technicolor life.

by now you may have done the math and figured out that summer of 2004-november of 2006 does not amount to a very long drinking career. and you would be right. except for the part that alcoholism is a progressive disease and, while there were long breaks in between college and my drinking days later, it only got worse. never better. i knew at the time that if i didn’t get sober then that i would end up in rehab in 25 years at best. with all due respect to my dad, and for as much as i love and miss him, i did not want to end up like him. it breaks my heart to say that his disease consumed his life. i would be lying to you if i did not tell you that there have been days when i wonder if i came in too early, especially in the beginning. as in, ‘surely i could go a few more years…?’ but it would just be too risky. while i had my wits about me, i knew i was given the opportunity to make that decision. i was one of the lucky ones.

that said, like every other alcoholic in your life, whether they have two years or 25, we all only have today by the grace of god. i know that i have to be vigilant about my sobriety, that if i do not stay on top of my spiritual life then i run the risk of becoming too confident that i am somehow capable of staying sober by my own efforts. i am not so naive to think that, on any given day, i could very easily end up back ‘out there’ like so many other friends i have seen come in and out of the program.

{it didn’t take me long to realize that my drinking was only a symptom of my greater issues. i dare say drinking wasn’t actually my problem. anger was. bitterness and resentment and depression were. i used alcohol -and anything else in the moment that felt good (ie, spending money, sex with strangers, etc.)- to escape my life.}

about 17 days or so after i got sober, my sweet friend matt came to visit from florida. we made these plans before i got sober and, lord bless him, i was a crazy person when he came to visit. he was here for a week and eventually we were hardly speaking to each other. but we had planned on going on a hiking trip before he left and on that hike, the world seemed like it was in technicolor. like i was suddenly seeing color for the first time. it was beautiful.

i remember my first cry as a sober person. i sat alone in my car in my driveway and wasn’t sure if i was going to make it. but i remember that cry feeling SO good and being SO cleansing.

i made a lot of mistakes as a newly sober person. like many of us, i thought i was the exception to the suggestion that we should wait a year to date someone and found love after 60 days. he was a former crackhead who had additionally spent over half of his life in and out of aa. my parents were so proud.

i had a wonderful sponsor when i first got sober, and then a wonderful second sponsor when my first one moved. both had incredible programs (which is aa-speak for ‘i admired their sobriety’). i learned so much from them. neither judged me or was bossy; they simply helped me navigate life as a sober person and made suggestions as i went along.

i did my fourth and fifth steps when i was six months sober. on the fourth step, you ‘make a searching and fearless moral inventory’ of one’s self. one suggested way of doing this is to make a list of our sexual history, resentments and then what my part was in every case. the fifth step is when you tell god and someone else everything on those lists. uh…yeh. i decided to do my fifth step with karen because she knew everything else about me, including when i was leaving out the details that would be found on those lists. she would never say this -well, perhaps she would- but in a way i kind of felt like i owed it to her out of respect for our relationship and in order for us to move forward in a completely honest setting. i was told that i would likely be bitchy while i was making that list, that it would take some time to make it, and that i would know when i was finished. i was, it did and i did.

after three weeks of working on my list, i took it to karen on a saturday morning and i spent 3 1/2 hours telling her everything that was on it. i knew she wouldn’t judge me but you might understand that my legs were like jello as i walked up the steps to her office. see, all of these things…i knew that if only god ever knew them, that if i could keep everything secret, then i could pretend like they never really happened. i was once told that my feeling like i was in trouble all the time was a result of carrying around all my secrets.

she just listened to every detail and asked questions if anything needed clarity but was mostly silent. and when i was finished, we prayed and thanked god for shining his light on those dark places. and when i opened my eyes, the light in the room had shifted and i felt a breeze on my back. i knew immediately it was because i was no longer shouldering the weight of the world. and in that moment, i knew i was free. i’m sure i could remember some of the things on those lists if i tried but, for the most part, that list is not even a memory. because that’s how it is with god. and i will tell you this: i never -not once- ever confessed anything as a christian to another christian in church.

