6 Years Sober, 3 Years Happy...

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I have written this post 100 times and 100 different ways, only to delete it each time. Where to start with such a title and topic? How about with the truth? To be completely honest, this post is more difficult to write than I thought it was going to be.

No one grows up aspiring to become an addict. Can you imagine career day in 6th grade standing up front of your class, aspiring for a rehab center? But life happens... Even though I am no longer drowning in the despair of addiction, I know people who are. Maybe that is why this post is so difficult to write... 

There is no pretty way to dress up addiction, it is ugly and awful to walk through. And sometimes it is even more ugly and awful to be the one watching someone walk through it. BUT I do know there is hope even for the most hopeless cases. I have seen with my own eyes addicts on the brink of death come back to life--to live full, beautiful and meaningful lives... 

A bit more of my story, I actually didn’t think I was an alcoholic. Shocking, I know! Can you believe an alcoholic/addict that doesn’t know or ‘think’ they have a problem?

For the sake of transparency—I was actually a “serial—medicator”. My ‘drug’ of choice when I hit bottom was alcohol, but it could have just as easily been a laundry list of other issues/substances: prescription drugs, food, spending, work, etc...

The list of “medicators” or vices to use goes on and on. 

I remember saying to a friend, "There is no way I am an alcoholic! I am not a homeless, toothless drunk, living in the gutter. And I still have my watch!" Apparently all the drunks I knew at that time didn't have watches. Good God forgive me for my judgmental ways.

That was MY definition of an alcoholic, until I embraced my own issue I had with this liquid addiction. Some addictions are well hidden from the public. But the consequences of addiction run deep in all our families... 

At times it seems like some addicts are more together than some sober people, and that adds confusion for many people. "Don’t judge a book by it’s cover,” are really wise words to apply to life. I once heard a woman say, "Don't compare someone else’s outside appearance to your insides.” Despite what Facebook tells us, everyone struggles with something. We all bleed red. My struggle may look different than yours, but I have been around the block enough to know, that we all struggle with something. There is no shame in struggling, despite what the 'demons' in our head tell us. It's how we handle that struggle that makes all the difference. 

This title “6 years sober, 3 years happy” has been brewing in my heart and mind for over a year. I am actually 7 years sober—2558 days to be exact, by the grace of God. But who is counting anyway? I am! I take my sobriety very serious. It's probably one of the most important accomplishments of my life. Getting and staying sober has changed the trajectory of my life. And my family’s life as well... 

In the final days of my drinking, life had become too heavy and too much and just too overwhelming in every way… hitting bottom is never pretty. 

However, 7 grateful years later I realize hitting my bottom was a gift, even though it certainly did NOT feel like it at the time. It felt like death but I was still breathing. 

Whether you believe that addiction is a self inflicted disease, or a hereditary disease, there is no denying it is a disease. Or better described as a “dis-ease” inside.  I had this constant nagging emptiness, that was emotional pain, shame, regret, disappointment, etc...and I was easily triggered. I have been told it was like walking on egg shells for those around me... I was a walking landmine loaded with reactionary emotions.

There is no magic pill that heals addiction. If there was, trust me, I would have taken the whole bottle. It’s good to add a little addict humor to a heavy subject, right? Addiction is no laughing matter, but we can't lose our ability for joy through the process. Life is too short not to laugh our way through it... 

I had to face the fact that the 'drink' (or “medicator” of choice) wasn’t the problem, the feelings inside were the problem. I believed when I stopped medicating, all my problems would go away. But that’s like saying if I ignore the bill, I won’t be sent to collections. We medicate for good reason. I was told early on in sobriety that there was no way to deal with the underlying issues, driving me to medicate, unless I did it sober. Lucky us… 

After I first got sober, for a time life got a bit more uncomfortable. “Uncomfortable” is an understatement— death seemed easier at the time than doing the ‘work’ to get healthy. The task facing life sober felt so overwhelming and daunting. AND to face the ramifications of my addiction, sober... pass the bottle, please... it seemed nearly impossible. Not being dramatic, just being real. When you are in the thick of it, death seems easier than facing life sometimes… 

But death isn’t the answer… there is always a way out of hopelessness, but we need to grasp that reality for ourselves. Sometimes the days feel too long, those are the days we need to live one moment at a time. I can not drink in this moment, and sometimes that alone is enough.

The longer I walk this journey and the more I face the demons that haunt me, the more freedom I experience.  Once I surrendered to the process and finally let people in, the obsession to drink left me. By the grace of God!! I met amazing people who had been in a similar place I was in, and I saw them living with more peace, joy and love than I ever imagined possible.  I wanted what they had. I was willing to do whatever it took to get there. 

I believe that addiction is the only disease that can be healed by admitting that we have a problem. Until I admitted I had a problem, I do not believe I could have ever really found healing... and we are really only lying to ourselves. Others around us know, sometimes they are just too frightened to tell us.

I had to face all the demons in my closet without help from a chemical. And good Lord I had some demons. 

Don’t we all have skeletons in our closets and things we would rather not face? 

