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 

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.

How to have Children without ruining your Marriage

This Man 1.) Speak the truth in love. Your spouse can’t read your mind. Honesty, spoken kindly, leads to intimacy. I am convinced of that. I have lived it.

My beautiful man2.) Create a “What I need from ___________ (insert partners name)” list. Encourage your spouse to do the same.
Keep it short and concise.
Use bullet points.
Print it out.
Place it where your significant other will see it… every day.

3.) Rest when you can. This used to really piss me off when someone who had raised children would say, “Sleep when the baby sleeps!
Seriously? You don’t understand how much I have to do while the baby’s sleeping.
Turns out she was right… When I am exhausted I am ineffective. And it is such a short season. Soon you’ll be back to the laundry, house cleaning, cooking and all of those things you thought you needed to rush back to.
Remember… Exhaustion = Ineffectiveness

4.) Ask yourself if you’re Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. I realize this sounds hokey to many people, but it works. Grab your lipstick, eyeliner, dry erase marker, chalkboard marker… whatever will wash off and write H A L T on your mirror. Why? Because this will be hard to remember when you’re sleep deprived, so have it handy.

DSC08219Before having any discussions, before making any decisions, before making any assumptions, ask yourself if you’re hungry, angry, lonely or tired. You may be a combination of all 4. Or a bit of 2. And then be honest with your partner about what you’re feeling. There have been many times when I’m hangry (hungry and angry). When I can’t think logically before I’ve had something to eat which then calms me down. Usually chocolate…

This is the most important one. I cannot stress it enough.

5.) Have a friend, who (really) knows you and will speak truth into your heart. It is crucial. I had to learn, that my husband is not my girlfriend. There are some things I am not going to take to him to process through, because he can’t fix them and they are stemming from emotions anyway. Emotions change. That’s why we don’t ever make permanent decisions based on temporary emotions.IMG_3685

I have learned this lesson the hard way. However, I have a wonderful friend who has known me my entire life and on the days when I needed to put my boys in their car seats, drive around until they fell asleep, call her and do the ugly cry, she was invaluable.

You may not be a Jesus freak like I am, calling out to God every other minute to guide my thinking. You may not be someone who prays out loud in their car not caring that the person next to them at the stoplight thinks they’re crazy… like I do.
That’s okay.
There has to be someone you can cry out to in times of uncertainty.

I had to make sure that I had (and still have) a support system. Whether it was 1 other woman or 5, I had to build a community of women who were either in my stage of life or had been there. Who wouldn’t judge me. And who would give me sound, applicable guidance on how to journey through this season without losing my mind or suffocating my husband in his sleep.photoI’m not going to lie… Having young children was one of the most difficult things that Chris and I have ever done. We had to decide and still do, that we are on the same team. It is not you fighting your significant other. You’re not going to agree on everything. That’s a given. You must know how to say “I’m sorry” and do it quickly even if you don’t think you were wrong.IMG_4482

I had to remember that Chris is a little boy with long legs. He went from being the center of my universe to having this miniature person consuming all of my quality time, many times leaving him with left overs. He deserves the very best of me. He came first. Without him, I wouldn’t have my children.

Believe me, I know how hard it is to show affection after being pulled on all day by our little ones. Again, this season is just that, a season. Sandra Stanley described it so beautifully when she said, “The days are long, but the years are short.
Your husband will be the one there when your children no longer require your attention for their every need.

There is so much more to talk about here. Let’s make it a two-part post.

Share your thoughts in the comments of what else we should discuss that will encourage moms who are in the trenches and I will use those to build part 2 of our discussion. Men are welcome to share their experience as well.

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3 things never, ever to discuss in bed

I’ll even go so far as to say, “Keep these 3 things out of the bedroom altogether.”Messy bed

MONEY – Whether it’s bad or good information, keep it out of the bedroom.
I don’t care if you just won the lottery and want to cover the sheets with benjamins so you can roll around in it. Trust me! Don’t do it. It will start out fun and then lead to statements like these,
“Think of what we could have done with all this money 5, 10, 15 years ago…”
“Why didn’t we save more? I always said you spent too much money…”
“How much do those highlights cost again?!”
The bedroom is where the magic happens, NOT the budget!

WORK – Nothing kills a sex drive quicker than talking about your newest project at work or the girl who dresses like she’s going to a bar. Maybe she is going to a bar. Leave her alone! You’re in bed with someone who you don’t have to pick up in the bar. STOP TALKING ABOUT WORK!
The bedroom is for words you wouldn’t use anywhere else, NOT for debriefing about your coworkers.

