Archive for the Life Category

Dumping the junk

I don’t know if any other denomination holds confession like the Catholic church. A Google search could probably answer that, but it really doesn’t matter. I know it is a sacrament for Catholics to go to confession and confess their sins to the priest. We Protestants don’t do that because Jesus is our high priest and we can go straight and boldly to God the Father.

Having grown up in a non-confessional environment, I had no concept whatsoever of the healing nature of telling my “junk” to another person.

“Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another person the exact nature of our wrongs.” – Step 5, page 59, Alcoholics Anonymous

That was a hard step for me. Granted Step 4 was hard enough writing all that crap down. But it was another matter to say it out loud to another person. Things that I had never ever EVER said out loud to ANYONE. Actually, there was only one thing that nobody else knew because I never told anyone. But now, both my sponsor and my therapist know about that. Since I’ve vomited all my secrets out (that I could remember up to that point), I don’t feel such a need to keep things hidden.

The saying, “You’re only as sick as your secrets,” is, at least for me, absolutely true. It was no wonder I turned to alcohol to numb. Of course, now I am dealing with the feelings from all that crap that I didn’t deal with at the time, so I am still pretty sick. But I’m getting better as I learn that feeling the anger and the hurt feelings is actually what emotionally healthy people do. They don’t stuff, suppress, and numb. They feel, work it out, let it go, and move on.

I wouldn’t dare suggest mandatory confession. For one thing, there is no way to enforce it that would even be remotely healthy. But I think within the context of a local church, confession to another person would be transforming because confession tears down facades, and confession frees us from darkness.

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. (James 5:16 ESV)

We don’t want to indiscriminately confess our junk because there are “tares among the wheat” inside and outside of church, and you need to be able to talk to someone you can trust is not going to harm you. You need someone who will pray with you and for you without judging you from self-righteousness, but yet will lovingly call you out when you need it. We all have blind spots. I think that is part of true confession to another person – being willing to have your blind spots pointed out to you, and admitting them for what they are. It won’t feel good, but it’s how we grow – by humbling ourselves.

“Do you want to be healed?”

“Drop the rock. Just drop the freakin’ rock, and quit picking it back up!”

I had a little meltdown in church today. It started near the end of the sermon and lasted until a couple minutes after we were dismissed. It wasn’t one of those meltdowns like a couple of weeks ago where I heavy sobbed for an hour in the fetal position, but it was enough that I had to grab a tissue – and soaked it.

“Do you want to get well?”

The sermon text was from John 5:1-5 which is the account John gives of the healing of the man at the pool at Bethesda. The man there had been ill for 38 years. That’s a long time to be sick. Jesus asked him if he wanted to be healed, but the man answered with the reason he hadn’t been healed as if he had given up all hope of ever being healed. Someone always beat him into the pool. As Pastor Jared put it, the man answered the question with an excuse. Jesus still healed him.

I sat there thinking, “Do I want to be healed? Do I REALLY want to be healed?” Then the tears started welling up. Pastor Jared said, “Remember who you are!” I grab a tissue because they are spilling now. I write on my teaching notes, “I am not my childhood.” As Pastor Nate wrapped up after the service, I completely soaked the tissue. I remember him praying, but not really what he prayed because I was praying about that rock I keep picking up and carrying.

With every meltdown, there is release of a little bit of the pain. It is part of the healing. But it’s not all of it. When I first got a sponsor, I am pretty sure she asked me if I was willing to do whatever it took to stay sober. I said, “Yes,” having no idea what that was going to mean other than completely changing the way I think about everything. I had no idea the can of worms that would open. Last week, Pastor Nate posed a question in his sermon, “When tests come, am I willing to go the distance with Jesus to experience a miracle?”

Today Pastor Jared said this:

“If you’ve never been broken/had a need, you can’t really know Jehovah Jireh – the Lord who provides.
If you’ve never been lonely, you can’t really know El Roi – the God who sees me.”

Am I willing to pick up my mat and walk? Can I drop that rock and walk away from it?

I am a miracle

We are in a sermon series at church called He Still Moves Stones. It’s an 8 week series on the miracles of Jesus that are unique to the Gospel of John. There was a point in this past Sunday’s message when Pastor Benji had each of us turn to our neighbor and say, “You are a miracle.” It came at a time when I needed to be reminded of that fact.