{my friend brennan manning says that church should look more like an aa meeting, which i tend to agree. just broken people who know they need god.}

my first year of sobriety, my church was our clubhouse. my congregation, the 7 am group. in aa, everyone has their own higher power. but jesus, after bringing me there, stayed with me there. and that’s where he showed me himself, in the faces of the broken and down-and-outers where there few masks and there was support and encouragement available to whomever needed it. (and we all needed it.) jesus looks different to me through my experience of aa than who i learned him to be in conventional church. he is nicer and kinder and stronger and more forgiving than i understood him to be. and he loves. oh, how he loves.

there are times when once-in-a-while i recognize myself as a ‘dry drunk’. as in, i may not be drinking but i may as well be because i blame and point fingers and feel sorry for myself. (and, by the way, this is neither a pretty or a good thing.) so i do whatever is necessary to take care of myself. i call a friend or go to a meeting or i help someone else. i usually drive if i anticipate the potential need to remove myself from an uncomfortable or toxic situation. i don’t hang out in bars anymore because, really, what would be the point? i can do it, i have done it. but i get bored easily, which is a dangerous place for a sober person to be, especially in a bar. i know my tools and resources that empower and help me. but those tools don’t do me any good sitting on a shelf. i have to be pro-active.

that’s probably one of the biggest gifts sobriety has given me: the desire to be an active participant in my life instead of a spectator watching life happen around me. i no longer feel sorry myself and recognize that i have good, better and best choices that may or may not make a difference in my life or anyone else’s – the point is: they are my choices to make.

another priceless gift i’ve been given is that i really feel my feelings now. on a normal level, i mean. i don’t run, escape or hide from my emotions. and they don’t look crazy, dramatic or extreme. for example, i really love crying. i mean, i don’t, actually (especially because i have such an ugly cry-face). but what i mean is, i love feeling my tears. i love feeling my feelings.

my relationships have also changed since getting sober, most notably with my family. i’m calmer and…well, nicer. my mom recently told me that she appreciates how i use the tools i’ve been given in aa and in counseling to approach life situations. in general, especially in the last year, i’ve just become less about myself. i mean, in my blog, i can really only talk about myself, you know? but i mean, in my day-to-day life, i have become less important. not unimportant, just less so. i am provided for, taken care of, clothed, fed and loved. god really does take care of me, i don’t have to worry with myself. i have learned that the quality of my life is measured in how i treat people and if i love them well.

there are few adages i’ve picked up in aa that i am aware of on a daily basis. one is ‘would you rather be right or would you rather be happy?’ i mean, really? is making my point really that important if it means you and i are going to end up fighting or i might hurt someone’s feelings? i’ve also learned that, just because i think it, doesn’t mean that you need to hear it or that you need to hear it from me. i heard a seasoned person say once, ‘there aren’t bumps in the road. this is the road.’ life happens. i also heard someone say, ‘i didn’t know what i didn’t know before i knew it’, which i’ve found only makes sense to someone whose been through something similar to getting sober.

another is, ‘it’s not my business what other people think of me.’ woh. grab hold of that one if you can. life-changing.

in most meetings, we will open and close with the lord’s prayer and/or the serenity prayer:

god, grant me the serenity to accept the things i cannot change

the courage to change the things i can

and the wisdom to know the difference.

{accepting things beyond my control, no matter how big or how small, has been huge for me. life is made easier when i go with the flow.}

about two years ago, when i was coming up on my second anniversary, i asked a woman who had been in the program for many years, ‘at what point do you stop waiting for the other shoe to drop?’ she said it was around the three-year mark. my dad died right before that time, which also had something to do with no longer waiting for the other shoe to drop, but i would say that has continued to be true in the last year even so. i’m no longer nervous or afraid of something bad happening (mostly because the worst thing i ever dreamed of happening did).

this is all just a part of my experience in living life as a sober person. it really is a daily process. do i still think about drinking? sometimes. do i walk into a party and immediately assess what everyone is drinking? yep. do i take an inventory of the alcohol in my mom or my sisters’ homes? definitely. but i will tell you that there is not. one. thing. i can think of that would be reason enough for me to ever start drinking again. i wake up every day thanking god that, with his help, i am happy, joyous and free just as the program promises i will be.

one

day

at a

time.



made from scratch.

when i was telling you about my spiritual abuse experience a few weeks ago, jana bishop found me with the help of a little tool we like to call ‘tagsurfer’. who knew that the god of spiritual abuse overcomers is also the god of wordpress? :) turns out, we escaped affiliated churches. ahem.
{it also turns out that by speaking out about her experience, she has affected change.}
we have become fast friends, though virtually, and i am so, so happy that she agreed to do a guest spot on my blog today.
it is my honor to introduce to you, my friend, jana bishop
Have you ever sat in church and heard the best sermon…EVER?  Or turned on the radio and cried because the song is saying exactly what you are feeling?

What about reading the Bible and stumbling across a verse that reached so far into your soul…you knew God was speaking directly to YOU?

