It was a warm May day in 2006 when we got the phone call. We had been waiting and wondering for almost two months. We hadn’t heard from Kirk’s dad in over two months and knew that wasn’t a good sign. He wasn’t at his old residence any longer and had moved himself over to a group home on the other side of town. Then we got the call from the VA hospital saying he had been admitted after a small car accident and was declining rapidly. He was incoherent and they were telling us we needed to come because “it wouldn’t be long”. Somewhat in denial at first, I just thought we were going to take care of some his personal effects and check in on him. I didn’t realize that I was going with my fiance just four months shy of our wedding to say goodbye to his father.

For the next few days we were like private investigators. Piecing the last few weeks of his together. The owner of the home that he rented wanted us to come get some of personal belongings and the rest would be thrown away. He had a few vintage tennis racquets, some faded yellow newspaper clippings from his youth, favorite books and black and white photos from Vietnam where he served 3 tours. He, like many others in that bloody time, witnessed the bleakest moments. He was stationed on the naval ships that would carry thousands upon thousands of bodies of our military in body bags from Vietnam back to the United States.

So this was the end of his life. A whole life lived and we had a two black trash bags full.

The rest was shocking to us both. Dirty dishes everywhere, cigarette smoke still hovering thick penetrating every fiber, clear glass bottles strewn around that graduated from the high-end fancy labels to the cheap swill you need just to get a buzz. Scribbled messages on post it notes and bills stacked up. One check book and one file folder. We tried to figure out what his life might have looked like in the end. It was a crushing moment to stand there in the quiet, move through his belongings and feel the weight of his life. Meanwhile this man lay in the hospital without the ability to survive the alcohol withdrawl unlike all the other times. This was it. His body gave up and shut down.

I remember the first time I met him. We arrived into Black Mountain and my husband (boyfriend at the time) followed the protocol his dad required: call ahead and see if we could stop to say hello. He said to give him an hour so we rode around town and then called again to see if he was ready. I didn’t get why he needed an hour. I didn’t understand yet what was happening. My husband hadn’t informed that his father was a reclusive alcoholic. He had mentioned that he had a problem but I had never seen it like this. We went into his dark apartment, heavy with the cigarette smoke, and met this man. He looked like a much older version of my husband which was surreal. His hair was the whitest white. His face was puffy, eyes were red and glassy, but he seemed in good spirits. He was a gentleman. Soft spoken. Kind to his son. He loved him, I could tell. He was proud of his son. I could see the smile in his eyes. He looked at him maybe remembering fonder days when the world around him didn’t seem so dark and hope abounded. Perhaps even thinking of days before the war. We made light conversation and didn’t stay very long. I could see he was starting to getting edgy. His place was very tidy. Dishes stacked neatly. Bed made. Probably an outcome of a strict childhood and life in the military. And just like that we left. That was the last time I would see this man like this. A year and a half later we were in this same dark apartment dumping his belongings into black trash bags, cleaning up some of the mounting trash and witnessing the shell of man dying in a VA hospital.

In front of me was The Paradox of Alcohol.

It was aweful to witness. It wasn’t a picture of a couple sitting on a deck at sunset, toasting with wine glasses. It wasn’t the jovial image of friends cheering on their favorite team at a football game. These are images of people who can handle their alcohol…or so we are to believe. No, this picture was a cautionary tale of a chemical that hadn’t treated people equally. We cannot blame the chemical. The chemical doesn’t inexplicably leap into people’s mouths. But we can look at a societal image that we never see. People die from alcohol. Just like they die from overdosing on hard drugs. Alcohol can ravage the body, steal your life and your joy. And we don’t talk about it. Somehow we hear it but we don’t really believe it because we are afraid to face our lives without it. We eagerly await the latest study that reveals how its good for our health to drink one glass of wine a day. Or we secretly feel like a stronger human being when hearing about someone who is suffering from alcohol addiction because “we can handle our alcohol”.

I am always interested in people’s response to me, knowing my story. “We don’t drink that often”, “we really monitor ourselves”, “we are social drinkers”. I have heard all of these and I don’t quite understand why people need to tell me these things. And my thought is this:  I don’t need to know what you do about alcohol in your life. That is your decision. You telling me about what you do concerning alcohol tells me that you need justification. Like the insecure person I was, I did it myself. I justified everything away…”he is too stressed”, “we need to relax”, “he needed to blow off some steam”, “we need to celebrate”….then you get to the point where you don’t need a reason. You just do it to do it: as long as it is at least noon because drinking at 10am might be a problem. But what about when it starts being ok around 10 am. And why is a 2 hour time difference ok? Is there some kind of invisible line that marks a problem. So the guy drinking at lunchtime doesn’t have a problem compared to the guy drinking at 10 am? We make up our own rules and markers in our lives to keep ourselves in check. Then we start to bend them, change them,justify them. Now the rules or markers have shifted…again. The glasses get bigger. The alcohol percentage gets higher but you self talk to remind yourself you are ok because you are only having two glasses. One or two days a week starts to be 3 or 4 bottles.  And so it goes. The downward spiral starts. I’ve been down this road myself with my husband. I was right there beside him when we were heavy social drinkers. We started out just on the weekends and we thought we were ok.

I am aware that plenty of people won’t enjoy this post. They will think I am coming down too hard on drinking. Fine. So be it. But really what I am trying to do is give the other side to alcohol. The one where people end up in the VA hospital. The image where we can’t control it anymore despite all efforts. The one where friends call you about your husband or wife drunk at a local restaurant and you have to go pick them up and the secrets out and people start to talk. People start confronting you about your drinking or your spouses. Or the image of the young teenage girl who died in a basement bathroom after celebrating over at a”alcohol is welcome as long as parents are present” home. Her whole life ahead of her and she was doing what she believed to be was fun…what teenagers do. Or the 11 year-old son that goes into the liquor cabinet then ends up in the ER because they wanted to be a grown up. Then you wonder how he got the idea and you remember the picture he drew a few weeks ago of you holding a glass of wine saying “mommys milk”…and you laughed.

We send mixed messages to our children when we know our family history of alcohol dependence. We are basically throwing gasoline onto the fire of genetics thinking “it won’t happen to me”. Ask anyone who has been through addiction and I can guarantee they will say, “I never thought it would happen to me.” Ask the mother who is shattered because their college age daughter is addicted to alcohol if she ever thought it would happen to her. Ask the successful father who finds himself in a treatment program because he was on the brink of losing his family if he thought it would happen to him. Ask the 39 year-old mother of two who is now in treatment after being in denial for many years if she ever thought it would happen to her. Ask the children of alcoholics that have had to say goodbye to their parents if they ever thought it would happen to them.

