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 

To the One Who Loves an Alcoholic

There is someone in my life who I adore. I love her so much that my insides ache when she’s hurting. Unfortunately she is in love with an alcoholic. And as some of you reading this have experienced…we are capable of causing the worst kind of pain. 

Looking back over more than a decade in recovery, free from alcohol and all it brings with it, there are things that I know to be true. Things I can see now that I couldn’t see before. Things that just, are, no matter how much I wish they weren’t.

So, I wrote her this letter and now I’m sharing it with you.
Not to provide all the answers for what you’re going through, but to hopefully shed some light on the person whom you have continually given the ability to hurt your heart.

I will be removing any personal information with generic wording and adding quotes so that you can insert the name of your person.

Friend,” this is truth…

He” is married to alcohol. Drugs are his mistress. Anything else…anyone else, is just a side thing. He always returns to what he knows. Alcohol.

It’s one of the most difficult relationships to sever. It can be done, but it takes more work than most people are willing to put in.

It’s not you.

Truly. It isn’t.

It’s that cunning, baffling bitch known as alcoholism. And without a Higher Power, complete Surrender, and the Willingness to change by dying to self, there is no hope.

You’ve laid awake countless nights, bartering with God.
Your bartering has turned to begging.
Your begging has turned to weeping.
Your weeping has turned to exhaustion.
And just when you’re about to give up…there he comes…back in the picture…full of empty promises that you want so badly to be true.
And the vicious cycle starts all over again.

This has gone on for years.
You say things like, “…but I love him! When you really love someone, you don’t just give up on them.
That may be true, but…
as a human being, a beautiful child of God, born with great purpose, you must see the wasted moments on this person who is blissfully unaware of your worth.

You don’t, do you?
You can’t.
Something in you, like in all of us, grasps on to the smallest ounce of hope and we refer back to that speck even when we are surrounded by the mountains of proof that say otherwise.

This is where I have done my share of begging God.
For reasons unknown to me, He hasn’t lifted the blinder that covers your eyes.
I know He can.
I know He wants you to be whole and live in the light of His glory and grace.
And yet knowing this, doesn’t make it any easier to watch.

There is a reason why so many alcoholics lose their battle with alcohol, at times taking entire families down with them.
Like the blinder you wear, he too wears a self-inflicted blinder.
The difference in yours and his is that he can remove his at any time.
All if takes to begin is a choice to change.
One choice can change everything.
After that one choice is when the real work begins.
I can’t even call it rebuilding. That can’t start until all of the wreckage is sorted through and hauled away.
This is a grueling process.
It’s the part where most people give up.
After all, it’s much easier to have a drink than to feel the weight of our current reality.

Here’s that most difficult part for you and for most people…
Are you ready for this?

There is nothing you can do to change him.

You can’t wish him sober.
You can’t force him to get sober.
You can’t make him see the disaster he leaves in his wake every time he comes around.

Here’s what you can do.

You can accept that nothing is going to change until he actively participates in recovery. (By this, I mean, pursues it like he would his next “fix.” It’s the only way to freedom.)
You can acknowledge and release the time you have given him and that he has squandered.
You can look at yourself in the mirror and say 2 words, “Not Anymore.” followed by 4 words, “From this moment forward.”
You can sincerely speak into your child’s heart and mind that you are her protector, provider, greatest advocate, teacher, mother, and that you will do whatever it takes to provide a life that’s healthy physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally. One where she can grow and thrive, because you know the time that you have with her is short and you will lay a solid foundation that she can always stand on without worry of losing her footing.
(The way you can be 100% confident of this is because it’s what Christ does for you…and for her…everyday.)
You can recognize that even though you didn’t plan for your life to play out this way, there are so many people who love you and want to come alongside you, if you will let them.
You can cry when you need to cry, scream even, when staring at the difficult truth that your child’s father isn’t present. (This is no place to linger. You feel the feelings and move on.)
You can look in the mirror, straight into your own soul and breathe in the grace that you will need on a daily basis to do life.
You can repeat in your head and out loud as much as needed, I am not alone. I am capable. I am strong and I am worthy of love.”
You can say these same affirmations to your daughter. She will need to know them. There may come a time in her life when they seem the only thing to cling to in the midst of the storm.
You can put one foot in front of the other and know that there will be days when you are in a groove and moving like a champion as well as the ones where every step towards tomorrow seems to sucker punch you back into yesterday. That’s okay. We appreciate beauty all the more when we see the purpose of the rain. (Didn’t you tell me that?)

“Friend,” You are so very loved.
We see you.
We hear you.
You matter.

And…it’s time to walk away.
We’ll be right beside you every step of the way.

Love and Grace,
Signature

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.

The Shame Game

“Y’all, the holidays are rapidly approaching. Are you ready for this…there are 9 more Saturdays until Christmas. We are being plunged into that time of year when patience is low, demands are high and sleep doesn’t fit on our to-do list.

There’s a reason why multiple case studies show that addiction is the highest during the holiday season. It’s the most difficult time to stay sober. I think in part because we’re surrounded by people who trigger all kinds of emotions. It’s also a time when everything around us says we should be feeling a certain way. For those of us who have always bucked up against conformity, we don’t like for people or things to tell us how to feel.

