The week after Christmas, I was sitting at my kitchen table with my son helping him write thank you notes to everyone for his Christmas presents this year and something happened to me that hadn't happened in awhile. I heard a voice in my head... it was uncomfortable yet tried to sound as though it were confident. It boldly said this to me...
“Wendy... you haven't had a drink in 4 years. You're not really an alcoholic. I mean, if you were an alcoholic, you wouldn't have been able to go 4 years without a drink. It’s okay for you to drink. You can just have one or two... you'd be fine. Go ahead. You deserve it.”
For a nanosecond a little flicker of hope rose in me... maybe I can drink just one or two! But another nanosecond later I laughed at the voice remembering the truth… there is no doubt that I am an alcoholic. A flash of my old life hit me. I drank a lot and had no control. I did horrible embarrassing things that any good and decent person would feel ashamed of. I drank and wasn't able to stop at one or two. I drank to feel better, I drank to hide pain, I drank to celebrate, I drank for no reason, I drank even when I didn't want to... I drank just to breathe. And in the end, my drinking led me to not want to breathe anymore. All of these past memories were blurry, black and white pictures, but their blurriness and blandness didn't hide their truth. I am an alcoholic. As for not drinking for the last 4 years, there is only one reason I have not had a drink and it's not because I am not an alcoholic. It is because God has blessed me with day by day sobriety. God is the only reason my blurry, monochrome past isn't a very vivid full-color HD real-life picture of my present.
I laughed at the lying voice in my head and put its fire out as if I were smashing the butt of the very last cigarette I ever smoked. Secrets give a great foothold to the devil so I immediately stood from my chair and let the battle that had just raged in my head come out of my mouth and become real... I went to my husband and told him the thoughts that had just passed through my head. I then went to the phone and called my sponsor to talk it through. I have many more one-day-at-a-time's tacked onto my sobriety since then. Thank you Jesus!
I’ve done a lot of reflection on myself in the last six months. It turns out I’ve made some mistakes even after getting sober. This was hard for me accept since I thought I was fairly close to perfect just because I quit drinking (ha ha). After working hard to get sober through self-honesty, I got a little lazy. I may not have been drinking, but several of my character defects moved into high gear. Apparently I was highly addicted to drama and didn’t realize it. I had the propensity not to shut my mouth when I should and my boundaries in friendship skills needed a lot of work. The perception I had that I was supposed to be more perfect in life after getting sober coupled with a giant ego made me unable to clearly see these additional defects of character as they were pouring out of me.
Fast forward a few years and the character defeats I listed above mixed with the character defect of some others made for an extremely toxic environment for me, and them. Finally God made me so uncomfortable in my own skin that I broke. Just like with my drinking, He forced me to come back to Him and take a good long look at myself. It was only then I was able to see those defects clearly. I winced and cringed as I faced them and asked the questions… “What do I do about it? How can I move closer to who God means for me to be?”
Another fast forward… with God’s help, I have examined my ways with all the honesty I could muster. With my therapist’s help I have added some tools to my tool box to assist me in changing the yucky stuff. With my sponsors help, I’ve stayed sober through it. With God’s perfect prompting, I have made my amends to the people I hurt along the way which was no easy task. There was (and still is) a lot of pain associated with these events and as we all know, it takes two to tango. Everyone has their own view and their own version of the story based on their perceptions. A little white lie can turn into a giant snowball in which the truth is so deeply hidden even the people involved can’t see it. But God tells me, all I can concern myself with is MY mistakes, MY wrongs and MY failings. Through all this, especially after making the amends, I can say I have found a certain amount of peace about that part of my life. I have also made some major changes by removing myself from involvement in activities out of obedience to God for the purpose of distancing myself from the destruction of the past. My spirit has changed yet again but for the good, even though there was a lot of suffering along the way.
It’s been hard to admit to myself that yes… I have enjoyed drama too much. Yes… my mouth has gotten out of control and yes… I haven’t really known how to build and maintain a healthy friendship. But, admitting these things has allowed me to be more aware of who I was, who I don’t want to be and most importantly, who I hope to be in the future. With God’s help, there has been a lot of progress… and more to come. I’m curious as to what my next set of defects will bring about. I’m hoping it won’t be as painful, but I guess sometimes that’s what it takes. I’m so glad I finally have peace over this part of my past. It is a welcomed relief.