Ask the son who just left his fathers hospital bedside after saying goodbye to him if he ever thought it would happen to him. The son that had his own battle to fight with alcohol just two years after. Someone might question that image and believe that seeing it for himself should set him straight. They forget about the fact that alcohol is accepted, loved, adored, celebrated, commercialized, BIG (and I mean HUGE) business and stitched into dish towels with witty one liners. It’s in our face all the time on billboards, in print ads, at EVERY event, at EVERY celebration. You can order it from a menu. You buy it at the grocery store. It’s accessibility is literally everywhere. You don’t have to go into a dark alley or an abandoned parking lot.

Call me preachy but I just want us to be honest about the outcome of alcohol. Do we tell our children the fact that alcohol can kill you or are we afraid that sounds too harsh and contradictory because we know the childlike question would be: if it can kill then why do you do it? This is the question we have to consider and be prepared to give an answer for. It’s not a fun conversation to have but it’s not happening enough. There is an addiction epidemic in our country and our children are on the line. Everyday we hear of friends, family, celebrities dying from addiction to alcohol, opioids, heroin and we think…”thats sad”. Then life goes on again until the next person falls victim. We see the commercial of the lady putting a corsage on her daughter while she is in her coffin and we glaze over. We think we are covered in just saying “don’t do it until your 21” but I have very inquisitive children who will not accept “dont’s” without the “why”. I am going to have to give them an answer. I have thought many times about what we will say. I am determined to be blunt and honest. I will tell them that we enjoyed it for a while. That is was very appealing but that we had a to make a decision, based on many bad outcomes and genetics, that it wasn’t right for our family. I will have to tell them about their grandfather and why they don’t know him and his cause of death. My husband will have to tell them about his own struggle through addiction. I am prepared for this. I welcome this. I want my children to know both sides.

I’ve heard people talking about a healthy relationship with alcohol but that doesn’t add up. I’ve read reports on health benefits of “just one glass a day”…but guess what that does? It keeps pushing our boundaries further out so we don’t feel bad about it and justifies unhealthy behavior. This is how this starts. Next thing you know we are drinking out of fish bowls but still ok with it because in our easily influential minds that is still technically “one glass”. We create slippery slopes built on excuses for ourselves. Addiction is BUILT on excuses. Have you ever spoken with anyone who is in denial with their addiction? It is the FOUNDATION of their self talk: But “I’m stressed”, “I’m tired”, “I’m sad”, “I’m mad”, “this didn’t work out in my life”, “I didn’t get the job”, “my wife is giving me a hard time”…it is endless! All that’s needed is one more reason like “it’s good for me”. My issue with excuses is that there will always be one.

We are responsible for our own health and we need to take charge of that. The alcohol business doesn’t care about your health. The list of health issues because of moderate consistant drinking is endless:  links to cancer, high blood pressure, chronic disease like liver cirrhosis and pancreatitis, memory loss and brain functions, depression, anxiety and panic attacks. My husband personally experienced panic attacks because of alcohol abuse.

So lets do some educating….I remember at one point in my life when I was drinking heavily I had a tendency to lean towards the celebratory excuses for drinking. A great day, a good report, a nice check…etc And then after celebrating too much I ended up in tears. Every time! I see this on TV a lot of too. People getting together to celebrate something or have a party and someone ends up fighting or in tears. Why is that? The answer is pretty simple. Alcohol is depressant. We hear that but do we really understand what that means? The relaxed feeling you can get when you have the first drink is due to chemical changes alcohol causes in your brain. It helps us feel more confident and less anxious because it’s depressing the part of the brain associated with inhibition. As you continue to drink though more of your brain is affected and what was initially a positive affect can turn into a negative emotion EVEN if you started out in a great mood. You then can become angry, depressed, aggressive or anxious. When I finally realized this after going through all the trauma of my husbands addiction and what could have been an addiction for myself, I was relieved to have answers, to understand what was really happening. We need to know and understand how these chemicals affect our bodies. We know that they initially make us feel good but we know that it can go south real fast. We have to do the research. We are so careful about the foods we eat but less so about the other chemicals we put into our bodies because of one thing: we don’t want to know. Because then we’d be accountable to that information.

Look, I know we are determined to have the nice kids. And as much as I want my kids to be the nice kids, I am sincerely more concerned about the drug generation being breaded. If they don’t grow up with transparent parents who can answer the why’s then they will not fully know the consequence of their choices and that “healthy relationship” with alcohol you dreamed up for them quickly turns into a serious problem. I know my kids will make their own mind up about alcohol but they will do this with full knowledge of why they grew up without it in our home. It will not be some big mystery.

The paradox of alcohol. We like one of the images. We hate the other. But you cannot have one without acknowledging that the other exists. We have a responsibility to our children to give them the right message about alcohol. This is everyone’s problem and everyone’s responsibility to take care of the message. To be honest and thorough but also to let our lives be the example. “Don’t do as I do” or wait until your “of age” stuff doesn’t work. We want our kids to be nice, but the nice kids have problems with drugs and alcohol too. I’ve read far too many obituaries lately of young people which start with “was a good kid and loved by so many people in the community”.

There is so little in life that we can actually control, but we can control that message. We can share our real experiences in life with alcohol and how quickly things can change to bad when we aren’t sober. I pray we will all take control of the message and live it out for them. This next generation depends on it.

The Best News!

We are eternal. Isn’t that the best news?

I buckle the kids in the minivan. I worry if I have enough snacks. I check to make sure I packed the pull-up. Then I remember. I am eternal. EEEEK. In all of these day to day tasks, I stop myself and remember this. Wow. Eternal! 

I have written this post about 3 times now and the one thing that kept circling in my mind was this: we are eternal. I started to focus on this fact and here is what I came to realize: if we truly believe that we are eternal then won’t that change the way we live our lives? Truly believe it. After chewing on it for a while I started to think about how our perspective on life would change if we began to fully believe it. We would start to respect our bodies and our lives as something sacred. We would respect people’s lives and see value in them because we would remember: they are eternal too. Your outlook, as a whole, changes. You don’t get caught up in the temporary thoughts, frustrations and desires of the world. Things that might trip you up or aggravate you get washed out by the focus on eternity. Paul wrote in the book of Colossians (3:2) “Set your mind things above, not on earthly things”. Paul understood this kind of thinking. He was fully focused on the eternal and not the finite. It helped him escape traps of this world that bind us up and keep us from the doing the work that God has to do.

