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.

How I Overcame the Stigma of Alcoholism

I recently had the opportunity to share my story of recovery and sobriety in a featured article for Florida Beach Rehab. Please visit the link below to continue reading.

I will never forget the first time I introduced myself as an alcoholic.

It was Super Bowl Sunday 2012 and, while everyone else I knew was drinking beer and eating bean dip, I was attending my first recovery meeting. The fear I had sitting in that room full of women was indescribable to anything I had ever experienced. And, as I heard myself utter the word “alcoholic” during introductions, I knew my life as I knew it would never be the same again because I had finally let the truth escape me.

 The “Perfect” Exterior Unravels

The months leading up to that first meeting were miserable. The harder I tried to hide my secret and keep it together, the worse it got. My “perfect” suburban life had started to unravel. No longer could the white picket fence, or the luxury SUV or the gym membership hide the reality of my drinking. On that fateful morning when my husband sat across from me on the couch and asked me if I was ready to stop drinking for good; I knew I needed help.

It was clear I had a drinking problem long before I admitted it; yet the possibility that I was an alcoholic was inconceivable to me. Like most people, I had a very clear picture of what an alcoholic looked like and it wasn’t me. I had a Master’s Degree; a successful career before having children; a nice house in the suburbs; a devoted husband. But, the reality was no matter how hard I tried to control my drinking or how many times I promised myself I wouldn’t drink for just that one day, I couldn’t stop.

Click here to continue reading.

Anonymous…Or Not?

First, thanks to Ellie over at One Crafty Mother for highlighting this issue.

Wow. I had chills as I watched the trailer for the new documentary The Anonymous People, which focuses on the culture of recovery and “the faces and voices of citizens, leaders, volunteers, corporate executives, public figures, and celebrities who are laying it all on the line to save the lives of others just like them.”

This got me thinking about how we all choose to use our voice in our individual lives – and how voice can be one of the most powerful weapons out there.

Using my voice to shine light on addiction and alcoholism is something I’m very passionate about – ask anyone! In my opinion, the recovery community has stayed silent for much too long. When I first got sober I was scared to death about the social stigma involved in admitting I was an alcoholic. In my mind, I might as well have been telling people I was a complete loser and failure. I worried about what my friends, family, neighbors – really anyone- would think about me. I remember Googling famous sober people because I had a desperate need to know that I wasn’t the only “normal” person out there that was sober (not that famous people are really that normal!). Fortunately, I found a few, but in my mind, not enough. There HAD to be more people out there like me.

Sorry to say folks, but the image of the drunk under the bridge holding a paper bag is long gone. Of course, they still exist, but the reality is that there’s more people who look like you and me in recovery these days. We work, are educated, have successful careers, drive nice cars, wear nice clothes, live in nice homes – yet, we all have one thing in common, we’re all working to stay sober.

I respect the tradition of anonymity, but believe it is solely my choice whether I choose to stay anonymous or not. For me, personally, I NEED and WANT to use my voice to stop the stigma associated with alcoholism and addition. Recovery has taught me that I’m NOT a loser or failure, but a strong, brave and determined woman who will not be silenced about this disease.

So, for those of you new to recovery, who might be feeling ashamed of your addiction and alcoholism, I am here to tell you that you are not alone! There are rooms full of people around this country who are just like you – strong, brave and determined to create a better life for themselves.

God gave me this voice and I plan to use it to share His message of hope, healing and forgiveness. Despite my initial fear and anger, I now accept the path that God has lead me on and will do everything in my power to convey my gratitude to Him for the gift of sobriety.

As long as I have a voice, I will speak my truth and yell from any mountain top “I will not be silent, I will not be silent, I will NOT be silent!”