6/19/10

More

I read something last night. It was written by a woman who struggled with alcoholism like I do and it said that when she drank to enjoy it, she couldn't control her drinking, and when she tried to control her drinking, to drink less, she didn't enjoy it at all. Seems kind of obvious that this would be the case for an alcoholic, but it takes most of us a really long time to recognize this reality.

I thought about all the times in my life that I could, for one reason or another, only have a couple of drinks at a time. Maybe it was in the presence of non-drinking people, or we were about to go to a movie, or any number of things. And I realized how true it was, that I would get so uncomfortable with only a couple of drinks. I didn't see the point in that at all, ever. If I was going to drink, I was going to DRINK, you know?

And when I had the freedom to drink in a way that brought me what I thought was enjoyment, it meant that I could not, would not, be able to control the amount. If I tried, I was frustrated and miserable. My head would stay in only one place, thinking more more more I want more now I want more. I'd be so unaware of whatever experience I was having because my head would stay with alcohol.

After years of my brain taking this particular route of thinking, I'm realizing I have to be patient with myself...it's going to take a long time to re-train my brain. When I see a woman sitting on a porch, reading a book, what flashes through my head is that her experience would be better somehow with a glass of wine...or seven.

It's frustrating to have those thoughts, while never having even two drinks.

The pleasure center in my head still beckons to light up. It stomps its feet and fidgets. It just doesn't know what to do. It wants something to look forward to, something to consume with no control. It wants.

As I continued to read this alcoholic woman's story, I saw myself more and more, even though many times I wonder if I'm really even an alcoholic at all. (That's another thing the alcoholic mind does all on it's own, cunning and baffling.) When she said that she was always a caretaker, always striving to be perfect and even being seen as perfect by everyone around her, I understood. And it hit me in the gut when she said that the first time she got drunk with a group of other drinkers, she finally felt like she fit in, like no one expected her to be perfect anymore. She felt flawed and rebellious and totally accepted.

Me too.

And to be honest, the only time I've felt that way again is at a meeting with people just like me. There is no place like it on this planet. None. There is a circle of complete and total understanding, a passion for grace in the eyes around the room, and power in transparency. It is redemption and I am just me, flawed and rebellious and accepted. Like no where else. It is much better than the acceptance I found when drinking in bars and over bottles of wine with friends.

It is authentic and pure and good. My sick alcoholic thoughts make perfect sense to the people with nodding heads around the room. Grace takes on human form in those rooms, embodied in my fellows and leaping down my throat. It wraps itself around my insecurities and sets me free.

I think this is how it's supposed to be, and I wish it were this way everywhere. But then, I suppose the experience would become too common and lose its holiness.

As a believer in a God who supplies that grace in our struggle, I am starting to see that this is how heaven will be. We will not sit on clouds, bored, playing a harp for all of eternity. No, we will sit in circles and feel free, never pretending, already perfect with our pleasure centers always lighting up in a constant glow of true joy.

Too much? Lofty? Unbelievable? Idealistic? Insane?

I think not. Because I've tasted it here and I am made to want more because there is more.

34 clicked right here to comment:

Kelly Langner Sauer said...

Heather, I'm reading this, and I'm thinking about how much has changed for you since you brought this into the open. It hit me as I was reading that yes, you are an alcoholic, and the alcohol controlled you for a while, but even then, you were so much more than an alcoholic.

I hope you take care that this new identity - alcoholic, recovering alcoholic - doesn't replace the who that you truly are. You had value beyond the booze before; you carry it now. Your identity is in Christ, then and now, and your freedom comes not from leaving your past behind, but from His having died once for you, from His having finished the work and redeemed you by His blood.

Just something that struck me today. Delete if you like; thought I would share how really cool I think you are - totally outside all of this.

Heather of the EO said...

Oh Kelly, I'm not going to delete you.

Thank you. I do need to be reminded every now and again that I'm more than alcoholism. Recovery is very consuming...it colors all my days and thoughts most of the time. That's why I write about it so much. It helps me to get it out and move on. I do know I'm more than "it." I do, more and more, I do. Slowly :)

Allison @ Alli 'n Son said...

I love your description of heaven. That sounds just perfect to me.

Kelly said...

I am not an alcohol or an addict, but I attend many AA, NA, and CA meetings ... so I completely understand what you mean about finding that little safe place where your shoulders relax and you can see past all the crap you're carrying around. Your description is right on.

suzannah @ so much shouting/laughter said...

i never understood why a person who "was" an alcoholic say, 10 years ago, couldn't just learn to have a drink or two. your descriptions make perfect sense as to why recovery is an ongoing struggle.

i'm sure your words are helping many addicts, but they edify the rest of us, too. your description of heaven and pleasure remind me of c.s. lewis:

"it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."

to grace and community and redemption and being known, flaws and all

~beautyandjoy~ said...

