Loving an Alcoholic

6a00e551f9630d883301a73db4114f970dThis is a painful post to write because I am the alcoholic. I am loved by many, many, many people despite my poor choices, my erratic behavior, my relapses, my promises…. I have continually let down the ones I love.  The ones I love most. I’ve ruined precious relationships because of my choices. I’ve chosen Master Alcohol over everybody else.

Sure, from my perspective, when in my alcoholism, I wanted to beg for understanding…for mercy…for my loved ones to realize that this is a disease like cancer. I wanted them to see that I didn’t mean to be this way. I don’t want to be this way. I didn’t plan to be this way. I spent every day praying God would “fix” me.

I’m not an irresponsible person. I run my own business, have a college degree, two beautiful children…lots of friends. I think people even like me.

But I’m a real alcoholic. I drank alcohol and I couldn’t stop. I tried to avoid that “first drink” and then I succumbed to it. When I succumbed to it I’d do all types of crazy things—drive, emotionally react, panic, exaggerate, was cruel, lashed out, hurt the ones I love most. Cancer patients don’t do this.

Cancer patients—while similarly, cancer does affect the whole family— don’t lash out at those who are caring for them, helping them. Cancer patients appreciate help, are humble and resigned to their sickness. Alcoholics rebel—we fight back. We are confused—we deny and think we don’t have a problem. We think everyone else has the problem. Until we don’t. Until we realize we definitely are the problem.

That’s when things get worse. The shame, remorse, guilt, suicide thoughts…all that kicks in.

I’m writing this post because I regularly get comments from readers/followers who don’t understand why their loved ones have cut them off. I ache for their pain because I understand and get it. I have loved ones that have cut me off too. It hurts so badly. It contributed to my shame, isolation and sense of worthlessness.

I reached out to my best friend to get her perspective. She is one who has distanced herself from me. I am absolutely certain—and I’ve always been absolutely certain—that her distance was out of love. I KNOW she loves me, wants the best for me, wants me sober and believes I have so many gifts to offer the world. She is a Christian and knows God has a better plan for my life, if only I will adhere to His call.

My take on it was this. I thought she was trying to control me, to fix me. I thought she thought if she showed me tough love (withdrew her love from me) then it would somehow make me get sober. Actually, I even thought it was a little “passive-aggressive.” I thought she was trying to get me to do something by withholding love.

So, today, I just flat out asked her.

Why? Why do people shut out their loved ones who are alcoholics? I was afraid to ask her. I was afraid she would get defensive and avoid me more. But I really wanted to know. And she was the only one who I truly loved who has responded this way, I wanted to know why? I knew 100%, 1000% that she loved me. So I never questioned that. What I didn’t understand is why she would abandon me?

And her response…was beautiful and helpful and I wanted to pass it along to my followers/readers. Her response was this:

“Sometimes the people on the other side need to protect their own sanity; and the only way to do that is to walk away. That doesn’t mean they stop loving. It’s setting boundaries. Boundaries are healthy.”

And I understood. My heart opened and I understood. This wasn’t about me. It wasn’t about me being bad and her judging me. It was about her having healthy boundaries, protecting her heart and spirit from my poor behavior. Even though I am sick and am trying to get well, I can’t expect her to hang in there to the detriment of her own sanity and emotional health.

I am so grateful for this understanding. It’s critical to my walk. I hope this helps some of y’all out there? We are LOVED. We truly are loved.  XO

I say, “miracle.” You say, “tomato.”

such-a-soul-quoteI know that’s a stupid title but I have a dorky sense of humor. Bear with me because this might not make sense to anybody but me– lol. I’d struggled a long time with relapse and it baffled me.

I know better.  I had the experience to know what happened when I drank. I had all the consequences that would make someone want to get sober just to avoid negative repercussions. I had two beautiful children worth everything to me. I’d die for them. I’d kill for them! But I couldn’t stop drinking for them. I wanted sobriety. I needed sobriety. I LOVED sobriety. I never stopped trying, but something, something just kept pulling me back to hell. And, no, I’m not exaggerating or overstating by using the word, “hell.”

Ask any of us caught up in alcoholism – or other addictions – how we would describe life when we’re not sober. Hell.

But God has worked a freaking miracle in me. I call it a miracle, assuredly so, embarrassingly because I realize that sounds “hokey,” but it sure feels like a miracle to me. I’ve begged God for a miracle for years; and he (finally) decided to give me one.

I have always had God in my heart. I hear lots of people say they need to get God from their heads to their hearts. I was the opposite! I needed to get God from my heart to my head!

I thought I had God in my head. I have lots of knowledge of God, theology, our Catholic Faith, understood “logically” the will of God, loved Catechism. So, in AA meetings when people said, “Let God direct your thinking,” I really thought I was doing that! But I didn’t understand why I wasn’t changing?