I get caught up in the finite. A lot. There…I said it! But in order to make this post authentic I challenged myself to really put the focus on the infinite. You start reminding yourself about what will truly last, what will end and you see your life focus change. I don’t think we realize how often we are seeking eternity. We try to create it here on earth. We seek the things that give us joy, pleasure, excitement but they aren’t sustainable. The high will always have low. The fun of the party will always have a next day hangover. The trip to the exotic will always come back to reality. The awards you sought after now sit on the shelf collecting dust. The thrill of the gift will end up in a thrift store. The bank account gets larger and so do the problems. You build the big house then have to downsize. But we keep seeking to sustain something that is not sustainable. Eternity is inside all us and that is why we crave it. We want the joy to never end here on earth but it always does. The only way to truly experience the never-ending joy is to know Jesus and what He came to do for us. On that good Friday the curtain was ripped in half and heaven was opened to us…to ALL of us. All we have to do is accept that He did that for us. To acknowledge that we are finite minded, messed up, broken people who get caught up in this world and that Jesus is so much bigger and better than all that we create or mess up.

After we acknowledge that gift of atonement for our lives,  we must start thinking eternally about what we will do with what we know. Will we start living our lives with an eternal purpose or finite purpose? Everything on earth has a beginning and end. I am beginning to think that we are ok with that. That we like there to be an end. Maybe it’s because our finite brain can wrap itself around “the end” but we have a problem wrapping around “the eternal” because it’s impossible to wrap.  It has no end. But that makes us uncomfortable. Oddly, the end is comforting. But once life is begun, it will have no end. Once life is created , eternity starts. Death is not the end nor does it have the final say.  Jesus conquered death for us! He came to give us hope beyond ourselves. Because of Him we will be able to call Heaven our forever home. Forever home. I find it interesting that people build what they call their “forever home” on earth. We can’t call it the forever though because it is like everything else in life: temporary. Seasons change, we grow old, and the house gets sold to someone else. But the one that remains constant is “I Am”. Our God. He is the past, the present, and the future.  He was here before time and He will continue to be throughout all of eternity. Today, and for whatever remainder we have here on earth, I challenge you to start turning your focus to eternity. Decisions that we make, things that we get hung up on, start holding them up to the light of eternity and see what holds water. Will it last? Does it matter in the light of eternity?You were made for a greater purpose and if we start respecting that in ourselves in others, I really believe life as we know it would start to radically change for the best. God’s best.

The I AM knew you before time began and knows what comes next. The I AM created you for eternity. Yes, that person who is getting into the minivan and worried about losing the baby weight 3 years later. YOU are eternal.  And the great I AM stands at the door waiting for us to answer. John 14:6: Jesus said to him, “I AM the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” The Eternal Present.

This Easter, as you are putting on the pearls and ironing the Sunday clothes remember: you are eternal. As you plan the meal and dye the eggs remember: You will be forever. If you find yourself worried about buying things for the Easter baskets remember: Christ paved the way for our eternal destiny. Change your mind to focus on the eternal and see how your perspective on life changes. When the end of your time on earth comes, you will not be disappointed. This is a forever promise. 

 

 

 

 

photo courtesy of Jonathan Burton Photography

 

Testimony #3: In The Darkness

“Only in the darkness can you see the stars.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.

Addiction is a dark time. It is a joy stealer. The story doesn’t always end with their recovery.  I was prepared for my story to sound like my friends you are about to read. I always knew it was a real possibility. Recovery is not for those who need it, but for those who want it. Some absolutely do not want it. But in this darkness, you must find the light of hope. Just like the stars where used by navigators to find their way home, we seek the path God gives us so we can find our way out. This isn’t the end of her story! Her story will end in victory because she has chosen to seek the Lord through it. She is in the thick of it and this is the hurtful truth…

My marriage started off very exciting! We met, fell in love, and married very quickly. We bought land and started building our new home together before we were even married. Everything was a whirlwind of good feelings and anticipation to the perfect life. Very shortly after our week long honeymoon in the Caribbean real life hit me. We were living together, mixing our lives completely, figuring our roles and responsibilities all which were still exciting to me. Once we were settled in as a married couple and home owners I started to see a new side to my husband.

 At first he started going to friends’ houses during the week and coming home drunk. Then he started drinking at home…every night. Every night it seemed like the drinking would start earlier and earlier and sometimes I would come home from my job as a teacher at 3 in the afternoon to him drinking. I didn’t have the husband and man I fell in love with and married.  I now had the drunk version of him to handle day to day life. We have 2 children and soon I felt like my nights consisted of herding him away from the kids. I was miserable. I didn’t want to go home. We argued all the time and arguing with a drunk is pointless and very hurtful. The arguing and insults became worse and worse and yes, I participated. Eventually his anger turned physical. I began taking the kids in the middle of the night and driving to my grandmother’s house.  The next morning he was always very apologetic and I would forgive him. He would promise it would never happen again and it wouldn’t for a while but the cycle would inevitably start again. His parents lived down the street from us and sometimes I would call them and they would come over but of course this just made things worse.  They figured that out and stopped coming. The funny thing to me is if I did call his parents the next day we would all be together and everyone would act “normal”…like nothing ever happened. I left 3 times and finally got an apartment with the kids. Two of the three times he talked me back into coming back swearing the drinking would stop. It would for a while and then the cycle would start again. This last time I didn’t come back. I still love him and I think I always will.

This last separation he started seeing another woman who condones the drinking. He moved her into our rental house without consulting me and then went into debt by taking her on expensive trips and buying a sports car. The whole time this was going on, he was not seeing our son. Now he has pretty much lost his business, got a DUI, about to sell or rent our marital home, tells me he is completely financially supported by his parents, and still not seeing our son. I would think this is rock bottom but you never know.

Since then I have joined a church and become active. I now know I was not fighting him but the devil himself. I realize now I should have been praying more for him. Not just praying but really becoming a prayer warrior for my family. If I could go back to the one thing I would have done differently, it would be to recognize who I was really fighting. This wasn’t my husband I was fighting and I didn’t need to be fighting with words but fighting with prayer. I think that living my life as a quiet example of peace, being his “Ezer” (Hebrew word meaning Helper), and being a true prayer warrior could have saved my family from divorce. I do still pray for him and I pray for myself to be that quiet example of peace and not to get caught up in the deep hurt that only someone you truly love can bestow on you. 

I want to thank my friend for sharing this raw story. Would you please pray for her and her family?  

A Structured Life: Courtney’s Testimony

Structure is comfort. We know what to expect and there is no parting from it. I remember being conscious of my need for structure when I had my first born. You did not divert from the plan. Our lives do not work out how we planned. I recall the Jewish saying: “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.” Here is my friend Courtney’s story…

I have always preferred structure to chaos, predictability to adventure. I prefer implementing a well thought out plan versus a go-with-the-flow and see where it takes me way of thinking. I can see now why God chose to match me with a husband who is my polar opposite in this way. Perhaps this is why I was attracted to him in the first place, because God saw that my inclination toward desire for structure and predictability needed to be balanced.