Love that thought of heaven!

(Also - Are you reading what I think you are reading? It would be so cool to live next to each other and talk about it. :)

Unknown Mami said...

You are so much more than an alcoholic. I am not an alcoholic, I do not have a substance abuse problem, but I totally understand how incarcerating perfectionism can be and the yearning to be accepted as I am, warts and all.

Suburban Correspondent said...

I recently read Drinking: A Love Story and it really helped explain why an alcoholic does what she does. A great memoir, if you haven't read it yet...what struck me in particular is that many of the issues she struggled with (and covered up with alcohol) are issues that are common to many women; only some of us might deal/not deal with them by turning to food, or self-harm, or whatever. They are all addictions; and they are all clung to as ways to avoid and/or cope with our real lives.

anymommy said...

I've never been to an AA meeting, but reading about it, I think (and I've thought before) that we need meetings like this just as people. We're all struggling with something. (That is not to minimize alcoholism, but to say that I can't think of anyone who couldn't use a circle of people focused on acceptance and grace.)

Kimberly said...

There is more. So much truth here, lady. That is what heaven IS. Not just being with God and of God, but that experience of being "of one heart, one mind, and one purpose." What grace to get small tastes of that here on earth.

Roxane B. Salonen said...

Heather, you go very deep into what addiction is here. I especially loved the line when your brain was beckoning for that rush, and how much it wanted alcohols to be what started it. I think the key, perhaps, is to find a substitute rush, not one made of chemicals, but of a love that only God can provide. Sounds simple, I know, though it's not. But I do think that in the end, that is what will quench our thirst, and all of our desires to get the more that we seek, and more that pushes us, the more that is impossible to fully find in this life, but can be partially glimpsed through the eyes of the Creator.

Ash said...

"never pretending"

Oh how I hope you're correct. I promise to be a very good girl, from now on, if this is the case.

Your progress is humbling. Go girl!

Aging Mommy said...

I hope you don't mind me saying this Heather but I think you do have to now find a new set of passions in life so that you can truly leave your past overriding passion/obsession behind and identify yourself not as an alcoholic but as the oh so very accomplished woman, writer, mother and more that you really are.

Christine said...

"A power in transparency." I think many of us, alcoholic or not, search for this. The ability to just be ourselves, to free ourselves from that which we feel we must be, though often it is not who we are. To discover the grace you speak of, however it happens, must be truly amazing. To be free, for however long, to just be. Powerful.

Denise said...

Your beautiful description of heaven is exactly how I currently strive to live my daily life. Open, flawed, accepted. Boy howdy do I struggle with it, A LOT. But this form of heaven, that you describe, is divine.

Annette said...

My favorite geometric shape is now the circle. Yup! I love 'em. What (who) are you reading?

Heather of the EO said...

Aging Mommy,
It's totally fine to say that. I know I need a new obsession, but the thing is, right now, it's just about getting through the day and hoping to learn a thing or two. It's about surviving and showing up for my life in a way I wasn't before. So I hope that my passions take over slowly, but with alcoholism (and so many other things) that takes time.

Annette - HI! Um...it's in the big book-it's the chapter titled Crossing over the river of denial (I think) That lady is FUNNY and smart and it's one of my faves.

Kate, aka Guavalicious said...

Thank you so much for opening yourself up to us through on your blog. It's made me understand friends and relatives who have been in your place. It helps so much to know where they are coming from, to know the distance I feel at times, to know what comfort they find from their groups. Again, thank you. Wish I could say it more eloquently.

Hyacynth said...

Getting little glimpses of what it's like to be in His presence eternally ... I think this is why we have these trials and tribulations in the here and now. Because He wants us to fall into His arms and find grace and understanding and perfect acceptance. And when we fall into His arms it brings Him glory.
Addiction is unimaginably hard road to walk and recovery is taken in little steps of faith, but I consider my trials joy because I know it brings Him glory.
Hope that makes sense. I'm not a masochist or anything. I just enjoy the part of bringing God glory even in the most dark of my days.
Love you, Heather; thank your for these thoughts and your honesty.

Roxane B. Salonen said...

Hi again Heather. I wanted to come back briefly because I read Aging Mommy's comment too and have another opinion. Sometimes, we have to go back before we can go forward. There was a time when I needed to look back into my family's history, to understand how being an adult child of an alcoholic had shaped me -- indelibly. No, that is not my only title, ACOA, but it is one that helps me understand many things about my life. Heather, you are still pretty new to the journey, and we both know that half the battle is owning up to the disease and how little control we have over it. I think that by identifying with this particular part of yourself, you are trying to bring others to healing, even as you heal. You couldn't do that adequately without naming the disease. Bringing the disease to light is the last thing the disease wants. It would rather hide and continue to sneak up on you. It can more easily do this in the darkness. You are bringing this to light and I know that you are being healed and will be healed because of it. Meantime, I have no doubt other parts of who you are -- mom, wife, friend -- are also becoming healed. That's the way it works. You can't fix one wound without it affecting others in a positive way. Keep on sharing your light, even when it's hard.

