My hands have been frozen on the computer keyboard while I took in the pure profundity of this moment in my personal life and family life and, Lord, have mercy, my spiritual life. When I say that I am about to share something gigantic to me, I am not kidding. I am bug-eyed that this is really happening and it is everything I can do not to type these words to you from face down on the floor. My dear Siestas, it is my great honor to introduce you to my blood sister, with whom I was raised and with whom I shared a room for many years and many secrets. Some crippling. We have known much pain together and much devastation apart and were so close growing up that one of us could hardly be okay if the other were not. Today – and for this moment – we are both okay. And blessed. Redeemed. Forgiven. And, in staggering ways, restored. Only because of Jesus.
Years ago in a speaker/teacher workshop, the consummate Christian communicator, Florence Littauer, taught us to ask ourselves two questions before standing in front of an audience: “Do I have anything to say?” And, “Do people need to hear it?” I can confidently say today that, if Florence Littauer knew my sister and her story, she’d tell her to open her mouth and rarely shut it till God took her Home. Oh, Sisters, does she ever have something to say and do people ever need to hear it!
Please meet my older sister by three years, Gay Tuttle. She and I are two of five siblings who we love as much as we love each other. I do not know anyone well who has a more powerful and genuine testimony than Gay. Her rescue and revival flooded over into mine. God used her healing to add to mine. It is with the hope that God could use it to somehow impact you that I make this introduction. My heart is pounding with awe and reverence as we release her story – and at times our story – to the public. In her words. I have not edited a single sentence. Here you will find the first of several installments of this story of redemption that, God willing, we hope to share with you over the weeks to come. I don’t want to put her into a time crunch but you could reasonably expect them about 1 to 2 weeks apart. Pray for her as she writes to you. Sometimes we have to relive to RE-LIVE.
As I put her out here for the eyes of multiple thousands, I beg you from the deepest part of my heart to take good care of my sister. This is huge for her and huge for me. Allow her the freedom to talk in the language that she presently speaks and with the terms she presently uses. I believe you will be so blessed. Very few of you Siestas need me to say this but, because I do not want to throw her to even two wolves, I ask you to please refrain from preaching to her. Instead, receive from her. Just let her share with you a vivid flesh-and-blood illustration of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. These won’t be articles for legalists. These will be articles for people who do believe or who want to believe with all their hearts that “it is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” (Galatians 5:1) If I didn’t believe you were the kind of people to embrace her with lavish affection, I’d never take this chance. But I know you, Siestas. I know she will be well cared-for here. By the way, she knows you a bit, too. She’s been reading the blog and many of your comments now for a year. So, without further introduction, my beloved Siestas, please meet my beloved Sister, Gay. I am now full-on crying.
Hi Siestas! My name is Gay and I’m an alcoholic. I’m not just any alcoholic. I am a serious, hardcore, dedicated, classic, textbook alcoholic. I drank just like that for thirty-seven years, all of my adult life, with the exception of the last two and three-quarter years. Today I have 1000 days of sobriety, nights included, weekends too, consecutive, all in a row, no breaks, no slips and no sneaks. Now, that might not sound like much of an accomplishment to those who have stayed sober all of their lives or for those who drink responsibly, but for ME, it is a flatout miracle from God!!
To be honest, Sweet Siestas, I have grappled with how to introduce myself on this most-esteemed blog until I almost didn’t come out here at all. Because I have been “raised up” in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous and in our beloved Mercy Street, a church that ministers to many in recovery, the word “alcoholic” just rolls off my tongue. I don’t even think about it. It feels right, it sounds right, IT IS RIGHT!! It is a huge part of who I am and I own that. My God-given, God-planned deliverance from it is my testimony and I believe with all my heart that there are those of you who have, at the very least, people in your lives who have struggled or are strugging with some similar experiences and need some hope. That’s about as simple as it gets. I am quick to blurt it out for another reason as well, possibly the most important one: I do not want to forget. I believe that in order to LIVE what I have been delivered to I must REMEMBER what I have been delivered from.
