13 Reasons Why I Don’t Look Like An Alcoholic

JoyOn October 19th, 2015, by the grace of God, I welcomed in 13 years of freedom from the dependence on that which once enslaved me, alcohol.

When given the opportunity to share my story I always hear the same statement from at least one listener with a confused look on their face, “…But…you don’t look like an alcoholic.”
My response remains the same, “What does an alcoholic look like?”

Knowing full well that I have my own mental image of what an alcoholic looks like and it’s motivation for me to never go back to the life I once knew.

Her hair is matted and her clothes unkempt.
There are deep creases in her face from years of neglect.
She wears her wounds, making no attempt to hide them.
All forms of dignity have been stripped away.
She appears to be around 60 years old when in reality she’s 42.
She looks…well…tired. And she is.

Her children, if any, have long since given up on her and moved on with their lives.
The family she once knew has disowned her.
The church has overlooked her.
Society has pitied her.
Friends have deserted her. (They had no choice really. She stopped trying years ago.)
She’s an inconvenience, with bad teeth, no concern for personal hygiene, flammable breath, and a reputation that precedes her.

People say things without regard for her humanity, like, “Why haven’t her foolish ways killed her yet? She’d be better off dead and so would everyone else.”
Or, “She probably drinks mouthwash or rubbing alcohol. What a waste of space.”

Is my description harsh?
Have you ever seen an alcoholic in the grips of their disease?
To say it’s ugly is an understatement.

Throughout these years of recovery, I have visited treatment centers, held the shaking hands of the one in detox, claimed my seat in the rooms of A.A., accompanied a scared mother to a court hearing, listened to teary family members nightmares of living with an active alcoholic, and attended too many funerals for the seemingly hopeless one who never saw their 30th birthday.
I have seen what my future could look like if I allow my disease to dictate the direction of my life. Quite frankly, it scares the hell out of me. I hope it continues to scare me enough that I never pick up that first drink. That’s where the stronghold begins. The very first drink.

It’s a bummer. I don’t want to be an alcoholic. I didn’t grow from a little girl to a young adult dreaming of one day being a blackout drinker. I never aspired to be dependent on alcohol.

Not once did my parents say to me, “Now Joy, strive to be the best alcoholic you can be.” But I definitely gave it my all for several years. 

The reason I don’t look like your stereotypical alcoholic is because;
1.) I’m not homeless
2.) I’m a wife, mother, and productive member of society, and most days I’m pretty dang good at it.
3.) I have all my teeth (some natural ones and some designed by a dental artist).
4.) I’m obsessive about hygiene.
5.) My family is still speaking to me. Some of them actually like me.
6.) I have incredible friends who know me and aren’t embarrassed to be seen with me in public.
7.) I love and care for my children.
8.) My children love me, except when I’m driving them crazy.
9.) I don’t willingly participate in self-destructive behavior.
10.) I pay my bills…on time.
11.) I am of service to others and I love it! It’s one of my favorite things to do.
12.) I’m not a liar.
13.) I have a relationship with my Creator that everything else in my life centers around.

Most of the things listed above were not true of me 13 years ago. It has been a journey of faith with unpredictable twists and turns. Trust, especially in close personal relationships, has been earned and restored over time. I know and embrace the meaning of “Amazing Grace.”

We all have something in our lives that wants to destroy us. Mine happens to be alcohol. Maybe yours is food or sex, compulsive shopping or depression? No matter what it is, you know that the moment you become complacent in this particular area, you’re in trouble. There is a solution.

Do you know what the best defense against complacency is?
Gratitude.
I call it my complacency repellant?

I am more aware (than ever), going into this 13th year that I better be thanking God in the first few moments my eyes open and my lungs draw a sober breath. Before my feet hit the floor, praise must already be on my lips. It will be the first thing on my tongue in the morning and the last thing I taste at night.

Here’s the big takeaway… Beginning the first few moments of your day with a grateful heart has the potential to change everything. Guaranteed. If it works for me, it can work for anyone, anywhere, no matter what.

Do you believe that?

Need a place of refuge? Visit my friends over at People of the Second Chance. Get connected. Whether you struggle with addiction or you love someone who does, you don’t ever have to be alone again.

Think you have a problem with alcohol? AA is a group of individuals from all walks of life, who share the same ism. It’s a program to which I owe my life. Learn more in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous 

5 Things Not to Say When Talking With a Child About Death

How does one go about choosing an outfit to wear to the funeral of someone they love knowing that going forward it will be thought of as, “The outfit I wore to the funeral.”?

