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.

I Didn’t Plan This

Whatever Is My Lot

Last night, as I was walking around our neighborhood, I met a couple and their daughter who recently moved here from New Mexico. I had been wanting to meet them, and was excited about our chance encounter. When I first spotted them from a distance, I noticed they were pushing a wheelchair. For a moment, I thought perhaps it was an elderly parent, but as I got closer I realized it was a young child. In talking with them, I learned their daughter was twelve, but has the mental capacity of a two year old. The mom joked that she had been raising a toddler for ten years and I was relieved by her light heartedness.

As we stood in the middle of the street, talking and getting to know each other, another couple passing by joined us in our conversation. I had met them before and knew that they too had a daughter with special needs who was wheelchair-bound. Standing there, I found myself thinking “What a group.” From the outside, we look like any “typical” group of 30 and 40-something neighbors. Two doctors, a stay-at-home dad, a stay-at-home mom/marathon runner and a stay-at-home mom “with the pretty front yard.” Yet, there we stood, two families with special needs children and one alcoholic stay-at-home mom. Eventually, we said our goodbyes and I continued on my walk around the neighborhood.

Today, as I was reflecting on our neighborhood gathering, I found myself thinking how our lives rarely turn out how we imagine or expect them to be. Oh, believe me, I had the perfect plan for how my life would turn out. I would go to college, get my master’s degree, get married, have two children by the time I was 30 (preferably boy and girl) and live happily ever after. What I forgot to plan for was all the stuff in between and the unexpected.

I never planned for my parents to get divorced or to suffer from anxiety and OCD. I never planned for my mom to die at such an early age; I never planned to almost lose my marriage and family; and I definitely never planned to be an alcoholic stay-at-home mom. I’m not alone. We all live with the unexpected. On the six month anniversary of the Newtown shootings, I think of the families who never expected in a million years that they would lose a loved one to such a tragic event; or the two local families who recently lost their 18 and 19 year old children to car accidents; or the families I spoke to last night who never expected to have special needs children.

The thing that gives me hope and leaves me in awe is despite the unexpected, we continue to live. Despite the pain and suffering, we still wake up each morning and face the day. Instead of asking “Why me?” we ask “Why not me?”

I used to be really pissed at God for how my life turned out. I’ve always been a planner and this was NOT my plan. Eventually, I stopped being angry and started living – what other choice did I have? I truly believe that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle – maybe we think He does, but He doesn’t. He knows us better than we could ever know ourselves and that gives me peace. We realize this when we think we have lost all strength to go on, yet somehow, someway find the strength to continue.

As I looked around at my neighbors last night, I saw that strength firsthand. Strength in living and doing the unexpected.