Archive for the Semi-confessional Category
I have a page sitting in draft. It's my story - the condensed version. I'm in a big debate with myself whether or not to publish it. Because it would make me really vulnerable which is why I haven't shared it with very many people. I read a post by Sarah Bessey the other day titled The Sanitized Stories We Tell which got me thinking about my story again. Early in the year I told my story at a speaker meeting. In front of a room full of people and into a microphone. And I told a sanitized version. See there were things that happened that affected me in a massive way, but I was just, shall we say, collateral damage. It is much easier to tell what happened to me personally than to tell that other junk and how it affected me. I remember having a conversation once about people giving their testimonies and why that had stopped. It was said that they stopped doing them so as not to "glorify sin." I have never heard anyone glorifying sin while giving their testimony. I wondered how anyone could even make that leap, but I think I know how. That is the kind of attitude that comes from growing up in a rigid fundamentalist legalistic religious culture that confuses behavior modification with heart change. That attitude is uncomfortable when people talk about how bad they were. That attitude produces people who say when a brother or sister has a public moral failure that they must not have ever been saved. They become uncomfortable because they have never broken any of the no-no sins like drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, doing drugs, cussing, or having sex outside of marriage. They weren't rebellious or troublemakers, always doing what they were told, and always putting up a nice looking facade. Are they uncomfortable because it defies thier legalistic rigid religion? Because God shows grace where we don't/can't/won't? Where we weren't given grace? We play a seriously flawed and deadly game when we wear a facade of righteousness. If we are able to keep all the right rules, what do we need Jesus for? Why did he have to die? When we put forth this appearance that we have God now and everything is always okay and we have our life together, we set other people up for failure. The truth is that we are all epic failures. But we don't have to be defined by our failure. We absolutely do not have to feel like we are alone in our failure nor in the failures of our loved ones. And that is why I want to share my story. So someone out there with a similar story will know that they are not alone, and that there is hope. If you liked this post, would you please share it below? Thank you!
You would think that growing up in the United States this concept wouldn't be such an issue for me to grasp. Of course, growing up as a kid in the U.S., and in the Bible Belt South no less, I took a certain aspect of freedom for granted. Serving in the Air Force took care of most of that entitlement mentality. Actually, serving one short deployment in the Middle East took care of that though not at the time. But even still, I did not understand freedom because I didn't know what it was like to not be free. Or so I thought. I was never a slave so I couldn't understand what it's like to be a slave. I was never in jail so I couldn't understand what it's like to be a prisoner. I am predominantly European Caucasian so I couldn't relate to ethnic oppression. And I grew up as a Christian in the U.S. in the Bible Belt in the 70's and 80's where being a church-going Christian was just normative and therefore, couldn't relate to religious oppression. What I finally came to realize (thanks to some outside intervention) was that I was a slave to alcohol and a prisoner of my past. I was oppressed by a domineering father and a rigid religion as a child. I became so weighted down with guilt and shame as a child, and the only thing that was alleviating that pain was alcohol. I didn't feel the pain of not being good enough while I was drunk. I felt confident. I felt free. The freedom I thought I had while drunk was a lie. You are never free when you are spending all of your time and energy on trying to be "good enough" particularly when deep down you know you can never be perfect. Perfection as the standard will always leave you feeling inadequate. Eventually, you will realize the futility of trying and will throw your hands up in surrender because your life is unmanageable. There are 2 ways you can surrender. You can throw your hands up and say "Screw this!" or some variation of that thought, and proceed to do whatever you think is going to make you feel good. This is the path I took initially. Outwardly, it worked. I appeared to have everything together, but I was not working through my problems. I was just numbing and escaping. Therefore, life just kept becoming more unmanageable until it got to a point I couldn't cover it with a facade. The other way to surrender is to throw your hands up and say, "I can't do this anymore and I need help!" This is the point I eventually came to. My life had gotten so unmanageable that I was coming apart at the seams. It is taken a lot of therapy and a couple of 12 Step groups to sort through and work through my issues. But they couldn't really resolve my religion issues. I had God issues because of my Daddy issues. If I couldn't ever measure up to my dad's standards with my behavior, how could I ever hope to measure up to God's standard of absolute holy perfection? Plus since my dad had so many issues that he never addressed, I had contradictory information on what good behavior was. Because of his abuse, he abused, and I projected onto God's character that abuse was normal. And you know what abuse does to the abused? It makes them feel less than. Shamed. Not good enough. And it was rigid religion that allowed that abuse, because wives submit absolutely to their husbands, children cannot ever question their parents' behavior, and daddy's are the absolute boss and never wrong. This was God's way and so God must be like my daddy. Except He isn't. There wasn't really one event that opened my eyes. It was several things. Sessions with my therapist. Chats with my sponsor. Chats with friends. Blog posts. Books. Sermons. But one thing that stood out from a sermon, and I think it was one Pastor Jared preached, where he said, "Don't forget who you are, and don't forget whose you are." And it really started sinking in who I am in Jesus. What that really means. That God the Father's love for me is not contingent on my behavior. It never was. It's dependent on what Jesus did. I can quit trying to earn God's love because grace is given out of love. That's when I realized I was free. That's when I understood what freedom really is. Because that's when I finally understood what it means to rest in Christ; to "Be still and know that I am God." Jesus did all the work for me. I'm not ever going to be Mary Poppins, "perfect in every way." Freedom comes from knowing I don't have to be perfect because Jesus was perfect. As Pastor Benji said last Sunday in his sermon,
We're cleansed from the Stains of Sin & freed from the Chains of Sin!"