While staring blankly into my closet full of more than enough clothes to wear, a little voice from behind me said, ”Mommy, what are you doing?”
“I’m trying to decide what to wear to the service for Uncle Buddy tomorrow.”
“Oh...” [long pause] “Are you okay?” he asked.
“Yes…right now, in this moment…I’m okay.” I replied.
“Alright. I’m going to play in the fort. Call me if you need me.” he said, skipping out of the room.

“Call him if I need him…” I said to myself smiling.
He’s 9 and I’m convinced he has a better grasp on everything than I do.

As I turn back to the plethora of clothing, the silence falls heavily.

I take some options from the hangers and fold them into my suitcase, careful to lay a few things out so that I can slip into them as quietly as possible after my 4:00 a.m. alarm alerts me to the beginning of this journey into grief.

Two days ago, after receiving the call that my uncle had laid his head back to rest, falling asleep one last time, it began a slew of conversations. The kind that take time and intentional thought. The ones that include long pauses and deep sighs. Are you familiar with these kinds of conversations?

I’m going to skip a ton of detail and get to the point as quickly as possible.

Sometimes we don’t understand why we are in certain seasons of life and why we are walking through things that seem far from what we had planned. And then one day, if we pay attention, we get a glimpse of the answer.

I have learned so much from the families who have welcomed me alongside them while they are experiencing loss. Being a witness to someone else’s pain is difficult to describe. To say that it puts things into perspective is much too basic. It has reshaped the way I see the world and now feel the reality that everyone lives and will one day die.

I am being taught how to navigate difficult conversations with my own children about death without being afraid. Out of all the many words and spoken thoughts we have shared, here are words and phrases I’ve learned not to use.

“He passed away.” Children are literal. We adults have a hard time saying the words, “He died.” We want to cushion the news. Don’t. This only confuses a child. When Jesus said that we need to become like little children to enter the kingdom of heaven, I’m beginning to understand what he meant. Their eyes have not been clouded. They are still able to see things as they truly are.

“We lost him.” Again, children are literal and will question, “If we lost him, we will be able to find him.”

“He’s in a better place.” They will want to know why they can’t be there too if it’s a better place. And why would we be left behind instead of going with him?

“It’s okay.” It’s not okay. It’s sad and the grieving process may not have even begun due to the shock of losing someone suddenly. It will be okay, but for now, it’s sad and we should experience the sadness and grieve the loss. Remember that grief is unpredictable. It comes at the most inopportune times. Be prepared to react to things much differently for a time.

“We aren’t going to talk about it.” They want to talk about it. They want to share memories and tell stories. It is counterproductive not to let them express their emotions and thoughts. Of the many people I have talked with after the loss of someone close to them, the thing I hear repeatedly is, “I wish people weren’t afraid to talk about him. I want to keep his memory alive and the best way to do that is by sharing stories about him.” 

I don’t know this for sure, but maybe children intuitively know how to process grief much better than we adults do? I want to be open to change and continually learning. Who knew that some of my best teachers would be the smallest people in my home?Boys in sunlight

2 Corinthians 4:16-18
16 
So we have no reason to despair. Despite the fact that our outer humanity is falling apart and decaying, our inner humanity is breathing in new life every day.
17 You see, the short-lived pains of this life are creating for us an eternal glory that does not compare to anything we know here. 18 So we do not set our sights on the things we can see with our eyes. All of that is fleeting; it will eventually fade away. Instead, we focus on the things we cannot see, which live on and on.

I’m sure you have many things to add to my five. What are they? Let’s ease each other’s burdens, even if only through the comments on this page. You never know how far your hope is reaching.

To The One Looking For A Second Chance…

JCP-A piece of earth drenched in the splendor of HeavenMaybe you don’t even realize that’s what you’re looking for?
Maybe you’re searching for a way out of your current circumstances?
Maybe you’re longing for someone to look at you, truly seeing you for the first time, and say, “I know. I’ve been there. I’ve walked in those same shoes and I made the single choice to step off the crazy train.”?

Maybe you think you’re beyond a second chance?  Sweet friend, no one, created in the image of God, (and that’s all of us), is ever beyond a second chance. No one. You are worth saving.

There is life to be lived.
There is beauty to be had.
There is light to be shared.

However, it will not work in isolation.

~ To read the rest of this post, please join me with the community of “People of The Second Chance” by CLICKING HERE

My Nonviable Pregnancy

Last night I had a dream that I was pregnant.
My baby was born with complications and did not live long after birth.
In the dream the mourning process was so intense, I was sure it was actually happening to me. You know those dreams where something in your mind keeps saying, “This is just a dream. It’s not really happening. Wake up.” I had that somewhere in the background, but it didn’t matter. The pain felt real.

I was so sad and no matter what anyone said or did, it wasn’t helpful or comforting.