Growing up, I had the sense of predictability and structure, which I craved. Though the day in day out routine tended to bore me on occasion, it more often brought me comfort. My parents had clearly articulated expectations, rules and guidelines. We went to church every Sunday and I was involved in youth group as I became older. I am thankful for the background in faith, which helped build a foundation of knowledge, growing still today. I knew what to expect and what was expected of me. I had grounding and a sense of safety, an understanding of commitment and fortitude. Because my life was predictable I assumed the whole of my life would be as well. I was going to do all the things right I had observed others doing right, and was going to avoid making poor choices which would lead me to a broken marriage, kids that are unruly and a job I clock in hours at miserably so. I was good at seeing the pitfalls others had experienced and avoiding them – or so I thought.

It’s not surprising that at 23, soon after our marriage began, life started to unravel. The comfort I craved in predictability was not present. I chose a profession that was stable, with predictable hours and weekends off. My husband chose one with irregular hours and an irregular schedule, which often stretched into the late evenings and weekends. This did not innately provide regular time for us to connect. We created unhealthy patterns related to communication, and were both very self-centered in our approach to life together. This drove us apart at a time in our marriage when we should have been building healthy patterns and a strong foundation. We were floundering. Because of my insecurity in the unknown, the unpredictable nature of our relationship and my inability to control my husband and his actions toward me, my need to control began to creep in. My husband grew distant and apathetic. The more he fought against me, the more I tried to reign him in. I spoon fed him every bit of what I needed – to the extent that he would patronize me, do the bare minimum to keep me “happy” momentarily until the next thing came up and the cycle continued. My need to control grew out of my fear that I would not have the life I had planned. I wanted God to work in my life, but I wanted him to work things out the way I wanted them to go.

Added to the cycle of control and apathy, my husband and I both have a strong sense of independence. We both tried to do it all ourselves –  whatever that was, without seeking much if any wise counsel. Our independence grew into isolation. I, being the planner, thought I could plan my way out of the mess we had created single handedly. If I just figured out what steps 1, 2 and 3 were, and my husband went along with my plan, we would be fixed. I did not need anyone else to teach me the way to go, I would get myself (and my husband) out of this mess. He on the other hand was seemingly fine going about his day-to-day doing what he wanted, when he wanted.

On the rare occasion I shared the truth of our lives and the poor state of our marriage, the advice I received though well intentioned, was from others who had not travelled a similar path and who had not lived much more life than me. It offered little perspective. I was accustomed to going to God with my weakness, but avoided sharing my struggles with his body of believers. I knew that God knew everything about me, so there was no use in lying to Him about anything, but was afraid if I shared with others they would blame me. And my biggest fear, that they would be right in thinking I was the cause of my husbands distance.

As this unhealthy pattern continued, I had no idea that my husband’s coping mechanism relied on numbing his discomfort. The more discomfort he felt regarding life, including my efforts to control him and his choices, the deeper he went into addiction— though it would be several years before either of us realized addiction was a part of our lives. I remember sitting at lunch with my co-workers after a major argument with my husband the night before – as they chatted about their pets and what they had cooked for dinner the night before thinking, they have no idea regarding the reality of my life. What would they say if they knew? What would they think about me? About him if they knew the truth? The reality was, my husband and I were always either fighting, or he was ignoring me. He was staying out drinking, or not coming home at all. When he was home, I was miserable toward him, and he ignored me. I nagged and cajoled to no avail. How did we get to this place? How could we get out of this pattern? How could this be fixed? The truth is, we got there slowly, and we couldn’t get out of the mess we had made. The only one who has the power to fix the mess we created is Christ.

While I had maintained a steady relationship with Christ through most of my life, I wasn’t willing to give up control. I was desperate, but wasn’t willing to trade what I knew, for the unknown even if it could have been better – much better. Fear and control wanted to hold onto what I knew. What if God decided to fix this? But what if He didn’t? What if – what God had for me was worse than my current reality? This was a bold lie I believed for far too long before learning more about His nature and what He is really all about. Because I had nowhere else to go, I began to seek. I was anxious, weak, tired, broken, and confused. I slowly began to surrender. I began reading my bible regularly and searching God’s word for truth. The word and the Spirit worked together to replace the mountains of lies I had accumulated for mountains of truth.

I can cast all my anxiety on him because he cares for me1 Peter 5:7.

God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives generously. Joshua 1:5

My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19

People who know their God will display strength. Daniel 11:32

Where the spirit of the lord is, there is freedom. 1 Corinthians 3:17

If God is for us, who can be against us. Romans 8:31

God is not the author of confusion, but of peace. 1 Corinthians 14:33

In the world you will have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world. John 16:33

I meditated on his word. I sought Christ in my life as I never had before. During the most unpredictable time in my life, He brought me peace. I saturated myself in His Word, on His promises and in prayer. He began to put people in my life that had been where I was. I found a Christ centered counselor who had experience in addiction and mature Christians to serve as a sounding board for me. He began to build community for me. We are intended to be each a part of the body of Christ, not lone soldiers out there fighting a battle alone, in vein. I began to give up control and realize that my sense of control was a fallacy. Christ’s control (guidance and direction) over our lives is enduring. I began to intentionally seek community in Christ followers and build relationships with mature believers in Christ.

While all this was going on, my husband remained in his addiction, and it became worse than it had ever been. I had to learn how to stand for God’s truth over the noise of the world’s. How to make hard choices – telling my husband our marriage was not healthy, and was not functioning as God intended and that he needed to leave.  I did not and could not have known which direction my husband would choose to go – toward Him, or away from Him and from us.

For a while, my husband chose to run, to fall, and I had to learn that it was not my responsibility to save him. That was in God’s hands, and in a choice that my husband (like all of us) has. The changes I could affect were in me, through Christ. I had to get to a place where I was confident that I responded to my husband in a way that honored God and in a place where I could sift the truth from the lies. God gave me the wisdom to be able to recognize them clearly.

My husband decided to surrender some of his independence and pride, and take his first real step in seeking help; his first step in admitting his brokenness and addiction and God began rebuilding. He began to form a firm foundation. But my husband was not ready to give up the battle with self and pride. As he acclimated to his new life, I did not know that he was still holding onto his addiction. His patterns at home had changed significantly, but there was something that was still off. After a year into his road to recovery he confessed to me that he had been holding onto a piece of his addiction, and had been lying to me about it for almost a year. That whole year I had been patient, continuing to seek Christ and apply his truth to my life. I knew that I could not continue through another unhealthy pattern in our marriage. I did not know what God’s plan was, but I knew that whatever it was – it was good. And I stepped back.

I initiated a separation, knowing how severely what little trust had started to rebuild was in shambles. We were separated for 2 ½ months. 2 ½ months of not knowing what would become of our marriage, but knowing that God is good all the time. You see – we make mistakes, big ones, and a lot of poor choices. But God had been teaching me. He can make beauty of our messes. He can restore the years the locust hath eaten. Joel 2:25. I believed that He could, and He would.