I am really struggling right now. When stuff hits the fan, it really hits the fan. I'm not struggling in isolation, though. I've shared with several close friends what is going on. I've even shared it with my co-workers because that morning I wasn't coming to work until my daughter was home, I felt I needed to tell them why. I have been put into the position - again - where I have to step up and take charge. Only this time, I have had a little taste of sanity, and I can see how life has become unmanageable again. I've had enough of the insanity and uncertainty and dysfunction. I am now in a position where I am forced to make some big decisions, all of which are going to involve uncomfortable (at best) confrontation. I also struggle with how much is too much to share publicly. I absolutely won't put this stuff on Facebook, but technically if I put it out here on my blog, I am putting on Facebook since I auto-publish to Facebook. There's also the little matter of not having shared what happened with family except for one cousin. Above all, I don't want unsolicited advice nor do I want a big outpouring of sympathy. I've played my own role in the dysfunction that does not leave me a completely innocent victim. There has been complicity on my part in the past that enabled things to progress to the point they have. However, that does not mean that I must maintain status quo out of misguided duty whose purpose is to keep up appearances. Sooner or later you can no longer hide the effects and consequences that accompany the disease of alcoholism and addiction. Then you are left with decisions on whether to let things continue to spiral in a way that sucks your family down with it or to protect the truly innocent from further harm from a disease none of you can control. This is where I am. Facing a decision that I don't want to make. Do nothing knowing things are going to continue to get worse (as they have been) while sucking multiple people down, or I can take a stand with the knowledge that the stand itself has the potential for loss. Yet I keep hearing the voice of Spock, "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few - or the one." If you liked this post, would you please share it below? Thank you!
I've done a few things lately that I swore I'd never do. Like plucking and shaping my eyebrows. I wore my bushy, manly brows like a badge earned from railing against conforming to western feminine culture. But then I decided to get my eyebrow pierced, and one of my coworkers talked me into eyebrow maintenance. And I haven't gotten the piercing. Yet. I also said I would never get back up to 200 pounds. But I did. It's not the number on scale so much as the clothes that are no longer fitting, or at least not fitting comfortably. And the reason my spare tire got reinflated is that I stopped eating healthy and running regularly. I stopped being disciplined about my physical health. It's a discipline issue. I was reminded that I know how to eat healthy, and I know how to exercise regularly. I've done it before. I lost 40 pounds, and felt great. (Physically) I can do it again, but I have to discipline myself to do it. I made myself a schedule. That would be another thing I wasn't ever going to do. Oh, I've been all about putting appointments on the calender, but not planning out my days like I did. Because it seemed legalistic. I stood at my whiteboard and wrote down everything I have to do every day (critical tasks) and at what times. Like work and sleep. I made those non-negotiables. Although even that is within reason because of Thursday night rehearsal. I'm not getting home before 9pm from rehearsal, and therefore won't be in bed by 9pm. But that's also (normally) only twice a month. I then listed out essentials like church and meetings. I don't have to do these like I have to go to work, but I am making them non-negotiables nonetheless. My spiritual and emotional health are dependent upon those. Then I worked in "me time." These are also non-negotiable because 1) I need alone time to recharge because I am an introvert, 2) I need time for self-care (exercise, meditation, reading), and 3) I have interests that I am going to work on that I need alone time for - like writing. I even scheduled social time even though church, meetings, and the running club constitute social time also. But it's a more specific social time like coffee/dinner with friends. All because in order to do everything I want and need to do for my health, I need some serious discipline. I know me. I know what I do without structure, and it is largely unproductive. And so now I am telling myself that I should not say, "You will never be able to get your life manageable because you will never be organized." I've never really tried.
