I have told myself I would quit drinking many times. The night I went to jail, I was done. The night I broke my collarbone, the night I was sexually assaulted, the night I threw a glass into a cement wall outside of a bar and all the mornings I woke up naked, on the bathroom floor or in a cold bathtub while my kids made themselves breakfast, I was most certainly done. The shame of it was unbearable, every single time. But not enough to make me stop, apparently. I think the only way I could tolerate myself was to drink until I didn’t feel the hate anymore. Sometimes, even that wasn’t enough so I would take a few pills. I wonder if I had a death wish. Booze had such a strong grip on me. It was ruining my life and I can say with absolute certainty that nothing good ever came from a drunken night out. Even if I had fun, I felt an overwhelming guilt the next day that I just couldn’t quite understand.
The days leading up to February 17th (the beginning of Lent) I had become very curious about this tradition. I had never given anything up for Lent before. I didn’t know much about it and honestly thought it was just a Catholic thing, yet I couldn’t get it out of my head. I had to learn more, so I started reading. Jesus had spent 40 days in the desert, being tempted by Satan, (the prince of this world) but Jesus refused the temptations. Unlike Adam and Eve, He triumphed over evil in a proclamation of His trust and obedience to our Father. There was a tugging in my heart telling me that I could do this. That I HAD to do this. After everything Jesus has done for me, surely I can give something up for 40 days. Which is why the morning of the 18th became so significant to me. I was laying in the tub with the shower pouring down on me, slamming my coffee and convincing myself that I could make it through the work day. Then I threw up. Next came the guilt and shame of what may or may not have happened the night before. I told myself that I am done this time…for real. No, I’m serious. Then I remembered that thing called Lent and a bell rang. The timing was perfect.
The first few days, I was excited. I loved to tell people what I was doing. I was so proud. By day 4, I was telling myself that God will forgive me if I slip up. Maybe I could just start Lent a different day? “How firm is He on the rules?” I wondered. But I didn’t cave. I would have, had my best friend not talked me out of it. She came over to color my hair and normally we would have laughs, drinks and concerts in my kitchen. But she refused to bring beer into my home. I tried telling her that she could still drink, and I wouldn’t be bothered (which was a lie because I wanted to taste that beer like you wouldn’t believe). But she didn’t. She did not want me tempted in any way and she did not want me disappointed in myself again. If only everyone could find a friend like her. Same with my boyfriend. He quit right along with me and reassured me that I could do this and that he was proud of me. I didn’t know that I could have fun sober but these two showed me that sober is both authentic and rewarding. And actually feeling feelings is nice too.
By week 2, I started to feel like I might have a chance. I discovered NA beer and it’s actually quite good! It held me over every time I had one of those “I just need a beer” days. My friends at church were so supportive and encouraging. They had faith in me, even when I doubted. I had to keep busy on the weekends. I started doing a lot of shopping and redecorating my house. That was a bit expensive but still less money than I would be spending in a bar. I set goals like cleaning the basement and garage, painting the baseboards and trim, turning my bedroom into a sanctuary of comfort. When I was busy, I didn’t even think about drinking. And I prayed a lot. I prayed that God would continue to give me the strength I needed to fulfill this mission.
By week 3, I noticed some physical changes. My eyes were…..awake. They seemed brighter than they’ve ever been. More open too, as weird as that sounds. I just felt so much more alive and it could be seen in my eyes. My “cute” little beer gut was shrinking too. I had already lost 5 pounds. I needed a new hobby since I went full Martha Stewart on 3 rooms. I started working out again and taking long walks. I thought maybe, just by cutting out all that Corona, my muffin tops would become non-existent but I like bread too much. That’s ok. They’re a part of me now. I felt physically and emotionally stronger all the time. Prayer was definitely working and I felt confident that there was no chance I would let Satan win. After what Jesus did for me on that cross, I couldn’t face myself if I screwed this up. I really felt like He was cheering me on. And for me, I felt I had a lot to prove.
By week 4, I was praising more than I was praying. I felt closer to God than I ever have. I felt like I had a real relationship with Him now. I have always talked to Him, but since being sober, I was able to talk WITH Him. The clarity in my head and in my heart seemed like a miracle in itself. Every morning as I got ready for work, I loved my reflection more and more. I woke up cheerful. Like the kind of cheerfulness you find annoying. I just couldn’t get over how AWAKE I was. To be able to think without all the clouds is incredible! I drank a lot of tea and I felt that I was free of toxins. I felt clean. I felt young and vibrant. I wondered if I was glowing. I felt my heart opening up, not only to God, but to me too. At one point, I exclaimed, “I think I love myself!” This was a big moment. Huge.
By week 5 and the final few days of Lent, I realized I was fully connected. I was plugged in. That’s the best way I can explain it. And my lucidity is here to stay. I am fully aware and fully awake and so in tune with my feelings. Sensations are heightened and I feel like me, the way I was made, and loved. I had no idea that this little experiment would turn into something much bigger. I realized that I kept failing because I couldn’t do it on my own and I couldn’t do it for myself. But with God, it became my pleasure. I had to take away the one thing that kept me from Him. And by asking Him for help, I did it. He gave me everything I needed to succeed. I could do it for Him and with Him. And once all of the poison had left my body, He replaced it with an openness to true love. The kind of love I have always wanted to feel inside. I loved myself and it was all because I let Him love me. My walls came down and I finally knew what it means to feel worthy and loved. Like the one He left the ninety-nine for. He was there the whole time, but my world was filled with clouds and darkness. He cleared the way. Not only did I find freedom but I also found my light. Now I can be that light.