Tag Archives: past

Apprehended by Grace

22 Jun



      Many people ask me what my rock bottom was. What finally made me stop drinking.  When I admitted the fact that I was an alcoholic and surrendered. I can give you a long list of when it SHOULD have been.  When friendships were torn apart. When my marriage started suffering.  When my mother and close friends expressed their concerns about how much I was drinking.  When I looked in the mirror and saw how bloated and puffy my face was and how red my eyes were.  When I started having health problems. When I was doing even more idiotic, embarrassing and shameful things than usual.  When I fell down a steep set of stairs, completely intoxicated, and should have been killed. When I continuously woke up not remembering what I had done or said the night before. Nope.  None of those things did it.

Everyone’s rock bottom is different.  I know many people in recovery who spent time in jail, received DWIs, crashed cars, lost jobs, homes, families and friends, lived on the streets or in their cars, and had much lower rock bottoms than I did.  Others, like me, had what may be considered “high bottoms”, but they are just as much alcoholic as the others.  I once heard someone say that it’s not how much you drink but how the drinking affects you that matters.  Just as there are different rock bottoms, there are different types of alcoholics. Binge drinkers. Daily drinkers. Maintenance drinkers.  Bar drinkers.  Isolation drinkers.  Social drinkers.  Heck, I even went to college with a girl named Margarita Drinker. No lie. Her parents had quite a sense of humor, I guess.  Or named her after having a bit too much tequila themselves.  But I digress…

The point is that there is no singular description of the alcoholic.  No scale that tells you once you fall below a certain level, you have hit your rock bottom. It is different for everyone.  But at some moment, at some point, many people are somehow, and perhaps miraculously, apprehended by grace. I believe that is the moment when people finally surrender.  It may be in utter despair.  It may be when you realize you are simply sick and tired of being sick and tired. It may be while looking in the mirror and not able to face the person look back at you any longer. It may be after fighting back and resisting, be it an intervention, attending a recovery program as a “guest of the judge”, while at rehab or in the pscyh ward, or while dishing out your last dollar at the liquor store.  However it comes, it is when you finally realize and accept that you cannot continue to live your life like this.  That you cannot fight this battle alone.  That only power greater than yourself can restore you to sanity.  It is when you wave the white flag and surrender to your Higher Power, whatever that may be for you, and at that moment, I believe that you are apprehended by grace.

 For me, my surrender came seven years ago in NYC. I’ve shared the story many times.  My hands were shaking until I got a drink in me at 11am. I was a mess, physically and emotionally.  Looked and felt horrible.  I had known for so long that I could not continue drinking the way I had been, but I could not imagine my life without alcohol.  It dominated every aspect of my life. Hell, it was my life.  It was both my best friend and my worst enemy.  How do you fight your worst enemy or get rid of them while losing your best friend at the same time? But as I sat there with my true best friend who lost her husband to alcoholism, I was, in fact, miraculously apprehended by grace, and I was finally able to admit that I had a drinking problem.  It was as if a 3,000-pound weight was lifted from my shoulders.

I believe that being apprehended by grace goes hand in hand with receiving the gift of humility.  To accept and realize that we are only human, that we cannot fix everything, including ourselves, and come to understand that our Higher Power can is a true blessing.  We somehow grasp that not only can we turn things over, we must. One of the definitions of grace is the “free and unmerited favor of God”.  Free. Unmerited.  We don’t need to do anything to earn it or receive it.  We simply need to be willing to ask.  And surrender.  To allow ourselves to be apprehended by grace.

Because we are human, we can forget.  We can stray. We can try to escape after having been apprehended.  Foolishly. But yet we still do it.  Staying on the right track, whatever that looks like for you, can keep you living a life of grace.  It may be prayer, meditation, working a recovery program, or however you continuously remind yourself to rely on and turn to your Higher Power.

I am so incredibly grateful to have been apprehended by grace. To have found the path to a better life. Free from the bondage of addiction. It doesn’t come easy many days, but if I remember to practice what I preach, to turn things over to my Higher Power and stay humble, it gets easier to find my way back to the right path.

For grace is given not because we have done good works, but in order that we may be able to do them.” –Saint Augustine of Hippo

“Grace comes into the soul, as the morning sun into the world; first a dawning, then a light; and at last the sun in his full and excellent brightness.”-     Thomas Adams

“The meaning of life.  The wasted years of life.  The poor choices of life.  God answers the mess of life with one word:  ‘Grace,’” Max Lucado

How Big is the Damn Onion – Part II

4 Jul

A while back, I wrote a piece called “How Big is the Damn Onion.” It was about working on ourselves and peeling the layers of the onion to get to the root of our issues. I’m revisiting this concept because I find myself with more layers peeling recently and I don’t really like it. Frankly, it scares me and I worry about my sobriety as some of these major layers peel away and lead to things I thought I had shoved down into my subconscious for good. Not deeply enough I guess.

Today is the Fourth of July. A time when many people are getting out their red Solo cups (another piece I wrote a while ago) and there is a lot of alcohol consumed. I feel like I am totally surrounded by it. Tomorrow is my daughter’s sixteenth birthday. I’m finding it stirring up a lot of things for me. First off, I can’t believe how quickly time has flown since my life changed when I became a mother with her birth. It makes me think of my own sixteenth birthday and I REALLY can’t believe how quickly time has flown since that day over 30 years ago. My mother managed to arrange a surprise party for me and gave everyone where I worked for the summer t-shirts to wear that said “Martha is 16 Today!” I still have mine.