I have a way of knowing things intellectually and even believing them intellectually, but without it fully sinking in. I suspect it is a manifestation of a coping/survival skill I picked up as a child. I've been piecing together things through my recovery. Who am I? I've been exploring that question my whole life, and never really coming up with a satisfactory answer. My Christian friends have and do tell me that my identity is found in Christ. Yes. That's kind of the Christian no-brainer. I've been adopted into the family of God because I've been redeemed by Jesus. But... Who is God? Because of my poor relationship with my dad along with a lot of hellfire and brimstone rendering of God, I had a warped view of who God is. My distorted childhood view of God (which lasted well into adulthood) was a vengeful God lacking grace. If you're not the perfect Christian, He is going to destroy you. Sure, Jesus washes your sins away, but when he does that you're not supposed to sin any more. I had to learn who God really was. Thankfully, He didn't leave me in my ignorance, and I finally grasped the concept of sanctification that occurs between justification and glorification. I slowly understood that I can't/didn't/won't earn God's love, that it is freely given through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. I had to learn who I was I learned I was a victim. I was a co-dependent, reality-escaping victim. I was afraid of everybody. It impacted every single area of my life. I felt trapped, and in all honesty, I was trapped. I was bound in a trap of my own making. A trap that was constructed with distorted truth and outright lies. Identity crisis I was at a crossroads of sorts, torn between who I've always thought I was and the reality of whose I am. I felt trapped between a cage that was at least familiar, and between fear of the unknown. I finally met that point in co-dependency where I asked myself who I would be if I dropped my victim status. How would I manage to live without it.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV)My greatest loss was that of my old distorted and arbitrary identity. It was great not because it was good, but because it was heavy. It isn't going away without a fight. It still screams for attention. But I have tasted something much better. Freedom. Freedom to be who I was made to be. Freedom to have purpose and worth. Freedom to be loved by my Creator not because of what I do (or don't do). Freedom to love, as I am loved. My greatest loss is turning out to be an amazing gift.
"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?
Matthew 23:27-28 ESV “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness."I love exploring cemeteries. If you follow me on Instagram you can see on my profile that I am a member of the Instagram group Graveyard_Dead. I have no qualms about going out into a cemetery and snapping a shot of a headstone, marker, or statue that I think looks cool. It's an artistic appreciation, but it does not often go beyond the marble. In the movie Galaxy Quest, the "Captain", Jason, gets stranded on an alien planet where he ends up fighting a rock monster. Actually, he's running from it while talking to the crew members on the ship trying to find a way to get out of his dire predicament. Alexander, the serious actor, asks Jason what is the creature's motivation. Jason replies, "It's a rock monster! It doesn't have motivation!" A Christian who is just a whitewashed tomb has motivation, but it's the wrong kind. He or she will look good on the outside, and even serve in various ministries, but the ultimate goal is to look the part so as to not have their character questioned or to have others tell them what a good Christian they are. You probably won't be able to recognize it unless you get close enough to them to get to know them. For instance, you might have someone who has seen a need in the community and started a ministry to meet that need. From the outside everything about it looks good and you even help with it. But then you walk up on a conversation by one of that ministry's leaders. The conversation does not stop but continues in a diatribe about how that ministry was not mentioned during announcements along with attribution of malicious intent rather than giving the benefit of the doubt that it was not intentional. Before long the leader surprises the entire congregation with a diatribe of his own during what was supposed to be a children's sermon. While both ministries are good ministries and the leaders appeared to be committed to serving, the self-aggrandizing showed their hearts to be more committed to their own recognition and honor from other people than to humbly serve. In another case, you have a deacon. He's very intelligent, and an excellent handyman. He's a good teacher. He takes care of several widows in the community in addition to his sisters. He has a beautiful wife who is also a gifted teacher. They are active in the local church and even in the association. But at home, he is domineering and abusive. He rules his household through fear and shame. Grace is absent. No one really knows because there are no physical marks - only deep emotional wounds. He has become convinced he is always right. Eventually he crosses the line and cannot justify and rationalize his actions to others which now extend beyond his family. But he can't see his part. Even as he sits in prison, he is a victim and not the perpetrator.
Galatians 5:19-21 ESV Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.Take out the sex, sorcery, and drunkenness, and you will see many of the other traits in a whitewashed tomb. They don't drink, do drugs, smoke, have sex outside of marriage, or cuss. At least you'll never see it. But they will point out any little infraction they find in you. They lack compassion, grace, and humility. Just like the Pharisees.
Galatians 5:22-23 ESV But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.It's all about your motivation. Either you are working for the sake of performance to show that you are worthy of man's praise (or seeking personal comfort), or you are working according to the fruit the Holy Spirit is producing in you. Our motives probably aren't ever completely pure, but if we can keep our mouths in check and don't sound a trumpet every time we do a good deed, we are most likely using our love for Jesus and compassion for other people as our primary motivation.
Matthew 6:19-21 ESV “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
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?
Faith is not primarily a function of how you feel. Faith is living out, trusting, and believing what truth is despite what you feel.— Timothy Keller (@timkellernyc) March 12, 2015
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. ;)
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.