I often said things like, “I wish I could just have a lobotomy.” And, “It’s all my amygdalas fault!” And, “I can’t help it—relapse just “happens!” I did try a hypnotist. I’d even considered electro-shock therapy! I knew, deep in the recesses of my soul, that the problem was in my MIND. God has graced me with a hyper-intuitive mind—so I knew. I knew. I knew there was something not right in my brain.  I just didn’t know how to fix it.

And sober friends would say, “You must not “want” it bad enough.” To which I’d respond (exasperated), “But I really DO want it. More than anything, I want sobriety!” I began to think I was crazy. Why do they think I don’t want it? That couldn’t be further from the truth. Confusion was my constant companion.

So what did God (finally – I say “finally” tongue-in-cheek because I know God’s timing is perfect) do?  He pointed me towards various Scriptures and information, gave me the right consequences, exasperated me enough to where I broke down and begged Him STRONGLY for a miracle. He didn’t do it right away.

It didn’t come until one morning when I woke up with a deep sense of humility and remorse. I poured my coffee, then I went straight to my recovery Bible (not authentically Catholic bible, but I like it because it relates it all to the 12 steps) and I randomly turned to a page. This is what we do when we’re looking for inspiration, right? We just randomly turn to a page and hope God speaks to us deliberately in our randomness, right?

My Bible opened to Ezekiel— particularly Ezekiel 8:17-18, and kept reading through the whole chapter.

This scared the crap out of me. It was all about God’s anger and fury, how He will have no mercy.

This is not the God I know, not the God in my heart. So, I decided to go to another section, assuming that Ezekiel was a mistake—that’s not REALLY what God wanted me to read, right? This time I purposefully turned closer to the back third of the Bible, so I’d be sure to get a book in the New Testament – where God was loving and merciful, right?

Well, I randomly opened to a paragraph in 1 Thessalonians; and THAT sounded like God was angry, too. I shut my Bible and started crying, asking God, “Why are you so MAD at me???”  He didn’t answer me, but I realized in my heart why He was mad—He’d given me so many opportunities to stay sober, sent so many people to help me, given me consequences to spur me, shown me the love of my children to persuade me… But still I sinned, chose hell, chose escape, chose death over life. I fell to my knees and started throwing up—which is normal for me when I feel deep shame.

I was exhausted. I took a shower and went back to sleep. And I woke up feeling light. Weird? Then I remembered what had transpired that morning and I fortified my spirit with these scriptures:

Romans 12:2
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

So, I looked deeper.

Philippians 4:8
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on these things.

Philippians 4:6-7
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Ephesians 4:23
And to be renewed in the spirit of your minds

1 Peter 1:13
Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 10:4-5
For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God and take every thought captive to obey Christ.

Colossians 3:2
Set your minds on the things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

So, God has given me a “miracle.” Miniscule in the whole realm of miracles but life-transforming for me. In order to change, to truly transform, I can’t just want it. I can’t just commit to it. I can’t just promise it. I can’t will it. I have to allow God to renew my mind--dig out the old shit ways of thinking and replace it with His thinking.  I have to completely turn my thought life over to Him. Rather than let my thoughts come and go as they please—undisciplined and unrestrained… I can turn to God to discipline my thoughts and put them in line with His will.  This is changing my life.

The Best Medicine

tumblr_mde4ncT1kk1qbzun1o1_500I have always been a big fan of modern medicine—maybe it’s my Catholic upbringing which implies the sciences are gifts to us from God’s grace, or maybe it’s just because I’m all about the quick fix to ease my aches and pains. I hold medical researchers, doctors and smart people in high regard.

If I’m completely truthful, I actually don’t hold the agnostic or atheistic researchers and doctors in high regard—those types think they are gods so I absolutely hope to steer clear of them. But the humble faith-filled smart doctor people have my complete affection and respect.

But today I experienced the most natural form of healing which involved no medicine, no research, no health studies, and no cardiovascular exercise: lunch with my mother.

I’m telling you, and I’ve said this before on my blog, that my mother is one of those people that lives her life the way the saints did: in self-sacrifice for the people God has entrusted to her and in complete obedience to Him and His will.

She would say, “Are you kidding me?”

And I would say, “No, I am not kidding, Mom. I want to be you…the same way I wish to be a saint but never will be.  You give me an ideal to strive for and you offer mercy and forgiveness before I even realize I miss the mark.”

I could write about how Mom goes to daily Mass, takes care of my father and mothered and continues to mother eleven children who never got hooked on drugs (ha ha ha why is that my standard, that none of us ever got hooked on drugs…ha ha ha).. and I could write about how when we were wealthy and then had hard times she went immediately to work to make ends meet; how she loves and forgives and loves and respects and loves and loves and loves her husband.  This is huge; because marriage is really hard.  Especially for me, lately.

I could tell you all that, but instead I’ll just talk about my lunch with my Mom today, which will give you an example of how to be a mother:

Me: Mom I’ve been in such a funk lately.