I didn’t know what my husband would choose….Christ, or not (Christ), and all that comes with that. I knew that one day I would have to answer for myself, and my husband would have to do the same, and completely released control to the one who saves. And save he did.

I am not sure why God chose to speak to my husband in such a clear way and call him back home during our separation or why my husband chose to listen to that calling, but I am so glad he did. There are not words (in the English language anyway) to describe how grateful I am for what God has done in my heart and in my husband’s.  It is truly amazing what an awesome God we serve. He is a very real God who is alive in us, and who loves us in spite of ourselves. In spite of our running and control and selfishness and all the things we hold onto. He loves us, has forgiven us, and seeks after us. 2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV says “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” I believe this verse should be followed by a few exclamation points! Even better, the Amplified version which I love because of the elaboration, so descriptive in articulating what we have both experienced first hand: 2 Corinthians 5:17 AMP “Therefore if anyone is in Christ [that is, grafted in, joined to Him by faith in Him as Savior], he is a new creature [reborn and renewed by the Holy Spirit]; the old things [the previous moral and spiritual condition] have passed away. Behold, new things have come [because spiritual awakening brings a new life].” Amen!

So here we are. Not a year into our new life together, and married for 13 years. I thought it would take years to rebuild. I’ve learned that the walls we build, brick-by-painstaking brick, God can smash down in an instant. I love the visual that creates. In less than a year since the lowest point in our lives thus far, I have experienced forgiveness, hope, joy that is not from man. Christ has given me a heart for others, and perspective regarding our short time here on earth.  He has taught me that my planning nature is not a pitfall, but something He has created in me intended to glorify Him. My husband’s sense of adventure balances my need for predictability and pulls me out of my comfort zone and into the arms of Christ. Our marriage is a beautiful dance as Christ intended it, with Him at the center. The process, this life, was never comfortable- in fact painful. Those moments when I was weakest He stepped in. I learned He can use me even in the midst of my imperfection. Look at Abraham! Gideon! Duh! Right?! He has taught me the importance of community and forming relationships with others who have walked some of the same paths and are through them. They are the body of Christ. All parts of the same body, designed to work best as they were designed, but together. I look forward to the many adventures ahead; both the mountain top experiences and the valleys which draw me into sweet communion with Him.

The word thankful does not do justice for the gratitude I feel for the work He has done in my life and in the life of my husband. We have an AWESOME, loving God. He desires you dear brother and sister and wants you to experience abundance and fullness of life in Him. 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. 2 Corinthians 12:9. Rest on His word, and seek Him. Surrender and He will do miraculous things in your life and give you not just goodness, but abundance. John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. (Jesus) came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

ABUNDANTLY.

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or imagine. Ephesians 3:20.

For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. Isaiah 43:19.

tes•ti•mo•ny: Kevin’s Story

Lifeonthewagon has turned 3 years old! In celebration, I decided to freshen the look of lifeonthewagon.com (when you have a chance, look around and see what’s new), but more importantly, I decided to do a series called: testimony. I asked several friends to share their stories. I am praying you will be inspired by their courage to share. I will be posting their testimonies over the next few days, so be on the lookout for each one. You will not want to miss the blessing of hearing their stories! To God Be The Glory!

The first testimony comes from Kevin, a graduate of the same ministry program my husband attended. You can leave comments on this post for Kevin if you feel led. I am thankful for his honesty and willingness to share….

Kevin’s Story 

I am honored to share with you my testimony and story of how God has saved me and restored my family. I am a native of Boone, born and raised by hard working parents.

 My battle with addiction began in my teenage years, though I did not see the signs early on. A verse comes immediately to mind in John 10:10, “The thief comes not but to steal, kill, and destroy.” It all started with alcohol, but quickly moved on to methamphetamine abuse shortly after high school.  My father owned several tractor trailers, so the natural progression was to follow in his footsteps and become a driver as well. Being a long haul truck driver for many years really enabled me to be someone else while on the road. Those years took a huge toll on my wife and children. The physical and mental abuse that I bestowed on them was completely out of control.  I would frequently have thoughts of suicide, becoming so fed up with the direction my life was heading, and I blamed everyone except myself.

I attended my first 28 day secular rehab program in 2001; and sobriety lasted for a short time before returning to the hog pen, as I call it, again. During those years of sobriety, Tracie and I built a new home; and we were blessed with a third daughter. Of course, these blessings came with their own set of stressors which led me back to drugs again, because I didn’t possess the tools I needed to deal with the problems that arise every day. 

In 2010, I attended Hebron Colony Ministry for the first time. Life returned to normal again for a short time, but I decided that my family needed more money to live; and I found myself missing the road. The opportunity presented itself to buy another tractor trailer and I jumped at it feeling this was the right move for our family.  All along I believed this was Satan’s plan to pull me and our family back into his grip, like the thief he presented himself again. 

Things went fine in the beginning of my newest venture, but then I became tired from the high expectations and long hours that are required to be successful in the logistics business.  I began using drugs again to enable my body to stay awake and deliver the loads in a timely manner.  I justified my drug use by comparing myself to King David, telling myself I was making money for my family. Brothers and sisters, was I wrong!  Over a short six month period, I was deeper in that hog pen than I had ever been.  Our home that we had worked so hard to build ten years earlier was foreclosed on, my wife and children left me and moved to a small apartment while I was left living in my car.  One day, driving into Boone, God saw His opportunity and took it. He had brought me to my lowest point in order to save me from myself.  I cried, begging God to help me and fix the mess I had made of the life He had given me.  I knew it was time to go back to the Mountain of Miracles, Hebron.

I made my way to RD Hodges’ office, a man who now I am proud to call my friend and brother in Christ. I was ready for a lasting change in my life and the staff welcomed me with open arms. They had prayed that I would find my way back and those prayers did not go unheard.  Though my wife had left me and was so fearful of me that she had a restraining order in place, she agreed to be my sponsor and drove me to Hebron that Saturday morning.  She knew the man I could be and longed to have that godly man back in their lives. The last portion of John 10:10 “I have come that you may have life abundantly” rings true and I have not looked back. I graduated on August 18, 2012, and then God blessed me again, allowing me to extend for an additional 12 weeks and then 6 more months as volunteer staff assisting Gene Dooley in the kitchen. The pastors laughed, telling me I was the first student to actually request to be assigned in the kitchen and I was blessed to have godly men like Gene in my life.    

Our lives are now full of happiness and joy.  My wife and I have a closer relationship than ever before, and although two of our daughters now have homes of their own, we have an exceptional relationship with each other.  Our youngest daughter Maggie is now 9; and she trusts me and my decisions. I still go to Hebron every Saturday where I enjoy helping the ladies in the office and meeting the new men.  I also enjoy doing the sound for each Saturday graduation service.  Maggie goes with me and enjoys the services as much as I do. 

