The Courage to Speak

Courage means a whole lot of things to a whole lot of people. To me, courage means doing what you know is right despite the fear or repercussions. Most of the time that applies to me sharing my truth about recovery – what my life used to look like and what it looks like today – despite worrying about what people are going to think or do with that information.

For the most part, I’m pretty open about my recovery, but there are times when I’d rather side-step the truth and just omit that part of my life. You know, take an eraser and make it nice and clean.

Recently, my husband and I were asked to speak to our church on tithing – time, talent and treasure. Basically, they wanted us to each share how the church has impacted us individually, as a family and in what ways we give back. When Tyler first mentioned it to me, I think I said something like “Ugh, why us?” I mean, we’re involved, but we’re not THAT involved. Surely, there is someone more qualified than me. Heck, I just became Catholic less than two years ago and there’s people who have been in the church their entire lives!

So, we ho hummed about it and finally decided that it was something we needed (not necessarily wanted) to do. I guess you could say, us not wanting to do it was a sign that we probably should do it. Definitely a “God-thing.”

Tyler wrote his part and I wrote mine. As I read over mine, looking for corrections, I kept feeling this nagging inside of me. I had been pretty honest, but not really. I had referred to a “difficult” time in my life three and a half years ago that had greatly impacted my relationship with the Church and God, but that’s as far as I went. Something kept telling me if I was going to stand up there in front of hundreds of my fellow parishioners and give my testimony, that I might as well let it all hang out – the good, the bad and the ugly. But, holy cow! What would they think? What would they say? Very few people at church knew my story. To most of them, I was just that mom who sat on the right-hand side of the church a few rows back from the front.

One evening, I told Tyler “I need to share my whole truth. I need to share about the alcoholism.” At first, he had the same fears I initially had. Did I really need to share ALL of it? Yes, I did. I knew without a doubt that I had to share MY truth. And, with that I re-wrote my portion of our talk, which goes as follows:

As Tyler mentioned, I come from a very different background. I wasn’t raised in any particular church, in fact, I was never baptized. It wasn’t until I met Tyler that I attended my first Catholic Mass. In all honestly, I was expecting an old, stodgy Priest with a totally irrelevant message. You can imagine my surprise when Fr. George, who many of you will remember from Queen of Peace, stood up and started talking. He was young (well, younger), dynamic and engaging. Not only was I surprised by his relevancy; I was surprised by how comfortable I felt in those pews. But, most of all, I was surprised by the peace I felt. It was the first time I had felt completely at home in a church setting.

Years went by and I continued to attend weekly Mass with Tyler, eventually baptizing both of our children in the Church. However, it wasn’t until three and a half years ago when I experienced the lowest point in my life, the reality that I was an alcoholic and my marriage was in shambles, that I was faced with a choice: open my heart to God and answer His knock, or continue down the same path that had led me to that point in my life.

Fortunately, I chose God’s path, and at my lowest moments, when I could barely drag myself out of bed or get through a single day, it was the strength of God and the peace of this Church that held me up – the same peace I experienced during that first Mass I attended years ago.

How can I repay a God and a Church that has provided me with so much? The reality is, I can’t, but I can live my life trying to the best of my ability. Two years ago I had the privilege of going through Brad’s first RCIA class, where I was baptized and confirmed into the Church. Over the years, I have given my time and talents in many ways, including participating in Catholic Bible studies and book groups, pro-life organizations and just this past year taught Vacation Bible School here at St. Ed’s.

As Tyler mentioned, there is no wrong on right way when it comes to tithing. While money and time are always appreciated, often the most important thing we can do as members of the Church is to be active participants in daily or weekly Mass; praying, singing, praising God and staying after Communion to hear uplifting talks like this!

Thank you for your time and God bless.

I didn’t share my truth about being an alcoholic for shock value or for attention. Like I mentioned before, I never wanted to be up there in the first place – with sweaty hands and a quivering voice – all while hundreds of eyes stared up at me. Yikes! No thanks.

No, I stood up there, feeling totally vulnerable, because I made a promise to God a long time ago when I first got sober. I promised that if I ever had the opportunity to share my story and maybe, just maybe, help someone else in the process, I would do it. I knew the nagging feeling I had felt was God saying, “Do it. Share it all.”

And, that my friends, took every ounce of courage I had.

I know God doesn’t want me to feel ashamed of my past and who I am, because the truth is, my story is His story. It is He who made me; and He who saved me. And, it is Him who continues to guide and direct me – but, only if I will listen.

Permission to Feel

A Time to Weep and Laugh

It’s been a while, but I’m still here – sober and living life! Now that the birthdays are over (until December!) and school has started, I find myself easing back into that predictable routine that by the end of summer I so desperately miss. I’m hoping a new routine also means a little more writing time for me. I don’t realize how much I depend on my writing for my own sanity until I’m not doing it anymore!

I heard the above scripture read out loud the other day while driving and it really hit me. Usually, I only hear it spoken out loud when I’m watching Footloose and Kevin Bacon’s character is speaking at the town hall meeting trying to convince the community to reinstate dancing…but that’s a whole different story. Way off topic.

When I heard this scripture the other day, it made me think of my life now – my sober life- and how I navigate the reality of living life on life’s terms. For the most part, life is good. It’s really good. I’m the best version of myself that I’ve ever been, but that doesn’t mean I don’t struggle. And, the struggles are just as important as the happy and joyous parts of my life. The difference now, is that instead of trying to numb or guard myself from those struggles by drinking, I have to move through them.

