Tuesday, July 18, 2017

I am battle worn and weary, but I have learned what grace really is. And it is in the learning, the leaning, that I have discovered that no matter how far I fall, the God whom I love will catch me and set me right. I may have skinned up knees and busted up elbows, a bloody nose or a black eye, but He will restore me.

My downfall began well over a year ago. My past came back to haunt me; harm that I had suffered as a child replaying in my mind. I could not shut off the memories or the nightmares. They played in my head like a broken record - still do today. Hopelessness began to settle.

It was with this heart pain tormenting me that I took my first drink of alcohol. It was Good Friday, March 25, 2016. I hadn't had a drink in years....but I took one anyway. Oh, I did not go to a bar or buy a bottle of whisky (that would have been my preference, though). No. I was in the kitchen cooking chicken marsala. I opened the wine. Ummm...the fragrance of the alcohol assaulted my senses and I was consumed. Without thinking, I tipped the bottle to my lips and began to drink, long, slow swallows that turned to deep, quick gulps. Half the bottle empty, I realized what I had done. This woman who had fought for freedom from alcohol over twenty years ago stumbled back in to Egypt. Although I felt guilty, the memories quieted and the pain in my heart was silenced.

Todd knew. He was angry at first, but then he was washed over with grace. He reached out, held me and said, "I know. I know how bad your heart is hurting right now. I understand your need for the pain to end. I love you."

By God's grace, I did not take another drink in the midst of pain and anguish, memories of harm flooding and nightmares tormenting. God held me fast...until mid-August when I got a horrible migraine. The migraine lasted for three weeks. When I went to the doctor, a new doctor, she had no idea of my struggles with alcohol. She wrote a prescription for painkillers - lots and lots of painkillers with three refills. My former doctor had always limited me to ten pain killers. I took those painkillers and discovered that they not only relieved my migraine, but also the pain in my heart. The nightmares were silenced, the flashbacks and memories were quiet and I could sleep. Pretty quickly, I added vodka to the mix.

Of course, I had all kinds of reasonable rules for myself. I would not take the pills or drink when I had to drive or teach. I would never use either when my kids were around (yeah, I home school, so that proved impossible). The truth is, when you are addicted, rules are going to be broken and you are going to make excuses. I did break almost every rule I set for myself...and that is when I knew I needed help. I gave Todd my pills after driving under the influence, but the next day I was at the pharmacy for a refill - you can imagine the lies I told to get the refill. I could not stop. I tried and tried just to fail and fail. Finally I reached out to a pastor of an inner city church that I was sure would know where I could get help. In grace and kindness, he directed me and I ended up at Celebrate Recovery, a ministry for people with hurts, hang-ups and habits.

I took my last drink by the end of September. Here it is July of a new year, and I am still struggling to give up the pills. The counselor assures me that I will not want them once the pain in my heart is dealt with. Even so, I am clean now...and have been for the last four months. I still crave the pills, want to numb the pain and forget the harm, but God has been healing me. Slowly, painfully, grieving with me. And freedom, I am finding freedom from the memories, from the alcohol and drugs, from all that has held me captive my entire life.

It is a hard won freedom. Every day, I fight the flashbacks and the memories. Every night, I lay my head down and fight the nightmares. And fighting those makes me long for the relief that I know can be found in the alcohol and drugs...but I stomp my foot and say, "NO MORE. I choose God this time." And I cry out to Him. He hears. He answers. He holds me when I think I am going to come unglued. And for that, I give thanks.

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