I’ve had those moments.  The simple times in which God met me in an unexpected way. The times in which I wasn’t really looking for Him…but He showed up despite my lack of pursuit.

I feel like that right now…in this season of life.  He keeps showing up and wooing me.  If we were in High School…He would be walking me to class and carrying my books right about now.  I feel a little shy in His presence…but I keep walking with Him. Simply because I know I love Him. Deep in my heart…I love Him.

But, can I tell you something? I can’t help but wonder why.  Why would God be concerned with me? I’m a bit unstable right now, in all honesty. I mean, if anyone was going to represent Christ to a hurting generation…it’s probably not me. I’m still trying to wrap my mind around Faith and God. After years of studying, searching and then searching some more…I eventually got very hurt in the church. And very hurt by the people leading me.  So, in an effort to make sense of what happened, I gave up.

In a sense…I’ve started from SCRATCH.

And it’s scary. But, more than anything…it’s freeing.  I’m a youth pastor’s wife and all I can tell people now is that I love Jesus. I don’t have a degree or any real theological background.  All of that got thrown out with the dirty, mucky bath water of my past.  My foundation in Jesus is firm…but it’s bare, humble and simple. I’m rebuilding…I’m questioning and for the first time in my life I’m loving it…because it’s okay.

Matthew 25:40I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

I read this verse the other day and it dawned on me…I am the least of these.  That’s why He’s concerned with me. The teachings Christ gave to man are straight from His heart.  After spending years serving an abusive church and pastors…my husband and I finally resigned.  We limped away from their presence, hurt and confused.   And in the midst of that season…we felt like we didn’t matter anymore.  To the people who once called us family…our time with them amounted to very little.  In the grand scheme of things…we were not a very significant blip on their radar.

But Christ.

Christ made sure we knew that we mattered to Him. So, He sent people along our path to encourage us…to help us stand while the foundation of our faith was shaken to the core.  He made sure that we knew…He understood. His heartbeat is for those that matter the least to men…because we matter the most to Him.

“Unto the Least of These…” He is calling the underdog.  And for the first time ever…I’m glad I fall into that category.  My relationship with Him is being made from scratch. No fluff or extra ingredients.  It’s just me getting to know my Savior.  With nothing else standing in the way of His relentless pursuit for my love.

Have you ever had to start from scratch?

Jana Bishop is 30 years old and feels like an official adult now that she is a mom.  She and her husband are youth pastors in beautiful Southern California.  She blogs to keep her sanity and to help others who have been hurt by weirdos in the church.

compassion: guatemala

As a member of Compassion, I received this email from Shaun Groves, the Blogger Manager. Sorry to interrupt my regularly scheduled post all about  me. Some things are just more important. Like starving children.

Four Compassion bloggers are meeting a few hundred of those children this week in Guatemala (September 8-11).
Please support them this week by praying daily, reading along, leaving an encouraging comment on their posts, sharing their words on Facebook and Twitter, and linking to them from your own blog. These blogging trips release hundreds of children from poverty and wouldn’t happen without the support of our entire Compassion Bloggers family. We need you!

PRAYER SUGGESTIONS:
1. Safety: Severe flooding over the weekend and continued heavy rains have caused mudslides in Guatemala that have claimed the lives of at least 100 people and displaced an estimated 110,000. We are altering our travel plans slightly for our own safety. Please pray for the safety of Compassion’s families and the whole of Guatemala.

2. Family: All our bloggers are leaving behind friends and family for the week. Please pray for the protection and comfort of these families while apart.

3. Writing: It is very difficult to have your heart broken and inspired so tremendously every day on these trips and then sit down at a computer each evening and put it all into words. Pray for God’s guidance and courage.

4. Re-entry: Begin praying now for each blogger’s re-entry into life back home. Coming home to the average American life after spending even a short time in the developing world is difficult for many. Pray that our bloggers return forever different and able to bring that difference into the same life they knew before.

OUR BLOGGERS:
http://www.aholyexperience.com
http://www.lindseynobles.com
http://thegypsymama.com
http://babybangs.blogspot.com
http://blog.compassion.com

With your help, MANY children in Guatemala will be released from poverty this week in Jesus’ name! Thank you.

-Shaun Groves
Blogger Manager
CompassionBloggers.com

hope for tre.

Is there hope for Tre? A black kid who only knows his dad through pictures and rumors. A dad who has been in prison instead of in the life of his son. Is there hope for Tre? He’s seen so much. Has he seen too much? Crack heads caught in the act. Me: How do you know that guy’s a crack head? Tre: Cause I seen him lightin’ a crack pipe behind my house. Me: Dang.