I have said all this to say that when I truly surrendered everything in my life to God, He gave me an abundant life right here on earth and the tools I need to maintain this life, being in His Word. God gave my family back to me, a nice home to live in, a great job that I like and a heart to help other men who are just like me.  I praise God for the life he has given me because without Him my life means nothing. God can take a mountain of mess and turn it into a mountain of miracles like me.

Yours truly,

Kevin 

Graduate 8/18/12

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  Phil. 4:13

 

2,190 Days

Like turtles on a fencepost. You see them sitting on top of one and you know someone had to put them there.

“There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done’, and those to whom God says, ‘all right, then, have it your way.” C.S. Lewis

For the majority of my twenties and early thirties I was the second person. I wanted my belief in God on my terms. I believed he should fit into what I wanted for my life and I called out to Him on a need basis only. When I needed Him I prayed. When I felt I was ready to steer, He let me. Everytime I steered on my own, I ended up needing Him again. It’s regretful that it took me until I walked through addiction with my husband that I realized that this cycle doesn’t have to exist. I know that we can’t live in past but I do mourn the time in my life that has been lost that I could have been focused on a true eternal purpose.

2,190 days of sobriety for my husband. Amazing. To God Be The Glory.

Every February my husband and I get excited because we know that we have made it through another year where alcohol has become a part of our past. Every February we reflect on what we have learned and how different our lives have become…for the best. As the gap widens from where we were to where we are now, I am more at ease with who I am and who God made me to be as a wife, mother, friend, daughter and sister.  The idenity crisis of my twenties and early thirties is gone. I understand now that , as my mother says, “real learning is a change in behavior” and that “what you do tells people what you really believe in”. For the last 2,190 days our lives are a day to day battle ground for what surrendering means. It isn’t always easy, but I exhausted my own way. Now I say “Thy Will Be Done” and the outcome is ALWAYS above and beyond my own ideas or plans.

I remember feeling incredibly anxious when my husband first became sober. There were so many unknowns and I knew our lives where about to radically change. I believed I was giving up things I enjoyed. I wasn’t ready for it. It was all about me and my hang ups. I was afraid of superficial things like:

What would my friends think of us?

Will we lose friends? (Yes you probably will)

Can we have fun sober or will we be the wet blanket that everyone has to be careful what they say or do in our presence?

Will I resent him because alcohol won’t be part of our lives anymore?

I wrestled with all of this for the first sober 365 days.

And then in a moment of clarity I realized one thing. All of these things I was worried about had nothing to do with my marriage. I wasn’t married to these people or friends I was worrying about.  I was married to a man that needed me to be on his team. I wasn’t being a team player by getting caught up in these social issues. He needed me to be on his side. Since that moment of laying it all down, I have never once resented him or this choice. In fact, it has become a blessing to me and our children. On this earth I will never understand the depth of Gods knowledge of our lives but somehow He went before us and laid out His plan. He redeemed the wreckage and showed me that this life isn’t a dress rehearsal. We get one chance to live it FOR Him. And that’s it. So these things I was worrying about where 1. all about me and 2. have no place in His plan for my life. It doesn’t mean that we don’t have moments when we wrestle with these things. Like I said, it took me almost a whole year to get over myself and get on board with my teamate. But we do need a white flag moment because everything has a beginning date and an end date. It’s just easier to take my word on this and start living your life for Jesus and ask your spouse to forgive your self-centered motives.

There are many verses in scripture that have carried my husband and I through these last 6 years. It has been part of the learning process and letting the words marinate in our hearts. These 3 in particular speak to our new life.

2 Corinthians 5:17  “Therefore if anyone is in Christ he is a new creature. The old things have passed away. Behold, new things have come.”

Deuteronomy 31:8 “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

James 1:12 “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”

What riches in these verses!

So here we are. 2,190 days of walking with the Father and now we go confidently into the next day and then the next because He goes before us. He comes running to us like the prodigals father. He sees our baggage, carries it for us and then leads us through it. We just keep living in our amazement of HOW we got here. Like turtles on a fencepost. You see them sitting on top of one and you know someone had to help them up there.

‘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.

 

 

1,095

Hamilton Family Final (73)

YES! 3 years! We passed this milestone on February 22 and what a great day it was! Seriously, Praise the Lord. He has everything to do with helping us get to this point by providing the opportunities, the support, the friendships, the church, the counseling we needed to make it here. I firmly believe you cannot do this alone. It took a village of people, all placed here by God, to get this family back on track. We owe a lot to our families for their support and continued faith in us. We owe a lot to our friends for their encouragement, for lending an ear and for just being there cheering us on. We owe our mentors for being strong models of Christ’s love and how to live it out in this new life. We owe everything to God for taking these two messed up people and using them for His glory. We don’t deserve it, but He uses us anyway. I often think about what my life would have been like now if my husband had never turned the corner. I am a realist and know that the story doesn’t always turn out this way. Sometimes the addiction wins. I have heard countless stories of loved ones who were defeated by it. I have seen it play out personally with my husband’s father. I hate to see it happen because I now believe addiction can be conquered.

I think it has to do with exposing the lies of the enemy which is what I try to do here. If you have never read the book Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis then read it! It is life changing when we realize that there is a spiritual battle going on that we can’t see with our eyes but experience in our everyday lives. When the enemy has control over us we have a tendency to believe that things just happen to us…that there is no plan or force behind it, orchestrating. But when you see things from a spiritual perspective you understand that we get tripped up for specific reasons. A few weeks ago my husband and I watched the movie Flight. (Disclaimer: this is an R rated movie and there is nudity, language, drug use throughout). It was a tough movie. Intense. But you could see the battle going on within Denzel Washingtons character. He wanted to do the right thing. He didn’t want to have a problem. He denied it heavily at the beginning of the movie. At one point, for 9 days leading up to his trial, he remained sober. The day before the trial he goes to stay in a hotel room and they even place a security guard in front of his room to protect him from any outside influences or from himself. In the early morning hours after tossing and turning most of the night he hears a tapping noise. He investigates and finds that the door to the adjoining room is open. Guess what is in the adjoining room? Yep, a stocked bar. The enemy wins again. I am one of those people who believe things like this are not just coincidence. I think they are designed for us to fall flat on our face…especially when we are on the right path. My husband and I have experienced this A LOT within the 1095 days. But we know to expect it and we know to expect it when we are being beaten down by life. When we get incredibly stressed out. When we are tired. When we feel anxious. When things don’t work out like we want them to. Even when the first signs of Spring show up (this is a different story). We expect temptation. And that is how you keep yourself safe. I have realized now that part of the reason I write this blog is not just to give perspective but also to expose the lies that I let myself believe, so people might identify themselves as well. I do it by being specific with details, thoughts, or habits. If you read the blog and can find yourself in anything I am saying them you know what I am talking about….and that’s why I do it. That is why I will keep on doing it. Shortly after you have identified yourself though you will find yourself convincing yourself that its not true or that your circumstances are different. And so the lie will continue. It is subtle but as the song says “It’s a slow fade, when you give yourself away.” I don’t want to be right about it, but I have been through too much to know that I am not wrong. Don’t believe the lie.