I had an hour-long meltdown last week. Thankfully I had it at home, but it wasn’t done in isolation because Petra was pressing on an emotional trigger point. An area of denial was brought into my consciousness where I could finally see it for what it was. A lot of pain flowed out with the tears. I think some of it just settled in my neck and shoulder because I’ve had a crick ever since. The next day, one of my co-workers looked at me and said, “You look like hell.” I felt like it, too. That evening I was telling my sponsor about the meltdown, and I told her, “You know, I didn’t want a drink.”

The miracle.

Early in my sobriety I was told to wait for the miracle. Of course, also in my early sobriety I did a whole lot of wondering what the heck these people were talking about. I could not fathom being able to function and live consistently sober. My sponsor would say to me, “I promise! It gets better!” Part of me thought that was bullshit. But another part of my hung on to her words for dear life, hoping beyond hope it was true for me like it was for her. Little by little, I began to believe, and I began to see the miracle I was told to wait for.

“The miracles of God are often time-delayed and require patience.” – Benji Kelley

I longed for deliverance throughout my childhood when I learned to shut down and dissociate. I longed for deliverance while I was numbing the pain I didn’t know I needed to face. I longed for a quick-fix, pain-free deliverance. That’s not what I’m getting, but it doesn’t make it any less of a miracle.

It was a miracle that I survived my childhood. I wasn’t in physical danger, although that was questionable during my appendix saga. But what I mean is, it was a miracle that I did not ever become suicidal. It was a miracle as an adult that I was a functioning alcoholic who could hold down a job and appear to have it all together. Now, it is a miracle that I don’t have the compulsion to continue to numb. It is an even greater miracle that I am willing and able to face facts and admit that I suffered abuse, allow myself to process the emotions, and find the deliverance I wanted so badly for so long.

I believe in miracles. I am a miracle.

I am a writer

We’ll just go ahead and call this my official coming out. Since I’ve been blogging since 2004, it’s time to make it official. I have said so many times in the past year or 2, “I can write what I can’t say.” I also have a lot of stuff to get out because I have also been saying for a while, “You’re only as sick as your secrets.”

I was told a few years ago that I have a gift for writing. And I was told that again by a different friend within the last year. I suppose I should believe it given the way I managed to BS my way through AP English in high school. Part of that credit goes to Kim Dixon for actually doing the reading assignments and telling Kelly what the book was about. I listened very intently to her summaries. So on that note, thank you Kim for getting me through AP English, and for being one of my few regular readers. :)

I’ve done a lot of questioning of myself. Who am I? What do I want to do with my life? I’m doing a lot of figuring out what I like to do and what I’m good at and matching those up. Also I have been looking at how I have been mentored and directed throughout my life. Too long I have lived my life doing what I thought was expected of me without giving enough thought to what I want and like and am good at. Heck, it’s taken a lot just to accept that I am good at something.

The gift of sobriety has given me a chance to live. Really live. Not the going-through-the-motions life I’ve always done, but a life lived among other people. A life of sharing of experience, strength, and hope to quote a few 12 step programs. I have been given an immeasurable amount of grace, and I want to share that journey with others. Other people who are scared of feeling, scared of taking action, scared of facing the past, and scared of what the future holds.

I’ve wanted to write a book for a while. I have several ideas, so maybe I’ll write several books. Who knows what the future holds.

On with the show

The DragonLady doesn’t like crowds. That’s why she doesn’t do concerts. Crowds freak her out. Also, she doesn’t like to pay the price concert tickets cost these days. But you know what? I went to see Fleetwood Mac last month paying way more than I wanted to pay for tickets in the rafters.

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Prior to the beginning of the show, I would look at that and get that feeling in my stomach as if I was going to pitch forward and fall to my death. Because I also don’t do heights.

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That’s my “this is too high” face. Note that we weren’t all the way at the top but close.

Once they came out and started playing, though, I did not notice the height at all. It was a heck of a good show! I sat there singing along with every single song as only someone who has spent a LOT of time listening to Fleetwood Mac can do. I screamed. I yelled. I was surprised I could talk the next day.

Dreams unwind. Love's a state of mind.

Dreams unwind. Love’s a state of mind.

Tusk

Tusk

They were so fantastic! Lindsey Buckingham didn’t leave the stage until just before the encore, and then just during the drum solo in World Turning. I know he is the youngest member of the band, but he is still mid-60’s rocking a 2.5 hour show.

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This was the finale, which I obviously didn’t take from the rafters. Someone with much better seats than I took this. Also, I used up my free space recording Gold Dust Woman. Which I haven’t uploaded.

Choice

It struck me in the middle of a conversation where I was sitting on my pity pot bemoaning the latest catastrophe to befall me.

