When I was an actively using alcoholic there were several factors that were keeping me “in the closet,” so to speak. Most of my reasons were based off the thing that motivates most self-destructive behavior: fear. I was afraid of what my family and friends would think if they knew about my shameful condition. I was afraid of losing my job and my reputation. Most of all, I was afraid of not being able to drink anymore. Drinking had become the only way I knew how to cope with everyday life. I was convinced that I could not function in this world without a drink in my hand. Truth be told, I was afraid of what life might be like sober. This way of life was awful, but it was familiar. I knew what to expect. If I was to stop drinking, I would have to feel and deal with everything I had tried so hard to forget about. I would have to deal with the unknown.
When my secret did come out, as all secrets do, I was again afraid. Now that people knew about my dirty little secret, I was all of a sudden accountable for my behavior. The pieces of the jigsaw puzzle came together, and finally my family and friend’s were able to say “That’s why she was acting like that!” It was one of my biggest fears brought to the forefront: what other people thought about me. Now people were waiting for me to take some action to correct my problem. I had no idea how to do that, so I just went with suggestions of professionals. They told me I had to go to one of those “meetings.”
I had formed my own stereotypes in my mind about alcoholic people, and this stereotype had also been used as a reason to stay hidden in the bottle. Alcoholics were lowlife people, usually with no money, jobs, or families. A lot of them were criminal, and in my mind, dangerous. At best, it would be a bunch of old men sitting around smoking and drinking coffee while they wallowed in self-pity. Looking back, I do realize the irony of the “alcoholic calling the kettle alcoholic,” but my sick mind was trying to get around my whole situation and stay in denial.
Much to my surprise, I didn’t find a bunch of low-life, shady, homeless people on my road to recovery. Instead, I met good people who, like myself, had become enslaved to this power called addiction. It had overshadowed all the good things God had gifted them with, and replaced them with the addiction recipe of desperation, self-serving motivation, and deception. I shared in similar struggles with people who were just trying to regain the life addiction stole from them. I have prayed, cried, and laughed with these people. We have swapped stories of shame, humiliation, and guilt. One of the miracles I have found on my journey, is that God lives among the broken hearted. He brings us together by our similar struggles, and uses us to comfort one another. In 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, the Bible says:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. Who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
I now know addiction doesn’t stereotype. It doesn’t care what race you are, how much money you make, or what kind of job you have. It doesn’t care if you have a family, education, or drive a nice car. It doesn’t care about your dreams or hopes for your life. It only wants to entice, overtake lives, and eventually kill. That “lowlife” alcoholic who has lost everything was once filled with hopes and dreams for their life. Whatever circumstance led them into the nightmare of addiction, I can guarantee they did not ever want a life like that. I did not ever want a life like that.
“Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
I have also discovered that Jesus Christ doesn’t care who you are before Him either. He doesn’t care what race you are, how much money you make, or what kind of job you have. He doesn’t care how badly you have messed up, or how “unclean” you think your life is. If you ask Him to help you, He will. He will meet you right where you are. He met me right where I was, my life was broken and disheveled, and I was without hope and filled with fear. He has taken my fear, and is teaching me to live a new life in Him that is filled with hope. I no longer live in fear of the unknown and am filled with a new hope for my life.
The bottom two pictures are “before” and “after” shots. The first picture is me when I was using everyday. I am smiling, but you can see that my eyes are flat. They hold no glow, no shine, no light. The second picture was taken in September of 2012 and I am sober. My smile is real and my eyes look bright and happy. I would like to think they are shining with the light of Christ.
What does your life look like? Is it time to take a new picture?
“Therefore, whoever is in Christ is a new creation; the old life is gone, a new life has begun!” (2Corinthians 5:17)
2009- In active addiction (above)
Septemeber, 2012-sober, a new creation in Christ