So here we are at 1095 days later and I am eternally grateful to God that He gave us a second chance at this. He has blessed us with a healthy, vivacious, opinionated, loving daughter. He has blessed us with a warm home, two cars that work (most of the time), two jobs, childcare and the means to support it all. He has blessed us with family and friends. And most of all, He has blessed us with a story to tell that might change the direction of someone else’s life. If we aren’t here to help one another, then really…what are we here for?

One personal side note: To my husband, I am incredibly inspired by you and changed forever by our circumstances. I am humbled by your humility and willingness to continue to share your story openly. I am so thankful that our daughter (and son) will know you, if God allows it. I am so thankful that their story is forever altered by your determination and faithfully seeking Gods plan for our lives. I am encouraged daily by your resolve. I am blessed when you talk about your weaknesses or moments of doubt…it reminds me you are still working on yourself as I need to be. You have a heart with eternity stamped on it and I am thrilled to know that I am included in that game plan. All my love. bpp.

Why we need transparency

I am sure there are plenty of friends and family that wonder why I chose such a public venue to tell our story piece by piece. It’s a good question! Why be so public about it?? I think the answer is pretty simple: Because it’s real. It’s called being authentic. Can you be authentic quietly? Yes. But I don’t think that helps anyone. Part of the reason we are given challenges is to give people hope that they can overcome it, too. No one wants to go through the journey of life alone. Especially not to suffer through the many realities of life alone. I believe my mothers generation and the generation before that frowned on airy dirty laundry. But I don’t think we can call it dirty laundry anymore. I think we should call what it is: part of the human experience. I tried supression for a long time and all that happened was resentful build up. Then it started to pour out of me in unhealthy ways like getting raging mad at the little stuff or saying hurtful things. We become angry people. My husband and I were talking about angry people the other day. You know, the ones who always have something negative to say or like to put people down. They aren’t fun to be around. But what you realize about people like this is that there is a reason for their negativity. Something is happening at home and they have no outlet for expressing what they feel. It’s a lonely place to be. When recovering from addiction you NEED other people, you NEED an outlet to express how you feel, and you NEED honesty.

One of the most difficult parts about the road to recovery is regaining the trust that was lost. There is no road map on how to do this because each person in your life has to be handled differently. Please know that everyone will NOT agree with everything you do when making amends, but don’t give up trying to make amends with them if it’s not working. Time is your greatest asset. The more time you have to prove you’re recovered the easier this amends process will be. You will have a foundation. Reconciliation takes time. Sometimes the addicts or the family want immediate resolve. For the addict, their first focus for the first year should be on themselves. It sounds really narcissistic to say and hard to swallow since the addiction has already claimed so much selfishness, but it’s a fact. Every day of the first year is a battle. But if they are transparent with others about what they are going through, what they are fighting for then understanding and time will (hopefully) be given. When an addict starts to claim this new life, recognize the disaster they made of the old one, then you will know that they are making great progress. Let them come to terms with their past. I suggest writing letters or if they are in a recovery program, sometimes a family week is offered. Go. You might be angry with them, but this is the opportunity to unload and leave it behind. They will need to deal with what is unloaded but this way it is out there and dealt with in time. All family and friends really want is acknowledgement of the chaos and hurt. The addict can’t fix it at that moment. But they can hear it, process it, and decide how they want to handle the reconciliation. BUT it needs to be reconciled at some point. This is all part of the transparency process. Acknowledgement, reconciliation, honesty…these are words that need to part of the recovery process as a whole group.

Now that my husband and I have gone down the road a bit in this recovery, we are even more convinced on the importance of being honest and open about what we have been through. I know that we won’t get support from everyone and that’s ok. We aren’t doing it FOR everyone. We are doing it for those that really need to hear it. That want to know how to make their story turn out differently. For those that think there is more to life than painting this pretty picture of their lives. Our lives are being painted right now and I would prefer mine to be painted in a way that lines up with the actual photo. You see, the picture I inserted below…I love this photo. My husband is saying something that is really making me laugh. It’s a beautiful day and my daughter is behaving, somewhat, and it’s a perfect moment. What you don’t see is the battle we went through in the last 3 years to have such a beautiful, authentic moment. But we fought hard for that photo. I hope we have many more moments like this in our future and by God’s grace we will. A picture only tells 10% of the story and you have decide how to get real about the remaining 90%.

Hamilton Family Final (23)

Square-Shaped Peg, Round Hole

You know these people. People who have to constantly keep putting things on the calendar. Planning more trips because there can’t be any gaps on the calendar. Buying different cars. Loading the kids up with activities. Making big life changes like moving on a consistent basis. Planning more. Changing more stuff. Buying more stuff. Getting rid of stuff to make room for new stuff. Constant home improvement projects when nothing was really wrong with what it looked like before but they just weren’t happy with it. Electronic upgrading every couple of months. I am exhausted just thinking about it. They exhaust themselves and wonder why they are so exhausted all the time. I think about a Hamster on a wheel. The Hamster never gets anywhere, right? I think I can safely say that many of us suffer from chronic unsatisfaction with our lives. Why do we need to change everything all the time? Why do we need to constantly be going somewhere or doing something entertaining? I feel like I am on to something with this answer: because we are afraid if we have too much time to think about our lives and how we are spending it then we will actually have to face the black hole that exists inside us. SO we fill it. We keep filling it. More stuff! But what we find is that nothing will ever fit into the hole permanently. Nothing will ever give us that sense of peace we desire. Addiction is something else that gets put into that hole…more and more gets dumped in there but there’s not enough drugs or alcohol to fill it either.