Do I really trust God? Do I really trust Him?

Because it is one thing to pray and surrender everything to Him and His will, but when you’ve done that, and something happens that you didn’t anticipate, it’s another matter to follow through by walking in the faith you thought you had when you said that prayer. Talk is cheap, but living it out is going to cost something.

Clinging to control and self-sufficiency is going to cost you a lot more.

All the years I spent pushing myself and pushing myself trying to do it all and do it all perfectly exacted a heavy price. Multiple times. And I didn’t get it.

A few years ago I asked “Just how broken do I have to be?” I knew at the time. Completely. I just didn’t really know what that means exactly. I have a much better idea now. It’s whatever it takes until I become completely dependent upon God and quit trying to do everything (and do everything perfectly) in my own power in effort to be good enough.

Ah, but there’s more.

I was talking with a friend earlier this week and we got on the subject of legalism in the church. Since we both grew up Baptist, we were generally talking about Baptist churches since that’s what we have had the most experience with. I don’t know where it came from (I probably read it somewhere), but in response to discussing the logical though flawed thinking behind legalism, I said, “Grace is scary because grace can’t be controlled.”

If you can spot it, you got it.

The control freak in me doesn’t want to go down without a fight. She’s been calling the shots for decades because she has to head off every possible problem and either prevent it from happening or fix it before anyone finds out she messed up. Every time she thinks she’s hit bottom, it turns out to be a ledge, and she rolls right off over and over.

Can I really do this? Can I give up my control and self-sufficiency and really really surrender my will and my life over to the care of God?

Am I going to just admit where my best thinking has gotten me and just trust Him?

Am I going to accept the grace I can’t control?

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“…and the wind won’t stop”

Pain is baffling. It is pretty dang frustrating to spend several years trying to get healthy, changing my entire lifestyle through exercise and a healthy diet – and then getting sober – to find myself struggling with chronic pain. I even went so far as to question my sanity. After all, how many health issues can I share with Petra before I begin to wonder how much is in my head. On the other hand, when I really think about it, I can see that the issues started way before we ever met. And since I don’t believe in coincidence, there must be a reason why we were put in each other’s lives. And yeah, I over-think and tend to over-dramatize. Whatevs.

Talking to a couple of friends last week, I wondered aloud if maybe I’ve had this pain for a while and just didn’t know it because I was self-medicating. It was pointed out to me that because I have been sober for over a year now that I would naturally be more attuned to what is going on with my body. So I started thinking back trying to find a time in my life when I was dealing with a lot of pain, and in my very late 20’s and very early 30’s, I had a lot of knee, back, and wrist pain. The Air Force doctors and physical therapists couldn’t find a reason for any of the pain, though it was said that the wrist pain was likely pre-carpal tunnel. I realized that I stopped having so much widespread pain when my drinking ramped back up.

I did a little internet research and a study was done on a connection between fibromyalgia with depression and alcohol use. While the study was not to be taken completely conclusively, it showed that low and moderate use of alcohol tended to lesson the fibromyalgia pain. I went back and forth between high moderate and low heavy drinking. This could have had an impact on my pain level. Petra says my symptoms scream fibromyalgia, and I had some pain last week that definitely fit that category.

My dad claimed to have nearly every disease or disorder known to man. I know he had allergy problems and Type II diabetes. I remember a couple of times hearing him say, “I think I have depression.” I do not doubt that at all. I also have heard him talking about his recovery from his ruptured appendix, and he described an incident that sounded exactly like I feel when I have a panic attack. He also claimed to have “myalgia.” It’s a broadstroke disorder of muscle pain. Fibromyalgia falls under that broad disorder. And as I connect dots again, my mother-in-law told me that he had a problem with pills for a while. If he had pain like I have pain, I’m sure he did have a pain pill addiction because at that time he had a highly technical and physical job that would be hard to do while in chronic widespread pain.