What it was like:
I started drinking at seventeen years old as a rebellious teenager (loved it), continued to do it through the “functioning” years (tolerated it) and moved on to radical self-medicating simply to kill the pain, much of which I caused myself (hated it). I was given countless opportunities to recover and refused. By the time I got serious and very scared, it was too late. I was hopelessly addicted to alcohol, both mentally and physically, and I had lost the power of choice. So I threw in the towel and proceeded to try to drink myself out of my misery and miserable existence, to death. And I almost did, many times, but for the radical grace of God. I lost my husband, my children, my job, the trust of my family, my home, my car, my driving privileges, my self-respect, my dignity, my values, my freedom and the list goes on and on. I was confined to jails and institutions more times than I can count. I thought I was a certifiable lunatic because WHO would drink after all that??? And that wasn’t the bottom for me; I ended up homeless and on the street (yes, outside!) for approximately eighteen months.
God intersected into my life like a burning bolt of lightning and in the blink of an eye my story took an abrupt about-face and became His Story.
What it is like now:
A thousand days of sobriety and a God bigger than life Who requires a lot of WORK from me, have molded and chiseled me into far more than an alcoholic. I am a loving and responsible mother, sister and friend. I am a dedicated employee and member of Mercy Street who believes in its mission and lives it OUT LOUD. I am a driver with a valid Texas drivers license and insurance, a car owner, townhouse dweller, volunteer, law-abiding citizen, taxpayer (ugh), sponsor, sponsee and recovery coach. I sit on three committees that are a part of the Houston Area Recovery Initiative for the fourth largest city in the country. I am a Servant and Lover of God who is fully dedicated to following His will for my life which is to share my experiences, both there and back, and offer hope of God’s deliverance for all who suffer from a similar seemingly hopeless state of mind and body.
I hope to offer a unique perspective, possibly even tilting the axis a bit (in a good way), of an intimate relationship with this most Mysterious Jesus God who never leaves us or forsakes us no matter how far down the scale we have gone. I love Him because He loves me, all of me. He first loved me! I had been taught that as a child and had sung Jesus Loves Me since I could form words. Yet I had forgotten that while I was out there in the wilderness, pounding the hot concrete with bare feet. I didn’t know the love, grace and mercy of God until I walked off of that concrete and began the journey out of the pit, to hope and a future, to FREEDOM.
“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,” Isaiah 61:1-3
I am going to tell you my story, Sweet Siestas, if you care or dare to listen. I promise I will be honest and candid, direct and to the point. I will try my best not to ramble on about the problem without moving quickly to the solution. For me, not just any alcoholic, there is but One Solution. Not just any God. It takes a God the size of the universe, bigger and badder than them all, to accomplish for us and through us what we cannot do for ourselves. It takes the all powerful, all consuming, all merciful Crazy Love of Jesus and our full acceptance of who we are in and to Him. It takes a willingness to do WHAT HE ASKS, which is A LOT. It takes honesty and authenticity. This is Who I Am and it only matters what God thinks because of Who He Is. Then its Katie bar the door! Here am I, send me, all of me, scars, limps and all. And He will and He does because He loves us with a love that transcends all barriers and which is, well … indescribable. Brennan Manning, my second favorite author, wrote these words in The Furious Longing of God: “Employing adjectives such as furious, passionate, vehement, and aching to describe the longing of God are my mumbling and fumbling to express the Inexpressible. Yet, I plod on.” Please bear with me, my Siestas, while I mumble and fumble to express the Inexpressible.
Dear Jesus God, You know that the absolute best prayer I ever prayed in my life was the simplest of all prayers: God, Please Help Me! I’m praying it again now, Dear Jesus. Please help me to be effective in Your world and for Your glory and honor alone. Please help me to shine the light of Jesus in the darkest night, to the wounded and broken who need a shred of hope because everyone needs some, Lord. I love you with all my heart and soul. I am Yours, all of me. Amen.