Point Blank I am so tired of being afraid.
I feel like I have been given a gift. This gift of fear, that is also my motivation and courage to continue this story, out loud. "For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline."-2 Timothy 1:7
For those of you keeping track, this is a deeper dive in my quest to be more honest with my drinking story.
I am beginning to see that "fear" can be different then "being afraid" I have always been too afraid to share, because I was afraid of rejection, afraid of shame, afraid of letting everyone down, afraid of failure. And, if I'm being honest, afraid to let go of the fame and glory that alcohol has been over my life. For way too long I have felt that I owed all my best memories and campfire stories to "that one time when I was super wasted..." These past three years have been pretty rad without any alcohol at all... and it is funny how easy it is to forget the good times I am living in, when I'm so busy still reliving the past; the past that used to be me.
Throughout my life, since 8th grade I have been afraid of ruining my "goodie, good" a "mature nurturing Christian image" ruining my peacekeeping/people pleasing/all things are good and under control and can-do attitude reputation. Hold up, this fear had never stopped me from drinking with other Christians and none-Christians alike, because, hey, Jesus turned water into wine, right...? I digress, this reputation I have been trying to protect is the same practice that has kept me exhausted and anxiety ridden for as long as I can remember. The difference from then to now, is that this past year, the stress has literally been seeping through my body in ways of phantom back pain, a week in a half of unexplainable deep red and welted hives all over my body. As well as isolation, depression and anxiety attacks that I could no longer contain. Truth is, my body won't let me hide anymore, because within this one body, quite simply, there's no more room.
My sweet husband. <3 Reflecting on the past 17 years of knowing this man, I still cannot believe that we get to have this amazing and blessed life together. Everyday I am grateful that he still willingly chooses to be with me. Let's be real, this is marriage, we are in the army, which takes a toll all on it's own, on top of that we have two growing boys, and personal desires, and personal struggles; it has not been all
roses and rainbows. We have had 14+ years of good times and bad times, and these past 3 years sober have been some of our best and most challenging times ever, because we have to actually communicate out loud in the way the other person can hear them... and if either of us do not understand or feels misunderstood, we pause and address the elephants in the room right as they are standing there. Believe me, there has been many times where I get frustrated and start to spiral, or other times when my husband will completely shut down and say nothing. Within either instances, despite the discomfort, we have to come together and figure it out, out loud. In order to truly hear and be present with what each other needs. Before, when we were drinking we would push it under the rug and have a bottle of wine or a couple glasses of bourbon and forget anything even happened, believe me, that was easier.
Again, I cannot just erase the past 17+ years of my life and say they were not memorable, heartfelt, and hilarious times well spent. When we look back there was so many great memories such as going to concerts, camping trips alone or with family, going canoeing down a river or boating on the lake, it was all great but also all revolved around alcohol. We, I, drank because it felt like the “grown-up” thing to do.
One of the memories that come to mind, is when I finished high school, my mom bought me a celebratory black cherry Smirnoff. I remember feeling so cool, I was with my closest friends, but I was the only one drinking, I can still remember them asking me why my mom got me that, and it was probably because I asked her too. She may have told me no and I probably begged her to say yes. I am not saying my mom encouraged me to drink, but memories are weird and when mixed with emotions and perceived trauma they can become extremely biased, nonetheless these memories are from my perspective.
Backing up a little earlier in my story, I had my first drink when I was 14 as a foreign exchange student in Germany. Although the legal drinking age is 16 in Germany, I shared in the spirits at one of the hostels while we visited Munich. My classmates and I stayed on the floor below my teacher, and I am not sure if she didn’t care, or didn’t know. But I do know that I was very hungover the next day and after dragging us kids around to one big beautiful castle after the next, well, lets just say, my teacher was not impressed. A couple years after that when I was 16 I stayed at my aunt and uncles for the summer, during the week I would watch my younger cousins for them and then on the weekends we would pick up some wine coolers and head out to the boat, drink and hang out. While I was there, it was the first time I felt like I fit in with a group of people, I felt a mutual respect and engaged in the inside jokes and in the perceived philosophic conversations at the campfire. I felt seen, loved and "grown-up".
More often than not when I would hang out with my extended family, which we did often in my youth, I would feel socially awkward, and stumble on my words I would often doubt myself and feel out of place. Hear me out, I am a highly sensitive person, (HSP); meaning, in short, I am easily overwhelmed by the environment, and social energies, it's probably funny to hear me refer to myself as shy,
but that's because I learned to cope at a young age by trying to be the loudest personality in the room to overcome the feeling that my deep overwhelming feelings will never be understood by my family or peers. So, even to this day, I easily adapt to the people around me, like a colorful chameleon in order to hide in plain sight.
Fun fact; according to Dr. Elain N. Aron, "HSP is not a new discovery, but is often misunderstood, (PH.D and author of several books noting her extensive research in the field of the Highly Sensitive Person) on her website, she states:
Because HSPs prefer to look before entering new situations, they are often called “shy.” But shyness is learned, not innate. In fact, 30% of HSPs are extroverts, although the trait is often mislabeled as introversion. It has also been called inhibitedness, fearfulness, or neuroticism.
Personally, I have spent way to many years blaming my parents, sibling, friends, the Army, and God for my shortcomings. In fact you will soon read in my memoir (coming soon) that I am learning to take responsibility for much of my experiences, because passing judgment of a time I only remember happening is still me projecting my narrative to multiple stories that were actively all happening at once. Let me be clear, I do not blame my parents at all. I believe they were doing the best job they knew how to do, and I know that am really good at hiding. And I cannot blame nor hide from God. Well, because He knows everything anyway.
