First Installment: Meet My Sister
Second Installment: The Functioning Years
Third Installment: The Maelstrom
Fourth Installment: Like Sunlight Burning at Midnight
The fifth out of seven installments from my sister, Gay, to you…
I was never the same after that night … and who would want to be anyway???
I think there is a lot of fear in change. Fear of the unknown, of what we will become, of who we really are, of life, failure, being uncomfortable, not being good enough, pain, and how to handle or ease that pain. Addicts and alcoholics have found a solution for pain. For me and many of my friends, alcohol wasn’t just the problem; it was the SOLUTION. So now, since I have anesthesized my pain for a lifetime, I am in FEAR, because the pain might kill me. I might come apart at the seams. And then what? The unknown. More fear. I’ve been told that when the pain of holding on becomes greater than the fear of letting go, that THAT is when we become willing to give up the drug (the painKILLER) and step out onto the living water of faith.
I knew that I couldn’t stay in Sugar Land forever, that my time there was limited. It was the FIRST TIME I had not had visions of grandeur, of being able to put my little family back together. I had repeated that time and time again to no avail and had ended up in relapse every single time. All I knew was that God had performed a miracle in my life that very night under the bridge and that I owed Him, my family and mySELF my very best shot this time, for THIS TIME, I feared, would be my last. Otherwise, I would surely die. My ONLY option, the only one this Miracle God deserved was for me to do what He put in front of me to do to the best of my ability, and what I became so aware of later was that where my ability failed, His took over! He continued to supply me with strength and perseverance to endure the race He had set before me, one day at a time.
For three days, Tut gave me a roof over my head, a so-very-soft-comfy-warm bed to sleep in (ahhh), food to eat and a phone. He did not make one call for me. I knew it was my responsibility to get busy and find help. I did that — it was what God put in front of me to do for those three days. The only place in the Greater Houston Area that would take me with no insurance, no money and no I.D. was a women’s detox center in Pasadena called New Hope — so beautifully named, isn’t it? Now, New Hope is not a fancy-schmancy place like my first treatment center was, in fact, it isn’t a treatment center at all. It is a house for women to non-medically detox from alcohol (and some other drugs), getting fully sober and staying that way through living the program of Alcoholics Anonymous. My sweet sisters, God did not drop me onto the church steps to get sober. He dropped me smack back into AA again — not weak, watered-down AA but what I love to call Nazi-AA. New Hope does not play. They require 4 meetings per day followed by hours of Big Book study (the AA text) followed by getting a sponsor and working the 12 Steps. Period. Or you get kicked out! God knew that I had not HEARD all of the prior times He had put me there and He meant for me to HEAR this time. He meant for me to hear that I was alcoholic and that He had provided a most wonderful solution for me that required work on my part. He meant for me to ACT!!!
This reminds me of a scripture that Beth has memorized and taught on several times:
“Therefore get your minds ready for action by being fully sober.” 1 Peter 1:13.
I could turn those words around and say, “Therefore get your minds ready for sobriety by being fully ACTIVE.”
Sweet sisters, this disease lives to kill. It is chronic, progressive and FATAL. There is no wonder that a smaller percentage of us recover from it than fall victim to it because it is also a disease of DENIAL. We continue to try to convince ourselves over and over again that WE DON’T HAVE IT!! I believe that it is the enemy’s most powerful tool and that there is no amount of ACTION too great to arm ourselves with the tools required to fight it. I also believe that the enemy is hateful, insidious and low-down enough to use our faith in the Power of God to keep us from using the very tools that He has provided for us to ARM OURSELVES!!! I beg you do not under-estimate the power of this disease. I watch the walking wounded come through the doors of Mercy Street every Saturday night, back in treatment again, back from jail again, back off the street again, and I wonder how many won’t make it back the next time. I made it back purely by the extravagant, unlimited grace of God — I should have died out there. My friend, Jerry, did die out there. He drank himself to death and was found in a puddle of vomited blood inside an abandoned house in Texarkana, Texas alone. He was 39 years old. I know that he is with Jesus and I know I will see him again in Heaven, SOBER. But, my friends, Christ means for us to have FREEDOM in the land of the living.
For you, LORD, have delivered me from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before the LORD
in the land of the living.
I wrote these words to Beth as she prepared to go to a conference where she would speak about 1 Peter 1:13 above. It is the shortest description of what I did to HONOR MY GOD and get to where I am today. I have edited it just a tad here and there but, for the most part, it is in tact.
To Beth, August 2011:
It has been my experience that sobriety and action are symbiotic. One cannot exist without the other. I must get sober, e.g. put down the drink, detox, go into treatment, in order to perform the action required to stay sober and subsequently follow God’s will and purpose for my life. It’s not easy!! It takes a lot of work. It takes a lot of action. Today, I do what I do (Mercy Street, treatment centers, the Houston Council on Alcohol and Drugs, sponsor ladies and take them through the steps, go to meetings, share my testimony, experience strength and hope) for many reasons but the gift, the by-product, is that I get to stay sober and without sobriety I am nothing and I am able to DO nothing.