In 2005 I experienced a traumatic miscarriage. One that could have taken my life.
I remember the look on the tech’s face while staring at the monitor. It went from relaxed to furrowed. I said, “What’s wrong?
There was silence followed by her reply, “Let me get the doctor. I’ll be right back.”
Why? What do you see?” I begged.
“I’ll be right back.” she responded.

It’s amazing how quickly, pure unadulterated joy can turn into confusion and emotional chaos.

You can guess what happened next…the doctor came in to say that there was no heartbeat and it was no longer a viable pregnancy.
I watched her mouth move, not really hearing a word she said.
I don’t understand?” I said.
“These things happen all the time.” she answered.
Not to me, they don’t! This has never happened to me!” I screamed almost in a whisper.
“You’ll get pregnant again. Don’t worry.” she said as she patted my knee.

She then explained the procedure they would need to do to remove all the tissue that made up my “nonviable” pregnancy.
We walked to the checkout counter and scheduled the appointment for the next week.
That was a Friday and the appointment was the next Tuesday.

What happens between now and then?” I asked.
“Maybe nothing…or your body may decide to start the process on it’s own.” she responded. “Either way, we will need to perform the procedure to ensure safety for you and future pregnancies.”

We walked through the door marked exit.

For the next little while her words played over and over in my mind.
“These things happen all the time…You’ll get pregnant again, don’t worry.”
It was surprising and upsetting to me how quickly this life was dismissed. Though present only for a short time in my womb, surely it deserved a little more acknowledgement?
Is it okay for me to be sad?
Is it silly of me to cry and feel like I’m losing my baby?
Is it ridiculous that I cannot even think about getting pregnant again while I’m still sorting out the details of restoring my body to normalcy after this miscarriage?

The next few days played out like a movie.
I began cramping at work, knew something was wrong, left work and drove home. By then I was hemorrhaging. I had never seen so much blood.

Chris was on his way home to take me to the ER.
I remember the nurse on the phone saying, “Stay with me until he gets there.”
She said an ambulance would take just as long, maybe longer by the time they found the house so it was better to wait on Chris. I remember asking her if I was going to die. She said, “Not if you get to the ER in time.”

I did get to the ER in time.
I didn’t die.
I went on to have beautiful, healthy, children.

When you ask me why I take pictures of families experiencing the loss of a child, I think this is part of the reason. My loss is nothing compared to the way some families experience losing their baby, but it was still my loss.

It hurt.
It was lonely.
It was scary.
I needed someone (preferably a girlfriend) to walk alongside me and just be.

Do you know a woman like that?
The kind who will just be with you and doesn’t require small talk or entertainment? They are content with the beauty of silence.

I think I had that dream last night because it prompted this post and someone needed to read these words today.

So for that someone…no matter what stage of pregnancy or postpartum you experienced your loss, all of the feelings you feel are valid. Feel them deeply and for as long as you need to. I am convinced, now more than ever, that is the only true pathway to healing and peace.

Permission to Shed Your Armor

hero |ˈhi(ə)rō|
noun (pl. heroes)
a person, typically a man, who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities

Somehow, somewhere, we women got it in our heads that our men are unshakeable. That nothing should affect them, especially the way it affects us… They are the strong ones… There isn’t anything they can’t shrug off and move on from. Well, this simply isn’t true. And that fact doesn’t make them any less of a hero.

JCP2015-When my man walks through the door, in from the world and all of it’s toxic arrows, the first thing he should be able to do is shed his armor.

I don’t always allow him to do that. I don’t always tell him what an amazing provider he is and how strong and courageous he is to fight the daily battles that I could never withstand. I’m not always his biggest cheerleader and I don’t always let him know that there is no one, to me, like he is.

I want to. I do.

MY will gets in the way.
MY clouded perception of who does what and who should do more or less, creeps up.
MY skewed sense of self worth puts up a wall that isn’t always easily torn down and instead of voicing my insecurity, I lash out.
MY self centeredness kicks in, more than I would like to admit and within moments, my priorities can center solely around my wants.
This is not something I’m proud of.

Here is the solution. And I know this, because I have failed at so many other ways of trying.

Please join me on the blog over at leadingandlovingit.com/blog for the rest of this post.

The New Year Meditation

Most, if not all of us have read or heard the prayer for serenity.
It was years into recovery before I read the 2nd half of the prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr.
It’s pretty fantastic.
Happy New Year 2015! May you encounter many, many blessings along your journey and don’t waste the lessons.

SerenityDownload a pdf version by clicking Serenity

I Believe…Now to Receive

IMG_5468I finally realized that even though I “believed” something, didn’t mean I “received” it. It took me releasing clenched fists and raising open palms to Heaven in admittance of my utter dependence on the one who created me and calls me by name. Savior of the world…MessiahJesus. Only then was I able to exchange my rags of ruin for his cloak of grace.