Last week I found out something about my dad’s childhood that I never knew. I didn’t get great detail nor did I ask for more detail. I learned what I needed to know which explained why he acted the way he did. He had a really rough childhood. The one aspect of it I never knew was the one that I was able to take and finally feel connected to him. Sadly, nearly 8 years after his death, but I understand. I have friends, family, programs, and mental health support that he didn’t have. Not that he didn’t have support of friends and family. Especially family. But I have been granted awareness that he was either never granted or chose to remain in denial. And so, I think it is no coincidence that I find all this out now – after I’m sober. I know where I stand with fibromyalgia if that is indeed the reason for my pain. I also am acutely aware of my self-destructive and addictive tendencies. Okay, maybe not acutely. But aware. I don’t want pain management. I want pain elimination. If elimination is not possible, well, I suppose that will be another blow to my self-reliance. ;)

When the attitude changes

It seems like I turned into a girl overnight…at 45 years old. It’s the weirdest thing yet not something I want to fight. First it was just wearing makeup, but then I suddenly decided I wanted to wear dresses. Yes. The girl who hated, HATED, wearing dresses as a kid likes to wear dresses now. How does that even happen? And sure enough, when I wear them to work, everyone thinks I have an interview. And no, I don’t have an interview.

dress

What I do have is a different attitude and I can only assume it is related to sobriety and working out a lot of issues affecting my view of myself. I still have a long way to go, but it’s amazing how much easier it is to travel just one day at a time. I was reading earlier, and I had gotten to a chapter with a title that included the phrase “return to sanity.” It led to a short office discussion in which I stated that returning to sanity insinuates that you actually had sanity at some point. I will also point out that I was reading about home organization not any 12 step material. Although, the last chapter of the book referenced the founding of AA which had me look at the book from a different perspective.

Regarding sanity and it’s role in organization or lack thereof, I also had a conversation recently regarding the disorganization of my house. I’ve known my house was out of control for years, but I never really saw it as it really was. Just as I took action on my own personal appearance, I have begun to take action on the appearance of my house. Truth be told, it has looked like a couple of drunks have been living in it. The kids’ rooms are complete wrecks because they learned housekeeping skills from a couple of drunks who made minimal (if any) effort to keep a clean and orderly house.

Given the state of our house and my change in attitude, I decided that the house is getting cleaned up one way or another. I had purchased 30 Days to a Clean and Organized House a few months ago, and with that as a guide, went after my family. Because, you know, if I’m the only one working and there are 3 other people living in that house, it should be clean. CLEAN! I gave the kids a week to get their rooms cleaned up or else I was turning the internet off. Chad asked for an extra day, but he got it done and his room was by far the worst in the house. In the meantime, I cleaned up my office, the landing upstairs, the master bathroom, and got a big chunk of the master bedroom done. James got the kitchen deep cleaned, and a lot of the living room. The only reason Jamie still has internet is because I cannot currently remember the admin password to the router.

“Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change.” – Alcoholics Anonymous.

Finding a new way of life – and living it – will change your attitude, and the way you live life. Miracles happen, and promises come true.

Too much

Last week was one of those weeks where there was just too much. It’s been a while since I had a panic attack. I had 2 last week. I guess maybe I needed a reminder that there is no such thing as an instant fix for one’s issues that are so deeply rooted. I had gotten pretty confident that I had finally grown up emotionally, and then I talked to my mom, and she largely couldn’t talk back. She would try, but then get frustrated when she couldn’t say what she was thinking and say, “I’m just crazy, crazy, crazy!” I wanted to argue and yell, “NO, YOU’RE NOT CRAZY!” But I know the futility of arguing with someone who has lost the ability to reason and retain. So I would just say, “You know, it’s okay. It’s going to be okay.” And it is. It just doesn’t feel like it.

I had a uterine ultrasound the next day. I made light of it because I really wasn’t overly concerned. In fact, I was hoping the results would show the need for a hysterectomy. Turned out to be 2 benign ovarian cycts. And must be on the left because I don’t think he ever found my right ovary. I thought at the time that he couldn’t see it because the wand was puncturing a lung and my ovaries aren’t that high. Not that I exaggerate. ;) But all joking aside, as I was laying there I felt the beginning of the first panic attack. I got home to find no one there, and in a few minutes the rest of the family returned from a trip to Lowes picking up a new dishwasher. James kept asking me questions as he was swapping them out about what we did when we installed the original. “I don’t know. All I remember is we fought.” He kept asking and I kept giving that same answer because even though the circumstances were completely different, I was freaking out inside over the memory. Finally he said, “This isn’t like last time, and I’m not going to yell at you.” I responded, “I know. You’re sober and I’m sober. But I never dealt with that event.” I finally managed to calm down enough to switch out the wiring which, ironically, was the thing that turned the original install into such a huge fight. And everything went so smoothly. It was amazing. Yet, I still showed up to a meeting with my sponsor later in a panic attack. And thank goodness we were meeting that night!