So why then, did my spirit get all discombobulated about all of this same junk again at the mere mention of a person from that past who has made yet another accusation of me? I thought I had worked through all of this… wasn’t my spirit at peace? In an instant it didn’t matter that the accusation was untrue, it didn’t matter that I had already made my amends, it didn’t matter that I knew God had forgiven me for my part and my wrongs. No, these past memories were vivid full-color HD larger than life pictures of ME. Just a glimpse at them and I was right back there in the moment feeding on drama, saying too much and showing the world what a bad friend I was. In short… I was an awful person making terrible mistakes, ruining everything for myself (and if I want to dive even deeper into self pity, I could even say I was ruining everything for everyone else… wahhhh). Ugh, my life and spirit were sucked dry in an instant. The picture was clear…I believed I AM a horrible sinner… I believed I AM a horrible person. And that was my reality. Guilt, shame, and embarrassment surrounded me.
I did the only thing I knew to do, and that was pray. I spent 30 minutes in direct contact with God begging Him to lift this discomfort from me. I apologized to Him yet again for my sins just to clarify that I knew what they were and that I was indeed sorry. Towards the end of my prayer, I prayed for the individual whose mere mention had brought about these awful feelings. I prayed for that person, I asked God to give them everything I was asking for… everything I desired… give it to them. To my amazement, I meant it.
I went about my day not even realizing… I hadn’t thought about it again after that. My peace resumed that quickly, and I didn’t even notice. I should have said thank you but didn’t so I will say it now. Thank you God. You are a miracle worker!
I recalled the voice that entered my head as I wrote thanks you’s with my son, the one that told me I wasn’t an alcoholic… the one that tried to convince me I could drink. I wondered why that hadn’t brought me back to a place of shame, guilt and embarrassment like this other thing had. I mean by all means, it should have, but it didn’t. What was the difference?
The pictures of the past I saw when looking at alcoholic Wendy were blurry, black and white pictures of a person who ceased to exist. Their blurriness and blandness didn't hide the specifics of who this person used to be. Yes, I’m well aware of who I was then and I remember the things I did. What the blurriness did though was keep me from becoming absorbed in the past… it blocked the shame, guilt and embarrassment and allowed me to jump to the truth immediately. Yes, I am an alcoholic and I wasn’t a very nice person back then… but I’m not that same person anymore. God is with me and has forgiven me. I need not go back there… all I need to do is live in today and who I am now. Truth: I am a new creation now.
The pictures I saw when reminded of the other situation were different. They were vivid, full-color, pictures of ME… not former me… but me. And that was when I realized what the difference was…
I was buying into a lie. The devil was selling me a colorful lie about myself and I was falling for it because I myself wasn’t standing firm on the truth of God’s forgiveness of my former sins. The devil wanted me to believe I was still back there in the midst of those defects, an unforgiven wretch. He wanted me to relive it and beat myself up… to be ashamed and embarrassed. He wanted me to keep asking God to forgive me over and over and over… even though I didn’t need to. AH HA… the difference was the TRUTH.
The more I embrace God’s truth, the more the color in those pictures will fade and the clarity will have no choice but to blur. Truth: I am forgiven. Truth: I am not who I used to be. Truth: God has changed me. Truth: I am a new creation. The truth is, that version of Wendy doesn’t exist anymore… she is hanging out with alcoholic Wendy somewhere in never-never land.
I’ve been sober for 4 years and yes I have worked through the majority of my drinking issues and have found peace. Since I will always be susceptible to relapse, I can and should expect the voice of the devil to try and sell me a lie. And just the same, even though I have worked through the majority of issues surrounding those defects which wrecked havoc on my life not so long ago and have found peace, I can and should expect the voice of the devil to try and drag me back into shame, guilt and embarrassment.
I think it’s kind of funny that the devil’s scheme to try and get me to drink totally backfired on him. The blurry picture from my drinking days inspired me to make sure all the pictures of things that have been handled appropriately by my Heavenly Father also got blurred. God is amazing.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” Ephesians 6: 10-18