My daughter’s request for her birthday was to celebrate it with two of her friends and me at the lake. A beautiful, serene place where we are enjoying time on the water and some simple things like making s’mores at a fire by the lake, getting ice cream and just relaxing – something I don’t do very often. But as I relax and unwind, I peel more of the layers of the onion away.

I had a bad drinking dream the other night. It was the kind where you wake up in a sweat thinking it was real. It was most likely prompted by a thought that came into my head about celebrating my daughter’s birthday and not being able to toast her with some champagne. Same with her wedding someday. These are the times when being an alcoholic can frankly suck.   But they are also the times when it is crucial to remember the simple saying: “One day at a time.”   When I first got sober, I was completely overwhelmed by the idea that I would never have a drink again. Some sober friends gave me excellent advice and reminded me that all I had to do was not drink for today. Don’t worry about tomorrow or the future. I also remembered a friend telling me that she threw away her sobriety after one sip of celebratory champagne to toast her son’s engagement. Her mistake became my lesson and, thank goodness, one that someone reminded me of the other day.

So I bought some sparkling cider and lemonade to toast with my daughter and her friends tomorrow.   We plan to go on a hike by some local falls. We’ll go back on the water in kayaks and canoes. I’ll take some time to write and read. And I’ll continue to peel back the layers of the onion. It’s not easy by any stretch of the imagination, but as I wrote before, it’s necessary to process things and then let them go. I’ve managed to do that with many things but there are always more layers of the onion to peel. As a great friend pointed out, you’ll probably peel away the last layer when you take your final breath in this world.

Happy Birthday America and Happy Birthday to my beautiful daughter. I’m glad I can celebrate both – sober and present.

“I grabbed a pile of dust, and holding it up, foolishly asked for as many birthdays as the grains of dust, I forgot to ask that they be years of youth. ” ― Ovid, Metamorphoses

Slowly I Turned, Step by Step……

17 Apr

I remember watching Abbott and Costello on the weekends with my brothers when we were kids. I still laugh when I think about the “Slowly I Turned…” vaudeville sketch they did. The routine features a man dramatically relating the tale of getting revenge on his enemy. He becomes so riled up in telling the story that he attacks the innocent listener (Costello). The man seems to regain his composure until someone once again says something that triggers another outburst and attack.

Strangely, this sums up how I feel about working my twelve steps in recovery. I make progress, step by step, and then WHAM! – something arms the cunning disease with more ammo to attack me. Especially when it comes to the fourth step. Step Four in the Twelve Step program in which I participate says we are to have “made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves”. Many of you know what I mean when I say this is much easier said than done. This is where we need to pull up our big girl panties (or big boy boxers) and take a serious look at our shortcomings and character defects (which we humbly ask to be removed in Step Seven).

It’s taken me nearly 35 months of sobriety to get to my fourth step. Well, actually, I’ve gotten to it. I just haven’t gotten past it. So I sat down the other night and started writing. And writing. And going through my memories and writing more. Wow. Looking back at it now, I can’t believe that I didn’t see all the red flags about my alcoholism. Or even just a few of them. I guess it’s true when they say you won’t see it until you are ready.

I think everyone could benefit from doing the fourth step. A chance to take a look at the skeletons in one’s closet, air them out, and then bury them for good. Alcoholic or not, everyone has regrets. Everyone has traits that they would like to improve upon or change. Some try to ignore the past. Some beat themselves up over it. Some carry the guilt, remorse and shame around with them as heavy baggage. The hard part comes from stepping up (ha) and finding the courage to actually make the change or unpack the baggage and put it down, once and for all. Step Four can take you down and dark and scary road. Coming out on the other side, into the sunlight, takes some hard work but it’s well worth it.

I’m not saying that it’s as easy as deciding to make the change and simply letting go of the burden of past mistakes. It’s extremely difficult. As we look back, and take our “searching and fearless moral inventory”, sometimes things bubble up to the surface from deep down that we had forgotten or subconsciously repressed. Layers of the onion begin to peel off. As open as I am with my struggle with alcoholism, in the hope that I can help others, there are things that I could never imagine sharing. But according to Step Five, we have to admit to “God, to ourselves, and to one other human being the exact nature of our wrongs.” The one other human being can be anyone you choose—friend, sponsor, therapist, clergy, etc. No, the basketball that you draw a face on and call “Joe” doesn’t count.

Unfortunately, Step Four can be too tough for many alcoholics or addicts to tackle. The skeletons in the closet are more like tenacious zombies that are not ready to be put to rest. And some don’t understand that while God forgives their past regressions, they have to forgive themselves before they can move on. Later in the Twelve Steps, we come to the part where we have to make amends to those whom we have harmed. In many cases, some of these can not be made, whether it’s because the person is no longer alive, unable to be reached, or when making the amends would “injure them or others”.

I’m not proud of some of the things I’ve done. And looking back through years of therapy, I can see more clearly some of my character defects, especially the insecurity and low self esteem, that led to much of the regretful behavior. But I feel that the best thing I can do, the most helpful “step” in the right direction, is to make a living amends. To make an attempt every day to to the next right thing and live my life in a way that atones for past mistakes. To be present with my kids and my husband, to be a better friend to those who bless me with their friendship and to make the choice every day to take the next step down the right path.

“We are products of our past, but we don’t have to be prisoners of it.” — Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life

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