To document all the work that I have done over the last two years and four months is far more than you want to muddle through, believe me, but I will tell you this. When God jerked me up off that concrete in mid-April 2009, He dropped me in AA, not in church. I might have liked for Him to drop me in church but He didn’t. I knew that I had blown all of my other chances, all of the other times that He had dropped me in that very same place. I had to do something different which was ANYTHING but sitting around waiting for Him to heal me and DOING nothing. I had to abandon my way and do it His way. I had to unweave all of my plans and trust HIS PLAN. Right there, right then, on April 20, 2009, His way for me was AA. I could see that as clear as a bell, no questions asked. He has required a lot of work from me, a lot of action, one day at a time, whatever He put in front of me that day. It started with chores and following simple house rules followed by getting a sponsor and working the steps. I believe that God has wanted me to do that work all along but that I was too stubborn or prideful or entitled or all of the above to do it. I knew that it was working because at 90 days sober I not only had 90 days sober but the obsession to drink alcohol, which I had battled with for 37 years, had been removed. Poof! Just like that. I was neither thinking about drinking nor thinking about not drinking. It was not a thought at all. I was calm and acting sanely and normally. Step 2: Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to SANITY. Bingo! Poof! Done! Now I have to STAY THAT WAY. I saw that the work, the ACTION, was paying off more than I had worked (because God was working behind the scenes in my behalf) so I continued on that course of ACTION.
My sweet Sisters, I do not have the words or the white space to say what the process of working the steps did for me. All I know is that as I wrote down and spoke out and prayed for my enemies and made amends to my loved ones and reached out to another alcoholic, the chains started falling off of me one by one and I was able to wiggle free. The resentment, fear, unforgiveness, unwillingness, dishonesty, pride and pure-dee SELFISHNESS that had been blocking me from Him fell away and I stood naked, just as I am, in Grace and Gratitude and Awe and Light. I stood in FREEDOM and in the Pure Love and Favor of God. To quote Manning again, I had been “seized by the Power of a Great Affection.” I had experienced a Spiritual Awakening (Step 12). Talk about replacing the need to self-medicate? I had found the SOLUTION. I had found the Power or He had found me. We had found each other, a match made in Heaven.
On a short walk to the nearest convenience store one hot morning in July 2009, I surrendered my life to My Jesus and promised to follow Him, wherever He may lead me, for the rest of my days and to do what He asks of me. I spent a lot of time praying and asking God to reveal to me what His purpose was for my life until I finally figured out that His purpose is for me to stay sober, do what He puts in front of me each day, and to step through the doors that He opens for me, despite my fears and my inadequacies. I didn’t realize at the time that each day was getting me closer to my destiny as I continued to put one foot in front of the other. The days would turn into weeks, then months, then years and then ONE DAY He would drop me onto the church steps where He was leading me all along! “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD.
It is as simple as this, Ladies. I had to do something different. Albert Einstein is quoted as saying “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.” Since I had failed every which way I could possibly fail, I had to do everything different. I had to do it opposite from how I had done it in the past. I had not applied anything to my life — I applied everything to my life. I had not been willing to get a sponsor and work the steps — I got a most wonderful sponsor and worked the steps honestly and wholeheartedly. I had gotten into relationships that had taken my focus away from my recovery — I had NO RELATIONSHIPS. I had not been willing to do long-term treatment — I stayed at New Hope for 5-1/2 months and then moved to The Women’s Home in inner-city Houston for 16 months totaling 21-1/2 months of solid, safe, quality care, sobriety and life recovery. I had prayed to God to deliver me and then expected to wake up sane and sober the next morning and stay that way for a lifetime — I worked my head off day after day in accordance to His will for my life and was graciously given sanity and sobriety in return.
The National Association of Christian Recovery states this: “NACR is passionate about joining the work of Jesus in the world — partnering with, instigating, resourcing, disturbing, advocating and influencing the manifold ways that Christ seeks to transform and liberate those in addiction.” Manifold is defined as “of many kinds; numerous and varied.” God has created and provided numerous and varied paths to recovery, Alcoholics Anonymous simply being one of them and the one that worked for this serious, hardcore, dedicated, classic, textbook alcoholic. Whichever path you choose, do it with all your heart, all your strength and all your might. I had to put sobriety first and foremost in my life for without it I had nothing and could do nothing. By doing that, I put God first and He has honored that wholly in me. Matthew 6:33 says, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” In my case, sobriety is His kingdom! And He has stood by His promise over these 34 months and 3 days to usher in the rest of what I so desired and much, much more that I never could have imagined.
Oh, by the way, if you walk into the doors of AA pull your walls down, check your judgment at the door and open your mind, unlearn the habits that have been standing in your way to freedom and be willing to do things different, and hold on tight to the similarities rather than the differences. Yes, there are non-believers in AA — they just might be in our churches too. If I go there I might not only GET SOBER but I might, just might, be able to shine the light of Jesus in the darkest night by simply looking straight in the eye of a sister who is scared to death to step out on the water of faith, smiling warmly and saying, “Hello, my name is Gay and I’m an alcoholic.” Hope. Everyone needs some.
New International Version (NIV)
17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
New International Version (NIV)
12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.