Mom: I know darling–you haven’t written any blog posts in almost two weeks and I miss them.

Me: I know. I’m a little worried after sending out all these resumes at the beach that some of my future employers might read my blog so I don’t know what to write anymore.  What if they read what I write and think I would make an awful employee?

Mom: Yes, maybe. But does it matter?

Me: No, it doesn’t matter. I wouldn’t want to work for anyone long term who didn’t get it.  And Husband and I are like friends passing in the hallway.  After 15 years of marriage I don’t think he likes me.

Mom: Sure he does darling.

Me: And he does this and this and this.

Mom: Yes

Me: And this and this and THIS. And he did THIS!

Mom: Yes.

Me: And here I am 43 years old. And I have everything I ever wanted: marriage, children, family, house, blah blah.

Mom: Yes. (she holds my hand.)

Me: So how are the rest of the siblings?

And then my mom updates me on everyone… All of my ten siblings, what’s new and what every one is up to.

And then I take it back to me.

Me: So I don’t know. I’m just all crabby lately.

And she says, “We have to have lunch at least once a week.”

And I say yes, yes, we do.

And we will.

Because I need her. Because my mom doesn’t judge or try to control me. My mom doesn’t get focused on petty stupid things and she doesn’t engage in gossip. My mom doesn’t like to go shopping (I really hate to “go shopping,” like it’s some sort of special event) and she doesn’t use passive aggressive tactics to manipulate me.  She just LOVES ME.  And she loves her other ten children just as unconditionally.

Like God. None of us says she loves one more than the other. No favorites. Unconditional love available for eternity for all of us.  Just like God.  So that’s where I’ve learned my concept of God, from my mother.

And my mom is my medicine.

Living Sober through the Psalms

Sober Thought of the Day
“Ignorance is a lot like alcohol: the more you have of it, the less you are able to see its effect on you.”  ― Jay M. Bylsma

It is true what the founders of AA discovered, that regular contact with another alcoholic is imperative for the sober person doing this recovery thing. When I go too long without a meeting–or a chat with another who “gets it”–my head gets squirly and my heart thinks a drink would be a grand idea.  Number 9

Psalm of the Day
Responsorial Psalm PS 105:1-2, 3-4, 6-7, 8-9

R. (3b) Rejoice, O hearts that seek the Lord.

Give thanks to the LORD, invoke his name;
make known among the nations his deeds.
Sing to him, sing his praise,
proclaim all his wondrous deeds.
R. Rejoice, O hearts that seek the Lord.

Glory in his holy name;
rejoice…

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Living Sober through the Psalms

Sober Thought of the Day
“The problem with the world is that everyone is a few drinks behind.” —Humphrey Bogart

The world is a weird place, filled with all kinds of individuals, families, cultures, nations…There are so many opinions and controversies.  The Psalm today is what I pray for: “Lord send out your holy spirit and renew the face of the earth.”  Number 9

Pslam of the Day
Responsorial Psalm PS 104:1-2, 5-6, 10, 12, 13-14, 24, 35

R. (30) Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.

Bless the LORD, O my soul!
O LORD, my God, you are great indeed!
You are clothed with majesty and glory,
robed in light as with a cloak.
R. Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.

You fixed the earth upon its foundation,
not to be moved forever;
with the ocean…

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Living Sober through the Psalms

Sober Thought of the Day
“A drink centers me but I usually make myself wait until at least 9:00 AM for that. Or 8:00 AM. Whichever comes first.” Bill Callahan, Letters to Emma Bowlcut

In today’s Psalm, we can see God as our refuge, our rock, asking him to save us, not let us ever be put to shame, to listen to us. How many times when we were trying to stop drinking did we cry out to God in this way; but He didn’t seem to listen. How many of us, looking back now, are able to see the hand of God in every single one of these situations, just waiting for us to surrender to Him? Number 9

Psalm of the Day
Responsorial Psalm PS 71:1-2, 3-4A, 5AB-6AB, 15 AND 17

R. (see 15ab) I will sing of your salvation.

In you, O LORD, I take…

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Living Sober through the Psalms

Sober Thought of the Day
“In Irena’s head the alcohol plays a double role: it frees her fantasy, encourages her boldness, makes her sensual, and at the same time it dims her memory. She makes love wildly, lasciviously, and at the same time the curtain of oblivion wraps her lewdness in an all-concealing darkness. As if a poet were writing his greatest poem with ink that instantly disappears.”  Milan Kundera, Ignorance

In this quote by Milan Kundera, I get it. Poor Irena. A poet writing her greatest work and then deleting it. Alcohol is such an insidious Master. Number 9

Psalm of the Day
Responsorial Psalm PS 27:1, 2, 3, 13-14

R. (1a) The Lord is my light and my salvation.
The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom should I fear?
The LORD is my life’s refuge;
of whom should I be afraid?
R. The Lord is…

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