FAMILY – This includes but is not limited to…
Your beautiful children that you love so much you could just “eat ’em up!”
Your sister’s recent vacay.
Your brother’s girlfriend and all the reasons you know it isn’t going to last.
Your aunt’s cat’s arthritis.
Your cousin’s new band and the business plan you wrote that he hasn’t asked you for.
Your mom. (Especially, your mom)
Your dad’s latest hunting story. (My man loves a good hunt, but the moment I bring up my father when we’re trying to set the mood, forget about it. Ain’t gonna happen.)
The surgery that your stepbrother’s dog is being prepped for and how much it’s going to cost.
The seating chart for the next holiday get together.
The bedroom is a reservation for two, NOT a family reunion.

Now, if you find yourself wanting/needing to talk about one of these things, get up, go sit at the kitchen table or on the sofa and talk about it there. Better yet, wait until tomorrow. Chances are things will be a lot clearer and you’ll be in a better mood.

This is a decade worth of wisdom that you don’t even have to thank me for. Just stop bringing baggage into your bed. It’s much easier to move around that way.

You’re thinking, “It can’t be that simple?” It is. It’s that simple. Everything else can wait until your next therapy session.

I know there are like a bazillion other no-no’s for that fragile time before (whatever your code word is for sex) happens. Go ahead, tell us in the comments what you’ve learned never to talk about in the bedroom…

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It’s not you, it’s me

Hello Wonderful Readers!

I truly miss you! I have been so disconnected from this community and it is obvious in my life. I need to write! It is a reset for my brain. It brings all the chaos into alignment.

So much is going on that I want to tell you about. So much so that I had to check in to say that I’m going to do better. I’m going to be intentional about documenting with words, the way I’m documenting with pictures.

sunriseAs for many, October is a big month for me. The first signs of fall begin appearing.

Dawn takes on a whole new light (literally) it’s captivating the way the sun sneaks up and begins illuminating the sky.

Sunsets are breathtaking. The kind of beauty that has no equal. Sunset

The most important things in my life this October are the fact that my man and I are celebrating 10 years of marriage. TEN. What?!

The fact that he has not only tolerated me but championed my dreams is beyond my ability to understand. I am so grateful. Wedding Day
For those of you reading this and thinking (Nice…another story of true love and a perfect marriage. I think I’m gonna barf.) Please do not be fooled. We have been through darkness so thick, we weren’t sure we would ever see the light of day. I can be totally stoked that Chris and I made it this far because the challenges we have overcome are proof that there is a God as nothing else could have accompanied us and navigated the road of unknowns.

Oh, a few quick details about the pictures…

  • We had just said, “I do” and “I do too” on a gondola in Las Vegas’, Venetian Hotel.
  • We were married by a minister we had never met and have not seen since.
  • I wasn’t wearing white.
  • There was no church.
  • Chris won a large sum of money at the roulette table he passed while walking to our ceremony.
  • We lived like rock stars for a week.
  • I was 2 weeks shy of completing my first year free from the addiction of all mind altering substances. (My drug of choice was whatever was available at the time. Do you have any idea how many mind altering substances are available at any given time in Vegas?)
  • I have not been back to Vegas since we married. Not because I don’t want to, I just haven’t had reason to.
  • There are people who still haven’t spoken to us after our decision to “elope to sin city” (sometimes people have to weed themselves out of our lives before we discover that we’re better for it)

Another date that is just as important to me is my sobriety date, which will represent 11 years this month. A girl like me…sober…for 11 years?! Yet another tangible example of a Higher Power working and moving. He has used my story so much in the last year. It’s crazy awesome and frightening and beautiful. (That will have to be its own post)

Big things are happening in my life and the life of my family. Bigger things than I ever could have conjured up for myself. Bigger than I have ever known and yet incredibly simple. I didn’t say easy. I said simple. In other words, not complicated. Not diluted by self-doubt and ridicule from skeptics. Things that have nothing to do with money or fame or worldly success.

Spiritually I am going deeper, wider, and more fully committed than I even knew possible. I am no longer sticking my toe out, cringing while bracing for the worst. I am leaping off cliffs that at one time paralyzed me. I am discovering true, unpolluted, without hesitation, faith.

I want to tell you all about it as it unfolds, but I must be patient and wait for the words. I must enjoy every morsel without thought of the next.

It comes to me in the most peculiar of places. I write on whatever is available to me, knowing that if I don’t capture it in that very moment, I will never remember it quite the same way.

I so want this kind of freedom for you, my friends. But I cannot give it to you. It is something that must be sought out through complete surrender, asked for and accepted. (Often times we think the difficulty is in the asking, when really it is our inability to accept when goodness is being offered)

The days ahead are exciting ones. I look forward to our journey together.

Until then, may bountiful blessings and all that is light be yours.