Of course, I cannot change the environment I grew up in and it’s within our formative environments that shape and condition the beginning stages of our lives. And regardless of the amount of time I have spent, like countless years dwelling over and trying to understand why I act/react and behave the way that I do, there is simply no possible way to change the past; I can only learn from it and change from here. It is important to mention that through my continued prayers for my recovery that I am learning to be okay with not being okay, its also okay that I did not know then what I do know, now.
"My tears flow endlessly....The water rosed over my head, and I cried out, "'This is the end'"....But I called on your name, Lord, from deep within the pit."-Lamentations 3:49-57 NLT; (Emphasis added)
Being a highly sensitive person, I was always trying to over compensate my feelings as a child and young adult by controlling and channeling my anxious thoughts into overly caring and nurturing others. This may sound good in theory, but as a recipient of this action many complain otherwise. Often times when I was in highschool or even in my twenties living in Alaska, if one of my close friends would be gone doing her
own thing for a day or two and I would call and perhaps not get a call back in the amount of time I thought was reasonable. I would then begin to not only panic that something horrible may have happened to them, but also start a search party, contacting mutual friends looking for them in all the places I knew they could be. Not only was I struggling with being needed, but also needing to be in control.
By over compensating my feeling and trying to be fun and easy going and not "so deep" I would turn to drinking, to "let go. Sinking into the floaty feelings the alcohol gifted my nervous system, I noticed that when I drank, I didn't have to think so much, well lets be honest, after the first 3 drinks (depending on the spirit, I can be a lightweight) I would feel a new sense of freedom. My lips would begin to go numb and I would get a spirit of adventure and want to go for a walk or a run, or have someone drive me to get more drinks. In college (2005-2006), I would often find myself in other dorm rooms of people I've never met, or in front of campus on a bench with my blanket and pillow. I was a runner, in hindsight it makes sense as to why my roommates no longer wanted to drink with me that second semester. Being 18, facing the unknown challenges of college, roommate drama, and my then boyfriend, now husband, off to war, (Operation Iraqi Freedom 2006-2007) I felt a heightened sense of insecurity, unloved, alone and afraid for what's to come, which only led me to drink even more.
Fast forward, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, a whole decade of being married and "grown-up". We had kids young and were grateful to have my mother-in-law stay with us those first five years. That being said when you have a selfless, kind, and responsible live-in babysitter it's easy to just keep on drinking. I had my oldest son just short of 23, I not once tried to stop my young adult tendencies on behalf of having a new baby, especially a new baby with birth complications.
"Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus."- Philippians 4:6-7
Even with the prayers off my tongue and the known faith within my heart, I had a confidence within my Spirit that God would take care of my children. I knew this because despite my better judgment I was still alive, so I gave thanks where thanks was do and I continued to control my unsettling emotions by praying and drinking. Even at the Ronald McDonald house just outside Detroit Childrens Hospital where our first born son was healing from heart surgery my husband and I went out to the casinos and had many drinks, before coming in for the night. I'd like to think it was a clutch in helping me not think about the "what ifs" or "maybe it's my fault" scenarios? However, looking back, I think I felt that I had earned a free pass to enjoy the night out with my husband, having just been pregnant for 9 months and him being gone for all of those 9 months.
To be completely honest, It's hard to wrap my mind around this, from all the lies I would tell myself throughout these 10 years, of justifying my actions... but I'm trying to tell the truth, and the truth is, I drank a couple of drinks before going to bed each night and then would drink to get drunk on the weekends. Our kids were present for it all. Together, my husband and I decided to stop drinking in April 2019, Gage was 9 and Ryan had just turned 8. When we ask our boys if they remember us drinking they have nothing to recall, other than we decided not to.
Praise God for my sweet mother-in-law, Praise God there was never a time we weren't ever intoxicated during a time we needed to take one of our boys to the hospital. Praise God my husband never got a DUI, Praise God there is a bigger reason for our lives that God has kept us alive for. Praise God I am only 35 and can let this pastime go, before it ever became something that was irreversible. Praise God, that I was taught to know a God who forgives, loves and saves.
My husband and I, we are the lucky ones. And it has taken me a long time to accept and forgive myself for the uncertain narrative we have given our children. We will never know what they saw or will remember of this past decade of their formative years. I know and believe I am a very good mom and Kyle is an amazing dad, and like I said, I didn't know then what I know now, and we are learning and changing and our boys are noticing.
So in the previous blog, I generalized a lot and I was pretty vague on many hot topics. Here's why; I am learning how to say this part of my life out loud, I am not afraid of the feedback, but this process of digging deep, surrendering to a higher power, and recognizing the lack of control is where peace resides and it can be expressly unnerving. I feel both naked and raw, yet, at the same time I feel free, free from the lies I've been telling myself. Free to just be me.
Over the past three years, I have been trying to write my memoir. This has been at times a dreary, mentally, and emotionally exhausting process; however, rewarding nonetheless. Thankfully, I have my Bible and relationship with Jesus that I turn too
often for continued spiritual guidance. I have my husband, my therapist, and an uplifting and supportive community that God has abundantly blessed my family with. All of which are helping me find the clarity I have been searching for in order to embark on this strange and personal process of decoding, myself.
“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16