He’s only twelve years old, but he seems like he’s been around for ages. His eyes are hard but they run deep. To look into them is to see a painful awareness that cannot be twelve years young. It’s like he’s been disappointed so many times that he’s developed an immunity. It’s still possible to let him down, but you gotta wake up early. He lives close to the ground so that the next broken promise doesn’t leave him far to fall.

Is there hope for Tre? He knows so much. Does he know too much? Has he been so long exposed to the broken dealings of broken adults that he has no more capacity to imagine? Is he damned to be a cynic for all that has flooded his mind before his mind was ready to make sense of it? He wears his anger like a birthmark. Not like it’s the result of something that happened to him in life. More like it’s the result of something that was waiting for him at birth.

Is there hope for Tre? Can the tender tears that he has shed give rise to a creative rebellion against the half-life that he has been handed? In a rare moment of defenselessness, one thing is made clear: he hopes that there is hope.

Is his hope for hope enough?

-guest post by Josh LeRoy

josh leroy is one of god’s greatest gifts to the world. he and his family have been a part of my life since i was in high school. his granddad, dad, two brothers and he are all ministers within the wesleyan church. they are the kind of folks who just move people wherever they go simply because they love like jesus loves. he and his precious wife, laura, started an inner-city movement called the bridge project in asheboro, nc.

an actual problem.

today i have been sober for 1400 days. or 46 months and a day. or 3 years, 10 months + 1 day. perhaps someone you know and love is currently or has battled in the past with the disease of alcoholism. i’m sorry. it sucks. i grew up in it, i was it – it sucks for you and it sucks for the alcoholic in your life. the disease makes us selfish. we drink because we are angry and/or depressed; in short, we drink because we want to escape something. we may only be bingers; some may be living under a bridge. as the big book says, it’s a cunning, baffling and powerful disease that affects the whole family and i’m just sorry if you’re going through it. there is help, there is hope.

i am going to try and veer away from telling you about the disease of alcoholism itself and simply want to offer you experience, strength & hope through my own story, as we say in aa. i also don’t want to talk about my experience as an adult child of an alcoholic because, like any good acoa, i still want to protect my dad, even though -and perhaps especially because- i don’t have him anymore. sadly, his disease compromised the rest of his health and, therefore, i would venture to say the disease of alcoholism was mostly responsible for his death when it comes right down to it. i do not judge him for this, even though it would be easy to if i didn’t have an understanding of the disease. instead, it makes me mad at the disease for robbing him, and me, of his life. i inherited his disease. we are fellow members of the same club.

here is my story:

i woke up on a cot in a hotel room on sunday, november 5, 2006, still wearing my dress from the night before, covered in my own vomit. my friend laura and her husband chris, who truly are saints of god because i could have ended up anywhere or with anyone and would not have known it, brought me up to their room after our friends heba and ed’s wedding the night before. an open bar at her wedding was the best gift anyone could have ever given me.

when i woke up, still drunk and hungover, laura helped me into the shower. she hadn’t slept very much because she wanted to make sure i was still breathing, that i hadn’t choked on my vomit. she told me later she just thought it was ‘one of those nights’ for me that everyone has once in a while. she didn’t realize i had an actual problem. she didn’t know that, while this was among the worst of ‘one of those nights’ for me, i was prone to drinking too much and often and that i was actually strategic about how many times a month i would go out with which friends so that no one really knew i had an actual problem. she certainly hadn’t set out to do an intervention, but that’s exactly what was about to happen.

laura stood outside the shower and lovingly told me story after story about what an ass i had made of myself the night before. i have no memory after a certain point because i blacked out. {‘black-outs’ aren’t the same as ‘passing out’. you are still ‘awake’, so to speak, in a black-out but it is likely you have no control over yourself and will have no memory of your actions later. there are otherwise good people in jail, for example, for killing people during a black-out.} by the way, that ‘certain point’? the last thing i remember was talking to my friend kelly’s husband seth while we were eating -i think- either peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or chicken biscuits and the reason i can’t recall is because i passed out in the middle of our conversation. i don’t remember very much before that and definitely not one thing after that. the next sort of ‘memory’ i have of the evening was watching myself (i know, weird) throw up everywhere in the hotel lobby in front of the bride, the groom and all of their guests. and then that’s all i can tell you about that.

as laura was filling in the blanks, i could only cry. in fact, i sat down in the shower and sobbed. i had huge dark bruises up and down one side of my body and a big scratch across the opposite side of my face and have no idea how i achieved either, except that laura said they had to carry me out and because i kept falling over. i. was. miserable. – literally, i felt miserable. but i was miserable inside, too. just…unhappy. and i knew i really did have an actual problem. i repented to jesus like i had done the morning after every other drunken night, and then i heard so sweetly in my spirit…

mary kathryn, it’s okay! i LOVE you! let’s just get a hold of this before it gets worse.

if i had never known the tenderness of my sweet jesus before that moment, i knew it then. he was not condemning or even upset with me. at all. he did not judge me or give me the silent treatment. he simply loved me. i didn’t feel his disappointment in me; instead, i knew his delight over me. and that night i responded.