But then the next day, I got double-teamed at work and told to grow a spine. I turned right back into an emotional 5 year old and shut down. Another thing happened the next day at work that triggered another panic attack on the way home. I remember thinking then, “I’ll wake up with a migraine tomorrow.” I did get to meet the Fonz that night which was just too cool. It would have been cooler if he’d held my hand like he did Petra. Just sayin’. And sure enough, I woke up with a migraine.

I had an appointment Saturday morning that I wasn’t going to let a migraine stop. It was something I didn’t want to do, but I could come up with no good reason not to do it, and God didn’t close that door. We had agreed on 45 min. I thought that would be too long, but we talked for like 3 hours. I don’t think I have ever felt that comfortable being that open and sharing with someone I barely knew. We both agreed that it was a God thing. To top it off, though I hadn’t yet taken anything for my migraine because I didn’t want to be half stoned out while there, there was no pain that whole time. I had trouble with speaking words, but that’s not unusual. After I left though? My head nearly exploded on me. Especially when I stopped at Food Lion. Another God thing.

And yesterday morning, I stood in the shower and broke down. I had that huge ugly cry that I needed last week after talking to my mom. I wondered at the time even as the sobs wracked through my body why I have such a hard time surrendering to grief and sorrow to this day. Why can’t I let go and be vulnerable around other people and especially my close friends and family? I mean, I know why. But why do I hang onto it after it had long since stopped being useful? I know the answer to that too. It’s frustrating.

It works if you work it

I always thought I knew what faith was even though I couldn’t explain it. Oh, I could quote scripture about it, but I just thought I understood it. That being said, I still don’t completely understand it, and can no more explain it other than by telling you what it isn’t.

I played with the worship team at church a few weeks ago, and our only rehearsal as a group was Sunday morning before the first service. They were all easy songs to play, and I had played all but one before, so I felt fairly confident that I could play without any major screwups. That confidence did not keep me from losing my place in Cornerstone in every single service. Even though I did just fine in rehearsal. However, a couple weeks prior we had done a song called Relentless, and in one of the last choruses, there are 2 separate parts being sung. The first time we did it 2 weeks prior, I was one of the 2 vocalists to be singing the second part. We hadn’t had a rehearsal before that Sunday either, and since I hadn’t practiced it, I missed the cue every.single.time. This time I had it. One of the ladies pointed out during rehearsal that she could hear me and I had it down. I said, “I practiced that so hard last week!” And I did. I put more practice time into nailing the vocals on that one chorus than guitar and vocals combined on the other songs. This led to a discussion about faith, and how faith isn’t faith until it’s put in action. You have to work it.

And that’s when I said, “It works if you work it.”

I first heard that phrase in Al-Anon in reference to the Al-Anon program. Which is nearly identical to the AA program from which it was derived. It was about a year and a half ago that I stepped into Al-Anon, and I can say with absolute certainty, I didn’t work the Al-Anon program. I went to meetings. I read the literature. I didn’t call anyone even though I had 2 phone lists. I was my own sponsor. So I stayed perpetually on the 1st step – “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.” I knew my life was unmanageable. There was no doubt about that. Powerless, though, I was not. Or so I thought.

I remember right before I started going to Al-Anon, I went to an open AA meeting with my husband. After the meeting he asked me what I thought and I said, “That is what church should be like. That is living out James 5:16.”

James 5:16 English Standard Version (ESV)
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

I am convinced that is the only way we can bear one another’s burdens.

Galatians 6:2 English Standard Version (ESV)
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

This is the essence of love. And it was love that got and kept me sober. A group of drunks who loved me until I could love myself. Strangers who walked with me one day at a time encouraging me to keep coming back. The woman I picked out to be my sponsor that I didn’t have the nerve to actually ask – who reached out to me and helped me pluck up the courage I had sat on for 2 weeks. God doing for me what I could not do for myself. But I still had to work at it.

I had to go to meetings. I had to read my literature. I had to call my sponsor – especially when I didn’t want to. I had to listen to her tell me what I didn’t want to hear and do what she suggested whether I wanted to or not. Sometimes she pissed me off. But I followed her. I followed her because she had already been down this road and knew the way. I followed her because God told me he had been sending people to help me when I cried out to him asking why he hadn’t helped me, and therefore I chose to trust that he put her in my life. I work the program, and it works even though I don’t work it perfectly.

Ephesians 2:8-10 English Standard Version (ESV)
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Faith isn’t something we manufacture ourselves. It’s not a bargaining means to get God to grant our wishes. It is given to us to do what God would have us do whether his will is for us to act or be still. He gives us faith for His purpose and His glory. That is why it works if you work it. Because it’s not about you.