Three years and one day ago I woke up in a pit of shame. Much like how I had woken up every morning for years. Peeling the sheets down and putting feet on the ground for another day, the headache wanting me to stay in bed, but three little boys deeming that impossible. It was a song I had sung for years. The day was Sunday and Sunday mornings always come with their own stress that I’ll never quite understand. Through a fog I got those three little boys fed and dressed for church. I lived my entire life in a fog, the density of it changing, but the fog was always there.
I loaded the boys in the van and headed to church. I dropped them off at their classroom and found my solitary seat in a small sea of smiling faces. For some reason that morning I sat on the opposite side of the room than we usually do. Different side, but same Elizabeth. The same Elizabeth that sat in church every Sunday morning silently praying that she could change. I didn’t need to be in church for that prayer, it was on constant repeat daily. The problem was that I felt that prayer bouncing back off the ceiling every time I prayed it. It was a half-hearted prayer anyways, up until that morning I didn’t really want to change. But lately something had been shifting just a bit. I was slowing beginning to want to want to change. And just that small shift in thinking had made my life even more uncomfortable.
Our pastor that morning was in the middle of a series on “Slaying your Giants” or something to that effect. My giant felt completely and utterly un-slayable to me. I don’t remember his words that morning, I wish I did. But in the middle of that sermon on September 7, 2014, something in me, slowly and then all at once, cracked wide open and tears pour down face. God took my “want to want to” and made it a “have to.” I sat in that solitary seat, my island of shame, and knew, without a doubt KNEW, that I had to stop drinking. My mind could not take one more day of waking up swimming in shame. My body could no longer handle the toll alcohol was thrusting upon it at an increasingly rapid rate. And my soul…it was done with this. The drinking, the hiding, the lying, the self-loathing, all of it. My soul was so tired of being shoved down and numbed.
I went to the bathroom and composed myself, staying there until the service was over and I could collect my kids and head home. I had cleared my face of the tears but my hands could not stop shaking. After fixing the boys lunch and setting them off to play I sat down at the computer and looked up local AA meetings, finding one for that evening right in town. I spent the rest of that afternoon talking myself into going. I’ve spent my entire life avoiding things that took me out of my comfort zone, and going to an AA meeting was just about as uncomfortable a thing as I could imagine. So, as the afternoon wore on, I dealt with the discomfort that way I had trained myself to. I drank. We had two bottles of Sam Adams left in the refrigerator from the night before and I drank both of them, just enough to take the edge off. They were the flavors out of their harvest variety pack that were my least favorite and I couldn’t help but laugh that the last beer of my life was going to be a Sam Adams Boston Lager. The Octoberfest I would miss, the regular lager, not so much.
Soon the time came for me to leave. I went to Starbucks and got a salted caramel mocha. If I couldn’t have alcohol to comfort me, I could at least have coffee. I found the church the AA meeting was being held at and stayed in the car until the very last minute, still debating if I was brave enough to go in or not. I finally summoned the courage to go in but then had trouble finding the room that the meeting was in. I was about 5 minutes late at this point and if you know me at all, you know I don’t do late. I finally found the room and heard that it had started and that was it, I turned on my heels to bolt out of there, head to the grocery store and pick up some beer. A gentlemen who had gotten up to shut the doors to the room saw me and called out to me asking if I was looking for AA. I turned around, smiled half-heartedly and walked into a room full of kind and knowing faces. I found a seat and proceeded to allow tears to trail down my cheeks for the next hour while listening to brave people say all the words that were in my heart. At the end of the meeting, after many words of encouragement from others, a beautiful soul stayed and talked with me one on one for a while.
September 8, 2014 was one of the single best days of my life. I woke up full of hope. I woke up with no self loathing. I woke up with zero regrets from the night before. Nothing about the next few months was easy, but it was simple. I just had to not take a drink of alcohol. It was day by day some days and minute by minute others. I had a handful of close friends that I trusted with my story. They were amazing and instrumental in my recovery. They were all shocked but never made me feel like they thought differently about me once they knew. They were beyond encouraging and loving and supportive. They sent me periodic cards and texts to check in.
God and I have been wrestling for over a year about me telling my story. I didn’t really want to, but he has made it abundantly clear, time and time again, that I needed to. If I can turn my mess into my message, to be used by Him to help others, to turn the years of pain and struggle into hope for someone else, even just one person, it’ll be worth it. I can’t control what other people think of me and how they judge me, I’m slowly learning that (good grief, so slowly) and while being a people-pleaser is deeply ingrained, I have to let go of that and trust God to use me. The only place I have ever wanted to be in my recovery journey is right in the middle of His will. My prayer is for Him to turn my mess into a display of His splendor. To take my mistakes and years of addiction and use them to show others His unfailing love and grace.
There is no end to what this whole journey has taught me and is still teaching me daily. As I grow more comfortable with writing about this, I can’t wait to share some of the things I’ve learned with anyone willing to listen. I truly felt like I couldn’t write another blog post without sharing this, it is such an integral part of who I am in this world now. My recovery journey has been just as beautiful to me as watching my children grow. I feel like I’m growing up right along with them.
I’m guessing that some of you who have known me for a while are jaws hanging open gobsmacked. That just goes to show you how so many people can be hiding things and hurting and never let on. It may take a while for me to write more about all this but I am always open and available to talk one on one about this if there is anyone out there that needs to talk! And if you are struggling with something not even addiction related, I am here for you, too. One thing this struggle has given me is a different lens to view others. I am so much less judgemental and so much more compassionate than I used to be. Everyone is walking around with struggles and hurts. Those that are the hardest to love are usually those holding in the most pain and just don’t know how to handle it. I’m here for anyone who needs help holding their pain.
To everyone who has been part of my support system these last 3 years, thank you just isn’t enough. Thank you for not judging me or thinking less of me. Thank you for loving me and lifting me up and helping me become a better person.
“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” 1 Peter 5:10