{an aside: this is sort of funny. not really, but sort of. so, the wedding had been out-of-town, about an hour away from where we all lived. i drove home that morning and i really don’t think i realized then that i was still a little bit drunk. (please, please don’t judge me for this. i know there is no excuse for this. i did this often; i was very selfish.) i called every alcoholic i could think of, save for members of my immediately family. i called brennan manning’s office and at home and left messages for him at both, bawling my eyes out the entire time. (i got an email the next day from his assistant who said she could not understand a word of what i said, she just knew something was really wrong.) i called friends who knew and loved me and left messages everywhere i could, weeping and wanting to talk about my ‘problem’. god bless those sweet people.}

i walked into my first aa meeting that night. i will always remember big ed*, a santa claus of a man, being out in front of the clubhouse as if he was waiting there just for me. (really, he was just out there smoking with everyone else.)

it was a speaker meeting and, even though i was a little familiar with the program due to my experience with my dad, i really thought the speaker and the leader of the meeting were professionals. (‘professional drunks‘, i can hear them say.) i would, of course, come to find out that they were drunks just like me and might have been there a few months or a few years before me, but together we all only had that day by the grace of god.

i cried through the entire meeting. and then proceeded to cry at every meeting after that for the next month, maybe longer. i was definitely, definitely a newcomer. and i was definitely, definitely in the right place. i felt relieved and overwhelmed, but i knew i was safe and that i never had to drink again.

after i took my first (and only) white chip at the end of that meeting, a sweet friend, who i would learn later had only gotten sober a few days earlier, told me it had been suggested to him to do a ’90 in 90′. i had no idea what that meant but i agreed (it means 90 meetings in 90 days). the women swarmed over me that night, each one saying ‘get a sponsor…here’s my phone number…here’s a list of meetings…’ i felt like i was in a psychedelic, slow-motion swirl of love, from these people who did not know me but they definitely knew me.

i went to bed that night both exhausted and relieved and had the best night’s sleep i had had in a really long time. and for the first time in a long time, i had hope.

tomorrow, i’ll tell you what it was like before i got sober and then later this week, what my life is like now.

in the meantime, if you think you might have a problem with alcohol or another addiction, there is help available. you are not alone.

*names have been changed to protect anonymity.

that thing you do.

the other day, i was telling karen about my experience at the she speaks conference and how the main thing i learned is that i still have a lot to learn.

and we were talking about ministry and i was telling her what i’ve been discovering about the abundant life.

‘there’s more in the bible about jesus and his relationships than about him preaching,’ she pointed out.

karen reminded me that wherever we walk, ministry happens.

yesterday, rita pointed out that jesus was a carpenter. he had a ‘real’ job. he did what he needed to do in order to be able to do the thing that he was meant to do.

i just want to encourage you that you are exactly where you need to be today.

may lives be positively changed today in the wake of your presence.

happy monday!

xo


hope.

overwhelmed by fear & anxiety, even though she loves god.

they share a baby but they’re not in love.

she runs away from home, uncertain of her rage. her family is at a loss.

it took four treatments, just to be both miserable and thankful for morning sickness.

they’re getting married but his dad has been so consumed by depression that he hasn’t been able to get out of bed for the last three years (this time around). his wife holds on for him even so.

she is going to drink herself to death. literally.

their son is having an episode, lost somewhere in the city.

his stroke has left him hapless and debilitated. she is the bread-winner now.

she is just not happy, feels lost and alone and tired.

these are the people who are hurting in my life. in your life. superficial ‘hello’s’ and ‘how are you?’s just aren’t going to cut it. we were meant for more. we were meant for relationship and to be known. and to be loved and to be love. i realize that i am so small. without god, i am absolutely nothing. just dust.

i was going to super-spiritualize this, but perhaps i’ll do that tomorrow. (perhaps.)

meanwhile, there are b r o k e n and h u r t i n g people right around us right now. today.

right.

now.

what are you going to do about it?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 547 other followers