 

Grateful

The man I love lays down next to me. He reaches over, lightly caressing the top of my bare shoulder with his strong hand before sleep sets in. Nothing is said. Words are not needed. His arm slips down beside mine as his breathing changes to deep and rhythmic.

I turn to see the outline of his face in the darkness and I whisper, “Thank you God for this man.” His mind brilliant. His body strong. His passion intense and his love complete. Leaving my heart full and desires lacking nothing.

I take his hand and lace the sleepy fingers between mine to feel the energy pulsating through. Is this a dream? This life that I have… is it real? I have been asking myself that same question for the last 10 years. Usually at night when the only sounds are those heard when everything else is quiet.

I turn onto my side and close my eyes soaking in my reality. Knowing how completely undeserving I am of this man and the security he brings. Not underestimating the chemistry that we share.

Pressing my eyelids tight, expecting tears to come, they never do. I squeeze his fingers between mine as he sleeps, realizing that I am growing in the understanding of unconditional love. I am accepting the imperfection of self while giving in to the happily ever after that exists even for a girl like me. At least here. Now. In this place. In this moment of beautiful calm.

Where is God now?

How could I ever look at anything and ask, “Where’s God?!” All I have to do is look out my window. I can see God everywhere, in everything.
But I have been in that place. More than once. Spiritual desolation where God is nowhere to be found. That corner of hell with gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair.

That place where a young mother is diagnosed with cancer and dies less than a year later leaving a husband and two young children that she worked so hard to have.

The place where baby’s who are “incompatible with life” are carried full-term, the mother’s belly sliced open to give baby life and after a few short days out of the womb the mother is left with memories, photos and a wound far greater than the one from the blade of the scalpel.

The place where ends don’t meet.

There’s no happily ever after.

Where regret is a constant companion and depression is the norm.

Where one begins to doubt heaven and the existence of a God at all.

What kind of God would take the life of a 17-year-old girl with all the promise in the world, one beautiful day after a small town football game? Her mother recalls her saying, “It’s the most beautiful day! I don’t remember a day quite like it?” That was one of the last things she heard her daughter say.

Who wants to know a God that watches two small children lay flowers on their mother’s grave and ask their daddy night after night, “Where’s mommy?”

If God is so good wouldn’t he grant the wish of the young wife who has cried herself to sleep for the last 5 years when the pregnancy test is negative…again.

What about the children who are sold into a world of sex and abuse. Being promised to the dirtiest of men who use them up and throw them away when they’re finished. Surely God doesn’t see or hear their whimper for help. How could he and not do anything about it?!

I don’t know the answer. What I do know, without a doubt in my mind, is that God is good…all the time…even when it doesn’t feel like it. I have crouched, head in hands, digging nails into my scalp, hoping the pain would cure my numbness.

I have been in my corner of self-inflicted hell with seemingly no way out while making promise after promise to my Creator of what I would abstain from if only he would get me out of the current circumstances and save me from myself.I have committed heinous acts thought to push me far beyond forgiveness.

Here is what I know. The same God who calmed the sea when he told Peter to walk out on the water to him, calms my heart when I don’t understand his plan. Just like Peter, when I take my eyes off of him, I sink into the very thing I think capable of overtaking me.

I want to have faith. I do. I want to see every situation through the eyes of a just and loving God with a plan far greater than my own…but more times than not, I don’t. Half the time I shake my fist to the heavens while the other half I lay face down on the floor, arms out, palms open, “Thy will be done, Lord. Not my will, but thine.

I don’t understand his ways. Why should I? I was never promised full disclosure. If I were granted understanding, would there be a need for faith? What would it really change?

He is a God who gives and takes away.

His love endures forever and ever.

I believe.

The only other option is the opposite of hope. A life of uncertainty, waiting for the next “thing” to happen. Asking myself when atrocities occur what I could have done to prevent it, when none of it is within the realm of my control, nor would I want it to be.

God is God and I am not.
All knowing.
All seeing.
All wise.
Infinite.
Immortal.
Unchanging.
The same yesterday, today and forever.

There is one thing I do have control over.
The choices I make.
In this moment,
I choose faith.
I choose not knowing the whole story, but trusting that it will play out as it should.
I choose joy.
I choose grace and mercy.
I choose to see people as God with skin on.
I choose life.
I choose Christ.
I choose freedom.
I choose trust.
I choose forgiveness.

I choose to go out on my back porch, take in beauty that is far too majestic to capture, inhale cleansing breaths through my nose and into every cell in my body, all that is good, all that is well, all that is pure and healing. While exhaling the “what if?” “Why me?” “Why them?” “Why now?” I choose the something far greater awaiting me, if I choose to believe.