A couple of weeks ago, I had a really crappy day. I woke up feeling fine, but by mid-morning I found myself losing it. My husband had taken the kids to the gym, and as I stood cleaning the stove, I felt this tremendous sense of grief hit me. Tears started streaming down my face and I thought, “I miss my mom SO much right now.” My mom passed away over seven years ago from pancreatic cancer, but sometimes it feels like yesterday. And, then I found myself in the bedroom cleaning, and once again the grief hit me and before I knew it I was sitting on the floor, leaning up against the bed, sobbing. All at once I felt so much loss. The loss of my mom, the loss of my friend Sadie, the loss of relationships with those I was once close to. It was heavy and suffocating and I all I could do was sit there and cry. I wanted the pain and hurt to go away – oh how I prayed for it to go away – but I knew, despite the heart wrenching pain, I had to move through it.  This was me, living life on life’s terms. It’s not easy, but it’s what I do now. I know it’s what I HAVE to do if I don’t want to go back to that horrible place I came from – the drinking and numbing.

I have FINALLY learned (not always the easy way) to give myself permission to “weep” and to “mourn.” And, part of this is also learning how to be honest with those around me and ask for help. When my husband got home, I told him what had happened and said, “I’m having a really hard day. I’m going to be okay, but I need to work through it.” He knows. He knows I will have hard days where the grief of losing my mom and my friends will hit me out of nowhere. But, he isn’t a mind reader (as much as I would like to assume he is) and he needs me to be open and honest so he can step in and give the kids some extra attention or whatever is helpful in that moment. My husband, my sponsor, my friends – these are my lifelines. I reach out, I ask for help – this is what I have learned in sobriety.

The next day I felt better. I went to church, I talked to God – I fed my soul and I continued to move through the grief and depression I had been feeling the day before. By Monday, I felt better. I now know it’s a process, but I didn’t always “get” it. Before, I would stuff it all in, pack it down, put a smile on my face and pretend it was “okay.” I would try to numb it away with multiple glasses of wine, hoping that “one more” would make it all go away. And, it did for a while – until I woke up the next morning and went through the whole cycle over again.

I laugh a lot now. I laugh with my kids, with my husband, with friends – at myself! I laugh a lot more than I weep or mourn. I even dance now – sober! However, my dancing usually leads to even more laughing – if you know me, you’ll understand. For those that don’t, lets just say I’ve perfected the “white girl” moves!

Thank God for my sobriety, which has taught me to live life on life’s terms. Feel it, deal with it and move on. Easy? Not always. Worth it? Definitely!

Stepford Wife…Or Not

Accept Reality

The other day someone very close to me accused me of being a “Stepford wife.” Okay, first, lets back up. From a physical standpoint, if you knew me and saw me on a day-to-day basis, you would know that my “uniform” usually consists of workout pants (regardless if I make it to the gym or not), sweatshirt, tennis shoes, baseball hat and no makeup. If I happen to make it to the gym, I then take a shower and put on my sweats and, again, no makeup. It’s a very rare day that I actually do my hair, put on “real” clothes and do my makeup. You get the picture.

Okay, getting back to the accusation. I’m paraphrasing, but basically this person thinks because I always answer his question of “How are you?” by responding that things are great or really good, there must be something wrong with me. Because, really, how can someone be THAT good?

For privacy reasons I will not elaborate, but I will say that this person has a serious drinking problem. I would go as far to say he’s an alcoholic, but I will let him be the judge of that. He knows about my sobriety, but has done very little to acknowledge it or even ask about it, despite our closeness.

While his accusation was an attempt on his part to get a reaction out of me, I was able to respond with kindness, truth and honesty thanks to the tools I have learned through recovery. I told him that I was truly happy and doing well. I wasn’t just saying I was good, I was really THAT good and a big part of it was a direct result of my stopping drinking. I said, make no mistake, I had to go through a lot of sh*t to get to this point, but I made it and I’m beyond grateful.

I wasn’t angry at him because I understood. See, when I was drinking I couldn’t stand being around people who were happy – really, truly happy. I wasn’t happy, in fact I was downright miserable, so why should others be happy? I was always thinking about the “what ifs.” What if I had that, what if I did that, what if things were this way, what if that didn’t happen – the list goes on. I put on a good “face” to people and always said things were “good” when they would ask how I was, but, really, I rarely felt truly happy.

Now, when someone asks how I’m doing I’m honest. I make it a point to be honest, even if it’s not what they want to hear. Most of the time, I’m doing really good. Despite the ups and downs, I’m happy and content with my reality. If I’m not doing great, I’ll say so. The other day at a meeting I asked a friend how they were doing and she said “good” and then went on to ask how I was. I said I was really tired and didn’t really feel like being there but “here I am.” She then surprised me and said that she wasn’t really that good, in fact, she wasn’t feeling good and might leave early. She said, “But most people who ask you how you’re doing, don’t really want to know the answer.”

Well, the truth is, today I’m doing really good. And, believe me, I have many more “good” days now than I ever had when I was drinking. And, the best part is that I can be truly happy for others who are happy instead of resentful and jealous.

“Stepford wife” or not, I’ll take this sober life a thousand times over my previous life.