Holly said...

Thanks for sharing! I know you are an inspiration to MANY!! ((HUGS))

Robin said...

I can't decide which I like more...your post or the comments!!! I reead the same quote (control vs enjoying it) early on in my recovery and it made all the difference for me in understanding what I was going through. And I love seeing so many people talk about God's glory and his mercy and falling into His arms. So beautiful and it is making me smile over here.

alita said...

One day at a time. That is all we can ask for. Just one day at a time and if we get through that day it is an accomplishment. No regrets for the future. We also have to learn to forgive ourselves, too.

Just one day at a time.

Your words can be such a balm. Thank you for sharing.

Hope said...

"My sick alcoholic thoughts make perfect sense to the people with nodding heads around the room. Grace takes on human form in those rooms, embodied in my fellows and leaping down my throat. It wraps itself around my insecurities and sets me free."

There are times when I am completely undone by this.

And the other stuff? I had an experience once where I got a glimpse of the 'me' that is eternal and I couldn't stop bawling at the idea that that part of me lives forever.

Hope said...

PS. Just read through the comments. I have no problem identifying myself as an alcoholic 20+ years after my last drink. It is not my identity but it does remind me I am not God. And it doesn't take away from the reality that I am in Christ and Christ is in me. I think sometimes people panic thinking that to say I am an alcoholic means I'm forgetting who I am in Christ. That hasn't been my experience.

MidnightCafe said...

"As a believer in a God who supplies that grace in our struggle, I am starting to see that this is how heaven will be."

This. This is so beautiful.

mandiegirl said...

We are ALL so much more than the worst parts of our beings. I think that we all try SO hard to hide & cover it all up- to be the person that we want everyone & anyone to think we are, but the beauty is in how our weaknesses work with the stregth & grace of others....Love this, Heather! :)

One Crafty Mother said...

I loved this post. You put into words so beautifully the way that I feel. One of these days I'm going to sprain my neck from nodding in agreement as I read.

AA opened the door, for me, to the idea of spiritually, a Higher Power, God. It took a while, but I'm so grateful that I witness this Grace all the time now - in meetings, in life. I drank to feel just a fracetion of the belonging, beauty and peace I feel at those meetings. When I first got sober, I didn't understand the concept of Grace, and someone said to me "You'll know it when you feel it".

I feel it. I see it. And I'm so very grateful.

-Ellie

Tooj said...

Although I cannot and won't pretend to know what it feels like to go through and experience what you've experienced....reading your story (ongoing) makes me want to HONESTLY recognize my flaws, focus on them, and find ways to overcome them. We all have parts of us that need to be reeled in, battled, controlled....and if we can recognize their negative impact and truly work to better ourselves, then it's worth it.

I think.

Alyson (New England Living) said...

Wonderful post! You are so brave to share this with everyone! There definitely is a power in transparency. I have never been an alcholic, but I know what it is to hide a shameful secret and pretend. There is nothing worse than the pretending. It damages our spirits, our emotions, and our bodies. Truth and sharing our truth brings healing and invites the Savior and others to help in recovery.

I wish you all the love and peace in your journey of recovery!

Mrs4444 said...

Thank you so much for posting this. I know that many people will relate.

This reminds me (non-drinker) of being at parties back in my early 20's and a friend (alcoholic) who just could not accept that I wouldn't need to drink. I think she needed me to drink so that she could feel more okay with her own drinking.

My Adult Children of Alcoholic meetings were very helpful, too; everyone "gets" you and calls you out on your shit, which is (to me) refreshing. I'm happy for you.

Yenta Mary said...

My ex-husband is an alcoholic, so I became immersed in the AA community while we were married; there is NOTHING like it! It is the most supportive, accepting community there is. And there is nothing like the empathy of people who've been where you have. I run a monthly support group for parents whose children have been diagnosed with mental illness; your friends and family can care all they want, but only those who've heard the words, felt the fear, etc. can truly understand. Same with AA ....

Laura said...

I used to work at a recovery center & would see all those people come in struggling with their addiction, but I could never understand why they couldn't just stop. Of course, the longer I worked their the more I understood the disease.

God will help you through those temptations. And I believe heaven will be just like you described it.



Stopping by from Saturday Sampling.

Christy said...

amazing post ... your words hit home with me on many different topics and feelings. I love your description of heaven, and maybe I'll meet you there one day. God Bless.

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