Yesterday, October 19th, by the grace of God, I reached my 12th year of sobriety. I am now a productive member of society (most days). The road was long and filled with twists, turns and dead ends. There were a lot of tears and pleading with my Higher Power. There was uncertainty among the rubble of my indiscretion. There were times when I felt hopeless.

And then something changed. Have you noticed how everything starts with a decision?”

Join me to read the rest of this post at The Shame Game continued…
Love filled Hands

Gratitude doesn’t sleep

I lie awake, staring at the ceiling fan turn round and round, wondering if sleep will ever come.

The cicadas make their presence known outside the window. Their sound has become a lullaby of sorts throughout the summer. A familiar bedtime routine just before sleep.

Where did the summer go? Why have I not been more present? The regimented moments of the school year will soon ensue.

Bella’s gone…again. Every time she leaves it’s the same hollow ache. Raw pain is the worst kind. There’s no time to heal before the wound is reopened.

In the stillness of night, everyone sleeps. My mind reels, offering no reprieve.

“God, please help me find that peace that passes all understanding.” I whisper. Gratitude is the word that sprints to the forefront of my mind. Thankful. Acknowledge, Receive, Bask in the goodness, share it with others.

Only inches away, my lover sleeps.
His strong sculpted arms now resting and still.
The legs that carry him through a day of work are relaxed.
The beautiful back that sustains and provides for our family, now stretched out in slumber.
The shoulders that carry the weight of responsibility, nestle into the bed that knows and gives way to his form.

Rest is such a gift and a beautiful thing to witness.
His chest rises and falls.
Nothing sounds as sweet as life.

My love. That one. The only one to conquer and reign over my heart.
I adore him. And the breath he breathes is the sweetest air of all.
I move closer to his warmth. Smiling…I am overwhelmed with gratitude for this man.
This life.

A girl like me, living a life like this. Having been thoroughly cleansed, now cloaked in grace.

I close my eyes.
Sleep will be here soon.
Quiet tears of thanks run down my face, into my pillow.
The realization that I would follow this man anywhere, settles in.
Where he is, I am.
He is home.

To my Beautiful Children

My Loves

It’s no secret that I have wrestled demons in the past. One of them being body image. As I read posts on social media raising awareness this week about eating disorders (ED), I cannot help but be grateful. It wasn’t too long ago that I was in the depths of my illness. In an effort to help others and avoid ever going back to that place, I cannot forget what that desperation and skewed sense of self felt like.

My body put up with 12 long years of abuse. Starvation, binging, purging, excessive use of diuretics, substances…many things that would cause bewilderment one day when looking back.

My relationship with food is still not one to be envied. It’s rather dysfunctional and requires much work on a daily basis. As with everything in my life, it’s about progress, not perfection. Someone once told me, “Even if everyday you take two steps forward and one step back, you’re still one step further than you would be.”

If you remember nothing else from these writings, please remember this, “Let go of perfection. It will ruin you.”

I bring you into this conversation to acknowledge the times when I will say silly things like,
“I wish my thighs still fit in those jeans.”
Or,
“I remember when my stomach was flat and toned…before babies”
Or,
“I don’t even tan the same after having children.”
And any number of other things that are disrespectful to this body that has housed me for over 30 years.

It’s true that I am a mere version of my former self. It’s true that my thighs are thicker, my belly softer, my arms looser, my backside…well, let’s just say, things don’t sit where they used to. It’s also true that pregnancy, nursing, lack of sleep, unnecessary worry, baby carriers, and bending over cribs as slowly as possibly in an effort not to wake you after finally rocking you to sleep, had something to do with it. Those are the beautiful reasons for my transformation. The not so beautiful and less mentioned reasons are the results of my lack of discipline in the areas of exercise, eating junk food, staying up too late, not enough water, and various other things.

My Darlings, when I look at you I know that you are my greatest investment.

When I stand naked and vulnerable in front of the mirror, surveying my body, familiarizing myself with the curves, lines and dimples that have claimed permanent residence on my frame, I run my finger along my cesarean scar reminding myself that just beneath the surface of this scar is a womb that cradled you until my arms would. Just below that layer is a vessel for life. How could I ever regret that?! When I turn sideways and see the pooch that has become a constant companion, I stand up a little straighter and remember how far my belly skin stretched as you grew into a living, breathing, human being. When shopping for the “perfect” fitting bra that eludes me, I am reminded that these breasts sustained three lives! How can I be upset by the inconvenience that I feel they sometimes cause me?

Depending on when you’re reading this, that last paragraph might make you cringe. I get it! I almost didn’t type it! But I’m not going to be a host for shame anymore. I’m not going to sit quietly while other women feel isolated in their thinking. I’m not going to allow anyone to tell me that I’m not okay the way I am.

The truth is my loves, I am more than okay. I’m fantastic. I’m better than I have ever been. This beautiful body has done more good than I ever would have given it credit for. After years of mistreatment by its tenant, it has been very forgiving.

If there was only one thing that I could tell you about body image it would be this, “When looking, thinking about and caring for your physique, remember to be grateful for its functions. There will always be something you wish you could change. Always. Why not focus on the miracle that is life? I think you will discover that you have everything you need to be an exceptional version of yourself.

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