Our addictions and issues lie to us, they make us believe that they are more powerful than the grace of God, we also believe that we have been disqualified from redemption. I know I felt like I was too far gone and there was no hope for me. 

Nothing we have done is bigger than God's grace and redemptive power. 

Romans 8:38-39 says “I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

I had to accept that FACT for myself. It didn’t matter how many people believed it for me, or prayed it over me—until I took the leap of faith and accepted that Grace, I could never be free. And friends, it was quite the leap at the time! But it was either leap for Grace or leap off a roof… glad I chose Grace. 

Grace brings a freedom so tangible there are days I want to shout it from the rooftops! Now I climb on rooftops not to contemplate jumping off, but with a desire to share the HOPE that is available even in our deepest struggle! This blog is my rooftop! 

I can tell you one thing for sure on this side of sobriety—We weren’t created to medicate. But we were created for peace and joy and love…and laughter. I believe whole heartedly we were created to laugh! 

For a long time I believed the lie “I was the only one” with a struggle. Hence the desire to jump off a roof… 

Shame was haunting me and creating a self- hatred so palatable, that the only way I knew to deal with it, was to medicate. I would do anything to not have to feel what I was feeling inside. 

No matter what we have done, we all qualify to receive His grace. That’s a hard pill to swallow when you are in the thick of shame and regret or disappointment with life. But it’s the only pill worth swallowing. Grace is worth swallowing. Grace is free, but we must pursue it and take hold of it for ourselves.

Through my sobriety I have seen the face of God more than once. He was tangible in my darkest hours. And some of those hours were very very dark… so dark I never thought I would see the light again. But I did…and I do.

As I mentioned earlier, getting sober absolutely changed the trajectory of my life. And my family's life as well. Someone also told me early in my sobriety that if we don’t deal with our issues head on, our children will. That alone is a sobering fact. 

Addict’s addictions don’t just affect the addict. They affect everyone around them… and that can be a very painful reality to face. 

I was granted the understanding that if I didn't deal with the destruction in my life and my addiction—I would lose my kids and wreck my husband and family.

For a time, demons might be easier to avoid and manage when our minds are chemically altered, but there comes a time when the chemicals don't work anymore. Actually nothing of this world works any more. The demons become so big and scary that the chemicals just make it all so much worse. 

Taking off the mask and the facade and facing our true selves is one of the scariest and most difficult choices we will ever make. It’s also one of the bravest and most rewarding things we can ever do. "Be true to thine own self". God didn't create us to wear a mask. He created us for freedom.

“The truth will set you free…”—this is the most honest statement ever written. Truth always sets us free.  

All these years later, I am so glad I admitted I had a problem, and that I took off the mask of denial. I am slowly dealing with my 'stuff'. I have seen and experienced God’s faithfulness, His love and His grace. His goodness has become more tangible than all the pain and struggle. 

Grace is real. Grace is tangible. And it's our's if we reach for it. It's already there waiting for us to take hold of, one day at a time...

It’s not 'us' and 'them', we are ALL in this together…

Part of my own healing is this post. It’s not always easy to share some parts of my life openly, but it’s more painful and difficult trying to hide and keep it all inside. I gave up secrets and hiding years ago. It was so exhausting. 

Psalm 32:3 “when I kept silent my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.” 

Grace is resurrecting my life. And I never thought I would say this, but I have more fun sober! And way less regrets… 

I am finally at a place where I can say, that I am so thankful for my struggle with addiction. I am not thankful for the years of pain it caused others or myself, BUT I am thankful that it was the doorway to a pretty wonderful life. 

It forced me to deal with things I am not sure I would have ever dealt with. I walk with my head held high, free and unashamed. I have learned through blood, sweat, and tears that Jesus adores us just as we are… that’s a humbling thought. 

Embracing that I didn't need to carry this burden alone was my breakthrough moment, and brought me so much freedom. We were never intended to carry our burdens alone. 

Galatians 6:2 “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

Christ didn't walk this planet alone and He doesn't expect us to either! 

Addiction is an epidemic in our world and it affects all of us one way or another. Either we struggle with it, or someone near and dear to us struggles with it, or both and it hurts us deeply.  

To end with some specific encouragement…

For those of us out there struggling in an addiction--hang in there!  Things are not hopeless! Find a support network that will love you through it… YOU CAN FIND HEALING AND HOPE! Don’t give up! Email me, I would love to help you find your tribe/community and to pray for you… 

And for those silent sufferers who love an addict in our lives and are being deeply and painfully affected by that addicts choices… I am so sorry for the pain you are carrying in this! God see’s your heart and wants to tend to you in this too! I don’t know what the outcome will be for the addict in your life, BUT I do know God wants to tend to your heart in this! He can and will sustain you. Please find a community/support system to love you through this journey. And keep praying, there is hope even for the most hopeless of cases! 

Friends, there is HOPE for the hopeless. No matter how alone you feel or life may seem at times-- hang in there, YOU are NOT alone!  Let’s do this together! 

Thankful to be sober and alive to write about the journey. 

Love,

Dani

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