When you finally stop running, filling, stuffing, pouring, dumping, buying, planning, drinking, pill taking, shopping, and trying to educate yourself on how to make God not exist, all we are left with is a square-shaped peg for a round God shaped hole. I did all of this. I filled, bought, drank, planned, and just HOPED that someday I would find contentment. But what I realized is that all we get is the day after Christmas feeling. Do you know what feeling I am talking about? We build up Christmas all month (or in the case of Americanized Christmas, 2 months) long. Then the day is finally here and it is filled with joy, happiness and love…temporarily. The next morning we wake up and there is a lack of joy. It is a deep nagging emptiness that we must acknowledge although we tend to cover it up by planning a trip, shopping, getting back to work, or creating some other illusion of happiness. And what I have found is that we will never be satisfied. Our nature is to continue to externally search for something beyond ourselves to find it. But we want to see it, touch it, experience it in order for it to be real. Faith is belief in what is unknown, the unseen, and being ok with not knowing the outcome. And to believe in God we have to understand that God is immaterial not material. He is spirit. My pastor made this point on Sunday that God is spirit and we must accept Him as that. The Israelites kept trying to look for a material God…something they could see and worship, statues that would satisfy that need and God, on purpose, is not those things. He is not a material being so we will learn not to make idols on earth and take the place of faith. You have to fight for Faith. You have to go against what we, in our sinful nature, want to do: to create something tangible that we can focus on. The thing about God and filling this hole with Him, is that what we finally experience the fullness that this new life in Christ gives us. We experience REAL peace. And it is permanent. Not manufactured, material, earthly, temporary peace. The search is over. Our purpose is found. And a whole new life, a new journey begins and we can face it all because we have a hope of eternity in our soul. There is no greater experience on earth than the transformation of belief. It doesn’t make you a perfect person and in fact, the Christian life is not for the weak. C.S. Lewis said, “If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity”. If one of the greatest theologians in recent times made that statement, then that says it all. And if it is really comfortable, if you never seem to go through anything, if nothing is getting thrown at you, if no challenges are in your way, if you are in a constant state of “smooth sailing” then you might want to question what you actually believe.

Every once in a while I hear people talking about losing their religion. I always find the circumstances of what led them to that point to be interesting. It is usually the same answer: “I stopped believing in God because He didn’t answer my prayer” or the answer came but not in the way that they wanted it. If the expectation is to get what you ask for, then you have signed on for the wrong belief and you probably will leave your “religion”. Because it’s not about what we want, when we want it, and on our terms. I didn’t ask for a husband with alcohol dependency. But that is what I got and now that I have been down this road of sobriety with Him for 3 years I can’t imagine my life being fuller or richer now because of my belief that God had a greater purpose for all of this heartache. He absolutely knows what He is doing and faith is saying that you fully surrender to the journey.

In perspective, we are all the same

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I had a friend send me a message on Facebook letting me know that she liked the blog because it gave it her perspective on addiction. That is definitely something I had intended to do and glad that it is coming through. What I have realized through research and real life experience is that people still don’t know a lot about addiction and there is great divide between what is known, the stereotypes and the perceptions that people have toward addicts. There is definitely a sense of superiority between those that don’t have any issues with addiction and those that do. It’s an actual sense of strength versus weakness. I would hope that through some of what I write here, people who do not suffer from addiction would at least feel a deeper sense of empathy for those that do. Because we all have our hang ups. We all have things that we are addicted to, that we use to escape. It’s just that some things are more harmful to ourselves and to others. Unfortunately addiction doesn’t really get noticed until it is at the “affecting other people” stage. When the money starts to dry up or work suffers or jail/car accidents happen. Those are the moments when we wake up and think “ok, there may be a problem here.” But like I said in a previous post, the threshold has been passed at this point. If life is going well, if work is good, you can buy the house, the new car and no one gets hurt…then whats the problem?

I have seen this scenario play out. The result is always the same. Somewhere, at some point, you do not control the drug. It controls you. It’s like a light switch that goes off and you are hooked. Just one extra pill a day and then it becomes two. Just one drink at brunch, one at lunch, one mid afternoon, two after work, two at dinner, and then 3 before bed. You wake up the next morning with hangover and repeat the cycle the next day but this time you tell yourself you will at least wait until after work. So you do wait until after work but you have 3 then, then 2 at dinner, then 4 before bed. You wake up the next morning with a hangover and vow you won’t drink that day. And you take the day off. Good for you. You can go a whole a day! Then the next day comes and it is back to it again because you proved to yourself that you can go a whole day and be just fine. Here’s where I have to add in some “perspective”. One day, Two days, and even 3 days proves nothing to yourself. You have just fed yourself the LIE. It is a false sense of security. Alcoholics, Drug Addicts, Shopaholics…they ALL repeat this cycle. We don’t want to have a problem. We are all the same in this way.

Here are some statistics about alcohol that I found to be pretty shocking:

•Alcohol is the number one drug problem in America.

•People with a higher education are more likely to drink.

•Higher income people are more likely to drink.

•Americans spend $197 million each day on alcohol.

•There are more than 12 million alcoholics in the U.S.

-one-third of all suicides involve the use of alcohol

•Three-fourths of all adults drink alcohol, and 6% of them are alcoholics.

•In the United States, a person is killed in an alcohol-related car accident every 30 minutes.

•A 2000 study found nearly 7 million persons age 12 to 20 were binge drinkers.

•Three-fourths of all high school seniors report being drunk at least once.

•Adolescents who begin drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to become alcoholics than their counterparts who do not begin drinking until the age of 21.

One perspective that I would like to offer is on the family dynamic. Because alcohol is so socially acceptable, it is often difficult for an addict to hear that they drink too much especially from members of their family or loved ones who drink heavily. The first thing an addict will do is want to remind them about the 3 fingers pointing back at them. But do you blame them? Its like an overweight family member telling another family member that they need to lose weight. Or a smoker telling another smoker that they need to quit because the other smoker smokes a pack instead of a 3/4th of pack. It doesn’t balance out in an addicts mind. The addict becomes extremely defensive. This type of intervention is usually not effective because of the source. This goes back to what I was saying before about it being a family issue. In order for an addict to truly get well, the family has to get well also. All habits need to be examined by each family member. When I started to realize that I could have my own issues with alcohol it really helped my husband not feel so isolated. Like it was just HIM with a problem. Yes, I was angry for awhile about it but then I just thought to myself, “whats the point? What has alcohol, to date, given to ME as a person? The 100% truthful answer: nothing but pain and heartache.” When everyone in a family starts examine themselves then you have just increased the addicts odds for a full recovery. If that is truly what you are wanting to happen for them the work needs to start within each of you as well. Time to take some personal inventory on yourself and any hang ups you could also work on. The best time to do this is when the addict is getting the help they need. Let them know that you are looking at yourself too. It’s amazing what kind of boost this can give to them while recovering.

Just recently my husband and I watched the documentary on Bill W., the man who started AA. Something very poignant was said about him as a man. Something I thought ends this post nicely: (in reference to his seeking out other alcoholics to connect with)

“He had a real thirst for more, but will it ever be quenched? We are all meant to thirst so the question then is where do we aim what we thirst for?”

I think this says it all. I think God made us this way. We are all meant to thirst for Him and until we find Him, we will keep trying to quench it with everything else the world offers. In this way, we are all the same.

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.