Alcohol flowed freely when I was growing up. Social drinking was assumed. I didn’t mind the drinking, though I didn’t enjoy how it affected people sometimes. I have watched the impact of excessive drinking on many people. It is so destructive, even destroying lives. It begins so innocently—no one starts out planning to become an alcoholic. But one in seven will.
A friend of mine found that out—and her occasional drink evolved into serious alcoholism. In the first post her husband shares the letter he wrote to her for a family intervention. In this post my friend tells of her journey through alcoholism.
My story begins this way.
“Over the last several years, there has been a lot of tension in our family. It surfaces more at some times than others; even though IT is not talked about or openly dealt with, I am painfully aware of what is really happening. The truth, the IT I am talking about, Mom, is that you are an alcoholic. “
With these words my daughter began a letter she read to me at an intervention in 1996. Accompanied by my counselor, my sons, my husband and my sister were also there to read their letters.
Her letter continued. “For a while, I desperately believed that you had been cured, but I can no longer ignore the obvious. I feel very angry–when you lie about running errands when you are actually going to buy wine. I have heard the clanking bottles in the grocery bags after you have gone shopping. I have smelled alcohol on your breath. Driving with you makes me very uneasy. In maintaining your drinking, you have separated yourself from the rest of the family. You spend your afternoons in bed, don’t dress unless you have to leave the house, rarely sit down for dinner at all. I have watched you as you steadily continue to kill yourself.
“Up until now, I have convinced myself that the last eight years have been normal. But the truth is that our family has been torn apart by our secret. We have all built walls to protect ourselves from the pain.”
After my daughter finished her letter, the others read their letters. They wrote about their hurts, frustrations and what they were going to do if I didn’t get on a plane at 11 am to go to Hazelden, a treatment center in Minnesota. When I said I would not go, that I had tried treatment and it would not work, my youngest son was so angry, he hit the closet door and broke it.
Then my children, husband and sister all restated the consequences that would follow if I did not go. Each said they would have no contact with me for two years, not even for holidays. Even though I was not in denial that I was an alcoholic or not aware of all my horrible behaviors and the effects on my family, I was in denial that recovery was possible for me. I felt like there was something so profoundly wrong with me that nothing, not even God, could change me. I think I realized to die was the only option and I was on that path.
Though I had no hope of recovery, I said I would go, planning never to return home because the secret was out. Some might think that my love for my children convinced me to go, but that wasn’t it at all. If I could have quit for them, I would have quit years earlier. But alcoholism can be stronger than a mother’s love. No, I needed a drink as I did every morning and I knew I couldn’t have one until I got them out of my room.
Somehow, I was on the plane and arrived safely at the doors of Hazelden. It was obvious that God had prepared a unique path for me. Arriving at treatment, I felt relief even though I still had no hope of recovery. They treated me with respect and compassion.
After a couple of days in the medical section, I was allowed to go outside. While walking in the cool woods, I stopped in a quiet place. With a clear mind I prayed for the first time in years. It seemed the hounds of heaven that C.S. Lewis talks about had chased me down. It was as if I finally understood that I had nothing to offer God. Like the story of the prodigal son, I had kept thinking I had to pay Him back for all I had done. Now I had to come with empty arms and I simply did. I was faced with the “terror of hope”. To hope again was as if I was stepping off a cliff. But Jesus was there to catch me.
“Shame is not of God”
Back in my room I met my roommate who was a Christian, opened my suitcase to find a Bible I didn’t even know was packed. The Lord encouraged me like a babe in his word in Christ each day. After several lectures and discussions I finally accepted that I had a disease and that concept helped me look myself in the eyes for the first time in years. Shame is not of God because it tells us we are broken beyond healing. God talks of my guilt and offers forgiveness, which Jesus died for on the cross. In Psalms 3:3, it says, “He is the One who lifts my head.”
I had forgotten God’s goodness, but the Lord had a surprise for me. My oldest son was going to Japan for a year and that was one reason I hated the timing of the intervention. I wouldn’t be able to say good-by to him. But God delayed his plane so he missed his connecting flight in Minneapolis. By a miracle, a Hazelden representative was there when he got off the plane to take him to visit me for two hours. Many “rules” were loosened. He was relieved to see a sober mother and I was overjoyed to be able to include him in my experience. I had forgotten that good things could happen!
Returning home was so scary. I now knew that I could never take the first drink again. I did not believe that I had another recovery left in me. Before I left Minnesota, I contacted a woman who said she would be my sponsor. She is a Christian and is still my sponsor.
She taught me that the Twelve Steps lined up with biblical truth and introduced me to many Christians in the program. I showed up and learned what recovery was all about. In 2005, almost 10 years later, I finished training to be an alcohol and drug counselor and have been privileged to help women like me who were afraid to ask for help.
As it says in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”
Related post: An Alcoholic’s Story 1: A Family Intervention